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Simple Classic Cheese Quesadilla Recipe

When I think of childhood food joys I often think of quesadillas. There was just something so easy about putting some cheese in a tortilla and popping it on the stove or in the microwave for an easy afternoon snack. Quesadillas were the late night snack food of sleepovers, all night study sessions, and one of the first things I ever cooked for my friends when I was growing up.   

What is a Quesadilla?

A quesadilla consists of a corn or flour tortilla, filled with cheese and cooked on a griddle. Technically, you could say a quesadilla is “taco” or “sandwich” which would actually make it a type of grilled cheese sandwich. They are similar to Venezuelan arepas or Salvodorian pupusas with the exception of being a completely flatbread rather than griddle cake. 

Avocado on top of a bowl of classic cheese quesadilla recipe

Our Approach to Cheese Quesadillas

When it comes to a quesadilla, it’s all about the cheese. You want string, stretchy, pull apart goodness, you need to pick the right cheese. Traditionally, they use Oaxaca cheese in quesadillas. 

For those unfamiliar it is pretty close to string cheese / mozzarella. That said, whenever you make a quesadilla make sure you are using a good melting cheese with fat and moisture. 

Recommended cheeses:

  • Colby or Monterey Jack
  • Mozzarella
  • Non-sharp cheddar

Stay away from any cheese that is remotely crumbly and you will do well. Next just remember the whole point of a quesadilla is to taste the cheese so don’t skimp on it.  

Developing Flavors

Quesadilla with add ons

Here is where we are going to deviate from tradition. Traditionally, quesadillas are NOT cooked with fat or oil on the comal. First, we don’t own a comal and you probably don’t either so any pan will do (non-stick is great if you like some cheese overflow, but cast iron and steel do fine too). 

Next, we are going to grease the pan with butter before cooking and let it brown a bit before adding the tortilla. This will add richness and earthy flavors to your tortilla as it toasts. Next we’re going to cook both sides of the tortilla, this is especially important if you are using fresh tortillas. 

Basically, we’ll cook one side of the tortilla and make that the inside of the sandwich and then finish the other side when the quesadilla is assembled. This is not necessarily required but I do think it adds much more flavor and texture to the final product and ensures an even cook between the two sides.  

What to Serve with a Quesadilla

I think the best pairing for a quesadilla has to be avocado or guacamole. Meat or beans is totally optional, but a nice dollop of avocado will really take your quesadilla up to a new level. 

Cheese quesadilla with toppings

Tools Required

To make a quesadilla you need only 1 pan of any type and something to flip the quesadilla with. Quick reminder, do not use any metal utensils on non-stick or stainless pans as you will scratch the surface. 

Avocado on top of a bowl of classic cheese quesadilla recipe

Cheese Quesadilla

Yield: 2 Servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • Two tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup cheese
  • Onion
  • Cilantro
  • Tomato
  • Avocado
  • Sour cream

Instructions

  1. Add butter to pan
  2. Add 1 tortilla and cook till one side is lightly browned
  3. Change to 2nd tortilla and cook till one side is lightly browned
  4. Flip tortilla so browned side is on top
  5. Add cheese
  6. Cover with the other tortilla (browned side down)
  7. Cook for 2 minutes and flip, cook for 2 more
  8. Once cheese is melted remove from pan
  9. Add your toppings

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. With inspirations like Alton Brown and Gordon Ramsey, Nathaniel focuses on simple processes to make amazing food.