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Chicken Quesadillas

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Winner, winner, weeknight dinner! These melty, crispy chicken quesadillas deserve a spot in your rotation.

I love a good semi-homemade recipe, and these Tex-Mex chicken quesadillas are as easy and delicious as it gets. You begin by seasoning chicken tenderloins with a smoky spice rub and sautéing them in olive oil, which all together takes about 15 minutes. While you shred the chicken, you cook a quick sauce by simmering store-bought chunky salsa with a bit of water. Then you add the shredded chicken to the sauce. That’s your filling — and, bonus, it makes enough to freeze half for another meal. Finally, you assemble the quesadillas with the filling and cheese directly in the pan and cook until they’re crisp outside and gooey inside. Note that while the quesadillas cook quickly, you can only fit one in the skillet at a time, so feel free to get two pans going if you want to speed up the process.

What You’ll Need To Make Chicken Quesadillas

ingredients for chicken quesadillas

Chicken tenderloins typically have a white tendon attached to them. They can be a little tough to chew, so I like to remove them with kitchen shears before cooking. Just pinch the tip of the tendon with your finger and snip where the tendon meets the chicken.

It’s perfectly fine to use pre-shredded cheese from a bag, but be sure to use a good-quality brand, like Tillamook thick-cut Mexican blend.

Step-by-Step Instructions

In a small bowl, combine the salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, oregano, and cumin.

separate spices in small bowl

Stir to combine.

blended spice rub in bowl

Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly all over the chicken.
chicken tenderloins on plate seasoned with the spice rub

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1½ tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on the first side, 2 to 3 minutes.

cooking chicken on first side in skillet

Flip the chicken, reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate or cutting board.

cooking chicken on second side in skillet
Add the salsa and water to the skillet.

salsa and water bubbling in the skilletCook, uncovered, over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is evaporated and the sauce has a thick consistency, 7 to 9 minutes.

finished sauce with a thick consistencyMeanwhile, shred the chicken. (If the sauce is done before you’ve finished shredding the chicken, remove it from the heat.)

shredding the chicken on a cutting board

Off the heat, add the shredded chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate/cutting board to the finished sauce and stir until evenly combined. Transfer the chicken mixture to a plate, reserving half to refrigerate or freeze for another meal. Clean the skillet and return to the stove.

chicken and sauce in skilletHeat ½ tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat. Place 1 tortilla in the skillet and use your hand to swirl it around to coat the bottom evenly with the oil.

swirling tortilla in oil

Sprinkle ¾ cup of the cheese evenly over top, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges.

cheese spread over tortilla in skilletSpread about ⅓ cup of the chicken mixture over half of the tortilla.

chicken mixture spread over half of the tortilla

When the cheese is mostly melted, fold the tortilla over to cover the filling and form a half-moon shape. Cook until the tortilla is crisp and golden and the cheese is melted, adjusting the heat as necessary, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

toasting outside of quesadilla in skillet Repeat with the remaining oil, tortillas, cheese, and filling, adjusting the heat as necessary. (Cover the cooked quesadillas lightly with foil to keep them warm.) Let the quesadillas rest a few minutes to allow the filling to set, then cut into wedges and serve with sour cream and lime wedges, if desired.

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Chicken Quesadillas

Winner, winner, weeknight dinner! These melty, crispy chicken quesadillas deserve a spot in your rotation.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 35 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound chicken tenderloins, tendons trimmed (see note)
  • 1 cup thick and chunky salsa, such as Chi-Chi's Medium
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 large burrito-size (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 3 cups shredded Mexican Blend or Monterey Jack cheese (see note)

For Serving (optional)

  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, oregano, and cumin. Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly all over the chicken.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1½ tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on the first side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the chicken, reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate or cutting board.
  3. Add the salsa and water to the skillet. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is evaporated and the sauce has a thick consistency, 7 to 9 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, shred the chicken. (If the sauce is done before you've finished shredding the chicken, remove it from the heat.)
  5. Off the heat, add the shredded chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate/cutting board to the finished sauce and stir until evenly combined. Transfer the chicken mixture to a plate, reserving half to refrigerate or freeze for another meal. Clean the skillet and return to the stove.
  6. Heat ½ tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat. Place 1 tortilla in the skillet and swirl it around with your hand to coat the bottom evenly with the oil. Sprinkle ¾ cup of the cheese evenly over top, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges. Spread about ⅓ cup of the chicken mixture over half of the tortilla. When the cheese is mostly melted, fold the tortilla over to cover the filling and form a half-moon shape. Cook until the tortilla is crisp and golden and the cheese is melted, adjusting the heat as necessary, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining oil, tortillas, cheese, and filling, adjusting the heat as necessary. (Cover the cooked quesadillas lightly with foil to keep them warm.) Let the quesadillas rest a few minutes to allow the filling to set, then cut into wedges and serve with sour cream and lime wedges, if desired.
  7. Note: Chicken tenderloins typically have a white tendon attached to them. They can be a little tough to chew, so I like to remove them with kitchen shears before cooking. Just pinch the tip of the tendon with your finger and snip where the tendon meets the chicken.
  8. Note: It’s perfectly fine to use pre-shredded cheese from a bag, but be sure to use a good-quality brand, like Tillamook thick-cut Mexican blend.
  9. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The filling mixture can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in a covered container or frozen for up to 3 months.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 quesadilla
  • Calories: 696
  • Fat: 56 g
  • Saturated fat: 20 g
  • Carbohydrates: 48 g
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 42 g
  • Sodium: 1,619 mg
  • Cholesterol: 126 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • This was excellent. Once a month or so I buy a couple roasted chickens to shred and then use the carcasses for broth. Instead of chicken tenders I thawed and heated a pound of the chicken, spiced it and followed the recipe. It turned out great and saved a bit of time.

