You know how people (and by “people,” we mean us) are always telling you to make caramelized onions and keep them in the fridge because they’re so good on everything? These beefy, cheesy quesadillas are one of those everythings! That earthy sweetness smashed on top of ground beef is a bit reminiscent of a patty melt, while a dose of BBQ spices and two kinds of cheese take this decadent dinner into a territory all its own. The finished product has a bit of a Southwestern vibe, so we like to serve them with hot sauce, avocado, jalapeños, and sour cream on the side so everyone can gussy up their own plates as they please.–Holly Erickson | Natalie Mortimer

Beef and Onion Quesadilla FAQs

What should I serve with cheesy beef and caramelized onion quesadillas?

There are so many options! Perhaps a starch of some sort, like cilantro-lime or Spanish rice, guacamole (a must), or even just sliced avocado, a bit of crema, and a side of refried beans. If it’s been a long, trying day, we’d also recommend a margarita or a super cold bottle of Modelo Negra.

What’s the best way to reheat leftover quesadillas?

Stay away from the microwave. Using a microwave will result in a limp, unevenly heated quesadilla, and that would make everyone sad. Properly reheating leftover quesadillas takes a bit of time – you want to be sure that the inside gets warm and melty, and the outside gets crisped up again, without getting burned. You have two options: oven or stovetop. Our preference is the stovetop because it’s easier to watch for burning and simpler to control the heat. Here’s what to do:

1. Slick a skillet with a little bit of oil, then let it warm up over medium-low heat for a few minutes.

2. Add the quesadilla, heating it for about a minute. You’ll probably need to flip it several times, but don’t leave either side down for very long. If you notice one side getting too browned, turn your heat down and continue flipping.

3. If your quesadilla is thick and super packed, you may need to cover the skillet with a lid to retain heat and get the insides all gooey and delicious. Still, flip it every minute or so.

Four pieces of cheesy beef and caramelized onion quesadillas stacked on a plate with a bowl of dipping sauce on the side.

Cheesy Beef and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas

5 / 3 votes
The earthy sweetness of caramelized onion smashed on top of ground beef is a bit reminiscent of a patty melt, while a dose of BBQ spices and two kinds of cheese take this decadent dinner into a territory all its own.
David Leite
Servings8 quesadillas
Calories666 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • 1 pound ground beef, preferably 80/20
  • 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade BBQ Spice Rub
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sixteen (8-inch) tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups caramelized onions
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar or Colby Jack cheese
  • Hot sauce, sliced avocado, jalapeños, and/or sour cream, for serving


  • Place the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the beef to a colander set over a bowl to drain off the fat.
  • Return the beef to the skillet over medium heat. Add the spice rub and 3 tablespoons water and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, until the water has been absorbed, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  • In a medium skillet or griddle over medium heat, warm 1 teaspoon of oil. Once the oil is glistening, working with one or two at a time, add the tortillas and sprinkle each with 1/4 cup each of mozzarella, beef, caramelized onions, and Cheddar, then top with another tortilla. Cook until the bottom tortilla is golden brown and the mozzarella is melted, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the quesadilla and cook until the other tortilla is golden brown and the cheddar is melted, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the skillet and repeat with the remaining ingredients, adding 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet for every quesadilla.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: To keep these quesadillas warm while you finish cooking, pop them on a sheet pan and into a 200°F (95°C) oven.

  • To serve, cut each quesadilla in quarters. Serve with desired toppings.
The Modern Proper Cookbook

Adapted From

The Modern Proper

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Serving: 1 quesadillaCalories: 666 kcalCarbohydrates: 54 gProtein: 32 gFat: 36 gSaturated Fat: 16 gMonounsaturated Fat: 12 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 89 mgSodium: 1093 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 6 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2022 Holly Erickson | Natalie Mortimer. Photo © 2022 Eva Kolenko. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Caramelized onions and melted cheese? I am IN! If you need a reason to lazily caramelize onions on a weekend while meal prepping for the week, these cheesy beef and caramelized onion quesadillas are one. Dinner was on the table in under 20 minutes, a delicious cheesy gooey delectable dinner that had an extra special something with the addition of the onions. I used soft corn tortillas because that is our favorite and things came together in no time having made the onions the day before.

A sliced, perfectly ripe avocado and a fresh cucumber salad rounded out the meal. Served with a lovely Delirium Tremens ale. Perfect for a Monday night.

