Seriously, The Best Homemade Quesadillas

Get the secrets to making restaurant-quality quesadillas at home!

Over the years I’ve noticed there’s kind of a “difference”, shall we say, between the quesadillas I get at a Mexican restaurant or taquería and the ones I make at home. The restaurant flour tortillas taste a whole lot better than my store-bought ones (or have flavor at all!) — they’re very savory, with soft and flaky texture. The restaurant cheese, which always seems to melt smoother than the cheddar blend I usually buy, is stretchy, like mozzarella, but still buttery.

I’ve finally figured out why!

I now know how to make Seriously, The Best Homemade Quesadillas and you will too, by the end of this post! And, yes, we’re going to use the panini press to do it. 🙂

My friend Angie joined me for margaritas and Mexican food at Cafe Coyote in San Diego's Old TownOnce again, I was inspired by a night out at a local restaurant — this time my friend Angie joined me for margaritas and Mexican food at Cafe Coyote in San Diego’s Old Town.
Cafe Coyote in San Diego's Old Town
Ladies rolling out homemade tortillas, serenading mariachis, margaritas, and traditional Mexican food on a big outdoor patio — that’s Cafe Coyote. It’s a fun place for a night out with friends, and Angie and I were long overdue to catch up. She enjoyed her shrimp fajitas, I went with our server’s good recommendation for the Tierra y Mar (shrimp and carne asada), and we shared a light flan for dessert. But what stood out to us from the meal more than anything were the homemade tortillas.
The key to the very best quesadillas -- homemade tortillas!

I don’t think I’d ever made flour tortillas at home before this past weekend, but if I did I’m quite sure I didn’t use a key traditional ingredient that gives tortillas their gently porky flavor and soft, flaky texture…
Flour tortillas are traditionally made with manteca, aka lard, for a soft, flaky texture

manteca, aka lard. Honestly, I thought if I showed a photo of the other side of the package which says “LARD” in big letters, a lot of you might cringe. I know I did. Modern day wisdom has taught us to steer clear of animal fats. That said…according to Dr. Andrew Weil (whom I tend to trust), lard actually has nearly one-fourth the saturated fat and more than twice the monounsaturated fat as butter. Interesting. Some commercial lard products are hydrogenated, which is pretty bad, but I called Farmer John directly to confirm that theirs is not hydrogenated.

All I know for sure is that lard makes those nice pockets in the dough that become delightfully flaky layers. And that is pretty good!

It’s just four simple ingredients — flour, lard, salt and water — kneaded, rested, rolled and griddled. As you can see above, I opted to griddle the tortillas on my Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler, the grill I know many of you have at home. With its flat heated surface, it’s pretty similar to the traditional comal that’s used for making tortillas in Mexico. Advantages to using the Griddler: it’s a large surface area so you can cook two tortillas at a time. A downside: the plates don’t seem to get as hot as the stove (even when you turn the heat all the way up) so instead of taking 30-45 seconds per side, it’s more like 2 minutes per side. But if you happen to be in a place without a stove (e.g., dorm room, office, hotel) you can still make fresh tortillas on your electric griddle!
Queso Quesadilla -- just the right combination of buttery and stretchy

All right, the cheese. Most of us use whatever cheese we happen to have on hand, and that’s great. But I finally wanted to find that stretchy, buttery cheese that they use at the taquería. I went to the grocery store, looking for Oaxaca cheese, but instead I came across something called Queso Quesadilla. I’ll admit, my first reaction was “Oh, please…that sounds so fake!” But it turns out that Queso Quesadilla is actually a thing, and it melts fabulously.

My favorite quesadillas are the simplest ones — just cheese, and maybe a few jalapeños (I used the tamed kind — more tangy than spicy). Soft, flaky homemade flour tortillas + oozy, stretchy cheese = seriously, the best. 🙂

Seriously, the BEST quesadillas


Seriously, The Best Homemade Quesadillas

Recipe by Kathy Strahs,

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes | Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 quesadillas



  1. Heat the panini press to medium-high heat. If your panini press comes with flat plates, I’d recommend using them.
  2. For each quesadilla: Arrange a handful of cheese on top of one tortilla. Scatter jalapeños over the cheese, if using. Close the quesadilla with a second tortilla.
  3. Carefully transfer the quesadilla to the panini press and close the lid (if your press has a height adjustment feature, adjust it so the upper plate rests on the quesadilla without squeezing it too much). Grill each quesadilla, one at a time, with the closed until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are browned and toasted, about 3 minutes. Slice into wedges and serve with condiments such as salsa, guacamole and sour cream.



KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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  1. Karly wrote:

    I made tortillas with lard once and they were amazing! I’ve been too embarrassed to buy more lard at the store though. Haha! I’m such a weirdo. It just seems so WRONG to buy lard.

    Love these gooey, melty quesadillas. Perfect for lunch!