    • — Ham Bone on November 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • This was delicious and easy!! Thanks for yet another winner!

    • — Jennifer Dubler on November 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • This recipe is delicious! I added mushrooms and black beans which made it even better. I will definitely make this for dinner. A big hit with my family.

    • — Karen on November 11, 2022
    • Reply
  • My husband often orders chicken quesadillas when we go to the local pub. Having now made yours, he no longer has to wait until we go out. They were delicious and easy to make. I highly recommend them! Question: our little grandchildren don’t care for spicy food. How can I adjust this spice mix, so it still tastes authentic but less spicy? Thanks!

    • — Barbara on November 5, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Barbara, Unless you are using a hot smoked paprika, none of the spices in the mix are actually “spicy” so to reduce the heat level, I would use a mild salsa. If your grandkids don’t like highly seasoned food, you could reduce all of the spices a bit (but keep the salt the same). Hope that helps and the kids enjoy them! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 5, 2022
      • Reply
  • Adding another one of your recipes to the regular rotation! Sooo good!

    • — Kristie on November 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • These were fantastic! A very simple dish, but the secret is in reducing the salsa. Who knew? Just amazing. Going into our regular rotation for sure! Love your recipes, Jenn!

    • — Beth Weaver on November 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • We just loved these! Easy recipe with lots of flavor. I sautéed some red onion and garlic and added it on top of the chicken. Very DELISH on our Football Sunday!
    Thank you!!

    • — Audrey Danto on October 30, 2022
    • Reply
  • Delicious and easy.

    • — Karen A. Riccio on October 30, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this a couple days ago and it was wonderful. It gets better with age so any leftovers are really good.

    The one change I made was to use shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken. We buy one or two rotisserie chickens every couple weeks. I take the meat off and use the leftovers to make chicken broth.

    In this case I used a pound of the shredded chicken meat, still added the spices, and reheated it in a skillet. Beyond that I followed the recipe. It turned out great and cut a bit of the cooking time

    • — Ham Bone on October 29, 2022
    • Reply
  • Good flavor, but the pulled chicken seemed somewhat grainy in texture. Not sure how to remedy that!

    • — Mike McCaleb on October 29, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Mike, Did you use chicken tenderloins?

      • — Jenn on October 31, 2022
      • Reply
  • This recipe is easy to follow and delicious! Highly recommend this for anyone who loves quesadillas!

    • — Jennifer on October 26, 2022
    • Reply
  • Really liked this one. I used all of the chicken and now know it’d be worth adding a second jar of salsa to balance the flavour. Thought the spice mix was spot on and the recipe well laid out can definitely see this getting a few goes over the summer.

    • — Rob on October 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • This recipe appeared in my email the day I broke my arm. So my husband is now cooking. He made it tonight – sooo good! And we have lots of leftovers so he doesn’t have to cook a bunch of dinners! He used a regular garlic clove and fresh oregano. This is one we will make again. Thank you.

    • — Cindy Swoveland on October 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe. Really delicious and so fast and easy! I cooked the chicken in my air fryer. I topped it with plain low fat yoghurt instead of sour cream. Definitely going to make it again. Thanks!

    • — Judy Miller on October 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • This recipe was easy to follow and the quesadillas were so delicious! My husband said they tasted like they were from a restaurant. I highly recommend making them! Thank you for another great recipe!

      • — Ginger L. on October 24, 2022
      • Reply
  • The triple play! Made these quesadillas, black bean soup and white sangria wow wow wow. Delicious and so easy to make. Will make again!

    • — Christina W. on October 21, 2022
    • Reply
  • My family LOVES your chipotle chicken quesadilla recipe, so can’t wait to try this version.

    • — Renee on October 21, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’m getting ready to try these quesadillas and I’m trying to order smoked paprika from Spice House. They have a hot and a sweet version. Which do you think I should get? If I can use either one, which do you think I would find to be most useful in general? Thanks! Love your recipes!

    • — Vicky Brown on October 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Vicky, I’d go with the sweet – that is generally “regular” paprika whereas the hot variety can be quite spicy. Hope you enjoy the quesadillas!

      • — Jenn on October 20, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thank you! I’m waiting for my spice order and when I try the quesadillas I’ll post a review.

        • — Vicky on October 24, 2022
        • Reply
  • Can I substitute cooked leftover turkey for the fresh chicken breast?

    • — Karen on October 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • It’s not ideal, but you could. I would toss the turkey with the spices and very quickly saute it in the oil before moving onto the next step. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on October 21, 2022
      • Reply
      • I tried it with the turkey as you suggested and it turned out great. Good way to use up leftover turkey!
        I agree, it would be even better with fresh chicken. Thanks for all your wonderful recipes.

        • — Karen on October 24, 2022
        • Reply
  • While I love most of your great recipes, since they are not only unfailingly delicious but also don’t involve unusual or obscure ingredients, I particularly appreciate your “step by step instructions”, providing visuals. I find them very helpful indeed.

    • — John A on October 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • Just printed this off. Adult son and DIL will appreciate these for sure.

    BTW: Made the Beef Chili this past weekend. 😋 It was a hit. Served over mashed potatoes, double yummy.

    • — Dorothea on October 20, 2022
    • Reply

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