Originating from Mexico, quesadillas are handheld treats that have traversed borders, captivating food enthusiasts globally.
This icon of Mexican cuisine is the perfect example of blending minimal, high-quality ingredients, which makes them really appealing to be prepared at home.
Hence, we invite you to discover our comprehensive guide to making authentic Mexican quesadillas in the comfort of your own kitchen!
Understanding Authentic Mexican Quesadillas
A quesadilla is a Mexican dish consisting of a tortilla filled with cheese and other optional ingredients, typically grilled or pan-fried until the cheese melts and the tortilla becomes crispy.
The cheese quesadilla (“quesadilla de queso” in Spanish) is a fundamental version of the dish, but other ingredients like shredded chicken, beef, diced or sliced vegetables, and beans can also be added.
Traditional Mexican quesadillas are commonly made using corn tortillas. However, outside Mexico, flour tortillas are often used.
The cooking process typically involves grilling or pan-frying the assembled quesadillas to allow the cheese to melt and bind the fillings together while crisping up the tortilla’s outer layer. Therefore, the preparation of a good quesadilla involves achieving a balance between a crispy exterior and a gooey, molten interior.
Now, we’ll provide you with an easy recipe and all the techniques and tips you’ll need to make the perfect quesadillas at home.
Essential Ingredients for a Good Quesadilla
The traditional cheese quesadilla relies on minimal components. That’s why it’s crucial to select the finest ingredients to achieve its authenticity and taste.
Cheese Quesadilla Ingredients
- 2 large flour or corn tortillas
- 1 cup shredded Oaxaca cheese (or other of choice)
- Cooking oil or butter
- Fillings (optional): diced onions, bell peppers, cooked chicken/beef, black beans, sliced jalapeños
- Seasonings (optional): cumin, paprika, chili powder
1. Tortillas: The foundation of any quesadilla as they hold the ingredients together. Look for high-quality corn or flour tortillas that maintain a soft, pliable texture, which is essential for achieving the desired crispness upon cooking.
2. Cheese: The choice of cheese definitely impacts the flavor and texture of your quesadilla. Some of the best include:
- Oaxaca Cheese: This is a white, mild, and creamy traditional Mexican cheese. Resembling mozzarella with its slight flavor and stringy texture, this cheese doesn’t get greasy and pairs well with a variety of other ingredients. Due to its exceptional melting properties, it’s often considered the best cheese for quesadillas.
- Chihuahua Cheese: Sharing its name with the cute petite-sized dog, this is a cheese with buttery, nutty notes that also melts really well.
- Monterey Jack Cheese: From Monterey, California, this mild, semi-soft cheese is another popular choice for quesadillas. It has a creamy, buttery flavor and melts well.
- Cheddar Cheese: This tangy cheese adds a lot of flavor. However, it’s best to use mild or medium cheddar, as sharp cheddar can be overpowering.
3. Cooking Fat: Using a small amount of oil or butter helps achieve a crispy exterior while ensuring the cheese melts evenly.
4. Optional Fillings: While the cheese quesadilla is simple yet delicious, you can incorporate additional ingredients such as cooked chicken or beef, diced onions, bell peppers, black beans, or sliced jalapeños.
5. Optional Seasonings: To enhance the flavor profile, traditional Mexican seasonings like cumin, paprika, or chili powder can be sprinkled directly onto the cheese or incorporated into the filling.
Preparation and Cooking Techniques
Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, it’s important that you perfectly know how to make a cheese quesadilla with the proper balance of crispy exterior and gooey melted cheese inside. To achieve that, follow these steps:
Step-by-Step Cheese Quesadilla Recipe
- Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add a small amount of oil or melt butter to coat the skillet’s surface.
- Place one tortilla in the skillet and let it heat for about 30 seconds.
- Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the entire tortilla. If desired, add optional fillings (cooked meats, diced onions, etc.) or on top of the cheese.
