Traditional Fried Mexican Quesadillas

Traditional Fried Mexican Quesadillas

The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 10 servings
Yield: 10 quesadillas
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
379 Calories
23g Fat
35g Carbs
9g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 379
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 30%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 22mg 7%
Sodium 79mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 9g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 212mg 16%
Iron 4mg 22%
Potassium 138mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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.


  • 1 pound fresh corn masa

  • 1/2 pound Mexican cheese (such as queso fresco, Oaxaca, or Asadaro)

  • Oil, or pork lard, for frying

  • Meat, veggies, chilies, epazote, Mexican table sauce, or bottled hot sauce, for optional fillings

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Traditional Fried Mexican Quesadillas ingredients

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  2. Divide masa into 10 evenly sized balls.

    masa balls on a plate

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  3. 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).

    rolled out masa ball on plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  4. Cut cheese into 10 slices and place one in center of each tortilla. Add a small spoonful of the additional fillings, if using.

    filling on top of the tortillas

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  5. Fold tortillas in half and press edges with dampened fingers to seal it.

    tortillas folded in half and sealed

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

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

    Traditional Fried Mexican Quesadillas frying in a pan with oil

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  7. Drain fried quesadillas on a rack or several layers of absorbent paper before serving.

    Traditional Fried Mexican Quesadillas on a cooling rack

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Prepare Your Own Masa

  • Make your own masa 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)