You can have amazing, satisfying, healthier vegan quesadillas at home anytime with just a handful of ingredients! All you need are tortillas, this 6-ingredient oil-free cashew cheese, and a few fillings. Use your favorite gluten-free or whole-grain tortillas, or go with standard flour tortillas. The possibilities are endless and surprisingly healthy!
Ah, quesadillas. Totally delicious, loved by everyone, and ridiculously decadent and unhealthy, right? Not necessarily! These vegan quesadillas use a simple and light cashew cheese that I adapted from the mozzarella recipe in my favorite Stuffed Crust Pizza. The fat in this cheese comes from just 1/3 cup raw cashews. Chickpea miso, lemon, salt, and nutritional yeast bring the cheesy vibes. And water + tapioca flour make it creamy and meltable. Not only does this homemade vegan cashew cheese taste better than store-bought, it's actually oil-free and low in calories!
Choose Your Favorite Quesadilla Fillings
I went with sautéed cremini mushrooms, garlic, and spinach for my quesadillas because I was in the mood for something 100% savory (think, cheesy, salty, garlicky). But one of the beautiful things about quesadillas is their versatility. Anything you might add to a burrito, taco, salad, grain bowl, or even pizza, can be added to a quesadilla. Let's ponder some healthy options:
- beans, refried or whole
- vegan beefy crumbles or chorizo
- crumbled homemade seitan
- pickled veggies like jalapeno and onion
- finely chopped broccoli
- sweet potato or butternut squash
- fresh herbs
See what I mean? Quesadillas don't have to be just another form of grilled cheese sandwich. The only thing to consider when selecting your fillings is whether they need to be pre-cooked, depending on how much time you have. A simple sauté only takes a few minutes, so this mushroom, spinach and garlic mixture really hit the spot!
How to Make Easy Vegan Mushroom-Spinach Quesadillas
First, sauté the veggies. While they cook, blend all the cheese ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth. TIP: If you don't have a high speed blender, you can soak the cashews in hot water for about an hour first, or sub 3 tablespoons raw cashew butter.
Next, cook the cheese mixture in a small sauce pan until thickened. Whisk constantly because it cooks very quickly, just 2 to 3 minutes.
Last, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Spread the hot cashew cheese on a tortilla, covering one entire side almost all the way to the edges (see photo above). Place the tortilla in the pan, cheese-side up, of course, and arrange sautéed veggies on one half. Fold the other side of the tortilla over to cover the veggies. Continue to cook until the underside is nicely toasted. Flip and cook the other side until equally done.
If using whole-grain or gluten-free tortillas: since they are less flexible than traditional flour tortillas, instead of doing the fold over method, arrange the filling ingredients over the entire surface of the first tortilla, spread cheese on another tortilla and place it on top of the veggies, cheese-side down. Press it down so that the cheese holds the veggies in, and carefully flip to cook the second side.
Garnish as desired and dig in! These are best eaten right out of the skillet when the tortillas are crisp and fragrant. There's really nothing better. I mean, just take a look at that cheese and the flaky tortillas!
So if you've never made quesadillas before, think of this as a basic guide, and have fun with different fillings, herbs and spices! These healthy quesadillas come together quickly and without much fuss, making them perfect for a cozy night in when you're in the mood for some comfort food. They're also an impressive vegan appetizer when entertaining friends!
Oh! And one more thing.... as you probably know, quesadillas are usually fried in oil, but honestly, you don't need it. I like to use a cast iron skillet to cook them, but a standard non-stick pan also works. On the subject of oil, I have to admit that using 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil to sauté the veggies and garlic really does enhance the flavor (of the garlic especially). But I've also made these quesadillas without any oil at all, and they're still delicious!
I hope you enjoy these healthier, veganized, homemade quesadillas as much as we do. If you try the recipe I would love for you to leave a comment below and tell us all about it, especially if you come up with a filling combo you really enjoy.
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Vegan Quesadillas with Easy Cashew Cheese
For the cheese:
- 1/3 cup raw cashews (50 g) If not using a high speed blender, soak cashews in hot water for 1 hour first, OR sub 3 Tbsp raw cashew butter.
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp chickpea miso If not available, sub mellow white miso or simply increase salt to 1 1/4 tsp
- 2 Tbsp tapioca starch/flour
- 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 cup water
For the quesadillas:
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, optional
- 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
- generous pinch of salt
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 ounces raw spinach (about 5 huge handfuls)
- 4 flour tortillas, "burrito sized" Use gluten-free or whole-grain, if desired. See NOTES for prep tips.
- Preheat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil, if using, and cook the mushrooms until their water has released and evaporated, 6 to 7 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and the garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
- To make the cheese, combine the cashews, lemon, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, miso, tapioca, salt, and water in a blender. Blend on high until smooth.
- Pour the cheese mixture into a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until a low simmer is reached. Whisk or stir constantly, and reduce heat if needed so that it doesn't boil. Whisk for another 30 seconds to 1 minute or until thickened. Turn off heat.
- Heat a large clean skillet over medium heat. Spread cashew cheese over one entire side of a tortilla, almost to the edges. Place the tortilla in the hot skillet cheese-side up. Arrange the sauteed veggies on one half of the tortilla. Fold the other half over to cover the vegetables. Cook until the underside is nicely toasted, then flip and cook for another minute or so. Transfer to a plate, and repeat with the other 3 tortillas.
- Cut each tortilla into 3 equal-sized triangles and serve.