An Ode to Quesadillas

An Ode to Quesadillas

Photo: Graydon Herriott.

Ah, the quesadilla: as simple as it is satisfying.

Is there anything better than having a little craving (or antojo) for something warm and nourishing and scratching that itch with a warm tortilla filled with delicate melted cheese and a splash of fresh salsa? Some folks, especially those in Mexico City and central Mexico, would argue that you don't even need the 'queso' to make it a quesadilla — just a tortilla and your favorite guiso like cooked spinach, sautéed mushrooms, chicken tinga, picadillo, or chorizo y papas. But there's a whole other camp of people would couldn't imagine a quesadilla without that signature stretchy, stringy, ooey gooeyness of melted cheese to bind it all together and give it that stick-to-your-ribs effect.

No matter which side you stand on, know that there's simply no wrong way to make a quesadilla. And while there are no rules when it comes to quesadilla making, we do have a few tips to share: 

  1. Start with a good tortilla. When you're preparing something simple, it's all about quality ingredients. A homemade tortilla will take your quesadilla to a whole new level. Make sure both sides of your tortilla are warm, and therefore pliable, before you attempt to fold.   
  2. Choose your cheese. We love queso Oaxaca or quesillo, which has a mellow flavor that combines well with other fillings. Another option is requesón or ricotta. It pairs beautifully with spinach and mushrooms and creates an light and airy texture that is a fun contrast to the faintly crispy texture of a tortilla hot of the comal. Other options include Chihuahua, mozzarella, or Monterey Jack. But the sky's really the limit. Have fun mixing and matching based on your craving.  
  3. Raid your fridge for ideas. The best quesadillas upcycle leftovers like rotisserie chicken, roasted veggies, refried beans, etc. It's a great way to use up those bits 'n' bobs in the refrigerator. 
  4. Warm up your salsa. Cold, just-outta-the-fridge salsa is never a good idea. We like to aim for room temperature or even warm salsa (the height of luxury). Add a drizzle to your quesadilla while it's still on the pan or warm up a small bowl on the stove or in the microwave to serve alongside. Love the vinegar-y tang of a bottled salsa? Reach for Cholula or Valentina, which can be stored on your counter or in your pantry at room temperature.