This cheesy Chicken Quesadilla is not only healthy, but easy to prepare! Flavorful chicken and veggies are stuffed into a tortilla then oven baked for a simple weeknight dinner that will be a new family favorite.
Table of contents
- Why Make Healthy Baked Quesadillas?
- Ingredients for Chicken Quesadilla Recipe
- Other Chicken Options for Quesadillas
- How to Make Chicken Quesadillas
- Optional Add-Ins and Variations
- Tips for Best Results
- How to Serve Chicken Quesadilla?
- How to Store Leftover Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla?
- More Favorite Recipes
These baked chicken quesadillas are filled with the classics; tender chicken, flavorful bell peppers, and melty cheese – but with a healthier, oven-baked method that allows you to make up to 12 homemade quesadillas AT ONCE!
Traditional pan-fried quesadillas are fried in fat and glued together with copious amounts of cheese (and often lots of mayo, too). I’ve dropped the mayo, reduced the cheese, swapped out an oil filled pan for an oven sheet, and the result is healthy quesadillas that are crisp and delicious but with a fraction of the calories and fat!
Why Make Healthy Baked Quesadillas?
- Easy: A handful of ingredients and minimal prep results in a simple dinner that packs tons of flavor!
- Lighter: No mayo, just enough cheese and no frying makes these a chicken and cheese quesadilla you can feel good about feeding your family.
- Healthier: Lean protein, cheesy calcium and vitamin packed vegetables along with healthy carbs make this a well rounded meal.
- Comforting: Chicken quesadillas are a favorite with families for a reason, they are pure bliss with their zesty flavor and gooey cheese!
- Versatile: Not only with the ingredients but when and how you serve them too! They great for healthy lunch ideas, dinner and even make a great on the go snack!
I’ve always loved tacos and finger food options like chicken or shrimp tostadas and Instant Pot chicken tacos! They are simple to make and can be prepared in just a matter of minutes then thrown in the oven for a quick meal, family gathering or game-day appetizer.
Ingredients for Chicken Quesadilla Recipe
- Cooked chicken breast: I usually use chicken leftovers using one of these methods – Instant Pot frozen chicken, Instant Pot chicken breast, or baked chicken breast recipes.
Other Chicken Options for Quesadillas
- Diced chicken: If cooking from raw, dice the chicken into small pieces and pan fry with a little oil and the seasonings until cooked through (usually just about 5 minutes).
- Shredded Chicken: Like this Instant Pot shredded chicken.
- Grilled Chicken: Grilled chicken, cilantro lime or chili lime chicken.
- Air fryer: Chicken breast or even use leftover turkey!
- Chicken thighs: Coconut lime grilled chicken thighs, Instant Pot chicken thighs or oven baked.
Chicken quesadilla recipe is really so versatile for using up your leftovers!
- Bell peppers: I like to use diced red and orange bell peppers as they are less ‘bitter’ than green peppers. However, feel free to use your choice of peppers.
- Whole wheat flour tortillas: Using pliable, large tortillas are best and will provide a nice crunch. Low carb tortillas don’t tend to work as well when baked, and I avoid corn tortillas for same reason.
- Shredded cheese: I usually use a white cheddar or Kerrygold Dubliner cheese from a block. Other popular options include Tex Mex, Colby Jack, and Monterey Jack (check FAQ below for more options).
- Seasonings: I used a combination of cumin, salt and pepper.
And that’s it, these healthy chicken quesadillas contain just 5 ingredients, 7 if you include the salt and pepper!
How to Make Chicken Quesadillas
For the full ingredient quantities and recipe, there is a full recipe card below.
This easy recipe for chicken quesadillas requires just four simple steps – preparing the filling, combining it, assembling the quesadillas, and baking them. Let’s take a closer look, though.
- Prepare the ingredients: First, chop or shred the cooked chicken and finely dice the peppers. When using pre-cooked chicken, there’s no need to use a skillet at all. However, if you are pan-frying your chicken from raw, you can also sauté the vegetables if preferred.
