It’s about time you met my go-to meal, the quesadilla. When I’m feeling too lazy to make a proper meal, when my fridge is bare, when I come home from the grocery store hangry—I throw together a quesadilla in under ten minutes flat.
How have I not shared my basic quesadilla recipe, in all these years of food blogging? I’m righting this situation today by sharing my favorite quesadilla, lots of quesadilla-making tips, and fun ways to change up your quesadillas.
First up, a brief history lesson! Quesadillas came to be when Spaniards brought dairy products (not to mention, cows) to Mexico in the 1500s. Mexicans combined cheese (queso) with tortillas and created a number of delicious combinations, including the quesadilla.
In its most basic form, a quesadilla is simply a grilled tortilla with melted cheese inside. It’s the Mexican grilled cheese, if you will, and you can add additional fillings if you’d like. My favorite quesadillas, however, are not the super buttery, ooey-gooey quesadillas that you might have ordered at a Tex-Mex restaurant and later regretted.
These quesadillas are packed with veggies and some beans for protein. I make them with whole-grain tortillas for some nutritional bonus points and add enough cheese to make sure they’re both enticing and delicious. That’s why I generally make a quesadilla instead of ordering pizza—they’re quicker and hit the spot.
How to Make the Best Quesadilla
Here are a few tips to ensure the best end result:
Use one tortilla per quesadilla. Then fold it over on itself to create a half-moon shape. You can make two quesadillas at once this way, nestled in the pan with their folded sides next to each other. Giant, round quesadillas made with two tortillas are too tricky to flip and slice.
Choose your cheese carefully. Freshly grated cheese (as opposed to pre-shredded cheese) melts best. I prefer cheddar cheese to Monterey Jack, since cheddar is less gooey and produces a more firm, easy-to-slice quesadilla. If you want to go the traditional route and can find it, use Oaxaca cheese!
Use a medium-to-large skillet. Be sure your pan is large enough to accommodate the quesadilla lengthwise, so it can get nice and toasty from end to end.
Don’t crank up the heat too high. You want a moderate heat that will slowly melt the cheese and crisp the tortillas without scorching them. Reduce the heat as necessary and then make sure to cook each side long enough that they get deeply golden and crisp. Crispiness is key.
Oil/butter is optional. I often cook my tortillas in a cast iron pan without any oil at all—they’re less likely to burn that way. Just barely frying the outsides with a light brush of oil or melted butter is a nice touch (I included instructions for how to incorporate oil/butter in the recipe below, but you can certainly skip it).
Add beans. I like to include cooked beans as a protein-rich filler that lightens up the cheesy-carby elements. It seems like a more well-balanced, full meal that way.
Chop up your fillings. You can’t sandwich large hunks of ingredients in a quesadilla—they’ll fall out, and you’ll end up with hot cheese dripping down your chin. Awkward. Chop them up small!
Bonus Tip (if you dare)
For a cheesy flavor explosion, sprinkle a little bit of cheese on the outside of the quesadilla, let it melt, and then flip it so the cheese fries against the quesadilla. Repeat with the other side if you’d like.
This works best on non-stick surfaces and might make a delicious mess regardless (this is also a great trick for grilled cheese sandwiches). You can find more detailed instructions in my crispy mushroom, spinach and avocado quesadillas recipe.
Quesadilla Serving Suggestions
Quesadillas are a quick meal on their own right. I love to serve them with fresh salads, black beans or pinto beans, and Mexican soups. Here are some ideas:
- Fresh Black Bean Salad
- Green Salad with Jalapeño-Cilantro Dressing (or a simplified version of it)
- Herbed Avocado Salad
- Homemade Black Beans
- Mexican(ish) Kale & Quinoa Salad
- Pinto Posole
- Spicy Black Bean Soup
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 1 quesadilla 1x
- Category: Main
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mexican
Quesadillas are the perfect quick meal. Enjoy this vegetarian quesadilla recipe in under 10 minutes! Recipe yields 1 quesadilla (3 slices), so multiply as necessary.
- 1 whole-grain flour tortilla (about 8″ diameter)
- ½ cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup cooked black beans or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 tablespoon chopped red bell pepper or jarred roasted bell pepper or a few thinly sliced cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon chopped red onion or green onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeño (if you like heat)
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil, melted butter or extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
- Any of the following, for serving: Salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole or strips of avocado, sour cream, hot sauce, chopped fresh cilantro…
- Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Warm your tortilla for about 30 seconds, flipping halfway. Flip once more, then sprinkle one-half of the tortilla with about half of the cheese. Cover the cheese evenly with the remaining fillings: beans, bell pepper, onion and jalapeño (if using).
- Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the fillings, and fold over the empty side of the tortilla to enclose the fillings. Quickly brush the top of the quesadilla with a light coating of oil, then carefully flip it with a spatula.
- Let the quesadilla cook until golden and crispy on the bottom, about 1 to 2 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning the tortilla. Brush the top with a light coating of oil, then flip it and cook until the second side is golden and crispy.
- Immediately remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board. Let it cool for a minute to give the cheese time to set, then use a chef’s knife to slice it into 3 pieces. Serve promptly, with any sauces or garnishes that you’d like.
Change it up: Replace the fillings I used here with a handful of any of these options: raw or cooked chopped vegetables, sautéed greens, fresh leafy herbs, chopped olives or pepperoncini peppers, you name it.
Cheese notes: You can substitute any melty cheese (Monterey Jack, mozzarella, traditional Oaxaca—no need to grate the Oaxaca cheese) for the cheddar. You could also add crumbled feta or goat cheese, if you’d like.
Favorite tortilla brand: I love Stacey’s Organic, which doesn’t contain any crazy preservatives. I usually store them in the freezer so they last longer, and defrost individual tortillas as necessary.
Make a basic cheese quesadilla: Just skip all of the other fillings listed!
Make it gluten free: Use a certified gluten-free tortilla.
Make it vegan: Omit the cheese and spread ¼ cup cashew sour cream (see my cookbook, page 217) or hummus over the tortilla (check out these hummus quesadillas), and use oil instead of butter for brushing.
Storage suggestions: These quesadillas are at their crisp best right after making, but they will keep well for about 4 days in the refrigerator, covered. Gently reheat in the microwave or oven before serving, if desired.