Chicken Quesadillas – Once Upon a Chef

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Winner, winner, weeknight dinner! These melty, crispy chicken quesadillas deserve a spot in your rotation.

Chicken Quesadillas

I love a good semi-homemade recipe, and these Tex-Mex chicken quesadillas fit the bill. To make them, start by seasoning chicken tenderloins with a smoky spice blend and sauté them in olive oil—a step that takes just 15 minutes. Meanwhile, create a simple sauce by simmering store-bought salsa with a bit of water. After shredding the chicken, mix it with the sauce to complete your filling (bonus: you’ll have enough to stash half in the freezer for another meal!). To finish the quesadillas, sandwich the filling and cheese between two flour tortillas directly in the skillet, and cook until crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. With Mexican rice and a side of guacamole, this easy meal is sure to please!

Heads up: a large skillet typically fits just one quesadilla at a time. If you’re eager to serve these up faster, feel free to use two skillets simultaneously to speed up the process.

Table of Contents

“Reducing the salsa was the trick to these restaurant quality quesadillas!! Fantastic. Thanks for making a simple food taste gourmet.”

Jamie

What You’ll Need To Make Chicken Quesadillas

ingredients for chicken quesadillas

Find the printable recipe with specific measurements below.

  • Spices (Smoked Paprika, Garlic Powder, Oregano, Cumin): Adds smokiness, warmth, and a touch of herbal freshness.
  • Chicken Tenderloins: Used for their tenderness and quick cooking time. Pro tip: Trim the tendons for the best texture. (see FAQ below)
  • Salsa: Adds a tangy, slightly spicy kick, adding depth and moisture to our quesadilla filling.
  • Flour Tortillas: Crisp up beautifully, offering a satisfying crunch with every bite. Use the burrito-size (10-inch).
  • Shredded Cheese: A Mexican blend or monterey jack cheese melts into stretchy, gooey perfection, creating a delightful contrast with the crispy tortilla. It’s fine to use pre-shredded cheese from a bag, but be sure to use a good-quality brand, like Tillamook thick-cut Mexican blend.

Step-by-Step Instructions

In a small bowl, combine the salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, oregano, and cumin. Stir to combine.

Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly all over the chicken.

chicken tenderloins on plate seasoned with the spice rub

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1½ tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on the first side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the chicken, reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate or cutting board.

Add the salsa and water to the skillet. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is evaporated and the sauce has a thick consistency, 7 to 9 minutes.

Meanwhile, shred the chicken. (If the sauce is done before you’ve finished shredding the chicken, remove it from the heat.)

shredding the chicken on a cutting board

Off the heat, add the shredded chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate/cutting board to the finished sauce and stir until evenly combined. Transfer the chicken mixture to a plate, reserving half to refrigerate or freeze for another meal. Clean the skillet and return to the stove.

chicken and sauce in skillet

Heat ½ tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat. Place 1 tortilla in the skillet and use your hand to swirl it around to coat the bottom evenly with the oil.

swirling tortilla in oil

Sprinkle ¾ cup of the cheese evenly over top, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges. Spread about ⅓ cup of the chicken mixture over half of the tortilla.

When the cheese is mostly melted, fold the tortilla over to cover the filling and form a half-moon shape. Cook until the tortilla is crisp and golden and the cheese is melted, adjusting the heat as necessary, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

toasting outside of quesadilla in skillet

Repeat with the remaining oil, tortillas, cheese, and filling, adjusting the heat as necessary. (Cover the cooked quesadillas lightly with foil to keep them warm.) Let the quesadillas rest a few minutes to allow the filling to set, then cut into wedges and serve with sour cream and lime wedges, if desired.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I remove the tendons from the chicken tenderloins?

Yes, chicken tenderloins typically have a white tendon attached to them and they can be a little tough to chew. It’s easiest to remove them using kitchen shears. Simply pinch the tip of the tendon with your finger and snip where the tendon meets the chicken.

Can I make the quesadillas in advance?

Quesadillas are best served fresh from the skillet for the crispiest texture, but leftovers reheat nicely. To reheat the quesadillas, place them in a skillet over medium heat to re-crisp the tortillas. You can also reheat them, wrapped in foil, in a 350°F-oven for about 10 minutes. The filling mixture can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in a covered container or frozen for up to 3 months.

Can I use a different type of chicken instead of tenderloins?

Yes, you can use other cuts of chicken, such as chicken breasts. If using chicken breasts, be sure to pound them to an even thickness for uniform cooking (this will also tenderize them). Boneless skinless chicken thighs can also be used for a juicier flavor, though they will take a bit longer to cook.

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Chicken Quesadillas

Winner, winner, weeknight dinner! These melty, crispy chicken quesadillas deserve a spot in your rotation.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound chicken tenderloins, tendons trimmed (see note)
  • 1 cup thick and chunky salsa, such as Chi-Chi’s Medium
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 large burrito-size (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 3 cups shredded Mexican Blend or Monterey Jack cheese (see note)

For Serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, oregano, and cumin. Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly all over the chicken.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1½ tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on the first side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the chicken, reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate or cutting board.
  3. Add the salsa and water to the skillet. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is evaporated and the sauce has a thick consistency, 7 to 9 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, shred the chicken. (If the sauce is done before you’ve finished shredding the chicken, remove it from the heat.)
  5. Off the heat, add the shredded chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate/cutting board to the finished sauce and stir until evenly combined. Transfer the chicken mixture to a plate, reserving half to refrigerate or freeze for another meal. Clean the skillet and return to the stove.
  6. Heat ½ tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat. Place 1 tortilla in the skillet and swirl it around with your hand to coat the bottom evenly with the oil. Sprinkle ¾ cup of the cheese evenly over top, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges. Spread about ⅓ cup of the chicken mixture over half of the tortilla. When the cheese is mostly melted, fold the tortilla over to cover the filling and form a half-moon shape. Cook until the tortilla is crisp and golden and the cheese is melted, adjusting the heat as necessary, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining oil, tortillas, cheese, and filling, adjusting the heat as necessary. (Cover the cooked quesadillas lightly with foil to keep them warm.) Let the quesadillas rest a few minutes to allow the filling to set, then cut into wedges and serve with sour cream and lime wedges, if desired.
  7. Note: Chicken tenderloins typically have a white tendon attached to them. They can be a little tough to chew, so I like to remove them with kitchen shears before cooking. Just pinch the tip of the tendon with your finger and snip where the tendon meets the chicken.
  8. Note: It’s perfectly fine to use pre-shredded cheese from a bag, but be sure to use a good-quality brand, like Tillamook thick-cut Mexican blend.
  9. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The filling mixture can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in a covered container or frozen for up to 3 months.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 quesadilla
  • Calories: 696
  • Fat: 56 g
  • Saturated fat: 20 g
  • Carbohydrates: 48 g
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 42 g
  • Sodium: 1,619 mg
  • Cholesterol: 126 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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