- Combine the filling: In a large bowl, add the chicken, bell peppers, cumin, and salt & pepper, then mix well.
- Assemble the chicken quesadillas: To do this, make sure to only fill one-half of the tortillas, so they can be folded over:
- Sprinkle 1 1/2 tbsp cheese.
- Spread heaping 1/2 cup filling on top.
- Sprinkle another 1 1/2 tbsp of cheese.
- Fold the other half of the tortilla on top, pressing on it to make a half-moon shape. Then place on a baking sheet, 3-4 per sheet.
- Bake the chicken quesadillas: In the oven for 25 minutes at 375F/190C (If you make a smaller batch, this time will likely be reduced), no flipping required. If you want slightly crispier results, spray the oven tray and top of the quesadillas with a little bit of cooking oil (just a light spray rather than completely brushing the tortilla should be more than enough). If doing so, flip them over half way.
- Allow the quesadillas to rest: For just 2-3 minutes before cutting each one into 2-4 wedge pieces using a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Make sure to only cut in one direction; otherwise, they tend to fall apart.
Optional Add-Ins and Variations
While these chicken and cheese quesadillas taste amazing with just the ingredients listed, there are several ways you can adapt this recipe to your needs. Mix and match the seasonings, types of chicken, vegetables, and cheese used for different results every single time.
- Meat: You can easily switch up the protein in this recipe- especially If you’re using leftovers – ground beef, brisket, carnitas, etc.
- Seasoning: You can experiment with different seasonings. Using a combination of the above (cumin and s & p) with chili powder and/or cayenne powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika makes for a delicious homemade quesadilla seasoning. You could also use homemade taco seasoning or fajita seasoning.
- Spice: You could add finely chopped jalapeños or chilies into the chicken quesadillas or serve them with hot sauce. You could even try a chipotle pepper in adobe sauce for smoky taste (it tastes amazing in Instant Pot vegetarian chili)!
- Other Vegetables: Garlic, diced onion, corn, beans (and refried beans), mushrooms. Zucchini, avocado, and spinach can all be added to these baked chicken quesadillas. However, you may want to sauté them for a few minutes if using certain ingredients (particularly watery ones like zucchini and mushrooms).
Tips for Best Results
- It’s best to use cold fillings: Then you don’t have the issue of them ‘steaming’ in the oven and causing the tortilla to go soggy. If you plan on using newly cooked/heated ingredients, it may be best to allow them to cool so they can be added at room temp or chilled.
- If you notice the tortillas starting to bend upwards while baking: Carefully flatten them back down with a spatula.
- If you have any leftover filling, you can eat it as-is or save it for another time.
- Freshly grated cheese: It’s best to buy a block and shred it yourself as pre-shredded are often coated with anti-caking agents, which will prevent it from melting properly.
- Don’t overfill your quesadilla: Or you risk your filling falling out or making tortilla too soggy. Use amounts recommended as recipe is written.
Yes, although baking is less effort and easier for large families, you can still cook this recipe within a skillet or panini press (possibly even a waffle maker). To keep it healthier, heat it ‘dry’ (with no oil or butter) or just a light spray of oil.
This is entirely up to personal taste, but in short, any cheese that melts will work for easy chicken quesadilla recipe. I love to use a white cheddar or Kerrygold Dubliner (and avoid orange cheddar, which is more processed). You can also use cheese mixes. The cheese on the ‘outside’ will act as ‘glue’ to hold the chicken quesadilla together. Here a few suggestions: Monterey jack, cheddar, Colby jack, Oaxaca cheese, Asadero, jalapeño jack or mozzarella.
While my family prefers whole wheat, technically you can use corn tortillas (or any tortilla you want). Traditionally in Mexico corn tortillas is how they are commonly made. You may want to slightly warm up your corn tortilla to make it more pliable before filling it with cheese. Your baked quesadilla results may be slightly different as well.
