Quesadilla vs Taco: Unveiling the Delicious Differences

If you’re new to Mexican cuisine, finding out how to distinguish between a quesadilla and a taco may boggle your mind because they look similar to some extent. However, these are actually two different dishes with unique details regarding their origin, fillings, and preparation methods.

Do you desire to know more about Mexican cuisine and become an expert on the distinctions between quesadillas and tacos? Stay with us until the end of this article.

The Overview


In Mexican culture, the word taco denotes a wedge, a wad, or a plug, and the taco has kept its wedge shape after all these years, as its name implies!

The taco is a popular Mexican dish made with corn or wheat tortillas and a filling. The tortilla is folded around the filling and enjoyed with one hand.

Traditional Mexican beef tacos are made with marinated sliced or shredded beef placed on soft corn tortillas. However, depending on the filling and how tacos are served, there are several variations when it comes to modern versions of this dish.

For example, tacos al pastor (thin pork steaks with adobo spice), tacos de camarones (shrimp tacos), tacos de pescado (fish tacos), and tacos de lengua (beef tongue tacos) are some other popular versions.


A quesadilla consists of a thin flatbread or tortilla stuffed with cheese, meats, spices, and other ingredients. It is made by placing the filling into a folded tortilla and grilling it on a griddle or burner until the cheese is melted.

Although quesadillas are typically made with cheese, they can also include meat, beans, jalapenos, onions, and other seasonings. Other ingredients can be added to the filling, but they should be minimal so that the cheese remains the dominant ingredient.

The cheese will always be the distinguishing component of a quesadilla. This dish’s name is a literal translation of the word “cheese” in Spanish. Hence, you’re not making a quesadilla if the filling isn’t predominantly cheese.

What makes them different?

Although both quesadillas and tacos are Mexican tortilla-based dishes, they have several distinguishing characteristics that differentiate them from one another.

Origins (Are they Mexican?)

The taco predates the Spanish conquest of Mexico. According to anthropological data, indigenous peoples in the valley in Mexico’s lake region traditionally ate tacos packed with tiny fish. Now, tacos are a sort of antojitos, or Mexican street food, that has gained worldwide popularity. The fillings also have become much more varied than in the past.

In English, the word quesadilla means “small cheese thing.” Although this dish has a lengthy history, the earliest iteration was not the same as the quesadilla we know today.

The Aztecs used corn tortillas as a staple food. They filled them with squash and pumpkin and baked them in clay ovens to make a dessert. The filling was changed to cheese around 1521, after the European introduction of cheese and dairy products to this region, and this variant is still popular today.

Fillings (meat, cheese, etc.)

As previously stated, a quesadilla’s filling must revolve around cheese. Other ingredients can be used to enhance the cheese. However, if you use too many different ingredients as filling, they can dominate the cheese, and the flavor of your quesadilla will be ruined.

Meanwhile, you can be more creative and free with the taco filling. Think of a taco as a kind of Mexican sandwich in which almost any filling would work.

A taco can be filled with various items, including beef, pig, chicken, fish, beans, vegetables, and cheese. In addition, they are often topped with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream, as well as lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and chiles.

The tortilla

Both dishes are tortilla-based. In Mexican cuisine, the tortilla is a must-have. Mexicans eat tortillas on a daily basis. For traditional quesadillas, a corn tortilla is used. However, a flour tortilla is also suitable for some modern quesadilla versions.

In my opinion, however, you cannot make tacos without corn tortillas. Even though you can substitute it with its flour counterpart, the taste will not be the same.


A quesadilla will usually be flat, while the taco has a distinctive half-moon shape when folded that everyone can recognize.

And since you can add any filling to your taco, it usually weighs more than a flat quesadilla that has only a cheese filling.

Method of cooking

For a taco, the filling has to be cooked and prepared before you set it up with a tortilla. After assembling a taco, it is served immediately without any additional cooking.

In the case of the quesadilla, the ingredients are assembled before cooking. When making a quesadilla, place the cheese inside the tortilla first, and then fry the quesadilla with a small amount of butter until the cheese melts.

A full quesadilla is usually made up of two tortillas stacked together with a cheese filling. A half counterpart is a single tortilla packed with cheese and folded into a half-moon shape.

