How to Make the Best Quesadillas

The world owes Mexico a lot for its invention of the quesadilla. We’d be hard-pressed to find another dish as addictive that can come together so quickly with so little effort. Quesadillas are infinitely adaptable: make them a meal with large flour tortillas, or gluten-free with corn tortillas. A little low-fat cheese and a lot of vegetables, and they could almost pass for a health food; on the flip side, a generous pile of shredded Jack could be the remedy for a bad hangover.

A good quesadilla is a thing of beauty. It’s crispy and golden brown at the edges, but a bite quickly reveals a soft interior with gooey melted cheese. Make it the wrong way, though, and you could wind up with a soggy, floppy mess. Thankfully, we’ve got an easy technique for making quesadillas that’s free of measurements or complicated techniques. Feel free to store it in your memory and pull it out of your back pocket whenever you’d like. Our recipe calls for chicken, but leave it out for a vegetarian alternative.

Here’s what you’ll need:

• Frying pan

• Spatula

• Cheese, preferably a good melting cheese like Jack or cheddar

• Big handful of cilantro

• Half of a rotisserie chicken

• Four large flour tortillas

• Optional garnishes: sour cream, guacamole, and salsa

Here’s what to do:

1. Prep your ingredients: Grate two heaping handfuls of cheese, chop the cilantro, and tear and chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

2. Heat the frying pan over medium heat until hot, then put one tortilla in the pan. Top the tortilla with a small handful of cheese, half the cilantro, and another small handful of cheese to cover the chicken. Close with a second tortilla.

3. Cook for a few minutes, then check the underside with a spatula. When there are brown spots on the bottom of the tortilla and about half of the cheese is melted, flip the quesadilla. Cook the second side until there are brown spots on the bottom and all of the cheese is melted.

4. To serve, slide the quesadilla from the pan onto a cutting board and cut it into wedges. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make a second quesadilla.

5. Top with optional garnishes.

Follow those steps, and you’ll wind up with a crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside quesadilla every time. And if you’re hoping to pump up the flavor a bit, here are a few other recipes that highlight the same technique of pan-frying quesadillas.

Basic Chicken Quesadillas

CHOW

These chicken quesadillas, made with the process and ingredients outlined above, are a cinch to make and ever so gratifying. Get our Basic Chicken Quesadillas recipe.

Rajas Quesadillas

CHOW

Rajas, a sauté of chile and onions that’s common in Mexican cuisine, make a killer vegetarian filling when mixed with Monterey Jack and cilantro. Get our Rajas Quesadillas recipe.

Grilled Steak Quesadillas

CHOW

Strips of steak, made smoky with chipotles in adobo, are hearty enough to satisfy the most ravenous of eaters. Don’t skimp on toppings like salsa and guacamole. Get our Grilled Steak Quesadillas recipe.

Tequila Shrimp and Asadero Quesadillas

CHOW

Asadero, a mild Mexican cheese that takes well to melting, is a nice complement to punchy tequila shrimp. If you can’t locate it, try substituting mozzarella or Monterey Jack instead. Get our Tequila Shrimp and Asadero Quesadillas recipe.

Vegan Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Fried Egg and Cumin Oil

Food52

That this recipe’s missing one of the quesadilla’s main ingredients, cheese, is something you’d be hard-pressed to notice, thanks to a warm sweet potato filling and the piece de resistance, a runny fried egg. Get the recipe here.

Potato, Greens, and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

Bon Appetit

We love the unexpected pairing of tangy, creamy goat cheese and tomatillo salsa in this vegetarian quesadilla. Get the recipe here.

Three-Cheese Quesadillas With Garlic Butter

Fine Cooking

Sometimes the simplest iterations of a dish are the best, like this minimalist quesadilla made with garlic and three cheeses. Get the recipe here.

Original story by CHOW Food Team, updated by Susannah Chen