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Quick Quesadillas: Simple Fillings & Ideas

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Quick Quesadillas: Simple Fillings & Ideas

Quesadillas to the Rescue!

It’s about time you met my go-to meal, the trusty 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.

A Brief History Lesson

First up, a bit of background! 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.

Not Your Typical Quesadilla

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.

Quesadilla-Making Tips

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.

  • 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!

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).

Quesadilla Meal Ideas

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:

  • Crispy Mushroom, Spinach and Avocado Quesadillas: This veggie-packed version is a personal favorite. Get the recipe.

  • Greens and Beans Quesadillas: Leafy greens and protein-rich beans make this a hearty, satisfying meal. Find the recipe in my cookbook, Love Real Food.

  • Everyday Red Salsa: This vibrant salsa pairs perfectly with quesadillas. Also in Love Real Food.

The possibilities are endless! You can 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. The key is to chop everything small so it all fits nicely inside the quesadilla.

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.

My favorite tortilla brand is 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 it Your Own

If you want to keep it super simple, you can make a basic cheese quesadilla by skipping all the other fillings. For a gluten-free version, just use a certified gluten-free tortilla. And for a vegan option, omit the cheese and spread ¼ cup cashew sour cream (see my cookbook, Love Real Food) or hummus over the tortilla, and use oil instead of butter for brushing.

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.

So there you have it – my go-to quick and easy quesadilla formula, complete with tips, tricks, and tons of filling ideas. Quesadillas are the ultimate weeknight savior, and I hope this guide empowers you to start whipping them up with confidence. Dig in, my friends!


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