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How to Make an Easy, Cheesy Quesadilla

Fresh made quesadilla served with sour cream and guacamole next to a bowl of guacamole and scattered chips.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Quesadillas, the Mexican form of grilled cheese, have won the hearts of millions around the world. Now, it’s time to bring these crowd-pleasers to your home, just in time for Cinco de Mayo.

We’ll teach you how to select and prepare ingredients, and then build and cook up a tasty quesadilla in no time.

Prepare the Ingredients

Before jump in on the quesadilla-building portion of this tutorial, you’ll need to select and prepare your favorite ingredients.

Cold Ingredients

Let’s start with the fresh ingredients. If you want to add lettuce, tomatoes or jalapeños, it’s best to prepare them all ahead of time.

Prepare all of your favorite cold or raw ingredients and place them on a dish. Then, you can store them in the fridge while you prepare the meat and other hot ingredients.

Here’s a compiled list of foods you might want to prepare:

  • Cheese (a must!)
  • Lettuce or spinach
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Corn or corn salsa
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Diced onions
  • Black olives
  • Minced fresh jalapeños
  • Diced pickled jalapeños
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole

Bonus tip: For an exceptional cheese quesadilla, use a mix of Monterey Jack and asadero cheeses with sharp cheddar.

Arranged ingredients, including cheese, spinach, tomatoes, guacamole, chicken, and ground beef.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Hot Ingredients

Now that you’ve prepared your veggies and other cold ingredients, it’s time to start cooking the protein and warm foods. Here are a few recommendations, with cooking instructions:

  • Sautéed veggies: Mushrooms, green bell peppers, and onions are a fantastic combination. Wash, slice and sauté the vegetables in a bit of olive oil and sprinkle in some taco seasoning for that Mexican flavor you love.
  • Black or pinto beans: Use low-sodium canned beans for convenience. Rinse them, and then bring them to a simmer in a small saucepan. Keep them in the water until you’re ready to use them.
  • Cooked chicken: Heat the pan and salt, and pepper your chicken breast. Then, add about one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and then the meat. Chicken breast takes about 12 to 15 minutes to cook through. When it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, remove and slice it. Place the slices back in the pan and sprinkle them with about one teaspoon of taco seasoning. Cook the chicken slices until they’re coated.
  • Shredded chicken: For convenience, you can purchase a rotisserie chicken. With clean hands, remove the skin and pull off the breast, leg, and thigh meat. Pull the chicken apart in strands and make sure to remove all bones. Heat a pan, and then add a few tablespoons of water, the pulled chicken, and one or two tablespoons of taco seasoning. With tongs, mix the chicken around until it’s completely coated.
  • Ground beef: Ground beef is another popular quesadilla filling. When you add your ground beef to the pan, add the seasoning and about 1/4 cup of water per pound for moisture. Cook the ground beef on medium heat and enjoy the tender, juicy mouthfeel.

There are plenty of options when it comes to adding protein to quesadillas. You can also choose shredded beef barbacoa, grilled steak, tofu, or pork carnitas.

Keep Those Ingredients and Tools Handy

Make sure your tools and ingredients are nearby. Once you add a tortilla to a hot pan, you won’t have much time before you have to fold and cut it—unless you like it burnt.

You’ll need the following tools:

  • A large skillet
  • A spatula or pair of tongs
  • A cutting board
  • A pizza cutter

Heat the Skillet and Add the Tortilla

A tortilla in a skillet.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the tortilla. Many choose to use butter or oil in the pan, but this isn’t necessary.

Add Cheese and Ingredients

A tortilla in a hot skillet topped with cheese, chicken, spinach, sauteed mushrooms, and diced tomato.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Time to build that cheesy quesadilla! First, sprinkle on some cheese on one side of the tortilla, and then add the meat and hot ingredients to the other half.

Next, add the beans and sautéed veggies using a slotted spoon to avoid making a soggy mess. Add the vegetables on top of the hot meat and beans.

Fold the Tortilla in Half

Tongs folding over a tortilla in a skillet to create a gorgeously delicious quesadilla.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Using a pair of tongs, fold the cheese side over to the side bursting with all those delicious ingredients. Use a spatula to move the quesadilla to a cutting board, and then use the pizza cutter to make wedges.

The Extras

Using a pizza cutter to cut pieces of quesadilla.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Quesadillas taste amazing on their own, but for extra flavor, we always add a small dollop of sour cream, guacamole, or fresh Pico de Gallo.

Don’t forget the tortilla chips, and enjoy each mouthwatering bite!

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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