The Secret to Crispy, Delicious Quesadillas – Recipe

Crispy Quesadilla with Pecorino and Onion & Garlic Jam
Crispy Quesadilla with Pecorino and Onion & Garlic Jam

Pretty much everyone loves a quesadilla. Whether you are feeding a 3-year old with mild Monterey jack, or a sophisticated foodie with taleggio and grilled figs, a tortilla and melted cheese is quick to make and irresistible. Let me tell you about a simple trick which will take your quesadillas from tasty but floppy to crispy and delicious.

First a word of warning: this only works with corn tortillas. Flour quesadillas are fine too, but that’s a different article. I prefer corn because it adds more flavor and texture.

Anyhow, here is the secret: brush both sides of the quesadilla with a bit of oil before putting them on the pan or griddle on medium-high heat, and then let it cook plenty of time on each side.

I told you it was easy! It doesn’t need to be a lot of oil at all, but the difference is amazing. When you cook a quesadilla dry, the shell simply heats up and dries out a bit, which is ok. But when you brush on a bit of oil and let it cook awhile, the tortilla gets crispy / chewy and tastes amazing, like a perfectly fresh tortilla chip.

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If you are lucky, a bit of the cheese might run out and brown and stick to the edges like the top of a great mac & cheese and now you’ve got some serious flavor going.

To get your creative juices flowing, here’s a tasty quesadilla I made the other day, filled with green peppercorn pecorino, red onions, and (incredible) Stonewall Kitchen Roasted Garlic & Onion Savory Jam. I served it with a quick chevre & cilantro sauce and some smoked paprika. You should substitute ingredients wildly and make whatever sounds good to you!

Crispy Quesadilla with Pecorino and Garlic & Onion Jam
Makes 1 quesadilla – multiply as needed
Vegetarian & gluten-free; not vegan
Preparation time: under 10 minutes

  • 2 taco-sized soft corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup grated green peppercorn pecorino cheese
  • a few thin slices of red onion
  • 1 tablespoon Stonewall Kitchen garlic & onion jam (see link above)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil (anything that can handle heat, like canola)
  • pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese (aka chevre; my favorite is Laura Chenel)
  • small handful cilantro leaves, chopped fine – reserve a couple for garnish
  • smoked paprika (see link above)
  1. Heat a cast-iron skillet, flat griddle, or other frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Sprinkle the cheese on one tortilla and top it with the onion.
  3. Spread the jam on the other tortilla and cover the first one.
  4. Brush one side with the oil and put that side down in the skillet, then brush the other side with oil.
  5. Cook for several minutes on each side, until it is developing beautiful crispy brown spots. The one in the picture above could actually have gone a few more minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, beat the goat cheese with a bit of water until smooth like thick yogurt. Bruise the minced cilantro with your fingertips to release the flavor and stir it in to the goat cheese with a bit of salt to taste.
  7. When the quesadilla is done on both side, remove it to a cutting board and carefully cut it into quarters with decisive presses of a sharp knive. Place on plate, sprinkle with a bit of salt, dust the plate with the smoked paprika, add a dollop of the goat cheese sauce and munch intently.


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Posted by Michael Natkin on Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 in Appetizers, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Kid Friendly, Recipes.

21 Responses to “The Secret to Crispy, Delicious Quesadillas – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    July 29, 2008 at 12:07 pm #

    This reminds me of something that I discovered recently about corn vs flour tortillas: Store bought flour tortillas tend to be loaded with salt, while store bought corn tortillas generally have little to no salt in them, yet corn tortillas still taste plenty good. I realized this while coming up with things to eat for a relative who is salt sensitive, and was shocked to see how much salt it is possible to consume unwittingly in just the flour tortillas in a quesadilla.

  2. Reply
    July 29, 2008 at 3:20 pm #

    Michael, how come I always find myself starving each time I visit your blog.

    I mean, all your recipes; they just look like what I would cook if pastry didn’t take all my time.


    xx fanny

  3. Reply
    July 29, 2008 at 9:03 pm #

    Those Quesadillas look fantastic! Really scrumptious! Thanks for the tip!



  4. Reply
    July 30, 2008 at 12:10 am #

    I just discovered the joys of corn tortilla quesadillas. SO much better than flour! Wow, who knew?

