chicken quesadillas

This may not look like the most Christmas-y of recipes, but in the run up to the big cooking days ahead, it can be nice to have a few quick and easy dinners planned. I don’t know how authentically Mexican or TexMex these quesadillas can claim to be, since I don’t know much about either of these cuisines (at least not yet!). I can say that they are spicy, tasty, make plenty of leftovers (depending on how many people you are cooking for), and are pretty simple to throw together.

I always liked “taco night” as a child, when the tacos were usually made from one of those El Paso kits that come in a box. This recipe offers something similar (except in quesadilla form, because why stop at soft tacos when you could fry the tortillas in butter?), but from scratch – so the spice mix is much healthier since it has a lot less sodium than those pre-made packages. I prefer to fill my quesadillas with chicken, cheese (generally a sharp white cheddar), and pickled jalapeños, and serve them with sour cream and salsa. You could obviously do all kinds of other things here – the original recipe I’m using recommends putting corn, sauteed onions and tomatoes into the quesadillas, for example. Served with rice, beans, or a salad, these make a delicious and easy dinner. 

Basic Chicken Quesadillas

The original recipe has you dip the chicken in the spice mix right before cooking. If you want extra flavorful chicken, you can marinate the chicken in the spice mix for an hour or two beforehand – this is what I always do. The original recipe also gives instructions for grilling the chicken. Since I have neither a grill nor any grilling skills, I pan fry the chicken. If you want grilling instructions, check out the link to the original recipe at the bottom. This is another recipe where I prefer to butterfly the chicken breasts – this means that there is more surface area in contact with the marinade, and also that the chicken cooks faster and more evenly. I’ve made the cilantro optional because I don’t like it and never include it, but use it if you aren’t weird like me!


2-3 chicken breasts, butterflied (i.e. made into cutlets)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
Butter, for frying quesadillas
Freshly grated cheese
Pickled jalapeños, chopped coarsely
Salsa (preferably homemade!)
Sour cream


In a pie plate, combine the chili powder, cilantro, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, olive oil, and lime juice. Whisk to combine. Thoroughly coat each piece of chicken in the spice rub. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but no more than about 2 hours. (If you are short on time, you can skip the marinating step.)

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and done in the center, about 3-4 minutes per side (this will take longer if you haven’t butterflied the chicken breasts). You may need to work in batches. Remove the chicken to a plate and shred.

In the same skillet, heat a small pat of butter over medium heat. To assemble the quesadilla, put chicken, cheese, and jalapeños (or whatever fillings you want) onto one half of a tortilla, and fold the other half over. Cook in butter until lightly browned and the cheese is melted, about 1-2 minutes per side – watch the quesadillas carefully here, as they can burn very quickly. Add a bit more butter before cooking each quesadilla. Slice into wedges and serve with sour cream, salsa, and anything else that you like!

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

2 Comments on “chicken quesadillas”

  1. Charlene says:

    These were yummy – just the right amount of spiciness and very flavorful and quick to make!

  2. Malou Prestado says:

    I haven’t tried making quesadillas yet so this is on my cooking agenda this year. A friend of mine in California told me how he can’t resist having one and I’ve always been so curious. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

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