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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.

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)

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

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  • 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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