Arizona Cheese Crisp


Arizona Cheese Crisps are open-faced quesadillas made with extra large, thin flour tortillas, toasted with butter and cheese, and served with strips of mild green chiles.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Here’s one of my favorites recipes from my mother—what she calls a “Sonoran Quesadilla,” known in Tucson, Arizona where they’re from as “cheese crisps”.

Unlike our usual stove-top quesadilla made with corn or flour tortillas and jack cheese, cheese crisps are open-faced, and made with very large flour tortillas, that are toasted with butter and cheddar cheese, and often topped with strips of mild green chiles.

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According to my Tucson-native mom, these open-faced quesadillas are made with especially large, thin, flour tortillas that you could find in Sonora, the northernmost state of Mexico. Typically they are served on a large platter, sometimes cut like a pie, for everyone to share.

They are crispy, buttery, and absolutely delicious.

The tortillas one uses to make cheese crisps are much thinner than the sturdy burrito-sized flour tortillas we found to make these. It just means we need to cook them a little longer to get them crispy. Don’t pile on the cheese too much; as with pizza, doing so will weigh down the result.

Arizona Cheese Crisp Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes one large Sonoran quesadilla

If you want to have green chiles on your quesadilla (they are optional), you can either roast your own (use Anaheims, Hatch, or Poblano) or use canned whole green chiles.

To roast your own, blacken them over a gas stove, on a grill, or under a broiler, then put the chiles in a covered bowl for a few minutes, then rub off the blackened skin.

(See How to Roast Chiles over a Gas Flame video.) Then de-seed them and cut them into strips.


  • One large, burrito-size (13-inch diameter or larger) flour tortilla
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 or 2 roasted green chiles, peeled, seeded, cut into strips (optional)


1 Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle.

2 Butter a flour tortilla all the way to the edges: Place the flour tortilla on a large baking sheet (a dark baking sheet or cookie sheet will work best. Spread the butter all over the top of the tortilla, all the way to the edges. The butter is important for the flavor of a cheese crisp, so don't leave it out!

3 Bake the tortilla until lightly toasted: Bake the plain buttered tortilla for about 6 minutes or until it begins to get lightly toasted. (Check on the timing for your particular oven.)

4 Sprinkle with cheese, add green chile strips, return to oven: Remove the tortilla from the oven and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese, leaving about 1/2-inch from the edges. Add strips of green chiles in a star pattern if you want.

Return the tortilla to the oven and cook for 2 more minutes, or until all of the cheese has melted. Remove from oven and eat!

My mother will use her oven's convection setting when she makes these cheese crisps. For convection, she'll put the buttered tortilla into a cold oven and heat on convection at 375°F for 7 to 10 minutes. Then she'll sprinkle the cheese and return the quesadilla to the oven for a couple more minutes.

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Flour Tortillas: Where they came from and how to make them

Quesadilla Recipe

Classic Cheese Crisps - from What's Gaby Cooking

Oven Toasted Sonoran Quesadilla

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

75 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Carl Fredrickson

    Not quite like I knew in Phoenix. They only brown lightly usually on grill then bake on the other side with plenty of cheese. Along with diced hatch chiles, jalapeños, chorizo, etc as desired.


  2. Nancy

    Hi there, Thank you for sharing this recipe. I lived in Arizona for over 20 years and came to love these simple treats. Now I’m in Virginia where it’s really hard to find good Mexican food of any kind, let alone cheese crisps. I’m working on a travel blog post about uniquely Arizona foods and wondering if someone could contact me about the possibility of using your cheese crisp photo for my post, with photo credit, of course.

    I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your help!

  3. Tiffany

    My husband thought I was strange making this out in TN but he finally understood when we went to visit my hometown in North Phoenix recently. This was on the menu every place we went (even the non Mexican places). This truly is one of those arizonian dishes you just can’t find anywhere else in the US. Good memories. Thank you for sharing!


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  4. Jackie

    AHMAZING!! Took me right back to my childhood in my beloved Arizona! We continued to make these after moving to Texas and now in Florida, but we could never find those huge, thin, beautifully-perfect tortillas like we had in AZ. I remember the first time I saw a “tortilla” in Texas as a child I said, “Oh, look, baby tortillas!” Everybody cracked up…but it was true! lol . Thank you so much for this!! Now if I can just find someone who will mail me some of those perfect tortillas!! :)


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  5. Dsprout

    Grew up in Phoenix (Camelback High class of 84) but have lived in Florida for last 12 years … have not yet found a decent Mexican restaurant with “proper” food (Sonoran style). Found this recipe & was “yes!!!” … made them for dinner & was not disappointed. Thank you for sharing the recipe brought back GOOD memories

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