- You can sprinkle a pinch of selected seasonings (cumin, paprika, or chili powder) over the fillings for added flavor.
- Fold the tortilla in half to cover the cheese and fillings, creating a half-moon shape.
- Cook the quesadilla for about 2 minutes per side, or until the bottom becomes golden brown. Using a spatula, carefully flip it over and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes until it’s equally golden brown and the cheese is fully melted.
- Once cooked to your desired crispiness and the cheese has melted completely, transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board.
- Allow it to cool for a minute and cut it into wedges or quarters using a sharp knife or pizza cutter.
- Serve the cheese quesadilla hot with sides like salsa or guacamole.
The Air Fryer Method
If you prefer an air fryer quesadilla, follow this steps:
- Preheat the air fryer to 375°F.
- Brush one side of the assembled quesadilla with oil or melted butter.
- Place the quesadilla in the air fryer basket, oiled side down.
- Cook for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time, until both sides are golden brown and the cheese is melted.
The Best Traditional Accompaniments
Quesadillas are incredibly versatile, so you can choose various accompaniments.
Salsa roja and salsa verde are classic Mexican salsas.
Salsa roja is made with tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, and spices, which provides a slightly spicy and tangy kick.
Salsa verde, prepared with tomatillos, cilantro, jalapeños, and onions, offers a tangy flavor with a hint of heat.
An iconic accompaniment to quesadillas made with ripe avocados, lime juice, cilantro, onions, tomatoes, and spices.
It’s creamy, flavorful, and brings a refreshing contrast to the warm and savory quesadilla.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
This soup features tender chicken, vegetables, and tortilla strips simmered in a flavorful tomato-based broth with spices like cumin and chili powder.
A bowl of hearty chicken tortilla soup with quesadillas can make a very comforting meal.
Mexican Street Corn (Elote)
An authentic Mexican snack. Grilled corn on the cob slathered with a creamy mixture of mayo, cotija cheese, chili powder, and lime juice, elote wonderfully contrasts the savory quesadilla.
These tangy, slightly spicy jalapeños add a zesty kick to the quesadilla. The pickling process gives them a texture and flavor that balances the richness of the cheese.
Customization and Variations
The simplicity and versatility of cheese quesadillas allows for endless possibilities to explore new tastes and combinations and suit different dietary preferences.
You can transform the cheese quesadilla into a satisfying breakfast by adding scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.
For those seeking a plant-based option, consider preparing a vegan quesadilla by substituting traditional cheese with dairy-free alternatives. Likewise, you can experiment with ingredients like sautéed mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, corn, black beans, and avocado slices. Make sure to add the vegetables to the basic quesadilla recipe before the tortilla is folded.
Fill your tortilla with sweet ingredients, such as fruit, chocolate, or whipped cream. You can try combinations like cinnamon-spiced apples or sliced bananas with Nutella. Yummy!
Tips and Tricks for Perfect Quesadillas
You are already equipped with the best recipe, traditional side dishes, and interesting variation possibilities, so now we only have to offer you some useful tips so that you can create the perfect cheese quesadillas:
- Preheat the cooking surface (whether using a skillet on the stovetop or an air fryer) to ensure an even cooking process.
- Maintain a moderate heat level when cooking your quesadilla, since high heat may lead to a burnt exterior before the cheese melts entirely.
- Avoid overstuffing the quesadilla to prevent ingredients from spilling out while cooking.
- Press down gently on the quesadilla while cooking to ensure that the layers stick together and the cheese melts uniformly.
- Remember to let the quesadilla rest for a minute after cooking to allow the cheese to set slightly, making it easier to cut into portions without the fillings spilling out.
So now you have all the knowledge to make traditional quesadillas Mexicanas and savor a timeless, iconic dish that is loved around the entire world.
As they say, “comer bien, vivir mejor.” (“eating well, living better.”). It’s time to enjoy your homemade quesadillas!