Oyster mushrooms, fried with garlic, onions, chile de árbol, and epazote are a delicious and “meaty” filling for a vegetarian quesadilla. These Mexican-style oyster mushroom quesadillas are flexible and fast, making for a tasty snack, lunch, or light dinner.
What is a quesadilla?
Ahhhh, the quesadilla, a widely recognized symbol of Mexican food and cousin of the taco. A tortilla is filled with cheese and cooked until the cheese is melted. This is the most basic definition of a quesadilla. It is the Mexican version of a grilled cheese sandwich and can be just as comforting, warm, and cheesy. Here in Mexico, quesadillas are found at many street-corner stands, perfect for a quick meal!
What you might not know is that quesadillas are so much more than just a tortilla filled with cheese. Like other Mexican foods, regional variations exist. And depending on where you are, a quesadilla may mean something entirely different from what you might expect!
Variations of the quesadilla
Originally, the name “quesadilla” derives from the fact that cheese or “queso” is the main ingredient. But, quesadillas have evolved over time to include other ingredients, like potatoes, chicken tinga, squash blossoms, mushrooms, chorizo, shrimp, and even grasshoppers, just to name a few.
The tortilla used for quesadillas can vary by region. In central and southern Mexico, corn masa is most common. You will find varieties made with white or blue corn. In the northern states, wheat-based flour tortillas are more popular.
Quesadillas can be heated over a griddle (quesadilla de comal). Other varieties are filled then deep-fried (quesadilla frita). They even go by different names like, empanada or molotes, depending on where you are in Mexico and what they are filled with.
And, don’t assume that all quesadillas include cheese. Here in central Mexico, it is common to have to specify that you want your quesadilla combined with cheese and another filling. This totally blows my mind, considering the word queso is in the name. ?
Where to find oyster mushrooms
Since we are working with oyster mushrooms for these quesadillas, let’s talk about where and when to find oyster mushrooms. Many mushroom varieties in Mexico, including oyster mushrooms (pleurotus ostreatus), are at their peak during the rainy season, roughly July through late September. In the wild, these mushrooms grow in the oak and pine forests of the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. Luckily, these mushrooms are now widely cultivated, making it easy to enjoy these quesadillas whenever the craving strikes. In the US, you should be able to find oyster mushrooms at well-stocked grocery stores.
Mexicans refer to oyster mushrooms as setas. Although the word setas is a generic name for edible mushrooms in other Spanish-speaking regions, I have only ever heard of this word refer to the oyster mushroom variety here in Mexico. Many home cooks use setas for soups and as a filling for quesadillas. Sometimes they take the place of meat in traditional dishes like mole.
Are oyster mushrooms healthy?
Oyster mushrooms have many health benefits. They are a source of antioxidants, which help to reduce cellular damage inside the body. These types of mushrooms may also increase heart health by reducing cholesterol and high blood pressure. Scientific studies show that oyster mushrooms help regulate blood sugar levels and support the immune system. Some cultures even use these mushrooms in medicinal practices. But apart from being healthy, I eat these oyster mushroom quesadillas because they are just plain delicious!
How to make Mexican-style oyster mushroom quesadillas
Making the filling
These oyster mushroom quesadillas are super easy and fast to make. Start by heating oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced mushrooms and fry them, stirring occasionally. The mushrooms will release their liquid, but just keep the heat on and the liquid will start to cook off. Once most of the liquid is gone, it is time to add the onions, garlic, and chiles. If you are heat sensitive, you can omit the chiles entirely. You will start to notice the mushrooms starting to brown as well as the garlic. At this point, I like to add the epazote and stir everything together. When the mushrooms brown to your liking, add salt, stir and turn off the heat.
Putting everything together
Now, it is time to put everything together. Using a comal or skillet, heat each tortilla on one side. Once the first side is hot, flip the tortilla over and start filling! Place 1/4 of the shredded cheese on half of the tortilla, top with 1/4 of the mushroom filling, and fold the empty tortilla half over top. The quesadillas are done when the cheese is melted, usually about 5 minutes total. I suggest flipping the quesadilla halfway through to brown each side evenly.
Mix it up
These quesadillas are totally customizable, so feel free to mix it up! If you don’t like spice, you could omit the chile de árbol. Or if you wanted to reduce the spice level, switch out the chile de árbol for pasilla. To make this vegan, just leave out the cheese! In Mexico, quesadillas are usually topped with Mexican cream and shredded cheese (like cincho or queso fresco). You could easily add these to your finished quesadilla if desired. And of course, we can’t forget about the salsa! Enjoy these with salsa, like chile morita salsa, salsa de chile pasilla, or your personal favorite!
Mexican-Style Oyster Mushroom Quesadillas
- 1 lb oyster mushrooms, thick stems removed and thinly sliced ~500g
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil I use safflower
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 5 chiles de árbol, cut into thin rounds I find that kitchen scissors work well for cutting the chiles
- 1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
- 15 epazote leaves, chopped about 1/4 cup
- Salt to taste
- 4 corn tortillas about 6 inches in diameter, see note
- 1/4 lb queso Oaxaca or gouda, shredded ~120g
- Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat
- Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and fry, stirring occasionally. The mushrooms will begin to release liquid, so you will want to continue cooking these until most of the liquid is cooked off, about 10-12 minutes.
- Once most of the liquid is gone, add the onions, garlic, and chiles. Continue to fry, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms and garlic begin to brown, about 5 minutes
- Add the epazote and stir to incorporate, cooking an additional 1-2 minutes or until the mushrooms are browned to your liking.
- Add salt to taste, stir to incorporate, and remove the mushrooms from the heat.
- Heat a comal or skillet over medium high heat
- Place a tortilla on the comal and heat on one side until warmed through, about 30-60 seconds
- Flip the tortilla and place 1/4 of the cheese on half of the tortilla and 1/4 of the mushrooms on top of the cheese. Fold the empty side of the tortilla over the filling.
- Heat until the cheese is melted, flipping over halfway through cooking, about 2 1/2 minutes per side.
- Serve immediately
- I find that this filling is perfect for making 4 loaded quesadillas. But if you prefer to stretch the ingredients a bit, divide the filling among 6 tortillas for a lighter appetizer or snack.