Is there a secret to a perfect quesadilla?

Hi, I've been experimenting more and more with quesadillas lately. My results have all been delicious and nutritious, but not necessarily easy on the eyes. Is there a trick for gooey not runny, sticky not slippery (in terms of the tortilla staying put) and cooking a tortilla to crispy-chewy perfection? Thanks all!

  • Posted by: KatyM
  • August 17, 2012


jsdunbar August 19, 2012
These answers are terrific for me. In my ignorance, I've loaded the ingredients on a warm tortilla & put it in the toaster oven until the cheese has melted, then taken it out & folded it - - rather crunchy. When recently called upon to make more than one I used the big oven so was unsure of temp & timing. They were verging on burnt at the edges when I rescued them. The surprise was the leftovers. Not that there were leftovers, but that after being individually wrapped & stored in the fridge overnight then reheated in the microwave they were only slightly crunchy, mostly chewy, really altogether better. Next time I'll try the above suggestions.
ChefOno August 18, 2012

If there's a "secret", it's lard. You can't make a good flour tortilla without it. But you're not likely to find authentic tortillas in an American grocery store, certainly not TJ's. "Why" is a matter of marketing and irrational fear. Contradictory too, in that most of us eat bacon without realizing it's lard in another incarnation.

Try folding the filling into a single tortilla the way it's traditionally done. That should control the slip-sliding problem. Other issues can be resolved by using a smaller tortilla.

pierino August 18, 2012
No surprse I guess, but I'm in the ChefOno camp on the use of lard. It's much healthier to eat than a lot of the processed foods that wind up in American diets. Although it's not really another incarnation of bacon, it is of course pig fat. Tortilla chips in American Mexican restaurants have never tasted the same since they started putting "cooked in vegetable oil FOR YOUR HEALTH" at the bottom of the menu.
As for cooking tortillas the traditional vessel is the comal, which is a bit like a smaller paella pan. Not that you can't use a cast iron skillet.
ChefOno August 18, 2012

I didn't mean to imply lard = bacon but that bacon = lard. Or more precisely, bacon drippings = lard. Even more precisely, bacon drippings = smoky, salty lard. As for the health aspects, if you buy into the lipid hypothesis, lard has 1/3 less saturated fat than butter.

dymnyno August 18, 2012
My favorite flour tortillas that can be purchased in a store are from Trader Joes and are called "Truly Handmade Tortillas" The secret to producing a quesadilla with a gooey filling is to cook it very slowly and flip it with a large spatula with help from your nimble fingers. I like to have sides of sour cream, avocado, more grated cheese and salsa that can be heaped on the quesadilla to taste. They are one of my favorite foods and I have found that I can order one from Naples, Florida to Winnamucca, Nevada and they will taste good.
PhillipBrandon August 18, 2012
Don't fat-fry them. They don't relly need added butter or oil to be beautiful and crispy. Put one tortilla in a dry pan, heat it till you can't comfortably touch the top sidem then flip it over. The residual heat starts to melt your cheese, and you can add ingrdients, and glue down the top tortilla. Cook both sides till crispy. No butter. No added oil.
pierino August 17, 2012
Keep in mind that Hatch chiles are in season now.. great in the filling. Fire roast on the grill.
lorigoldsby August 17, 2012
Also agree with Sadassa's technique...I also "precook" the "inside" by grilling it for a few minutes, flipping, THEN filling with cheese and other ingredients and toasting the outside
Sadassa_Ulna August 17, 2012
They are flour. My TJ's has two types of tortillas in the bread section, pretty much side by side, and one says 'handmade' on the package.
Louisa August 17, 2012
Sadassa, I've heard about the Trader Joe's tortillas. Our TJ's just opened a month ago, and I've seen their tortillas in the bread section and in the frozen section. Which ones are the "handmade" ones? And are they corn or the flour?
amysarah August 17, 2012
Not Sadassa, but I agree that the TJ's homemade ones are great - in the bread section, not frozen.
Sadassa_Ulna August 17, 2012
Tortillas are important, the paper-thin dry ones are evil. My favorite flour tortillas are the "handmade" ones from Trader Joe's. They are thick, very pale and under-cooked looklng. When I make quesadillas I first lightly toast both sides of the tortillas in a cast iron skillet on med. low until they start to develop air pockets but not really golden yet, then I set them on a plate and start to make the quesadillas, generally following the advice above about cheese glue, pre-cooked veggies and not over-stuffing. Oh and salt on the inside!
I like it when the tortillas get golden, a little crunchy on the outermost layer and starting to flake. Someday I will make my own tortillas as benny advises!
Benny August 17, 2012
Here are my suggestions:

1) Make home-made flour tortillas. not as hard as you might think. there are tons of recipes via web-search. A freshly made tortilla is uncomparable to a store bought.

2) if using veggies (such as green peppers, mushrooms, etc..) make sure you pre-cook them with salt to draw out all the extra moisture in them. Otherwise, your quesadilla will have runny liquid pouring out of it. Sautee in a pan until all the liquid draws out and evaporates.

3) to echo Sam, don't over stuff. Choose a couple flavors and stick with those. I light sprinkle of each ingredient will provide plenty of flavor. It will be harder to get that good crispy outter tortilla with an over stuffed quesadilla, and it will be harder to handle without falling apart.

4) regarding cheese, I've used a wide variety of cheeses depending on what else I'm putting in there. In my experience, if you follow the above suggestions, any cheese will provide sufficient "glue" to hold it all together.
amysarah August 17, 2012
Smaller tortillas are easier to flip and agree about not overstuffing. To keep them from sliding apart, I sandwich whatever non-cheese filling (e.g., meat or vegetables, etc.) between 2 layers of cheese, which is the glue: tortilla/cheese/other filling/cheese/tortilla. Also, I just get in there with my hand and hold the top tortilla on while I flip it with the spatula from underneath. If I don't think the cheese looks melty enough when the tortillas are done in the skillet (browned in spots,) I just pop them in a hot oven for a couple of minutes.
Sam1148 August 17, 2012
Many techniques out there.

I use a non stick pan and flip them..which is kind of skillful..and has a potential for fail to get both sides crisp without ejecting stuff inside. Mexican melting cheese. (available in supermarkets) is preferred. That's really kinda tricky to do well for large ones.

Use less stuffing..very light no more than three or so 'stuff' in the mix doesn't add the slippy bits you speak of.
A fry..and then broil technique with the top layer sprayed or coated with oil to crisp up works well too. With the broiler about 3 inches from the frying pan. Just one min to crisp up the top layer after the bottom is crisp on the stovetop...which just takes a min too.

IMHO. use smaller disks of flour tortillas...which are far better to flip..fry and crisp on the stove top and easy to flip.

The big ones can be (as you've discovered) a bit of a problem
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