    Posted 1.29.14 Reply
    • Kathy Strahs wrote:

      I know the feeling, Karly! The first time I bought it I had to ask a store clerk for help finding it — I felt all shy about it. Now I think I’m proud! 🙂

      Posted 1.29.14 Reply
      • M wrote:

        My set up won’t allow me to access the tortias recipe. Is there anyway you could email it to me?


        Posted 5.2.15 Reply
  2. I cringed at the word lard but can’t help but drool over those tortillas. Definitely will have to get it a try.

    Posted 1.30.14 Reply
  3. Kristen wrote:

    Holy cow… these look AMAZING. Whoa.

    Posted 1.30.14 Reply
  4. Okay, I’ll admit that I totally miss Mexican food in San Diego!!! I had no idea that Queso Quesadilla cheese existed. Seriously, how did I not know this??? All looks great. Craving, big time!

    Posted 1.30.14 Reply
  5. MT wrote:

    Rick’s is the best recipe for tortillas and yes use lard. That’s what my grandmother used…loved!

    Posted 1.30.14 Reply
  6. Holy Mother of Quesadillas! Yes please! Now off to find me some lard… 🙂

    Posted 1.30.14 Reply
  7. Elaine Williams wrote:

    Love this site! Making your own tortillas? You are seriously way more ambitious than me. So I have a question. What about the tortillas you can get in the store, the ones that say they have LARD in them – will they do? I have seen the cheese you posted about here in my local Food Lion in old Baltimore, MD but had the same reaction you initially did – and never bought it. I am going this weekend to pick that cheese up.

    Posted 1.30.14 Reply
    • Kathy Strahs wrote:

      Hi Elaine – thanks! Taste-wise, yes, I’d say the store bought tortillas that are made with lard will probably fit the bill. I’ll still probably use the non-lard ones for everyday spur of the moment kinds of needs, but for a once in a while treat lard’s got my vote. 🙂

      Posted 1.30.14 Reply
  8. Candace Karu wrote:

    I am totally in love with these…on deck for the weekend!

    Posted 1.30.14 Reply
  9. jane wrote:

    I can’t believe you made the tortillas – you are amazing! i know they won’t be AS good, but the canasta tortillas at vons are awesome. maybe I’ll try your recipe, though, when I’m not feeling lazy!


    Posted 1.31.14 Reply
    • Kathy Strahs wrote:

      I’ve tried the canasta ones – they’re good! 🙂

      Posted 1.31.14 Reply
  10. Dude. This is awesome. They look so good! Also: I’m from Manteca. No joke. There is a town in Central California called Manteca, look it up. Born and raised baby. I’ve never actually purchased any Manteca, I think now is the time.

    Posted 1.31.14 Reply
    • Kathy Strahs wrote:

      Would that happen to be the home of the Manteca water slides?? I remember going there with my Girl Scout troop when I was 8 or 9 years old! 🙂 ~Kathy

      Posted 2.1.14 Reply
      • Maaaaanteca water slides! Slip away a day and leave your cares behind, they’re the woooorld’s greatest, so come and ride! Yeah! Manteca Water Slides!

        Oh heck yes.

        Posted 2.1.14 Reply
  11. LCW wrote:

    It sounds good but not allowed when eating Kosher.

    Posted 2.2.14 Reply
  12. Judi V wrote:

    Can you send me the Rick Bayless recipe – my computer won’t let me access his website – states there is a security issue . . .

    Posted 2.2.14 Reply
    • Kathy Strahs wrote:

      Hi Judi — Yeah, I’ve been getting that same message, the site seems fine. I’ll email the recipe to you. ~Kathy

      Posted 2.2.14 Reply
  13. Connie wrote:

    Now that you have lard, the best homemade biscuits are just two ingredients away! Two cups of self-rising flour, 1/4 cup lard and one cup of buttermilk (Gasp the other lowly item of kitchens).
    Using two knives, cut lard into flour until it is the size of tiny pebbles. Stir in buttermilk. Work mixture delicately until it comes together. Turn out onto floured surface and gently pat out to approximately 3/4″ thickness. Cut into 3-inch rounds. Place on greased baking sheet or 10-inch iron skillet. Bake in preheated 475° oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Butter tops upon removing from oven.

    Posted 2.4.14 Reply
    • Kathy Strahs wrote:

      Sigh…well now I won’t be able to stop thinking about biscuits until I turn on the oven and make some! 🙂 These sound amazing, Connie – many thanks for sharing.

      Posted 2.4.14 Reply
  14. Will be trying this out soon 🙂 I love quesadillas!!

    Posted 2.4.14 Reply
  15. Once you start making your own tortillas at home there’s really no going back. I just make a bunch of dough and use it throughout the month! But that cheese looks awesome I’ll have tot try some!! 🙂

    Posted 2.7.14 Reply
  16. cat wrote:

    Really enjoyed following this recipe and seeing how simple it was to make great food! It was very fun making this with my friend for a school project and I’m hoping to make them again sometime

    Posted 3.28.17 Reply