If you love quesadillas and cheeseburgers, this dish is for you. This is a great meal to prepare ahead and put together as needed. Be sure to use a large skillet to get some good color on the meat. After draining, add your BBQ spice rub, a tablespoon at a time to desired flavor. I felt 2 tablespoons was plenty for 1 pound of meat, but it will depend on which spice rub you use.

The combination of the cheeses provided great flavor and gooeyness. The caramelized onions are the star, but they share the spotlight well. I used two cast-iron skillets to prepare them, and after making the first quesadilla, I chose to spread the tortilla with softened butter instead of adding oil to the pan. I think it added a nice bit of flavor. Quesadillas were served with sour cream and diced jalapenos, but a dollop of guacamole couldn’t hurt.

The combination of beef, and cheese and caramelized onions is a winning one tucked into crisply fried tortillas. I ended up with enough ingredients to make between 6 and 7 quesadillas. A leftover one I had reheated well in the toaster the next day.

I am a big fan of this cheesy beef and caramelized onion quesadilla recipe. It’s super convenient if you prepare the onions and shred your cheeses ahead. If you don’t need as many quesadillas as this makes, it’s very easy to scale down or use for multiple meals. The trick is to find a BBQ rub that you LOVE and make sure to use it in the right quantity.

I started by making the caramelized onions (Recipe on this site). If you need 6 to 8 servings, you will probably need to double the onion recipe. On second thought, if you’re a foodie, double the recipe anyway. You’ll use them! Make sure your cheeses are shredded.

I tried this with the sour cream topping alone, but it just wasn’t enough. If you like spicy, definitely add the jalapeno. It needs some pop. I decided to make a sauce from equal parts sour cream and bbq sauce and that worked like a charm.  It needs a bit of acid to bring out the flavors. Maybe some lime juice or additional hot sauce depending on the rub used.

All things considered, this is a great versatile recipe. The versatility of this comes out in that you could use pork or chicken in this with equally delicious results, making it a great recipe to use leftover meats too…either shredded or in small chunks. The process works, just don’t try to skimp on the cheese…..

A simple yet flavorful meal oozing with not one but two cheeses! If you are going to make these cheesy beef and caramelized onion quesadillas, I recommend taking a few extra minutes to make the suggested Texas dry rub recipe mix because it will not disappoint.

These beefy and cheesy quesadillas satisfied even the hungriest of the bunch. Be sure to top them with your favorite fixings—we used sour cream and sliced jalapenos. This is a dish that the whole family can participate in making, so pull out the aprons and roll up your sleeves for some delicious fun!

Different and delicious. We enjoyed these cheesy beef and caramelized onion quesadillas one night for dinner with yellow rice and then one day for lunch with a simple salad. I made a huge batch of caramelized onions ahead of time and popped them in the fridge. Onions cooked, these quesadillas come together quickly and easily.

Browning the meat and blooming the spices only takes 10-11 minutes. Then it’s assembly time. The recipe says to work with one quesadilla at a time but I found it just as easy to do two at a time. While my ground beef was browning, I reheated the onions. After that, I started making the quesadillas – assembly line style. I laid out half of my tortillas, spread caramelized onions on them, added the cheeses and seasoned ground beef, and then topped them with their “hats”. I then cooked two at a time using a griddle (this could also be done easily using two pans). 

I was surprised when I tried the first quesadilla. When I tasted the seasoned beef alone, it was quite salty, but after being assembled and cooked, the seasoning level was perfect. The recommended 1/4 cup portions of ingredients is spot on. You can taste each of the ingredients – the seasoned beef, the sweet onions, the warm gooey cheese. 

We garnished our quesadillas with avocado, sour cream, and cilantro. I can imagine using different spice rubs and toppings and coming up with lots of flavor combinations. We will be making these again – they were very tasty.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    These were delicious. The caramelized onions really enhance the taste. Such a great twist on taco Tuesday. Will definitely make these again.

  2. The onions are enjoying the final 50 minutes or so in the pan…the beef is ready to go and my wine has been poured. The house smells wonderful and now I just enjoy watching the onions do their thing. I can hardly wait for dinner tonight!

  3. I haven’t made these, but just a thought on reheating. I feel like when you reheat these, or say pizza, it is best to microwave them first to take the chill off, or leave out at room temp for a while, then pan cook them on the stove top. That way they will crisp up, and yet the insides will be done.

    1. Thank you, Jen. Nothing like biting into a quesadilla that is cold in the middle—very disappointing, I know. I like the stovetop method myself, and starting from the cold skillet seems to buy more time for the food to heat through. As the instructions suggest, covering also helps, but be sure to remove the lid and crisp up the outside for a few minutes.