One night, I was at my local Mexican joint, and wanting something, well, cheesy. Quesadilla cheesy. Since we’ve been going to this place for about twenty years (we are nothing if not loyal customers!), the staff are accustomed to my modifications to their menu.
Mostly, this means taking the tomatoes out of whatever dish I choose. I’m not much of a raw tomato person. This time, however, I went for the big substitution: corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas in a quesadilla.
My server didn’t even blink. And, I kid you not, that was the best quesadilla I’d had in years. Even my own weren’t that tasty. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but indulge me. I had a quesadilla in a restaurant.
With some exceptions, corn tortillas are naturally gluten free (the exceptions being “artisanal” corn tortillas; apparently the art is the addition of wheat?). They don’t have the flexibility of wheat tortillas, but they are, without a doubt, tastier.
So, before we explore all the ways you can make delicious gluten-free quesadillas, let’s get the basics out of the way. First, use a griddle or skillet (most skillets will let you make only one quesadilla at a time; a griddle can fit two or more). Coat the cooking surface with olive or canola oil, maybe a teaspoon at the most, and lay a tortilla in the hot oil. Spread shredded cheese over the tortilla and top with another tortilla. Gently press the top tortilla into the melting cheese.
After a minute or so, flip the quesadilla with a spatula. Continue cooking until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is golden brown. Eat. Repeat.
Pretty simple, huh? And kid friendly, which is a bonus!
Now for some variations (you’ll note quesadillas are a great way to use up leftover meats and veggies!).
- Simple Cheese, Spinach, and Tomatoes: For this recipe, you’ll want cooked spinach, and you’ll need to halve cherry or grape tomatoes. Here’s a basic recipe at Gluten-Free Goddess.
- Chicken and Roasted Peppers: Cover the cheese with a handful of cooked chicken and roasted peppers cut into strips. Top with the second tortilla, and cook until the cheese is melted.
- Gruyere and Greens: This is not for quesadilla purists! Gruyere is a delicious, melty cheese that goes great with spinach, chard, or other cooked greens. If you want to completely go off the deep end, brie is also very melty.
- Sausage Quesadillas: I always have extra sausage, so this is a standard for me. You can use cooked loose (no casing) sausage or thinly sliced cooked sausage. I like this spicy, of course! Monterey Jack is a great cheese to use in this recipe.
- Corn and Roasted Peppers: If you have leftover corn on the cob, especially if it’s been grilled, this is the quesadilla for you. Substitute frozen corn (that you’ve cooked) if necessary. Dice the roasted peppers — Anaheim chiles are great, and don’t bring a lot of heat — and saute with the corn. If you can get your hands on queso asadero or queso oaxaca, they are great and melty Mexican cheeses that go nicely with the corn and peppers.
- Black Bean and Avocado: Black beans are best when they’re mixed with a bit of sweet acid, such as orange juice. If you don’t have orange, some diced tomatoes will do the trick. Either dice or slice the avocados.
- Open-Face Quesadillas: Use your corn tortillas as you would a pizza crust, and build from there. Depending on your cooking set-up, you may need to cover the quesadilla with a pan lid to facilitate the cheese melting process.
- Taco Quesadillas: Use seasoned ground beef, chicken, or turkey in your quesadilla. Top with lightly dressed shredded lettuce.
- Fruit Quesadillas: Fruits like mango, apple, and peaches go great with melty cheeses. Since corn tortillas demand a savory treatment, use the fruit to add sweetness to other ingredients, such as greens or meats, such as the Gruyere and Greens quesadilla mentioned above.
Tip of the Week
Guacamole is a traditional condiment for quesadillas, and it takes just minutes to make (see link for recipe below). Many people believe leaving the pit in the guacamole until serving will keep it from turning brown. This works in a very limited way (the part of the guacamole covered by the pit will stay green). The best way to prevent your guac from turning brown quickly is the addition of lime or lemon juice — the acid helps delay oxidation — and to limit exposure to air as much as possible (press plastic wrap to the surface of the guacamole). Also, make your guac at the last possible minute to keep it green!
Menu of the Week
Quesadillas are a fast, easy, “I don’t really want to cook tonight” meal. Making them gluten free by using corn tortillas helps in two ways: fewer calories from the tortillas and more flavor. You can add anything to the mix (see suggestions above), or head straight into comfort food mode with gooey cheese and guacamole on the side!