Quesadillas Fritas, the real Mexican street food recipe.

Quesadillas Fritas is a Mexican street food snack made of a raw masa tortilla filled with various ingredients and fried until crispy perfection. Learn how to make them from scratch with our easy step-by-step recipe.

Mexican Quesadillas Fritas, aka fried quesadilla.

What are quesadillas fritas?

Quesadillas fritas are a very popular dish in Mexico and for a good reason. The recipe consists of a masa tortilla filled with various ingredients, folded, and sealed before it is deep-fried.

After the raw masa quesadilla is cooked, the texture will become fluffy, crispy, and soft at the same time, while the inside will be gooey, warm, and full of flavor in every bite.

Even if it’s believed that these crispy fried quesadillas were born in Mexico City, they are also popular all over the country and you can find them almost at every corner.

Two quesadillas fritas served on a blue plate with various toppings.

They are sold mostly for breakfast and you will notice the street stalls that sell these by the huge frying pan where they are cooked and lots of bowls on the side with the various fillings.

A person (generally, a woman) will be standing there making the masa tortillas, filling them, and then sliding them into the hot oil, while sometimes, another person will be in charge of cooking them and garnishing them before handing the plate to the hungry customers.

On a side note, there’s a huge debate between people from Mexico City and the rest of the country when it comes to this dish. People from the capital say that quesadillas fritas can be filled with a variety of stews and not necessarily with cheese, while the rest believe they should always include cheese.

About the Masa Dough

The homemade version of the dough for quesadillas fritas is made with the same flour used to make tortillas, which is nixtamalized corn flour, known as masa harina. Some recipes add a bit of wheat flour to the mix, but it’s not necessary. 

Masa harina is not the same as corn flour because the first goes through a traditional process where the corn kernels are treated with limewater. Then, the treated corn is cooked, dried, and grounded into a fine powder with a distinct flavor. It is known as authentic masa, so it’s used in many authentic Mexican recipes

Corn flour, on the other hand, consists of dried whole corn kernels which are milled into a fine powder. This kind of flour doesn’t work for making tortillas, quesadillas, or other Mexican recipes. It’s better for baking, battering, and frying.  

Nixtamalized masa harina and cornmeal placed on a marble surface and some text overlay.

When the masa harina is mixed with a bit of baking powder, it allows the quesadilla to puff up when fried and it makes for a crispier dish!

This is why the quesadilla frita often has huge air bubbles after it’s fried and it adds to the charm of the dish. 

Close-up on quesadillas fritas (aka fried quesadilla).

The Fried Quesadilla Fillings

There is a huge variety of fillings available for quesadillas fritas, so you can have a lot of fun trying the different versions of the dish.

The simplest filling for the deep-fried quesadilla is just cheese. Though that’s delicious on its own, there are many other kinds of fillings, such as: 

Close-up on a fried quesadilla filling.

Recommended Salsas and Toppings

Fried quesadillas are usually served drizzled with a non-spicy tomato sauce and then with extra spicy salsa on top. There are many types of salsa recipes you can use to serve this dish, here are our favorites:

As for the toppings, the most common are shredded lettuce, onions, cream, and crumbled cheese. But you can enjoy them just with salsa on the side and they will be delicious anyway!

How To Make Mexican Fried Quesadillas

Before starting:

  • Prepare your toppings (cream, cheese, salsas, lettuce, onions, etc.)
  • Place your fillings in bowls.
  • Shred and place the string cheese in a bowl too.
  • Line a large plate with paper towels and keep it near to the stove.
  • Cut two plastic sheets about 6×6 inches each (15x15cm).

Now, in a bowl place masa harina, salt, and baking powder. Start mixing and kneading the flour with lukewarm water until you’ll have a smooth dough that resembles play-dough.

Masa dough prepared in a bowl.
  • Pinch the dough to get a portion and roll it into a ball about the size of a golf ball.
  • Using a tortilla press or a heavy dish, press a dough ball between the two plastic sheets to make a thin tortilla.
  • Carefully, peel the sheet on top.
  • Add some cheese and the filling on one side of the tortilla.
A collage with 4 photos making maseca quesadillas.
  • Carefully, fold the tortilla into a half-moon.
  • Press a little bit on the edges to stick them together.
  • Peel the plastic sheet to uncover the raw masa quesadilla.
  • Then carefully place it on your hand and remove the plastic.
A collage with 4 photos folding maseca quesadillas.

Now, you can make, assemble, and then add the quesadillas to the hot oil. If you’re confident with the recipe, you’ll be able to make the steps quick enough to fry them almost at the same time.

