Origin of Quesadilla

In this post, I’d like to talk about history or origins of quesadilla.

Quesadillas are not only my but also one of Mexicans’ favorite simple snacks. Quesadilla is a ‘turnover’ made with fresh tortilla which can be also descried as a flat bread. Various ingredients can be stuffed inside the fresh tortilla. Filling can be as simple as cheese, epazote (a pungent herb), and pepper, or potatoes. If one wants to add more, various meats such as pollo, cerdo, and camaron can be filled inside. After the turnover is filled, it is toasted or fried on a hot griddle until it turns golden.

Left : chicken quesadilla at La Cazuela in Jackson, MS.

Right : more chicken quesadilla and fajitas at La Cazuela

Quesadilla were developed once Spanish settlers came to Mexico in the 16th century. Turnover type foods were popular in Medieval Spain and they were blended with New World foods. Turnover type foods were brought by Spanish settlers but tortilla is a basic Mesoamerican food that has been consumed many years that can’t even be traced back. The native Nahuatl call it  tlaxcalli and the Spanish gave it the name tortilla. This is definitely shows that quesadilla is a blended product of Old and New world. Chicken quesadilla was brought with the Spanish settlers as an Old World food. Filling turkey meat was added as an New World food, but it was only consumed for special holidays instead for daily snacks.

Steak Quesadilla                                 Turkey Quesadilla

The more southern one goes down, the more complicated the fillings are. In central Mexico, the simplest filling can be braided Oaxaca cheese, a few fresh leaves of epazote and strips of peeled chile poblano. Another famous fillings are Potato and chorizo fillings. Some other fillings I found interesting were sauteed squash blossoms (flor de calabaza) or the ambrosial fungus that grows on the corn blossoms (huitlachoche). These can be tasted during the summer and the early fall.

Other interesting fact is that Salvadoran quesadilla is a rich, sweet dessert cake often found in local panaderías, or bakeries. They have the same name as the Mexican snack quesadilla, but it is a totally different shape and dish. Traditionally the queso used for Salvadoran quesadilla is unsalted Salvadoran queso fresco, a fresh farmers-type cheese.

s quesa Salvadoran Quesadilla

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2 thoughts on “Origin of Quesadilla

  1. stevenpaulalvarez says:

    Some fantastic research. Make sure to give a link and citation to the sources. You unpacked a lot of stuff here, that shows some genuine interest in this dish. Have you ever made one? Could you? What would you need?

    Quick note: I make these all the time at home, so easy! Sometimes I press two tortillas together. Where’s I’m from they are also called “cheese crisps.”

    Liked by 1 person

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