chicken and greens quesadillas

chicken and greens quesadillas

These chicken and greens quesadillas are a delicious lunch or dinner for days when you barely want to cook. Start with seasoned chicken thighs cooked on the stove and sandwiched between corn tortillas for a gluten free starch. Add a light serving of melty mozzarella cheese and a vibrant pesto made with cilantro, baby spinach and [nutrient-rich] pumpkin seeds. Grill the quesadillas on the stove and serve. This is the perfect all-in-one meal for days that are too hot for the oven.

chicken and greens quesadillas

My husband, Kenny, always craves Mexican food. Being a SoCal native and half Mexican, he knows his way around a tortilla. The biggest culinary gripe he voices [aside from the fact that I only bake chocolate desserts] is that I don’t cook enough Mexican dishes.

I developed this recipe as a way to allay Kenny’s fear of not getting his Mexican food fix, while serving something healthy-ish. First, some housekeeping: this recipe is my own imagined version of Mexi-Cali cuisine. Please don’t ‘at’ me with raised fists and accusations of culinary blasphemy. [See comment here and feel free to roll your eyes with me.]

Chicken thighs were a natural addition to quesadillas because they’re a delicious way to add protein and substance. I wanted to introduce vegetables to the dish without additional cooking so pesto came to mind. I made a Mexican-ish pesto by replacing fresh basil with cilantro and baby spinach (more vitamins) and adding pepitas in place of pine nuts. The addition of fresh lime juice gave just the right sharpness and brightened the flavors.

After tinkering with the pesto recipe and using juicy chicken thighs in place of chicken breasts, these chicken and greens quesadillas received the Kenny seal of approval. I’ll definitely be making this again and I hope you’ll enjoy it too!

Other Mexican inspired dishes you might enjoy:

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chicken and greens quesadillas

chicken and greens quesadillas

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  • Author: Sepideh Campos


  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika 
  • 1.5 lbs chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, grated 
  • 12 corn tortillas (you can also use flour tortillas but I like to keep this gluten free)
  • Avocado oil spray 

Mexican-ish pesto 

  • 1 packed cup baby spinach, raw 
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • ⅓ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated 
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • ¼ cup olive oil 
  • Juice of 1 ½ fresh limes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt 


  1. Combine the salt, garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika in a small bowl. 
  2. Season both sides of the chicken thighs with the spice mixture. 
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan with a lid. 
  4. Place the chicken thighs in the pan, in a single layer, and brown on both sides. About 3-4 minutes per side. 
  5. Add all of the chicken thighs to the pan (if you browned the chicken in batches). Add ¼ cup water to the pan and cover the pan. 
  6. Cook the chicken over medium heat until cooked through, 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  7. Transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board while you prepare the pesto. 
  8. In a food processor combine the baby spinach, cilantro, pumpkin seeds, parmesan cheese, garlic and red pepper flakes. 
  9. Pulse the ingredients 5-10 times until finely chopped. 
  10. With the food processor running, drizzle the olive oil in through the feed tube until fully combined. 
  11. Add the juice of 1 fresh lime and ¼ teaspoon salt, run the food processor to combine. Taste the pesto and add the rest of the lime juice and salt if necessary. 
  12. Transfer the pesto to a bowl. Chop the chicken thighs into thin strips. 
  13. To assemble the quesadillas, spray one side of 6 tortillas with avocado oil. 
  14. Lay the 6 tortillas (oiled side down) out on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread pesto on each of the tortillas. Top with the chopped chicken (you might have extra chicken – leftover score!).
  15. Divide the cheese among the 6 quesadillas. 
  16. Top each quesadilla with a tortilla and spray the tops with avocado oil. 
  17. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the assembled quesadillas (2 or 3 at a time depending on the size of your pan). 
  18. Cook the quesadillas until the cheese melts, the pesto is warm, and the tortilla is golden brown 5-8 minutes per side. 
  19. Transfer the quesadillas to a plate, cut in half or fourths and serve with any extra pesto you have. 
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