Really that depends on your definition of healthier. Traditionally quesadillas are pan fried and contain a high amount of cheese. Making baked quesadillas at home can be healthier as you are using no extra oil and making them homemade allows you to control the amount of cheese you put inside the tortilla. You could even skip the cheese as many areas of Mexico don’t even include that in a quesadilla!
Some say that it is called that because it is from the indigenous Nahuatl word quesaditzin, which meant ‘folded tortilla’ and yet others say the origins of the word come from the Spanish language where ‘queso’ translates to English cheese and ‘dilla’ to English slang for dude. But instead of calling it ‘cheesy dude’ and because ‘illa’ translates literally to mean ‘little thing’ and the ‘a’ eventually evolved to replace the ‘o’ (common in Mexican nouns), quesadilla became known as ‘cheesy little thing’. These folded cheesy little tortillas are delicious when filled with chicken and veggies!
How to Serve Chicken Quesadilla?
There are several ways to enjoy chicken and cheese quesadilla. While they taste delicious alone as a finger-food snack, they can also be served with several sides. Some of my favorite options include:
- Dips & Sauces: Such as sour cream, hot sauce, spicy mayo, etc.
- Salsa: Such as Pico de gallo and black bean salsa.
- With rice: Like brown rice, Instant Pot rice and beans or Mexican cauliflower rice.
- Avocado: Whether it’s sliced or as easy guacamole or salsa guacamole.
As a busy mother, believe me when I say this healthy chicken quesadilla recipe is great as a travel snack, too. Stack them up in an aluminum tray, loosely covered (so they don’t become soggy), and grab some kitchen towels for your kid’s laps. That way, they can nosh on them in the car with no fear of mess (plus the kitchen towels and tray are reusable!).
How to Store Leftover Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla?
Make Ahead: The bell pepper and chicken filling can be prepared in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
Freeze: The unbaked easy chicken quesadilla recipe can also be made ahead and frozen, ready to bake from frozen (25-30 minutes at 375F/190C or within a panini press). To freeze, place them on a baking sheet and freeze till solid, then wrap in plastic wrap and add to a freezer-safe bag/container for up to 3 months.
Also, check out my 10 healthy freezer meals for other simple make ahead ideas!
Storing: Leftover homemade chicken and cheese quesadilla should be kept in a loosely covered container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
To Reheat: If you want to bring back the tortilla’s crispiness, then place them back in the oven or within a skillet/panini press (no oil needed!) until warmed through and crispy on the outside.
More Favorite Recipes
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
- In a large mixing bowl, add chicken, bell peppers, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
- Build each quesadilla: On a half of tortilla sprinkle 1 1/2 tbsp cheese, spread heaping 1/2 cup filling and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tbsp of cheese. Fold the other half of tortilla on top pressing on it somewhat gently-hard making a half moon shape. Place on a baking sheet.
- Repeat and make 11 more quesadillas, arranging 3-4 quesadillas on a baking sheet. If you have any leftover filling – eat it.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let rest for 1-2 minutes and cut each quesadilla in half using serrated or sharp knife.
Store: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 days.
Make ahead: Refrigerate filling mixture covered for up to 2 days, then make quesadillas.
Freeze: For each quesadilla, assemble and then wrap in plastic wrap as tightly as possible without compromising its shape. Lay flat in a gallon size Ziploc bag, squeeze as much air out as possible, seal and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy, bake from frozen at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Or alternatively cook in a panini press.
- It’s best to use cold fillings: Then you don’t have the issue of them ‘steaming’ in the oven and causing the tortilla to go soggy.
- If you notice the tortillas starting to bend upwards while baking: Carefully flatten them back down with a spatula.
- Freshly grated cheese: Pre-shredded are often coated with anti-caking agents, which will prevent it from melting properly.
- Don’t overfill your quesadilla: Or you risk your filling falling out or not cooking properly.
- Cooked chicken: To cook chicken breast, I usually use Instant Pot frozen chicken, Instant Pot chicken breast or baked chicken breast recipes.
- You can use any colour bell peppers: I like to mix green with red, yellow or orange.
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