The tortilla is one of my favorite culinary blank slates. The question isn’t what you CAN put in there. The question is, instead, what CAN’T you put in there?
In my house, we like to eat quesadillas for breakfast (eggs and black beans and cheese; sometimes avocado if I have one that wants to cooperate) and lunch (black beans and cheese) and, of course, dinner. In the case of dinner, almost anything goes, and more often than not, it’s a fridge-and-pantry clearing exercise.
One of my favorite combos is black beans and avocado. I almost always have a can of black beans in the pantry and tortillas in the fridge. If you have those, too, you’re already partly there!
What Can You Prep Ahead?
Quesadillas—and tacos, for that matter—come together fast because the components are easy to assemble. This means you can also easily prep those components separately ahead of time. You could put together the black beans, peppers, and onions the night or day before. Just keep them covered in the refrigerator.
This recipe is also engineered to produce a little bit of leftover black bean filling, mostly because my kids always want some kind of Mexican-themed food, at least once a week. The most natural fit is tacos, but you can also take the filling and load it up over tortilla chips. Pop them in the oven with some grated cheese on top, and boom, nachos for dinner! (Just chop the avocado and top the nachos once they come out of the oven!)
If you like, you can stretch the filling into several meals by using one whole pepper and adding another whole can of black beans. The recipe will still work, and you’ll have quesadilla leftovers for days.
HOW TO MAKE QUESADILLAS
You might think you don’t need a word about how to make a quesadilla, but I’m going to tell you how it’s typically done, and then I’m going to tell you what I did, and why.
Typically, you warm up the tortilla on both sides until you see an air bubble, and then you add the cheese on half of one side, leaving enough space to fold it in half. Then, you add the rest of your ingredients. Adding the cheese first on the bottom gives it a chance to form a good melty base.
However, for this recipe, I layer on the filling first, dollop the avocado on top, and then sprinkle the cheeses on top of the avocado. I liked this best, however unorthodox it might seem, because the cheeses and avocado get friendly and blended.
One disadvantage of this method is that you get some cheese casualties that fall out of the tortilla when it’s time to flip it over to brown the top. But let’s be real. Quesadillas are not the most elegant looking edibles, are they? A little mess never hurt anyone.
The Best Kind of Tortillas to Use
Typically, flour tortillas are larger and hold up better for quesadillas, so that’s what I use.
Tips for Avocado TLC
- If your avocados are hard, put them in a brown paper bag. Add a banana. In another day or so, you’ll have a ripe avocado suitable for mashing. (And a banana that may be ready to go into banana bread.)
- Store any unused avocado in a glass of water in the refrigerator, a tip I learned from cookbook writer David Joachim. Yes, your avocado will be wet, but it will also not overly ripen and it will reduce browning on the outside. When ready to use your avocado, simply dump out the water, pat it dry, and proceed as directed.
What to Eat With Quesadillas
Sometimes I serve these with straight up white rice; sometimes with a cilantro lime rice; sometimes it’s extra tortilla chips to scoop up anything that might fall out of the tortilla, or a simple green salad. Sometimes it’s just eaten as is.
These babies are filling, so don’t worry too much about adding a ton of extras.
How to Serve Quesadillas
If you want to serve the quesadillas all at once, preheat the oven to 300°F. As you make the quesadillas, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and keep them warm in the oven, adding more as you go until it’s time to serve.
You can also serve with some sour cream and some fresh tomato salsa—a.k.a. pico de gallo.
MORE QUESADILLA RECIPES TO TRY!
Easy Avocado and Black Bean Quesadillas Recipe
Queso fresco doesn't exactly grate or shred easily when you use a box grater—it kind of crumbles. I grated it, because it allowed me to achieve a more even distribution of cheese, but you could also crumble it with your fingers if you prefer.
For the avocado mash:
- 2 large or 3 small avocados
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- Pinch of kosher salt
For the quesadillas:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half moons
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 yellow, red, or orange bell pepper, deseeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 8-inch flour tortillas
- 1 cup queso fresco, crumbled or grated
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- Sour cream
- Pico de gallo or salsa
1 Make the avocado mash: In a small bowl, mash the avocado with a fork, and add a dash of kosher salt and the juice of half a lime. You want it to reach a consistency that feels close to guacamole—a little chunky, but still spreadable. Set aside.
2 Cook the veggies and beans: In a cast iron skillet or other large, heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and cook, stirring every minute or so, until the onion starts to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the salt, cumin, oregano, and coriander, stirring until the onions are completely coated.
Add the bell pepper and stir to combine. Cook for another 3 minutes, until the peppers just begin to soften. Add the lime juice and black beans and stir the whole mix together. Cook for about 2 minutes, just to warm the black beans through.
3 Warm the tortillas: Heat the second tablespoon of olive oil in a separate skillet or grill pan over medium high heat. Add 1 flour tortilla and let it heat up for a minute or so. Using tongs, flip the tortilla over, and repeat the process for the other side, until you see a couple of bubbles welling up in the center of the tortilla.
4 Assemble the quesadilla: Layer the filling, then the avocado, and then the cheese—about 1/4 cup of each, but if you want more cheese than that I’m not the cheese police, so go for it!
5 Cook the quesadilla: Fold the tortilla over to seal the quesadilla. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until it’s crispy, and the cheese has melted. Repeat the process for the other quesadillas, although if your skillet is large enough you can make two at a time in the same skillet.
6 Serve the quesadillas: Cut the quesadillas into triangular portions and serve with sour cream, avocado, and/or the pico de gallo, if desired. Quesadillas are best served and eaten immediately.
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