Tortilla plus cheese. This is the basic description of the Mexican dish quesadilla. Sandwich cheese between two tortillas and you have a full quesadilla. Put cheese on a tortilla and fold it in the middle and you have a half-quesadilla. Corn tortilla is what the Mexicans traditionally use, but flour tortilla works fine too.
If you want to experience eating an original Mexican quesadilla, the best way to do it is to visit Mexico, particularly the central or southern regions. Here, they top corn tortilla with queso Oaxaca or Oaxaca cheese made with the use of the stretched-curd method. They use a comal – a flat griddle – and make sure it is warm enough to melt the cheese inside the tortilla. An original Mexican quesadilla is served with green or red salsa, chopped onion, and guacamole. Some restaurants serving quesadilla add other ingredients including meat and vegetables either as filling or topping.
- Despite the name, cheese is not the primary ingredient in quesadillas in central Mexico, but shredded meat like beef, chicken, or pork.
- Quesadilla means “little cheesy thing”
- The method of producing Oaxaca cheese used in traditional Mexican quesadilla was introduced to Mexico by Dominican monks.
Quesadilla Buying Guide
If you are eating store-bought quesadilla in a box, make sure to read the instructions on how to prepare the food. You can use either the oven or the microwave to do this.
- Oven: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Put the quesadilla on a baking sheet and place it in the center of the oven. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes per side, or until the tortillas are light golden brown.
- Microwave: Set the microwave setting to high. Place the quesadilla on a microwave-safe plate. If the quesadilla is frozen, microwave for 1 minute and 45 seconds. Let it cool down a bit so that it is safe to eat. If you want to make the tortilla crispy, proceed to this next step.
- Skillet: Pre-heat a non-stick skillet on a stovetop. Lightly grease the skillet and place the quesadilla on the skillet and heat for 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Flip to cook the other side. Allow it to cool down before eating.
If you are buying freshly-made quesadilla in a restaurant, you’ll find it useful if you are familiar with the quesadilla varieties so you’ll know what to order and what to expect from your food.
- Quesadilla frita – This is a deep-fried quesadilla. Instead of a cooked tortilla, quesadilla frita requires an uncooked masa. This is filled with fillings, folded, and fried until crispy.
- Sincronizada – This is not a variety of quesadilla but it is commonly mistaken as one because it looks like a quesadilla. The sincronizada is ham and cheese inside two tortillas pressed together and cut into wedges.
- U.S. quesadilla – This dish is a favorite in the southwestern US. It involves the same preparation but uses Monterey Jack, Cheddar cheese, or Colby Jack cheeses instead of traditional Mexican cheese. You let the cheese on the tortilla melt first, before adding other ingredients (like onions, peppers, or shredded meat) and folding the tortilla. The full quesadilla U.S.-style includes putting oil on the griddle and flipping the tortillas so that both sides are cooked. This is then cut into wedges.
- The gringa and chavindeca are two of the many other variations of quesadilla in Mexico. In the US, variations include the pizzadilla – a fusion of quesadilla and pizza. There is also quesadilla containing sweet ingredients known as dessert quesadilla, as well as breakfast quesadilla made with eggs, cheese, and bacon.
Quesadilla Production & Farming in Texas
In the 2016 book Encyclopedia of Food Grains (Second Edition), the United States ranks second behind Mexico in terms of producing tortillas, which is used in making quesadillas. The 2016 book Encyclopedia of Food and Health noted that “tortillas currently represent 30% of all baked product sales in the United States” and that “approximately 120 million tortillas are consumed yearly in the United States, making these the second most popular baked product, after white bread.”
Besides Mexico and the US, other countries producing tortillas include the UK, Spain, France, Australia, Brazil, India, China, and Korea.
Boutique, small-scale tortillerias, and home-made tortilla-based products – A 2015 study conducted by a Chicago-based marketing consultancy reveals not just the growth of Mexican cuisine business in the US but also the growing preference of home cooks to prepare Mexican dishes like the quesadilla, proof of which is the consumer data on purchases made: $2.26 billion on hard and soft tortilla and taco kits, $251.8 million on refried beans, and $60 million on other Mexican food items. In Texas and the US overall, restaurants and businesses involved in Mexican food like quesadillas have been experiencing growth in sales. Its popularity in Texas and the US, in general, is not just because it is delicious, but in the age of health-conscious consumers, tortillas and tortilla-based foods like the quesadilla are a healthy food option as well. Processed/refrigerated tortilla and tortilla-based food as well as restaurants offering freshly made tortilla and tortilla-based food such as quesadillas in Texas and the US offer customers a wide variety of options that align with health-related preferences (e.g. non-GMO, certified organic, all-natural, preservative-free, vegan, low-sodium, low-fat, gluten-free, whole grain, multi-grain, etc.)
