Quesadilla Salvadoreña

Salvadoran Quesadilla / Latinaish.com

Ask an American what a “quesadilla” is and most likely they’ll tell you it’s thin flour tortillas with cheese melted in between – but that’s a Mexican quesadilla, and not the one I’m talking about today. Salvadoran quesadilla is a rich cheese-flavored pound-cake-like sweet bread which is perfect with a cup of coffee. You can buy them at some bakeries and Latino markets in the United States but often times, you’ll find they aren’t fresh and have gotten a bit dry. The good news is, you can make your own “quesadilla salvadoreña” at home, and believe me, it’s even more amazing than the store bought ones.

I’ve actually been meaning to share a quesadilla recipe here for years, but the first one I tried was given to me by a friend who generously emailed me her family’s recipe, and thus it wasn’t mine to give away. Over the years I tried other quesadilla recipes, and eventually, tweaking here and there as I do, I ended up with a recipe all my own, but it still wasn’t perfect. I continued baking and changing things, and the quesadillas were usually good, but I definitely had some complete failures along the way, too. Last week I decided to make another attempt and, (bendito sea!) success! Finally! Delicious success!

We ate every last crumb of the one in the photos, and days later, I made another just to double check my recipe, (and because we wanted more quesadilla!)

So here it is, just in time for making as a holiday gift for family, friends and neighbors, (if you can stand the idea of parting with it.)


Salvadoran Quesadilla


1 stick (8 tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
3 eggs, separated
1 (slightly rounded) cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup 1% milk, room temperature
1 tsp. baking powder
sesame seeds


1. Combine sugar, flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside. Note: The cup of sugar should be rounded, so it’s slightly more than 1 cup.

2. In a medium bowl mix the cheese and butter and then add the milk. Set aside. Note: The cheese can be cheap non-brand name Parmesan. Grated “queso duro blando” or “queso duro viejo” can probably be substituted for Parmesan but I haven’t tried it yet. You could also use 2% or whole milk in place of the 1% milk, but I do not advise skim milk.

3. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Beat in the yolks, then add the cheese mixture. Beat at medium speed, slowly adding in the bowl of dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.

4. Pour into a greased 9 inch springform pan or round pie pan. You can also use a 7×11 rectangular pan, which is what I used the second time. Sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds. Note: Springform pans tend to leak a little until the batter has set up, so put a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven to catch any drips.

5. Bake on the middle rack of your oven at 300 to 325 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. (Actual cooking time will vary slightly depending on the size and type of pan. My oven runs a little hot, so I baked mine at 300 F.) Keep an eye on it starting at 30 minutes as it continues to bake to make sure you remove it before it begins to burn. It goes from yellow/unbaked to golden brown to burnt pretty quickly.

6. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan. (It tastes better the next day, actually.) Cut into slices and serve with coffee.

UPDATE: I made this recently again in our new oven. (My old oven used to run hot.) In the new oven I baked it at 325 F in a 7×11 glass Pyrex and it came out perfect. 30 to 35 minutes may not be long enough depending on the pan size and varying oven temperatures, so don’t be afraid to leave it in longer as long as you’re keeping an eye on it. Don’t take it out of the oven too early. It should be nice and browned like in the photos. It should not look like yellow cake on the outside! Also, I just want to say again that cheap store-brand Parmesan works great. That is my go-to for this recipe.


  1. OMG- this looks delicious- am DROOLING- I love trying new things to eat with my morning tea and this is getting bumped on the list. How long do you think this could keep? A few days in a tightly sealed container?

    • I’m used to having this with coffee but let me know how it is with tea :) … I think it would keep for a few days as you said. The ones sold at the Latino market are often simply wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and they probably weren’t made the same day since they come from bakeries a couple hours away.

      When I make quesadilla at home, it usually doesn’t last much longer than 48 hours because we eat it, so I don’t have personal experience keeping one longer than that ;)

  2. Sweet! I am an American living in El Salvador, where if you get lucky on a long-distance bus some rural ladies will board with big quesadillas in hand and cut you slices for a dollar apiece. It’s the best.

  3. Hi Tracy. I just put mine in the oven…so I’m just waiting to start trying it with a nice cup of coffee…! Thanks for your recipe. I will let you know how it went. Saludos!

  4. […] I’m hesitant to even publish this as a “recipe” because it’s just basically melted cheese inside a tortilla, but I’m doing this as a service to those who may be totally unfamiliar with the process and have yet to experience the happiness that is a simple homemade Mexican quesadilla. (Salvadoran quesadillas are equally wonderful, but an entirely different food and a bit more complicated to make. My recipe for those can be found here.) […]

  5. I’m a Spanish teacher, and for our Día de Comida we have a similar recipe, but it’s Honduran. When I tell them it’s Honduran Cheesecake, I have to explain that it’s not like their typical creamy cheesecake. I get mixed reviews on whether they like it or not. Some kids can’t get over the fact that it has Parmesean cheese in it! I love it! I’ll have to look back at the recipe to see how different it is from this one.

    • I wonder how opinions might change if you tried introducing it as a type of “cheese bread” instead of using the word “cake” and mentioning cheesecake, (which gives them a certain expectation.) … Cheesecake has such a specific flavor so maybe that’s why they’re disappointed by quesadilla. It would be interesting to use different terms for introducing it to different classes and then take a poll to see how much that cheesecake expectation influences opinions!

      I haven’t tried Honduran quesadilla but I imagine it’s quite similar :)

  6. I have three words for this recipe: OH MY GOD!!! This is incredible delicious. As a Salvadoran, living in El Salvador, this is the very first time i enjoy eating quesadilla! And this is the very first time i find a recipe that actually works! Thanks a lot!! The only thing is that i made them individual, like an standar cupcake size, so the bake time is a little different. I bake them for 30 minutes at 325, but they were still raw, so gave them 15 more minutes and they sunk in the middle. So i’m gonna make another batch untill i get them perfect! Probably will increase a little the temperarure :) thanks again!!

