I have yet to meet a combination of ground beef and cheese that doesn’t make the people I live with extremely happy. They are not unusual in that respect, I know, which is why tucked amidst the salad recipes and salmon dishes, I continue to pepper this blog with dishes such as One-Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni and Grilled Cheeseburgers with Herb Sauce. Really, let’s hear it for ground beef. And cheese. And Cheesy Ground Beef Quesadillas.
There was a delightful little exchange on the show West Wing many years ago (here I both a] date myself and b] feel weepy to think we would have been excited to watch a show about the West Wing not so long ago) that went something like this:
President Josiah Bartlet: How you doing? You know I gave the kids candy all the time, right?
Abbey Bartlet: Behind my back?
President Josiah Bartlet: Yes.
Abbey Bartlet: You bought their love.
President Josiah Bartlet: Well, it was for sale, and I wanted it.
Only in this case the candy is ground beef and cheese.
And here, tortillas! But look, also spinach or kale! A leafy green can help validate/justify a lot of cheese, says me. A great way to elevate a beef quesadilla.
This is a perfect answer to the perennial “what to do with that ground beef” question. You can use ground pork or ground turkey instead of ground beef, if you like, as well.
Greasing the Pan for Quesadillas
You don’t need to grease the pan when making quesadillas, but I think a tiny bit of butter or oil goes a long way in adding flavor.
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Making Quesadillas on the Stove
In this recipe, the directions say to make one quesadilla at a time, which, if you are new to the quesadilla making business, is the easiest way to get comfortable assembling and flipping them.
However, because once the quesadilla is folded, it makes a half moon shape, you could in fact assemble two of these on a cutting board, and fold them up and then cook them together in a pan, lining up the straight sides of the half moons so two easily fit in the circle. This isn’t hard at all, but if the notion of flipping a quesadilla makes you want to take things a little slowly, start with the one-at-a-time method.
What Kind of Cheese to Use in Mexican Quesadillas
Use any delicious melty cheeses you like—I picked cheddar and havarti, but a Mexican blend is terrific, a blend of two other cheeses (or more), or just a single cheese, be it havarti, cheddar, provolone, gouda, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, etc. Other Mexican Cheeses like queso fresco can be used, but they might not get as melty – it would good to use a combo of queso fresco, or cotija, and a meltier cheese like the ones listed above.
What to Serve with Cheesy Ground Beef Quesadillas:
- Light Green Crunchy Salad
- Tomato Scallion Rice
- Romaine and Slivered Kale Salad with Lemon Dressing
- Brussels Sprouts, Apple, and Pomegranate Slaw Salad
Other Beefy, Cheesy Dinner Recipes:
- Cheesy Beef and Hash Brown Casserole
- One-Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni
- Simple Baked Pasta with Bolognese Sauce
- Cheesy Mashed Potato Topped Shepherd’s Pie
- Instant Pot Ziti “Lasagna” with Bolognese Sauce
Plus, also read: 10 Things To Make With Leftover Ground Beef.
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Cheesy Ground Beef Quesadillas
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup roughly chopped spinach or baby kale
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro optional
- 4 teaspoons unsalted butter divided
- 8 8-inch flour tortillas
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- 1 cup shredded havarti
- Guacamole, sour cream, salsa and lime wedges to serve
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, and brown the beef, breaking it up with a spoon until it is all browned and crumbly, about 5 minutes. Turn it into a colander to drain, and carefully wipe out the skillet.
- Return the skillet to medium heat and add the vegetable or olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 3 minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add the tomato paste, spinach, garlic and chili powder and stir for another minute until the spinach is wilted and everything is well combined. Return the beef to the skillet and stir until everything is blended. Stir in the cilantro if using, turn the mixture into a bowl, and wash and dry the skillet (or grab a new skillet).
- Combine the cheddar and havarti in a bowl. Place the skillet over medium heat and add a half teaspoon of butter. Place a tortilla in the pan. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture over half of the quesadilla, and distribute 1/8 of the beef mixture over the cheese. Top that with another 2 tablespoons of the shredded cheese. Flip the bare half of the tortilla over the filling, cover the pan, and sauté for about 2 minutes until the bottom is golden and the cheese has started to melt, then use a spatula to flip the half-moon quesadilla, and continue to cook, uncovered, until all of the cheese is melted and the underside is browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove the quesadilla to a cutting board and let the quesadilla sit for a minute before you slice into 2 or 3 wedges. Repeat until all of the quesadillas are cooked. Serve with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and lime wedges.
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