Tandoori Quesadillas with Cilantro Lime Crema
When the news of Anthony Bourdain’s passing spread around the world one early morning few weeks ago, I was deeply saddened. Why did such a free spirit, “take it in your stride” kind of person commit a suicide? I am not an expert in mental illness or human psychology but what I gather from recent celebrity suicides is that there are so many internal struggles and demons that each of is fighting. So, the least we can do is to be kind to each other and spread love and compassion. Anthony Bourdain was such an inspiration. The complete abandon with he approached food from around the world was awe-inspiring. His shows spread awareness about how the world cuisine is a melting pot of cultures, regional and seasonal produce, and how deep the threads of humanity run.Jump to Recipe
This recipe of tandoori quesadillas is also such an attempt. A fusion of cuisines. I have repeatedly written about our family’s love for Mexican cuisine (see here and here). We regularly make tacos, Mexican style Buddha bowls, salads, quesadillas, enchiladas etc. at home. While I normally stick to trying to make every recipe as authentic as I can, sometimes I let the refrigerator take charge of what is cooking. What does that mean, you ask? That means that I cannot simply overlook what lies in the refrigerator, begging for my attention, and cook something using produce or ingredients that I know won’t last very long. This recipe was born due to this problem that I have.
We Punjabis love anything tandoori. Tandoori food is cooked in super-hot clay oven called tandoor. The foods ranges from tradition tandoori chicken, kebabs, roti and naan to more contemporary tandoori vegetables like mushrooms and cauliflower. There are electric tandoors being sold in the markets, which I am not at all convinced to buy. I have seen few DIY tandoor options, which, I might be able to convince to Dr. A to try. We shall see. For now, our trusted grill (we have this one) is what comes closest to a tandoor.
We had some tandoori chicken leftover from Father’s Day cook out. I had talked to a friend about this concept of making “Indian style” quesadillas few weeks ago so I thought it would be a good time to try that. I have used leftover tandoori chicken in this recipe, but you could use any kind of leftover chicken. Even rotisserie chicken from the grocery store will work in a heartbeat. Or even paneer or tofu to make it vegetarian. You pick!
I diced up the chicken small (you can shred it too), vamped it up with some spices and sliced onions. I used pepper jack cheese in the tandoori quesadillas to make it spicy. The kids got Colby jack instead. Tortillas crisped up on a hot cast iron skillet and then covered with all the toppings. Covered with another tortilla or folded in half and served with cilantro lime crema, guacamole (recipe here), salsa (recipe here) and other invitados a la fiesta.
Again, by all means use tofu or paneer instead of chicken to make these quesadillas vegetarian or vegan. Everything else in the recipe stays the same (you might have to use a dairy free cheese for vegan).
Here is a handy printable:
Leftover chicken gets an Indian flair with tandoori spices, a toasted flour tortilla with melted spicy cheese, this tandoori quesadillas recipe has an impressive taste with little work.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for the tortillas
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 green chili, minced optional
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 2 cups cooked chicken, small diced See notes
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon tandoori masala powder
- 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup pepperjack cheese shredded
- 4 8-inch flour tortillas See notes
Quesadilla Toppings (optional)
- 1/2 cup sliced red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Pickled or fresh sliced jalapenos optional
Cilantro Lime Crema
- 1 cup yogurt/sour cream See Notes
- 10 sprigs cilantro
- 2 green chilis
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- Salt to taste
- Guacamole See Notes
- Pico de gallo/Salsa See Notes
To make tandoori filling
Set a cast iron skillet on high heat. Add olive oil and let it get shiny. Now add in the garlic, onions, and green chili. Mix and cook for a minute. Then add minced ginger and mix.
Add the turmeric powder and tandoori masala and cook the mixture for a minute.
Now add the cooked chicken, salt and broth. Lower the heat to medium low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. This will soften and reheat the leftover chicken evenly while infusing it with deeper tandoori flavor.
After five minutes turn the heat off, take the mixture out in a bowl and set aside.
To assemble the quesadillas
Return the cast iron skillet that you used to cook chicken in back to heat, wipe with a kitchen towel and heat up over medium heat.
Start warming up the tortilla, add some oil on both sides and get it slightly toasted. Turn the heat to low so that you do not burn the tortilla while you add the other ingredients.
Top half of the tortilla with shredded pepperjack cheese first, then top with tandoori chicken and chopped onions, cilantro, tomatoes and jalapenos (if using).
Fold the other half of the tortilla over the chicken and cheese. Cook till the cheese is melted and both sides of quesadilla are crisp and golden brown.
Remove from heat, slice into three slices.
Serve hot with cilantro lime crema and other condiments.
To make Cilantro Lime Crema
Blend together all the ingredients and serve with tandoori quesadillas.
To make vegetarian tandoori quesadillas, use diced paneer. You don't need to add broth while cooking tandoori paneer.
Use whole wheat tortillas to make this recipe healthier.
Using homemade yogurt makes the sauce a little liquidy. Preferably, use greek yogurt or sour cream to make the crema.