Stakeholders involved in the tortilla industry (including tortilla-based food like quesadillas) are confident that new markets will open in Europe, Asia, Africa in the coming years.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Store-bought tortillas that you will use in making quesadillas (unless you are making your tortillas too) contain chemicals necessary to make the product appealing and to improve shelf-life, among others.
- Flour additives – riboflavin, niacin, biotin, folic acid iron. These enrich the flour to make it nutritious.
- Oxidants – benzoyl peroxide (bleaching agent) and azodicarbonamide ADA (maturing agent). In many countries, the use of potassium bromate as an oxidant has been banned. The US FDA hasn’t issued any restrictions regarding this matter.
- To enhance gluten formation, strength, and stability, chlorine ascorbic acid lipoxygenase is added, while sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) is used as chemical leavening.
- Leavening acids commonly used in a tortilla are the following: sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS), sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP), sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP), monocalcium phosphate (MCP), and calcium acid pyrophosphate.
- Store-bought tortillas also use preservatives during production, including anti-mold agents (calcium propionate, sodium propionate, and potassium sorbate), sorbic acid, sodium benzoate, and methyl/propyl parabens.
- Emulsifiers used in tortilla production include sodium and calcium stearoyl lactylate (SSL) and (CSL), ethoxylated mono and diglycerides (EMG), polysorbates (PS), succinylated monoglycerides (SMG), and diacetyl tartaric acid ester of monoglycerides (DATEM).
- Tortilla production also includes the use of gums (hydrocolloids) and fibers as dough conditioners, like guar gum, carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan, and sodium alginate.
Processed quesadillas sold in stores come in a box. The quesadilla inside the box is wrapped in food-grade plastic to ensure the quality and protect the integrity of the food item.
Restaurants have a variety of ways for packing take-out/to-go quesadillas. Some restaurants wrap it using wax paper, while others use aluminum foil. These are then placed inside a plastic, foam, or carton food container.
Some people prefer using just their fingers when eating quesadilla, while other people use a fork and knife. There is no right or wrong answer here, but it helps if you consider these tips:
If your quesadilla is crunchy, best to pick it up with your fingers and bite on it. This way, you avoid scattering pieces of tortilla and your mouth catches most of the broken tortillas as you bite. Using a fork and knife breaks the crispy tortilla into tiny pieces scattered on the plate.
If your quesadilla is soft, it is ok to use a fork and knife to cut it to wedges before eating it. If it has shredded meat inside, just be careful these ingredients do not fall off the cut wedge while you eat it.
Make sure to refrigerate store-bought boxed quesadilla. No need to transfer this in a different container, the box it came with will do. Mind the expiration date on the packaging and make sure to consume it before the food expires.
For home-made quesadillas or quesadillas bought from the restaurant, place leftovers inside a microwavable container with a lid, and refrigerate it. Reheat using a microwave or a skillet on the stovetop. Do not eat quesadilla leftovers that have been in the refrigerator for more than five days.
Make your own chicken quesadilla:
Chicken is a popular choice of quesadilla filling among those who enjoy this Mexican food. Chicken is a healthier alternative to red meat because this is low in saturated fat, but it is high in omega-6 fatty acids compared to beef or pork. Chicken is also high in protein, vitamins B6 and B12, as well as iron, zinc, and copper, which makes this version of the quesadilla perfect for those who are looking for a yummy, easy-to-make snack but had to avoid red meat for health reasons.
This recipe makes four chicken quesadillas. You can cut each into bite-size or single-serving wedges for easy snacking.
- 4 large tortillas
- 12 ounce shredded chicken
- 1 cup green bell peppers
- 1-ounce cheddar cheese
- 1-ounce pepper jack cheese
Step 1. Fill one side of the tortilla starting with chicken, and then add the bell pepper.
Step 2. Next, fill the same portion with cheese.
Step 3. Cover the filling by folding the opposite half of the tortilla.
Step 4. Do this in all four tortillas.
Step 5. Put oil on a large pan and place it on the stove at medium heat.
Step 6. Fry the quesadilla. Make sure each side of the quesadilla is golden brown.
Step 7. Cut each quesadilla into four.
Step 8. Serve with salsa.