These vegetarian Spinach Pesto and Cheddar Quesadillas are ready in only 20 minutes, for a super fast and kid-friendly dinner.

Spinach Quesadilla cut into wedges and stacked on top of each other.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Dairy Farm Families of New England. I was compensated for my time. All opinions expressed here are my own. 

Why We Love This Recipe For Spinach Pesto and Cheddar Quesadillas

Recently, I took a trip to Boston with Team Dairy New England to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street for a live cooking demo where we learned how to make a special Peruvian style pesto, tallarines verde. This style of pesto is made with spinach instead of basil, and is served with pasta (like the typical kind of pesto).

The other main difference is that the recipe includes onions. The spinach and onion get pureed together, then the spinach-onion paste gets sautéed until reduced and the flavors have melded together. In the cooking demo, this spinach-onion paste was immediately tossed with al dente pasta, then topped with fresh farmers cheese. It was so divine!

Once I got back to Vermont, I felt inspired to try using spinach in my favorite traditional Italian-style pesto recipe (no cooking or onions needed). I did make a few other swaps as well, but you can read about those down below in the ingredient section!

When I finished the pesto, which took less than 10 minutes by the way, I used it to make an easy, satisfying and meatless main course. I spread the spinach pesto over whole-wheat tortillas, topped it with more wilted spinach and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. These quesadillas come in at 17 grams of protein per quesadilla!

Vegetarian spinach pesto and cheddar quesadillas on a plate

Ingredients For This Recipe

Baby spinach

Baby spinach worked wonders as a substitute for basil in this recipe. They have a lot of similarities, as you’ll be able to tell, except spinach has a more mild and less bitter flavor than basil.

Hard aged Parmesan-style cheese

This is the best cheese to use, however you could also use Asiago, Pecorino Romano, or any other hard cheese you can find. I used a grated hard aged cheese because it was an element in the Milk Street recipe, and in traditional Italian pesto.

Almonds

I used almonds instead of traditional pine nuts for a milder nut flavor, but you can use chopped walnuts, pine nuts, or even sunflower or pumpkin seeds if you happen to have a nut allergy.

Other Pesto Ingredients

  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Other Quesadilla Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 large (10-inch) whole-wheat or gluten-free tortillas
  • 1 ½ cups (6 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil


Cheese and Spinach Quesadilla wedges a baking sheet.

Step By Step Instructions to Make This Recipe

Step 1: Make Pesto

Fit the food processor with a steel blade attachment. Start the motor, and drop garlic through the feed tube. Process until the garlic is chopped (it’s okay if it stick to the sides.) Remove lid and add 2 cups spinach, nuts, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, Parmesan-style cheese, 2 tablespoons water and salt. Process until pureed, about 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the blender and continue to process until smooth, about 20 seconds more.

Step 2: Assemble Quesadillas

Combine 4 cups spinach and 2 tablespoons water in a large microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup. Cover and microwave on high until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes. Carefully remove cover and drain the spinach. Lay the tortillas out on work surface. Spread pesto over half of each of the tortillas, dividing evenly among the four. Top the pesto with spinach, dividing among the tortillas. Top the spinach with cheddar. Fold tortillas in half.

Step 3: Cook Quesadillas

Brush 1 teaspoon oil over a griddle. Place the quesadillas on the griddle and set over medium heat. Cook until the bottoms are browned and crisped, 4 to 7 minutes. Flip the quesadillas and continue cooking until the other side is browned and the cheddar cheese is melted. Cut them into wedges to serve.

(Alternatively, to cook in a large skillet: oil a large skillet, add two quesadillas and set over medium-high heat. Cook until the bottom is browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until the other side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce temperature to medium-low and repeat with the remaining two quesadillas, cooking them until brown, about 2 minutes per side.)

Pesto quesadillas on a cutting board and a plate.

FAQs and Expert Tips

What else can you put in a quesadilla?

One of the great things about a quesadilla is that you can put whatever you like into it. For this specific vegetarian spinach quesadilla, you could try adding a source of protein like grilled or oven baked chicken.

What kind of cheese is best for a quesadilla?

Freshly grated cheese (such as cheddar) is the best for quesadillas. Grating the cheese allows for even melting, and grating it yourself rather than buying pre-grated cheese also gives the best meltability. Any hard-aged cheese will take longer to melt and won’t melt as evenly.

Can you make quesadillas ahead of time?

Yes. You could assemble them ahead of time and store them flat on top of each other so that the filling doesn’t fall out. You could also just prepare all of the parts before and assemble when cooking.

Additional Recipes to Try

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter where I share weeknight meal plans delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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Spinach Quesadillas

Spinach Pesto and Cheddar Quesadillas


Description

These vegetarian Spinach Pesto and Cheddar Quesadillas are ready in only 20 minutes, for a super fast and kid-friendly dinner.


Ingredients

Scale

Spinach Pesto

  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups baby spinach (about 2 to 2.5 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated hard aged Parmesan-style cheese
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Quesadillas

  • 4 cups baby spinach (4 to 5 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 large (10-inch) whole-wheat or gluten-free tortillas
  • 1 ½ cups (6 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Make Pesto: Fit food processor with steel blade attachment. Start motor, and drop garlic through the feed tube. Process until the garlic is chopped (it’s okay if it stick to the sides.) Remove lid. Add 2 cups spinach, nuts, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, Parmesan-style cheese, 2 tablespoons water and salt. Process until pureed, about 10 seconds. Scrape sides and process until smooth, about 20 seconds.
  2. Make Quesadillas: Combine 4 cups spinach and 2 tablespoons water in a large microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. Cover and microwave until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes on high. Carefully remove cover and drain the spinach.
  3. Lay tortillas on work surface. Spread pesto over half of each tortillas, dividing evenly among the four. Top the pesto with spinach, dividing among the tortillas. Top the spinach with cheddar. Fold tortillas in half.
  4. Brush 1 teaspoon oil over a griddle. Set quesadillas on the griddle and set over medium heat. Cook until the bottoms are browned and crisped, 4 to 7 minutes. Flip the quesadillas and continue cooking until the other side is browned and the cheddar cheese is melted. Alternatively, to cook in a large skillet: oil a large skillet, add two quesadillas and set over medium-high heat. Cook until the bottom is browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until the other side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce temperature to medium-low and repeat with the remaining two quesadillas, cooking them until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Cut into wedges to serve.

Notes

Cheese Tip:

The best cheese for a quesadilla is cheddar cheese. I also recommend grating it yourself, rather than buying pre-grated cheese. This makes for the best meltability!

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: entree
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 quesadilla
  • Calories: 441
  • Fat: 31 g
  • Saturated Fat: 12 g
  • Carbohydrates: 28 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 17 g
  • Cholesterol: 46

Keywords: Pesto Quesadilla, Vegetarian Spinach Quesadilla, Cheese and Spinach Quesadilla, Quesadilla Healthy, veggie quesadilla recipe spinach

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