Whenever I go back home to visit my family, I am always taken aback by how much my Latino side gets neglected while I’m in Toronto. My Spanish gets rusty from lack of use, my knowledge of Latin American celebrity gossip falls behind (Adamari Lopez and Luis Fonsi are getting divorced, after all they’ve been through?! Where have I been??), and I somehow miss the making of international music superstars without my mother and younger brothers to clue me in. (Incidentally, that last link is for the video of my mom’s current favorite song.)

Now freshly returned to Canadian soil, the regret I feel regarding my own cultural neglect is compounded with the sad realization that, while I was back home in Milwaukee, I never once got to enjoy my *Mama Manda’s famous quesadilla. Now, before your mind’s eye jumps to images of those grotesque orange cheese and flour tortilla sandwich creations, let me just say that the Salvadorian quesadilla is absolutely nothing like the Taco Bell signature you may have in mind. It is subtly sweet but not quite a pastry, something in between a pound cake and a corn bread (though not made of corn), and is a fantastic breakfast item when paired with coffee and fresh fruit. My grandmother tends to bake quesadillas a lot during the summer, but I’ve always associated their hearty, comfort-food sensibility with colder weather.

While my grandmother does not not follow written instructions for her version, I’ve tooled around with a few recipes that seem to very closely approximate the magic created in Mama Manda’s South Side kitchen. Allow me to share the final product of my research with you.

Quesadilla Salvadoreña

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (If you’re gluten-free, use 2 cups of cornmeal or 1.5 cups of rice flour instead)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup grated queso fresco (Also called “farmers cheese” or “fresh cheese” or “rancherito,” this young, tender white cheese can be found at any Latin American grocer. Otherwise, use parmesan).
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Sift flour and baking powder together into a bowl.
  2. In another, larger mixing bowl, blend the cheese, sugar, eggs, and milk until well combined. Stir in the melted butter. Then, pour the flour mixture into this bowl and mix to form a smooth batter.
  3. Pour the batter into two greased loaf pans, filling each only halfway. Top with sesame seeds, if desired.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes (or until the loaves pass the toothpick test.)


*Mama Manda is my grandmother, in case you didn’t already put the two together! 😀