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Quesadillas are humble icons of Hispanic heritage

7 Recipes
A crispy tortilla with cheese and mushrooms oozing out of it
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Our top 7 quesadilla recipes

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A mainstay of Mexican restaurants and home kitchens, the quesadilla originated in central and southern colonial Mexico. It began as a corn tortilla gently heated until soft enough to fold and then filled with Oaxaca cheese and toasted on both sides until golden brown and crispy on the outside and gooey with cheese on the inside. Over time, chopped, cooked vegetables and bits of shredded roasted or stewed meats also found their way into the cheesy tortillas. Sometimes there were accompaniments such as avocado, guacamole, chopped onion, salsa. Sometimes the savory additions completely displaced the cheese, for a cheese-less quesadilla. And nowadays, the tortillas are often made from wheat flour rather than masa.

Influenced by the many micro-cultures of Mexico and Latin America, the quesadilla has been adopted and adapted by chefs and home cooks around the world, especially since the little cheesy things make it so deliciously easy to feed vegetarians and meat-eaters at the same table. A vegetarian quesadilla can be as simple as cheese folded into a tortilla or it can be vegan and bear such alluring fillings as sauteed huitlacoche with onions, garlic and serrano peppers, hold the cheese. For carnivores, simply add some shredded chicken from a recent roast and some tomatillo salsa or toss a few extra shrimp on the barbie for grilled shrimp quesadillas.

These black bean and mushroom quesadillas with avocado crema have a meat-like chew that makes them hearty yet still vegetarian. Use the green tops of root vegetables as with beet green, roasted beets and goat cheese quesadillas to apply nose-to-tail principles to plants. Or, fill your quesadilla with any type of greens and whatever cheese you have on hand — feta, Jack — even mozzarella, which is similar to the more “authentic” Oaxaca cheese.

Flour or corn tortilla? Before the introduction of wheat to Mexico’s agricultural landscape, corn was the only option. Nowadays, softer, flakier, more pliable wheat flour tortillas are just as popular.

While some of the particulars may vary, centuries later, quesadilla basics remain the same. And, if you are comfortable working without a recipe, quesadillas become a tasty haven for all kinds of leftovers.

Black Bean and Mushroom Quesadillas with Avocado Crema

A bright avocado cream adds freshness to these cheesy vegetarian quesadillas teeming with mushrooms and black beans.
Time 25 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Beet green, roasted beets and goat cheese quesadillas

Goat cheese quesadillas made with corn tortillas are loaded with both roasted beets and sauteed beet greens.
Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Quesadillas stuffed with greens and feta

The tortilla toasts just enough to crisp slightly and enrich the corn flavor; the filling gilds quickly braised greens with the irresistible allure of melted cheese.
Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas

Leftover grilled shrimp make for easy quesadillas. Fold them into a tortilla with grilled onions, cherry tomatoes and queso fresco and toast in a skillet until the cheese is melted.
Time 25 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Quesadillas stuffed with mushrooms and goat cheese

The tortilla toasts just enough to crisp slightly and enrich the corn flavor; and, the mushrooms and goat cheese are gilded with the irresistible allure of melted cheese.
Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Chicken Quesadillas With Tomatillo Salsa

Flour tortillas, shredded leftover chicken and grated cheese come together as quesadillas. Spice them up with a lively tomatillo salsa.
Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Huitlacoche quesadillas

The black fungus-y appearance of huitlacoche is a bit startling, but its pungent, earthy taste combines beautifully with sauteed serrano peppers, chopped onion and garlic.
Time 25 minutes
Yields Serves 4