Fried quesadillas are a Mexican favorite! Made from pockets of fresh masa that are filled with cheese and various fillings and then fried until golden brown, they’re a staple in Mexican street food stands and are a popular Mexican antojito (snack).
What Are Fried Quesadillas?
Fried quesadillas are a traditional Mexican dish that is slightly different from the typical quesadillas known in the U.S. While the latter is often made by placing cheese and other fillings between two tortillas and then cooking them on a griddle or skillet, fried quesadillas involve using fresh masa (corn dough) to create pockets that are filled with various ingredients and then deep-fried until golden and crispy.
They can be found in various regions of Mexico, especially in street food stands, and are known for their crispy exterior and savory fillings. The type of filling can vary based on regional preferences and personal tastes.
- Chicken: Homemade shredded chicken is perfect, or you can save some time and shred some store-bought rotisserie chicken.
- Cheese: I used shredded Chihuahua cheese because it melts so well but feel free to use Monterey Jack or Oaxaca if you prefer.
- Masa harina: I used white corn masa harina, but you could use blue, yellow, or red masa harina. My favorite brand of masa harina is Masienda, but any brand will work.
- Water: A little warm water helps form the dough.
- Salt: A touch of fine salt or table salt for flavor and balance in the dough.
- Oil: I used vegetable oil for frying the dough, but you can use canola, avocado, grape seed, or your favorite frying oil.
How to Make Fried Quesadillas
Make the dough: Knead together the masa harina, water, and salt in a large bowl until the water is absorbed.
Form the dough into 8 equal-sized balls, then cover them with a damp paper towel or kitchen towel to keep them moist while you assemble them.
Press, fill, and fold: Press and flatten each ball of dough into a circle using a tortilla press.
Place each one with 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese and 2 tablespoons of shredded chicken in the center of the masa.
Fold one side over and press the edges together to secure it shut.
Cook: In a deep skillet add enough oil to fill it up about halfway. Cook them in batches of 2 and fry each side for about 2 minutes. Place them on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
Serve: Plate the fried quesadillas with a drizzle of Mexican crema, some chopped cilantro, and your favorite salsa!
One of the best parts is all the fun toppings and salsas you can enjoy with this recipe! In addition to shredded lettuce and Mexican crema, I love serving these quesadillas fritas with salsa. Here are a few of my favorite salsas, along with their corresponding spice levels:
- While handling the masa dough, make sure your hands stay moist to help it not dry out. Keep a small bowl of warm water handy to dip your hands in before rolling and shaping the dough.
- This recipe uses shredded Oaxaca cheese, but feel free to use Chihuahua or Monterey jack cheese.
- Tortilla press. Such a helpful tool in the kitchen when working with masa harina! Great for these fried quesadillas as well as corn tortillas, gorditas, and tlacoyos.
- Cast iron skillet. I love frying in a cast iron skillet because it keeps the oil at a more even temperature. This one is my favorite.
- Spider strainer. Great for straining fried foods! It has a long handle to minimize any risk of burning yourself with oil.
Storing and Reheating
Leftover fried quesadillas can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To help maintain their crispness, reheating in the microwave is not recommended. Instead, you can reheat them under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or in an air fryer or toaster oven for 5 minutes at 350°F.