If you’re new to Mexican cuisine, finding out how to distinguish quesadilla and taco may boggle your mind because they look similar to some extent. However, these are actually two different dishes with unique details about their origin, fillings, and cooking method.
Desire to know more about Mexican cuisine and discover a clear distinction between quesadilla vs taco? Stay with us until the end of this article.
In Mexican culture, the word “taco” denotes wedge, wad, or plug. The taco keeps 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 then 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 various variations when it comes to the modern version 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 ingredients.
A quesadilla consists of a thin flatbread or tortilla stuffed with cheese, meats, spices, and other ingredients. A quesadilla 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 small 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.
Quesadilla Vs Taco: What Makes Them Different?
Although both quesadilla and taco are Mexican tortilla-based dishes, they have several distinguishing characteristics that differentiate them apart from one another.
The taco predates the Spanish conquest of Mexico. According to anthropological data, indigenous peoples in the Valley of Mexico’s lake region traditionally ate tacos packed with tiny fish. Until now, tacos have become a sort of antojitos, or Mexican street food, that has gained worldwide popularity. The filling also becomes much more varied.
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 have long 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.
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, the flavor of your quesadilla will be ruined.
Meanwhile, you can be more creative and free with the filling of your taco. Think of a taco as a kind of Mexican sandwich in which almost any filling/topping would work.
A taco can be filled with various items, including beef, pig, chicken, fish, beans, vegetables, and cheese. To be more specific, they are often topped with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream, as well as lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and chiles.
Both dishes are tortilla-based. In Mexican cuisine, the tortilla is a must-have. Mexicans eat tortillas on a daily basis, similar to how Asians eat rice.
For quesadilla, a corn tortilla is used in the traditional quesadilla. Meanwhile, a flour tortilla is also suitable for some modern quesadilla versions.
Meanwhile, 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 would usually be flat, while the taco has the distinctive half-moon shape when folded that everyone can recognize.
Thus, since you can add any filling to your taco, it usually weighs more than a flat quesadilla that has but a cheese filling,
Method of cooking
For a taco, the filling has to be cooked and prepared before you set them up with a tortilla. After assembling a taco, it would be served immediately without any additional cooking method.
In the case of the quesadilla, the assembling part comes before cooking. When making a quesadilla, place the cheese inside the tortilla first, then grill the quesadilla to allow the cheese to melt.
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
- 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 on the borders of the tortilla, it will melt and drip out, causing the tortilla to burn inside the pan.
- 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.
- 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.
- Flip the tortilla and add another tablespoon of butter to allow the other side to heat up fully.
- When the cheese is fully 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
- Before cooking your meat, marinate it in all of the seasonings and allow it to marinate 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.
- 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.
- Assemble the tacos as follows: Spoon 2 tablespoons of taco meat into hard taco shells or small soft tortillas. 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.
That’s the end of our guide on how to spot the differences between quesadilla vs taco, in addition to 2 delicious Mexican recipes to diversify your home menu.
Don’t hesitate to try making one for friends or family on the weekend. Rest assured that it’ll bring you an unforgettable experience regarding homemade Mexican cuisines.
Mariana Rouco is the editor-in-chief of Elpasony.com. She loves traveling and writing about foods and cooking in general. She has a degree from the New England Culinary Institute and enjoys Mexican, Italian, and Chinese cuisines the most.