Oaxacan cheese merges the taco and the quesadilla in this simple recipe

Oaxacan string cheese taco at Proplink Tabletop Studio in downtown Los Angeles.
Seared Oaxacan cheese melts onto a tortilla that’s stuffed with black beans, guacamole and radishes.
(Dylan + Jeni / For the Times)

As a cook, you get to eat the best bits before a dish even hits the table: brownie corners, lasagna edges and — one of my favorites — the cheese that melts out of the edges of a quesadilla and sizzles against the pan. It gets all crackly on the bottom while staying gooey on top. But there are usually only a few precious lacy ribbons to eat with each quesadilla.

These tacos give you a tortilla-full of that goodness. Stretchy, salty Oaxacan cheese sears hard on a pan on one side while the other side melts onto a tortilla. I first experienced this cheesy tortilla wonder at TNT Mexican Restaurant in Norwalk, where mother-daughter team Elvira and Angelica Rodriguez specialize in the cuisine of Jalisco.

At TNT, the chefs Rodriguez mound meat over the browned cheese, but I prefer this lighter black bean option at home. If you want carne asada, pollo or carnitas, add them; otherwise, try this five-minute vegetarian filling or go with just the cheese.

What you don’t want to skip are the guacamole and radishes, which take it from a snack to a dish. And while all the cheese turns into a tasty hot mess for everyone to enjoy, some may still slip over the tortillas’ edges. Those are all yours.


The seared cheese melts and becomes stretchy, making for the ultimate cheese pull.
(Dylan + Jeni / For The Times)

Oaxacan String Cheese Tacos

Oaxacan String Cheese Tacos recipe in our California Cookbook »

20 minutes. Serves 4.

  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus sprigs for serving
  • 2 limes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 can black beans (14 ounces), drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup homemade or store-bought salsa verde, plus more
  • 1 package Oaxacan cheese (10 ounces)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 8 radishes, sliced

1 Cut half of the jalapeño into thin slices and reserve for serving. Remove and discard the seeds and ribs from the other half, then finely chop. Put the chopped jalapeño in a bowl with the avocado, cilantro, the juice of half a lime and a pinch of salt. Mash and mix until chunky, then taste and add more lime juice and salt to taste.

2 Combine the beans and salsa verde in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat. Once they begin bubbling, smash a quarter of the beans to thicken the mixture slightly and reduce the heat to low to keep warm. Unroll the rope of Oaxacan cheese and tear into 16 even pieces (each about 2 inches long).

3 To make a taco, heat a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Put 2 cheese pieces next to each other and let sit until the bottom is dark golden brown and the top almost fully melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Place a tortilla over the cheese and press down to stick. Carefully flip the cheesy tortilla and let sit until the center of the cheese just melts, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and top with a spoonful of the beans, guacamole, a few radish and jalapeño slices, and some cilantro sprigs. Drizzle with more salsa verde and serve immediately. You can make up to 4 at a time, depending on the size of your skillet.