Judge my culinary standards if you must, but the Chicken Quesadilla is one of the great dinner standbys of our time. Cheesy, crispy, and ready in a flash, what’s not to adore?
A plain cheese quesadilla of the white tortilla + prebagged cheese + microwave-until-melted variety can be made a bit of a joke when describing someone’s ability to “cook,” but this juicy chicken quesadilla is well-above basic.
Sauteed, seasoned chicken thighs (or chicken breasts if that’s your preference), fajita-style vegetables, and yes CHEESE make this the best chicken quesadilla recipe.
While easy, it will be appreciated by cooks of all levels.
I’ve taken to making the chicken vegetable filling in bulk, portioning and freezing it (I love these containers), then pulling one portion out to thaw overnight.
Come dinner time, all I need to do is pile it onto a tortilla with freshly shredded cheese and pan fry it to golden perfection.
We have dinner ready in 10 minutes!
Even if you haven’t made the filling ahead, this cheesy chicken quesadilla is faster than delivery or preheating your oven for frozen pizza.
It tastes so much fresher and is better for you too!
How to Make a Chicken Quesadilla
A chicken quesadilla might be easy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it the ultimate.
For the best chicken quesadilla that’s crispy outside and melty inside with just the right filling-to-cheese ratio, follow these tips:
- Be sparing with the oil. If you use too much oil in the pan when cooking, it will make your quesadilla greasy. I usually make my quesadillas in a nonstick pan with either no oil (the tortilla doesn’t usually need it) or a bit of nonstick spray.
- Grate your own cheese. Ever wondered why your quesadilla cheese isn’t as smooth and melty as your favorite restaurants? Likely you were using prebagged cheese which, while convenient, is coated with a powdery substance to keep it from clumping. Unfortunately, that powder means the cheese does not melt as smoothly.
- Be patient. I know you want to crank up the heat and just get on with it already, but if you have the pan too hot, the outsides of the tortilla will burn before the cheese is melted inside.
- Let some of the cheese melt out of the tortilla. Or, even add a little extra cheese on top of the tortilla a few minutes before flipping. That oozy cheese will become snackably golden and crispy.
Endless Filling Options
I’ve suggested my favorite blend of chicken, bell peppers, and pepper Jack cheese here, but once you have a melty cheese, you can put just about anything inside a quesadilla that you like!
- Add different veggies like zucchini or mushrooms (try this Mushroom Quesadilla too).
- Switch up the protein by using beans (like in this Breakfast Quesadilla) or pork like this Pulled Pork Quesadilla.
- Use a different kind of melty cheese like white cheddar.
- Or, do a little of each to create the custom quesadilla of your dreams!
- Chicken. Tender, protein-packed chicken breast (or thighs) helps make this quesadilla filling, flavorful, and nutritious. Chicken is rich in iron and minerals.
Cut this recipe time even further by swapping in precooked chicken, made with one of these easy methods (or even store bought rotisserie chicken):
- Cheese. The gooey, cheesy inside is a large part of what makes this quesadilla so wonderful. It helps hold the filling together and tastes absolutely scrumptious.
- Veggies. To make this chicken quesadilla healthy, I packed it with delicious veggies. Bell peppers and onions add flavor, vitamins, and antioxidants.
- Spices. Chili powder, salt, and garlic powder add just the right amount of flavor to the quesadilla.
- Hot Sauce. While optional, you can kick it up with a dash of hot sauce if you please.
- Whole Wheat Tortilla. Whole wheat tortillas have more fiber than regular tortillas, making them a healthier alternative. They crisp up just as well and taste delish!
- Toppings. Salsa, guacamole, queso, and sour cream (plain Greek yogurt works well too) are our go-to toppings. You could also add pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, or shredded lettuce.
- Add the chicken to a bowl, then stir in half of the spices.
- Sauté the vegetables with spices.
- Assemble the quesadillas by piling the fillings onto one half of a tortilla.
- Fold the empty tortilla half over the top. Repeat.
