This simple dish is nonetheless mouthwatering — a crispy, crunchy tortilla filled with globs of gooey melted cheese. Like most simple pleasures, it is easy to make but difficult to master. With just a little patience and prep work, you can make perfect cheese quesadillas every time.
- Grated cheese (2 cups for 4-5 quesadillas)
- Whole wheat or white tortillas (corn tortillas tend to fall apart)
- Butter or cooking oil
[Edit]Grated Cheese Quesadilla
- Grate your cheese ahead of time — roughly 2 tablespoons per quesadilla. You can use whatever cheese you want, though the classic choice would be a Mexican queso. Feel free to mix and match the cheeses depending on what you have one hand, as well:
- Monterrey Jack
- Pepper Jack
- Put your frying pan on the stove on medium-high. Quesadillas need to be cooked slowly enough that the cheese melts, but fast enough that the outsides crisp and brown quickly. Medium will pull this off perfectly.
- Lightly grease the pan with a pat of butter or vegetable oil. Keep it light as you can, a teaspoon of oil and just a touch of butter– tortillas are very absorbent, and will get soggy if there is too much liquid. Don’t use olive oil, as it has a strong flavor that doesn’t usually mesh well with the cheese.
- For a deliciously rich quesadilla, spread butter on the bottom side of your tortilla.
- Fill one-half of the tortilla with roughly 2 tablespoons of cheese. Fold the tortilla in half and add your cheese on just one side. While a ton of cheese is always delicious, over-stuffing the quesadilla will prevent it all from melting and holding its shape. For a typical tortilla, two tablespoons of filling — whether just cheese or cheese and meat, will perfectly fill the quesadilla.
- If you buttered one side of the tortilla, you want to keep this as the outside. Fill the other side.
- Fold the tortilla over the cheese and add to the hot pan. You’ll know the pan is hot enough when the oil just starts to let off some smoke. Don’t worry if the tortilla starts to unfold, simply press it back down into the cheese as best you can while it cooks.
- Flip after the bottom is golden-brown, usually 3-4 minutes. Use a flat, thin spatula to lift the tortilla and check that it is cooked, then, working quickly, flip it to the other side. This is the time to make sure it is nicely folded over, as the cheese will melt and hold it all together as the second side cooks.
- Remove and serve once both sides of the tortilla are crisp and golden and the cheese is melted. This is all the cooking you’ll need to do, and they usually take roughly 5-7 minutes total to cook. When done, add a little more oil to the pan if you plan to cook more than one. Serve quesadillas hot.
- If the cheese is melting but the tortilla is not crisp yet, turn up the heat a bit and use less butter or oil next time.
- If the side is blackened but the cheese inside is still cool, lower the heat for the next few.
[Edit]Using Alternative Cooking Methods
- Cook your quesadillas in the microwave for quick, near instant cooking. This simple snack is often easiest with two tortillas. Simply top one of them with cheese, like it was a pizza, and then lay another tortilla on top. Cook in the microwave for 30-45 second bursts until all the cheese is melted.
- You can only really melt the cheese here, you can’t get a nice crispy color brown.
- Broil the quesadillas in the to make quick quesadillas in the oven. They will usually not have the same crunchy-gooey texture of a stovetop quesadilla, but they come close. This is also a great way to make multiple quesadillas at once. Start the oven on high and make your quesadillas on a foil-lined baking sheet. Then, as the oven is still heating, put the quesadillas in the oven. Flip them roughly halfway through, and cook until they outsides are browned and the cheese inside is melted.
- If the outsides are browned before the cheese melts, turn the heat down and cover them all with a sheet of foil. This prevents burning while still applying heat.
- Brush the tortillas with oil or melted butter beforehand for a more golden-brown crust.
- Grill the quesadillas on high heat for an outdoor cooking solution. Simply get the grill nice and hot, using medium-high burners, and clean off the grates. Spray the grill with a non-stick cooking spray and lay the quesadillas directly over the heat. Flip them quickly, after 1-2 minutes or when you see the cheese melting. Keep flipping until the sides are crisp to your liking.
- You can wrap the quesadillas in foil for a less messy grill. This is especially useful if you believe the filling is going to drip out easily. Do not, however, let the quesadillas cool in the foil, or they will get soggy with steam and moisture.
[Edit]Adding New Fillings
- Mix in any of the following filling ideas with 1-1/2 cup shredded cheese and add like normal. All of the following ingredients can be added, mixed, and matched to make incredible quesadillas. You simply need to mix it all up with the cheese and then add the scoops of the filling mixture before cooking — no other work needed!
- Remember that you can mix and match cheeses, as well.
- A little extra cheese never hurt anyone. Feel free to play with the ratios to find your perfect quesadilla.
- Add already cooked meats or beans to the mixture to make a killer entree. The most common addition to quesadillas is a protein of some sort — either shredded chicken or pork, steak, or beans. Add at least one cup of bite-sized meats or beans to your cheese and enjoy. For meats, be sure to add a light seasoning, such as half a packet of taco seasoning, to get a little extra flavor.
- Black or pinto beans
- Chopped or shredded chicken
- Mexican pulled pork
- Thinly sliced flank or skirt steak.
- Crumbled bacon
- Pre-cook some vegetables to bring out a wonderfully rounded, vegetarian dish. Meat eaters aren’t the only ones who get something more than cheese. The following veggies are perfect if you simply brown them in some oil, then toss with the cheese after they’re cooked.
- Onions (well-caramelized)
- Bell peppers
- Poblano peppers (roasted)
- Add fresh chopped vegetables that can handle the heat. Lettuce and other greens will tend to wilt unappealingly under the heat. You want to add only the vegetables that can hold their flavor and texture under the heat of cooking, such as:
- Diced yellow onion
- Jalapeno peppers
- Fresh green peppers
- Sliced avocado
- Chopped garlic
- Add a spice blend to the cheese to kick up the flavor. Feel free to get creative, as you can really customize the flavor of your quesadilla with just a few pinches of spice. While most of these are for a Mexican-inspired dish, you can even try out a set of Italian spices if you’re using cheeses like Mozzarella or Fontina:
- Cracked red pepper
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Chili Powder
- Dried onions
- Basil, rosemary, thyme
- Avoid seafood and vegetables that are best served cold. Fresh tomatoes are incredible on top of a quesadilla, but they lose some of their punch and flavor when cooked in a pile of cheese. Seafood, as well, tends to drown out in cheese, leading to bland bites of food where there should be much more flavor (the only exception is cooked shrimp) Keep these ingredients out of the heat and you’ll be much faster:
- Greens (though a thick layer of spinach can work)
- Uncooked meats
- Make sure you evenly spread the cheese!
- Don’t use cooking oil or spray! It could damage the quesadilla!
[Edit]Things You’ll Need
- Frying pan
- Pizza cutter or knife