    Thanks for the tip about getting them crispy, we’ve been doing (vegan) pesto quesadillas with marinara. Sort-of a Mex-Italian “fusion” thing, right? SOOOOOO good!!

    Always love your posts as usual!

  5. Reply
    July 30, 2008 at 8:05 am #

    I’ve actually never made a quesadilla with corn tortillas, but I’m going to be trying one now!

  6. Reply
    July 30, 2008 at 8:25 am #

    Mmm… now you’ve inspired me to go make some quesadillas! Especially with that photo. And I love the idea of figs inside.

  7. Reply
    July 30, 2008 at 10:50 am #

    waiting for your crispy flour tortillas post. We made our own whole wheat tortillas the other week and they were nice and soft. But crispy sounds like another texture that I’d enjoy.

  8. Reply
    July 30, 2008 at 1:17 pm #

    These look amazing!

    I love corn tortillas (over flour tortillas), but the trouble is they’re harder to find than their flour brethren. I might have to go find some because I want these!

  9. Reply
    July 30, 2008 at 1:20 pm #

    I love quesadillas! I was thinking about making some grilled peach quesadillas. Thanks for reminding me I wanted to do that 🙂

  10. Reply
    July 30, 2008 at 3:03 pm #

    Great tip! I’ve never thought of using corn tortillas. I can’t wait to try this recipe. And I need to get some of that onion and garlic jam.

  11. Reply
    July 31, 2008 at 12:47 am #

    I simply adore quesadillas! Thanks so much for the tip. They look yummy

  12. Reply
    July 31, 2008 at 3:40 am #

    Those quesadillas look good. I usually add a touch of butter to the pan when cooking flour tortillas but they certainly don;t come out as crispy as those look!

  13. Reply
    July 31, 2008 at 12:44 pm #


    I need your help! I am flying to Sea-Tac next Thursday, and a friend is driving down from Bellingham to meet me for lunch. Do you have any suggestions for a cheap-ish lunch for two friends who want to catch up (i.e. no quick grab & go) in the Seattle/Sea-Tac area?


  14. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    July 31, 2008 at 1:21 pm #

    Hi Kathleen – one thought might be Cafe Flora, the place I used to work. It is vegetarian and moderately priced. It is in the city. I don’t know that there is anything I can particularly recommend down by the airport. You can see all my restaurant reviews here.

    If you let me know more about what you like I’ll be happy to offer some other ideas.


  15. Reply
    August 1, 2008 at 12:38 pm #

    Thanks Michael,
    I can’t wait to try this method of making quesadillas crispy – the filling may need to be different for two munchkins, but Glenn and I will definitely try this recipe.
    I am intrigued by going vegetarian, although never quite get there, so I always enjoy adding to my repertoire.

  16. Reply
    August 20, 2008 at 9:37 am #

    Sounds (and looks) great! I especially like white corn tortillas, and am going to try this with them.

  17. Reply
    October 12, 2008 at 10:35 pm #

    Ah, yis…the secret, revealed.

    We make a lot of corn quesadillas here, probably too many.

    I tend to use walnut oil (or butter, depending on the filling) as my brushing oil because here in Yurp it’s about the same price as olive oil, and the flavor is so much more complementary to Mexican and Southwestern food.

    I also dust my quesadillas with a little smoked paprika and cinnamon while they’re in the pan. Smells great and adds a bit of mystery, long as you don’t use too much.

  18. Reply
    May 26, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    I live in Holland, would love 2 make this quesadilla if only someone could tell me where I can buy that jam??.. 🙁

  19. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    May 28, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    If you can't buy it, try caramelizing lots of onions and garlic, then cooking them down in simple syrup. You'd have to use it within a few days though unless you know how to make it safe for canning (not my specialty!).

  20. Reply
    October 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    If you want even more flavor, brush it with butter instead of oil.

  21. Reply
    April 29, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    I just recently started making my quesadillas with corn tortillas. I heat up the tortillas up in a pinch of oil much like you do with enchiladas so they get soft. then sandwich them and reheat. I use Peanut Oil, adds so much flavor to them; they’re at the perfect balance between crisp and soft.

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