Traditional Fried Mexican Quesadillas

Quesadillas and gorditas

megananne / Flickr

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 10 servings

You may think of a quesadilla as cheese melted between two pre-cooked flour tortillas—an acceptable way to make this authentic Mexican antojito (snack). Another style, commonly sold as street food in Mexico, starts with an uncooked corn tortilla filled with cheese and/or other ingredients. These get fried to order until the tortilla turns golden brown, giving it a crunchy corn-chip texture and flavor that pairs deliciously with the melted cheese.

In Mexico, residents of the capital city generally maintain that you can fill a quesadilla with almost anything and even omit the cheese. People from other parts of the country argue that a quesadilla without cheese cannot be called a quesadilla, given that the name itself comes from queso (cheese).

Purchase fresh masa for tortillas and tamales at Hispanic and Mexican stores, or check our tips section to make your own.


Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Divide the masa into 10 evenly sized balls. Roll each ball between two pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper to form a disc about 4 inches across (or use a tortilla press, if you have one).

  3. Cut the cheese into 10 slices and place one in the center of each tortilla. Add a small spoonful of the additional fillings, if using. Fold the tortilla in half and press the edges with dampened fingers to seal it.

  4. Pan fry (or deep fry) the quesadillas in batches in about one inch of hot oil or lard, turning once or twice until the masa turns golden brown on both sides and gets slightly crispy.

  5. Drain the fried quesadillas on a rack or several layers of absorbent paper before serving, and eat with your hands. Alternatively, lay the quesadilla on its side and gently break it open longitudinally at the top, dab sauce to taste over the exposed filling. Be careful, the filling will be very hot.

  6. Enjoy!

Make Your Own Masa

  • Make your own by mixing 2 cups of dry masa harina with 1 1/2 cups of warm water and kneading it for about a minute to form a dough. (You can also use flour tortilla dough for this recipe.)

Other Fillings

You can put just about anything you like inside a quesadilla, including leftovers from previous meals. Here are some possibilities that should get your ideas flowing:

  • Small cubes of cooked potatoes
  • Cooked chorizo
  • Green chilies in rajas (with or without cream)
  • Picadillo (Mexican meat “hash”)
  • Shredded beef, chicken, or pork, plain or in a sauce
  • Chopped mushrooms or huitlacoche (corn fungus)
  • Sauteed squash flowers
  • Cooked or very tender uncooked corn kernels
  • Chicharron (pork cracklings)