Otherwise, my advice is to make batches of 3-4 quesadillas and place them on a plate lined with film (so they won’t stick). Then fry them. Whatever is best for you.

Raw Maseca quesadillas on a plate lined with cling film.

Heat about 2-inch oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Carefully add as many pieces fit in your pan (read notes).

Basting quesadillas on top with hot oil.

Fry quesadillas for 5-6 minutes flipping them once. Baste with oil on the uncooked side so it will seal and make it easier to flip over.

Fully cooked quesadillas fritas on a pan.

As they finish cooking, transfer them to the lined plate. Repeat until all masa dough is used.

Four quesadillas fritas on a plate lined with paper towels.

Serve them warm and topped with lettuce, onion, cheese, and cream. Place a bowl with salsa on the side so everyone can add as much as they’d like.

Quesadillas fritas on a platter with various toppings in bowls on the side.

Useful Notes

  • Prep ahead. Make your toppings and fillings before starting to make the quesadillas, even a day before.
  • Use enough oil. Quesadillas fritas are always fried in lots of oil, not pan fried. If you don’t use enough oil they will be raw on the inside.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan. Allow the quesadillas to “swim” in the oil, if you place so many in the pan, they may stick to each other, making it difficult also to flip them over.

Storing and Reheating

This is one of those recipes you really want to make and enjoy right away. Quesadillas fritas are SO GOOD just out of the oil, warm, fluffy, crispy, gooey…

But of course, if you have some leftovers, just place them into an airtight container once they are completely cooled down and store for up to 3 days in the fridge. I don’t recommend freezing them.

For reheating. Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C and heat the quesadillas fritas for about 10 minutes, then enjoy with a cup of café de olla.

Opening a fried quesadilla to see the gooey filling.

FAQ

Is this recipe gluten-free?

Yes! Our recipe to make the masa dough doesn’t contain wheat flour and since nixtamalized corn flour is free of gluten, you can be assured this recipe is gluten-free.

Is this recipe spicy?

No, if you don’t use fillings that are already spicy. If you want to serve this recipe to kids or people who don’t like spicy food, make the quesadillas only with cheese, they will love them!

Quesadillas Fritas Recipe.

Quesadillas Fritas

Fluffy, crispy, with a cheesy and flavorful filling. Those fried quesadillas are to die for!
PREP 15 minutes
COOK 15 minutes
TOTAL 30 minutes
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 16 quesadillas
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

  • 3 cup masa harina
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups string cheese (Oaxaca, asadero, mozzarella, etc.)
  • any fillings you prefer (read notes)
  • oil for frying (as needed)

Toppings

  • 2 cups lettuce (shredded)
  • ½ cup onions (sliced)
  • ½ cup crumbled queso fresco (or the cheese you prefer)
  • ½ cup Mexican cream
  • salsa (read notes)

Instructions

  • Place masa harina in a bowl. Add salt, and baking powder.
  • Mix and knead the flour with lukewarm water until you’ll have a smooth dough that resembles play dough.
  • Heat about 2-inch oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  • Pinch the dough to get a portion and roll it into a ball about the size of a golf ball.
  • Using a tortilla press or a heavy dish, press a dough ball between the two plastic sheets to make a thin tortilla.
  • Peel the sheet on top and add the filling and some cheese in the middle.
  • Carefully, fold the tortilla into a half-moon. Press a little bit on the edges to stick them together.
  • Remove the last plastic sheet and place the raw quesadilla on your hand, then carefully add it to the hot oil.
  • Repeat the steps adding as many quesadillas fit in your pan.
  • Fry quesadillas for 5-6 minutes flipping them once. Baste with oil the uncooked side so it will seal and make it easier to flip over.
  • As they finish cooking, transfer them to a paper lined plate.
  • Repeat until all masa dough is used.

Serve

  • Arrange the fried quesadillas in a serving plate.
  • Top with lettuce, onions, and then add cheese and cream on top.
  • Serve with a bowl of your favorite salsa on the side so everyone can add as much as they want.

NOTES

You can use a variety of fillings to make this type of quesadillas, some recipes we recommend are:
Recommended salsas for quesadillas fritas:
Nutritional info is only for fried quesadillas with no toppings and using 1 cup of oil in total.
Nutrition
Calories: 283kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 405mg | Potassium: 56mg | Fiber: 1g | Vitamin A: 50IU | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 2mg
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Recipe Rating




One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Such a fun recipe and perfect to use leftovers! I know (kinda! haha) how to make tortillas and I even own a tortilla press that my husband gifted to me some years ago. Can’t wait to try this recipe!