Find the guacamole recipe here
Find Salsa or Pico de gallo recipe here
Enjoy this tandoori goodness in form of a mess free hand held quesadilla.
Love – Vaishali.
ChristineJune 24, 2018 at 9:43 am
OMG! This looks sooo amazing! I love Indian food and Mexican food! Very exciting post. I’m not much of a cook but I really want to try it. Your images looks soo tasty too 😀
VaishaliJune 24, 2018 at 11:18 pm
Christine – That makes two of us! I grew up eating Indian and Mexican has become my next favorite. I am so happy you enjoyed the pictures and the recipe – we eat with our eyes first..:)
NicoleJuly 2, 2018 at 7:09 pm
This sounds so amazing! I really like quesadillas because they give you the convenience of a sandwich without the mushiness of a sandwich. And Indian food is some of my favourite cuisines – not to mention that lime and cilantro is one of my favourite flavour combinations. How could I go wrong with this? When I get back from my vacation, I’m going to give this recipe a try 🙂
MichelleJuly 2, 2018 at 7:26 pm
This would actually be so easy to make vegetarian — especially with all the meat substitutes that are now available. Also, I am half Mexican, so I love making Mexican good.
Great post! x
tachira wiltshireJuly 2, 2018 at 8:42 pm
Don’t think I have ever heard of tandoori quesadillas. I love the twist on this meal and it looks absolutely delicious 🙂
Lesley (makemeupblogs)July 3, 2018 at 9:10 am
Sounds like such a yummy recipe, I can’t wait to give it a try! Thank you for sharing!
Jen @ Jenron DesignsJuly 3, 2018 at 10:17 am
I love the flavors in Chicken Tandoori so I am so excited to try a quesadilla version. I really love fusion foods and taking ideas from culture and using a technique from another it really mixing things up and the food is always amazing. Pinning this for later use!!!!
Jenni LeBaronJuly 4, 2018 at 12:45 pm
I need these in my life immediately. Pinning to make later!
aditi bahlJuly 5, 2018 at 12:36 am
I like quesadillas a lot. Have tried most flavors, but never tried Tandoori. Sounds amazing.
Cathleen @ A Taste of MadnessJuly 5, 2018 at 3:56 pm
I have been in love with quesadillas lately. This one is definitely calling my name! I like how my fiance doesn’t like cilantro, because that just means more for me 😉
Whitney BondJuly 5, 2018 at 9:12 pm
Oh wow the mix of all these flavors sound amazing! I bet the cilantro lime crema goes wonderfully with all the seasonings inside! Can’t wait to mix up my quesadilla game and give this a try!
Shelley @ Two Healthy KitchensJuly 6, 2018 at 6:56 am
What a terrific post! Lovely comments about the sad passing of Anthony Bourdain, but a fitting tribute to create this gorgeous mishmash of fantastic, culturally iconic flavors. My family adores both Mexican and Indian cuisines – I’m definitely pinning this to remember! Thanks for the wonderful recipe!
Veena AzmanovJuly 6, 2018 at 1:48 pm
That sounds so amazing. I love using up leftover tandoori chicken. This sounds so refreshing. I usually make wraps but this sounds so cheesy and goody. My kids will be all over this. Saving for later
SaimaJuly 7, 2018 at 10:57 am
Tandoori quesadillas sound wonderful! I love fusion recipes and this one looks so delicious. And I so agree with you about using whatever’s in the fridge… using leftover chicken for this recipe is just perfect!
prasanna hedeJuly 7, 2018 at 12:49 pm
That’s a great twist to Quesadillas,perfect for the Summer parties!
Jessica (Swanky Recipes)July 8, 2018 at 9:54 pm
My mom is a picky eater and won’t touch beef lately so I’ve been on a mission since visiting for the summer to find easy alternative recipes with flavorful chicken. I love tandoori chicken and I won’t even miss traditional beef in place of it!
Veronika's KitchenJuly 9, 2018 at 7:57 am
I love that you are mixing two different flavors, Indian and Mexican!) It looks great! and I am sure tastes delicious)
anneJuly 9, 2018 at 9:36 am
What a great idea for a quick, easy and delicious dinner – especially when there is leftover chicken!
DesJuly 13, 2018 at 11:29 am
I am dancing in my seat right now! That is how excited I am to try these Quesadillas! They look and sound so flippin yummy! I LOVE the whole food ingredients too!
VaishaliJuly 13, 2018 at 11:30 am
Ha ha..loved your comment Des. thanks..<3
Matthew Gallant UkwadiaFebruary 10, 2019 at 8:43 pm
This looks yummy and tasty. Will love to try this recipe on a less busy weekend.
Kevin FoodieSeptember 12, 2022 at 6:12 pm
Love a good homemade quesadilla. These tandoori chicken quesadillas look flavorful. I am happy that the cilantro lime sauce is made with sour cream and not mayonnaise. Thanks for sharing this awesome Indian-style take on a Mexican dish.
VaishaliSeptember 13, 2022 at 10:54 pm
Thanks Kevin. And yes we don’t use as much mayo at our house!