    • This comment made me so happy, Adelita! I hope you figure out the temperature for cupcake size quesadillas – if you do, please share it here for others who want to make smaller ones like you. Saludos!

  7. I must say, this was so delish! I baked it at night and it was all gone by the next day. My family enjoyed it so much even said it took them back to their good memories of salvodarian sweet treats. I substitute the cheese for store brand parmesan cheese and come out great! Thanks for the recipe!

  8. I think step 3 has some problems though I haven’t tried the recipe yet. After you beat the egg white to form soft peaks, you shouldn’t beat it any more with other things. Instead, you should mix the dry ingredients with egg yolk and cheese, and then gently fold in the egg white until just mixed. The purpose to beat the egg white is to make the cake fluffy, but if you beat it more after mixing it with other things, the beating will damage the texture of the egg white and the cake won’t be fluffy.

    • Hi Qing, while what you said is almost always the case in baking, for this particular recipe, making it exactly as the instructions say results in a perfect Salvadoran quesadilla. This is the recipe I use every single time and it comes out perfect, otherwise I wouldn’t have shared it here with everyone!

    • Hi Melissa! I don’t think I’ve ever baked it that thin so I can’t say for sure. If you try it, definitely make sure you watch carefully for when it’s golden brown because it will probably need less time. Let me know how it turns out!

      • Well I made it in a 9×13 and it was very thin and only the edges got brown! I liked it but my husband said it needed to be in a different pan! Also it didn’t get golden brown mine kinda looked like a vanilla cake! My husband posted a picture and one of his friends commented that “una quesadilla gabacha porque se ve bien chele ” haha

  9. Lol Melissa, sorry it didn’t turn out in that pan but laughing at your husband’s friend’s comment.

    So was it totally cooked through but not golden brown? Would the edges have burned if you gave it more time?… I wonder if you could have wrapped the edges in foil (like some pie instructions direct) and baked a bit longer so the top would turn golden brown? … or maybe a minute under the broiler?

    • Btw Melissa, how long did you bake it? I just remembered that when I make quesadilla the edges are always much darker (but don’t taste burnt.) … It’s been awhile since I made one but I vaguely recall fretting that it would burn on edges but be too “chele” on top but if you just leave it in the oven, the top does turn golden brown and the rest shouldn’t be burnt. I wonder if you panicked about the edges and took it out early. Maybe it would have been OK even in the larger pan???

      • I baked it about 35-40 min at 325 and I probably did panic about not wanting the edges to burn but the recipe itself was amazing! I’m glad I found this site because I like the recipes and my husband wants me to make more aalvadorian food :)

  10. Well I’m glad it tasted good even if it didn’t look quite right. Hopefully you can use a smaller pan and try it again with better results. Thanks for your kind words, Melissa. Suerte with the other recipes!

  11. Thank you for your recipe I tried it but mine came out a little dry. I had to call my grandma in El Salvador to asked her about it because it had a different taste than hers and she told me that quesadilla could be made with either rice flour or all purpose flour but hers was always with rice flour. She also uses ricotta cheese and sour cream in hers with the parmesan cheese. I combine your method with her ingredients and it came out just as I remember. And it is a gluten free alternative with the rice flour.

    • That’s a great tip for those who need a gluten-free alternative. Thanks so much for sharing it, Maria.

  12. Just tried this recipe yesterday and of course, I messed up a little. For some reason my egg whites would not form a stiff peak. Regardless, this recipe was AMAZING! Thanks so much! I recently moved to Michigan from California where quesadilla bread was found in any local market, but now I can make it myself!

    • Yay, Lisa! So happy to hear it turned out even if your egg whites weren’t totally cooperating. (Next time, it helps if the bowl and beaters are cold, so you could stick them in the fridge for a few minutes before putting the egg whites in! Also, make sure the bowl doesn’t have any oil/grease from when you last used them as that will prevent the egg whites from forming stiff peaks.)

      Enjoy your quesadilla!

  13. this is super super delicious…..absolutely love it….i used to drive like 25 miles away to a Salvadorean restaurant just to buy this cake…lol…and not cheap either…now i”m glad i got the recipe….this cake with a cup of coffee in a cold day is the bomb… WARNING: you can’t stop at one slice…so be prepared to make more coffee..lol… thank u sooooo much Tracy….

    • I just made one over the weekend and Carlos and I ate almost the whole thing in one sitting jajaja… Thanks so much for your kind words!

  14. My husband has been looking for a Salvodoran quesadilla for over 30 years. He used to eat them as a child and hasn’t been able to find one that was as good as his grandma’s. I finally found this recipe and every bite took him back to his childhood. Thank you for sharing this recipe. You have made my husband very happy!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this comment, Holly. This made me so happy, I think I’ll be smiling all week. Saludos to you and your husband.

    • I haven’t tried freezing this, Louise, but if I had to take a guess, I’d say it would freeze well. Good luck!

    • I make this and cut into slices and my husband puts them in the freezer in individual bags. He takes it out in the morning when he first gets up and by late morning they are good to eat with his cocoa. He LOVES them and says they taste great even after being frozen.

    • i freeze individual pieces of this for my husband to enjoy later. He says it tastes the same as the day i made it. No complaints from him.

  15. My husband is Guatemalan and grew up eating this. He has looked high and low for a quesadilla that reminds him of “home”, but nothing ever “wowed” him. I made this recipe and it actually made him cry. He said it was the perfect taste and texture. Thank you for sharing the recipe

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Holly. This totally made my day. Saludos to you and your husband :)

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