How to Make Quesadillas

Now, using our simple recipe below, let’s learn how to cook this cheesy dish. The only filling in this recipe is cheese. You can, however, add other components to the filling as long as the cheese remains the main attraction.

Things to prepare

2 flour tortillas

Shredded cheese of your choice

2 tablespoons of butter

Green chili pepper and chopped onion

Step-by-step guide

1. Place your tortilla on a plate or a clean surface to begin. On top of the tortilla, sprinkle the shredded cheese. Be aware: If you add a lot of cheese near the border of the tortilla, it will melt and drip out, causing the tortilla to burn inside the pan.

2. Top the other tortilla with the chopped onions and green chilies. Make sure there’s enough space around the tortilla’s edges. Finally, combine the two tortillas and make sure that the filling is evenly distributed throughout the quesadilla.

3. Place a nonstick pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan. Cook the tortilla on one side until the cheese begins to melt.

4. Flip the tortilla and add another tablespoon of butter to allow the other side to heat up fully.

5. When the cheese is melted and the outside is crispy, remove the tortilla from the pan and serve. To enhance the flavor, top it with a dollop of sour cream and a dollop of guacamole.

How to Make Tacos

The recipe for a wonderful ground beef taco is right below. Although we use beef, you can pick any other type of meat as well. Regardless of your meat choice, your taco should taste excellent.

Here is an easy taco recipe.

Things to prepare


Lean meat

Chili powder, cumin, salt, oregano, pepper, and garlic for seasoning

Tomato sauce

Shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, diced onions, avocado, and sour cream for toppings

Step-by-step guide

1. Before cooking your meat, marinate it in all of the seasonings and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Then, brown it in a saucepan. After that, add tomato sauce and water to the cooked beef until all the liquid evaporates. You’ll have saucy meat at this point.

2. Get the taco shell ready. The taco shell can be warmed in the oven or a pan. Pay attention to the package’s direction for more details.

3. Assemble the tacos as follows: Spoon 2 tablespoons of taco meat into hard taco shells or small soft tortillas. About 2 tablespoons of meat is the optimal portion for a regular 6-inch flour tortilla. The taco is now ready to be topped with any of your favorite ingredients.

What are the best toppings for a quesadilla?

There are many different toppings that can be put on a quesadilla, but some are definitely better than others. Here are some of the best toppings for a quesadilla:

Cheese – This is a no-brainer, as cheese is one of the main ingredients in a quesadilla. Choose your favorite type of cheese to put in your quesadilla.

Salsa – Salsa makes a quesadilla taste delicious and gives it a bit of a kick.

Guacamole – Another classic quesadilla topping is guacamole. It adds some flavor and creaminess to the quesadilla.

Chicken – Add some cooked chicken to your quesadilla for a protein boost.

Beef – Another great option for protein is beef. Add some cooked beef to your quesadilla and you’ll be good to go.

Vegetables – If you’re looking for a healthy option, add some vegetables to your quesadilla. Some good options are mushrooms, onions, and peppers.

Bacon – Who doesn’t love bacon? Add some crispy bacon to your quesadilla for a delicious topping.

What are the best toppings for tacos?

There are endless possibilities when it comes to toppings for tacos, but some of our favorites include:

Sour cream

Shredded cheese






Black beans

Pico de gallo

Are quesadillas and tacos healthy?

It depends on what ingredients you put in them. If you go for healthy toppings like vegetables, then quesadillas and tacos can be a healthy meal choice. However, if you add unhealthy ingredients like bacon or processed cheese, then they’re not as healthy. So it really depends on what you put in them.

What is the difference between soft-shell and hard-shell tacos?

The main difference between soft-shell and hard-shell tacos is the texture. Softshell tacos are made with a tortilla that is softer and more pliable, while hard-shell tacos are made with a tortilla that is harder and more brittle. Hardshell tacos are also generally crisper than soft shell tacos.


That’s the end of our guide on how to spot the differences between a quesadilla and a taco. We’ve also given you 2 delicious Mexican recipes to diversify your home menu.

Don’t hesitate to try making one for friends or family this weekend. Rest assured — it’ll provide you with an unforgettable experience!

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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / sweet marshmallow.

For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

Tamara Pierce

Tamara Pierce is a food writer at Elapasony, passionate about exploring diverse cuisines and sharing recipes and food experiences. From trendy restaurants to local hotspots, she's always on the lookout for new and exciting flavors.

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