- Cook the quesadillas two at a time in a skillet.
- Flip after about 4 minutes, cooking on the other side for a few minutes. Let cool, slice, and DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover quesadilla in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze the quesadilla in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Prepare the chicken and vegetable filling up to 1 day in advance. Assemble and cook the quesadillas as directed when you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Large Skillet. Perfect for making easy chicken quesadillas.
- Cheese Grater. Skip the bagged kind, and use a box grater or a microplane grater to grate your own.
- Mixing Bowls. With a variety of sizes, this set has everything you need.
Whether you call it in as a pinch-hitter or make it part of your regular meal plan, this hearty chicken quesadilla is a home run!
Frequently Asked Questions
While we enjoy this quesadilla with chicken, you could try swapping in cooked and shredded (or diced) pork, beef, or turkey. For a vegetarian option, try adding black beans.
If you’d like to bulk up your quesadilla a little more, you could add extra veggies, beans (Instant Pot Black Beans or Instant Pot Refried Beans), avocado slices, tomatoes, or any other filling ingredients you enjoy.
I recommend using whole wheat tortillas for the extra health benefits, but you can swap regular flour tortillas if you prefer. Corn tortillas would also work for this recipe, but they are typically much smaller than flour tortillas and tricker to hold together during cooking.
For those who are gluten free and enjoy using almond flour tortillas, those are another good option for this recipe.
For the Quesadillas:
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups cooked diced or shredded chicken about 2 medium breasts or 2 to 3 thighs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 orange, yellow, or green bell pepper diced (or 1 cup chopped veggies of choice: baby spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, etc.)
- Hot sauce optional
- 1 1/4 cups shredded pepper Jack or Monterey Jack cheese divided
- 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese divided (or additional pepper/Monterey Jack)
- 4 medium whole wheat tortillas
- Oil, butter, or nonstick spray optional for cooking the quesadillas
- Prepared salsa
- Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- In a small bowl, stir together the chili powder, salt, and garlic powder. Place the chicken in a separate, medium bowl and sprinkle with half of the spice mixture. Stir to coat. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it is hot and shimmering. Add the onion and bell peppers, and any other vegetables you are using (wait to add spinach, however). Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture over the top and stir to coat. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is turning translucent and brown and the other vegetables are crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. If using spinach, stir it in a few handfuls at a time until it wilts. If you’d like the filling spicy, add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with the chicken and stir to combine.
- Assemble the quesadillas: For each, top half of a tortilla with an eighth of the pepper Jack (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) and an eighth of the cheddar (about 1 1/2 tablespoons). Spread one-quarter each of the vegetables and chicken evenly on top of the cheese (it will seem like a lot, but go with it). Top with one-eighth additional pepper Jack (2 1/2 tablespoons) and one-eighth additional cheddar (1 1/2 tablespoons).
- Fold the empty tortilla half over the toppings, pressing gently. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
- Cook the quesadillas: With a paper towel, carefully wipe out the skillet you used for the vegetables. Heat over medium to medium-low heat, adding a little butter or oil to the skillet if you’d like the tortillas crisper. Place 1 quesadilla in the pan with the folded edge running down the center and the open edge facing outward. Lay a second quesadilla down beside it facing the opposite direction so it fits in the skillet nicely. With the back of a spatula, lightly press down on the tops so they flatten (don’t worry if some of the cheese oozes out; it will become crispy and DELISH). Cook on the first side until golden and crisp, adjusting the heat as needed so the quesadillas crisp but do not burn, about 4 or so minutes depending upon your stove.
- Carefully flip and cook the other side for about 2 more minutes, until both sides are a yummy, lightly crisp golden brown.
- Let the quesadillas cool on a cutting board for a few minutes (or transfer to a 200 degrees F oven to keep warm while finishing remaining batches). When ready to serve, with a sharp knife or pizza cutter, slice into three pie-shaped wedges. Enjoy hot with toppings.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover quesadilla in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze the quesadilla in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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