Healthy Chicken Quesadillas packed with chicken breast, black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, and melty cheese are spicy, satisfying, and surprisingly good for you. This easy Mexican meal is popular with kids and adults for a foolproof lunch or dinner. Add them to your list of go-to quesadillas along with these Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas and Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas.
Chicken quesadillas are one of those meals that seem like they shouldn’t need a recipe. Some chicken, some cheese, a tortilla, and you are good to go. However, with that simple formula, you are missing an opportunity to make something really delicious instead of just another blah quesadilla. So this recipe is an easy way to not only make a really delicious quesadilla, it’s also an opportunity to make a healthier one filled with more protein, fiber, and nutrients.
Now when making this recipe, I didn’t want to lose the authentic flavors of a traditional quesadilla and pack it with veggies. Not that I don’t love adding veggies, but I wanted to keep the recipe more in line with traditional flavors. That’s why I only added black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, cilantro, and some spices you already have in the pantry. Now if you want to add more veggies – go crazy! Shredded zucchini, cooked spinach, cauliflower rice, and butternut squash are all really delicious in these healthy chicken quesadillas. More on that at the end of the post.
How to make a Chicken Quesadilla?
Let’s start with the basics and talk about the key to making a really good chicken quesadilla. First, you need a good nonstick skillet so that the quesadilla won’t stick to the pan. If you like the tortilla to brown nicely, you can add a touch of oil to the pan or add some cooking spray. Next, you want to add the tortilla to the pan itself to start and let it heat up slightly. Give it 15-30 seconds so it can soften slightly and warm up.
Then begin building your quesadilla right in the pan. Add a layer of cheese to start. The cheese binds everything and ensures the filling stays inside. Next add the filling, making sure not to overfill the quesadilla. Then finish with another layer of cheese. Personally, I like to make folded quesadillas. To do this, I keep the cheese and filling to one half of the tortilla and then fold the empty half over top to seal the quesadilla. Folding the warmed tortilla onto the second layer of cheese, helps it to melt and makes it less likely everything with spill out when you flip it.
Lastly, make sure not to flip the quesadilla too soon. Make sure the cheese is melting and the tortilla is browned before flipping. The carefully flip and cook on the second side for 2-3 minutes until the cheese melts fully.
Can I cook quesadillas in the oven?
If you are making a large batch of quesadillas and don’t want to sit over the stove, you can actually make quesadillas in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Then assemble the quesadillas on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Do this by laying down the flour tortilla. Then layer it with cheese, filling, and more cheese. Lay the second tortilla on top. Then bake the quesadillas for about ten minutes until the tortilla is browned and the cheese is melted. Depending on how much filling you have, it may take slightly longer to cook.
Can a quesadilla be healthy?
Quesadillas have a bad reputation when it comes to healthy eating and dieting since restaurant versions are usually overflowing with cheese and covered with sour cream. However, quesadillas can be a healthy and well-rounded option as long as you make smart choices when it comes to the filling. To make this healthy chicken quesadilla, I like to start by choosing a healthy tortilla. Normally I look for a whole grain or sprouted grain tortilla and for a low-calorie option, I like choosing a low carb tortilla.
For the cheese, the important thing is to limit the amount of cheese you use. Cheese isn’t all bad and has protein, calcium, and other nutrients. It’s just important not to overdo it. Then when it comes to fillings, you want to look for healthy fillings using vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains/legumes. In this healthy quesadilla, I chose black beans, tomatoes, and corn to make a tasty filling that is also good for you.You can use almost anything to fill a quesadilla, just try to choose options that are good for you.
Can you freeze quesadillas?
Quesadillas are actually great for meal prep since they freeze well. To freeze these quesadillas, first cook the quesadillas and then let them cool completely. Then place them on a baking sheet and place them uncovered in the freezer for about 2 hours. Then remove them and store them in a freezer-safe bag or container. You can also individually wrap them if you choose in plastic wrap and then store them in a large bag. There are three options for reheating. First, you can reheat them in the microwave for 1.5-2 minutes until heated through. For a crispier option, reheat them in the oven or in a skillet. They will take 15-20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. In a skillet, they rake 3-4 minutes per side.
Making It Your Own: Chicken Quesadilla Recipe Ideas
There are so many ways to customize this recipe and create your own healthy chicken quesadillas. Here are some of my favorites:
- Beans: If black beans aren’t your favorite, you can use pinto beans or white beans instead. You can also use refried beans if you prefer a creamier filling.
- Tomatoes: To add some more heat, you can use a chunky salsa in place of the diced tomatoes. Try pico de gallo or another thicker salsa. If you use a thin salsa, add less so that the filling doesn’t get too runny.
- Veggies: You can add more vegetables to these quesadillas. Try added shredded zucchini, cauliflower rice, cooked spinach, or cubed butternut squash. You may need to use fewer beans, corn, or chicken depending on how many veggies you add to make sure the filling still fits.
- Cheese: Pepper jack is our favorite cheese and I love adding a touch of extra spice. However, shredded mozzarella, cheddar, or jack cheese will also work. Just make sure to choose something that melts well so that the quesadilla will hold together.
- Serving ideas: Part of the fun of a quesadilla is all the extra toppings. Try serving the quesadillas with sliced avocado, fresh pico de gallo, low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt, pickled jalapenos, or salsa.