Fried Quesadillas for the Easy, Crispy Taste of Summer

Abuela Approved Badge fried quesadilla Mexican snack

Fried quesadillas are delicioso anytime of year. But during summer, this traditional Mexican snack tastes extra perfecto. Biting into a cheesy, crispy quesa topped with skinny-shredded lettuce, tomatoes, queso fresco and velvety crema Mexicana reminds us of childhood veranos, poolside snacks, and all the joys of the annual no-school season loved by kids little and small.

For Vivi Abeja, one of our favorite Mexican cooks, fried quesadillas remind her most of all of her much-loved, much-missed paternal grandmother, Hidelisa Vera. Truthfully, most of the traditional dishes she makes are inspired in some way by her two Mexican grandmothers. Her maternal Abuelita Elisa’s Mexican cooking was also famous in their family, in her church, and throughout the neighborhood of Chicago’s Little Village, nicknamed La Villita for its Mexican heritage.

WATCH Vivi Abeja make these easy cheesy-crispy Mexican fried quesadillas: One of our favorite snacks.

“This recipe reminds me of my grandmother on my father’s side. My uncles and dad tell me stories of when she would stand outside of bus stops from way before I was born. She was selling fried quesadillas to make ends meet that month. Everyone talked about how delicious her food was — especially these quesadillas.“

Vivi has taken up the family cooking tradition and now she is the one selling Mexican food in Little Village, first as a street vendor and now through her catering business and work with community groups.

How did she arrive at her now-signature recipe for quesadillas? “I taught myself how to make these, but I was inspired by my grandmother. Unfortunately I never got the chance to learn from her, but there are many foods I make that are inspired by her. She was known for her cooking and so many people would buy trays of food from her, just like I have started selling,” says Vivi.

fried quesadilla Mexican snack
Once fried, thinly slice open the top of each quesadilla and fill it with your choice of shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, crumbled queso fresco, crema Mexicana and salsa.

What is the secret to making quesadillas so good people line up to buy them?

It’s all in the spices, she says. ”I add taco seasoning to my quesadillas after pulling them out of the oil to give it that extra layer of seasoning. Some people add salt, some don’t add any seasoning.” Those who do without are definitivamente missing out, says Vivi.

On what types of occasions does she make these quesadillas at home?

”This is such a treat for everyone so I make it when I have family or friends over so we can all enjoy it together. I’ve recently gotten more comfortable with handling masa, so I’ve been making a lot of meals with masa. And these fried quesadillas have become one of my favorites.”

Ours too.

Ready to make Vivi’s traditional Mexican fried quesadillas?

Fried Quesadillas for the Easy, Crispy Taste of Summer

Recipe by Vivi Abeja
5.0 from 1 vote
Cuisine: Mexican

4 to 6

Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 cups masa harina

  • 2 cups warm water

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 2 cups Chihuahua cheese, for filling

  • 2 cups vegetable oil for frying

  • Garnishes
  • 1 cup lettuce, thinly shredded

  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced

  • 1 cup queso fresco, crumbled

  • 1/2 cup Mexican crema

  • 1/2 cup salsa, homemade like this red salsa recipe or store-bought


  • Place 2 cups of masa harina in a bowl with salt and mix together.
  • Heat 3 cups water to warm, but not boiling hot. You’ll use at least 2.
  • Start with 1 cup of the warm water. Pour it into the bowl with the masa harina and salt. Using your hands, work in the water into the masa harina, hydrating the mixture.
  • Slowly add a 2nd cup of the warm water. If it is still too dry, add a little more warm water. Mix until well combined and the masa harina is moist but not wet.
  • Knead the mixture for about 7 to 10 minutes. The dough should be moist yet not stick to your hands. Test the masa by rolling it into a ball and pressing into it with your finger. If it cracks, it still needs more water.
  • When ready, cover the masa harina in the bowl with a kitchen towel. Set it aside to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Prep the Toppings
  • While the masa is resting, prep your toppings. Shred the lettuce, dice the tomatoes and crumble the queso fresco. Set aside.
  • Fry the Quesadillas
  • After the 15 minutes, the masa should be rested, hydrated, and ready. It’s time to shape and fry your quesadillas. Start by rolling a small amount of masa harina, about a quarter cup, into a ball in your hands.
  • Place the masa ball in a tortilla press that has been lined with a cut-open large plastic bag or 2 pieces of parchment paper. Close the press and flatten the masa harina to a 1/3 inch-thick circle about 5 inches wide.
  • Add 2 Tbsp of queso Chihuahua in the center of the empanada. Fold the masa circle in half and press the edges to seal them shut.
  • Pour the vegetable oil into a pot or pan, on medium heat. When the oil reaches about 350°, it is frying hot and ready.
  • Using tongs, place one or two quesadillas at a time in the hot oil. When its first side turns golden, flip each quesadilla over to cook the second side. When both sides are golden brown and crispy, they are ready.
  • Remove and drain on a rack or paper towel-lined plate. While it’s still hot, sprinkle the quesadilla with taco seasoning on both sides.
  • Add the Toppings and Serve!
  • When all the quesadillas are fried and seasoned on the plate, carefully slice open each one along the top, so that it’s not quite half open.
  • Top each quesadilla with shredded lettuce, small-diced tomatoes, crumbled queso, and a drizzle of Mexican crema, to taste. Top with 1 or 2 spoonfuls of the salsa of your choice. Vivi likes to use her homemade red salsa (recipe here).
  • Serve each person 2 quesadillas. Enjoy while hot!


  • Vivi buys premade Maseca masa marina, available at almost all grocery stores. If you are the DIY type, you can grind your own masa harina from heirloom corn and make it from scratch, but most cooks use premade masa harina products like Maseca, says Vivi.

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