Black Bean Zucchini Quesadillas

July 6, 2006 at 6:45 am (A (4 stars, love, favorite), Alma's faves, Beans, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan: dinner, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes) ()

Based on a recipe from the cookbook Fresh Food Fast, by Peter Berley. This recipe is definitely one of my favorite quesadilla recipes. The zucchini adds a moist, sweet, delicate flavor, and the added moisture means that less cheese is needed to achieve the silky mouthfeel expected of a typical quesadilla.

Yields: 4-6 quesadillas, depending on tortilla size and amount of cheese used
Serving size: 1 quesadilla

Remove from the fridge or freezer:

  • 8-14 white flour or whole wheat tortillas (8 inches in diameter)

In a colander, toss together with your hands:

  • 2 pounds zucchini, coarsely grated (about 2 very large, 4 medium, or 6 small zucchinis)
  • 1/2 – 1.5 tsp. coarse kosher salt

While the zucchini sits, combine in a a large bowl:

  • 3.25 cups of lightly salted black beans, drained well  (about 10-11 oz. dry beans or two 15-ounce cans)
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (see note)
  • 1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, with seeds, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped

Let the zucchini sit and drain.  Squeeze the zucchini well to remove as much of its liquid as possible, then add to the bean mixture and mix well. (You can save the liquid and add it to soup, but it will be very salty.)

Warm a large skillet (that has a lid) over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, brush or spray a tortilla with olive oil, place the oiled side down in the skillet, and spread with the bean mixture, spreading the filling all the way to the edges. Top with a plain tortilla and brush or spray the top with oil. Cover the skillet. Cook until the cheese melts and the tortilla is gold brown, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat to make the other quesadillas. To make many quesadillas simultaneously, place the quesadillas on a baking sheet and broil, about six inches from the heat, about 1-2 minutes per side.

Serve with salsa, pico de gallo, or a cilantro yogurt sauce.

My notes:

Ingredient notes:

  • Tortillas: I really like this recipe with the red chile tortillas from Whole Foods (but note that they only come 6 to a package, so get two packages to make this recipe). I’ve also tried the whole foods whole wheat tortillas, which weren’t quite as tasty but are whole grain. This recipe made 5 quesadillas with the Whole Foods tortillas (which are a bit small), with each quesadilla having about 3/4 cup of filling. If you use larger tortillas you will get fewer quesadillas.  Depending on the tortillas, I often end up with enough filling for seven quesadillas.  I must not be filling them enough.
  • Jalapeno:  Do *not* leave the jalepeno out–it really adds an important flavor. The original recipe calls for just one but I like to use two.
  • Salt:  The original recipe called for 1.5 tsp. kosher salt for two pounds of zucchini. I tried it with 1.25 tsp., and it was definitely enough for the zucchini to drain. Next time I’m going to try just 1 tsp. as I still found them quite salty.
  • Cheese:  The original recipe called for Monterey Jack but I prefer a very sharp cheddar instead, or a mix of different cheeses. The original recipe calls for 12 ounces of cheese, but I think these are still quite tasty with only 8 ounces of cheese, although they don’t hold together as well. Derek prefers 10 ounces of cheese. It’s pretty flexible, so suit yourself.
  • Salsa:  We’ve eaten these with the Frontera Grill habanero salsa, which goes well.  The German Fuego brand taco sauce doesn’t go at all.

Each quesadilla has about 400-550 calories each, depending on which tortillas are used, how much cheese, and how many quesadillas you make. One is enough for lunch, and with a light salad or vegetable side one quesadilla would make a very filling dinner. That said, when I make these for dinner people often eat two, or at least one and a half, so plan accordingly.

Rating: A-
Derek: A

Update June 2018:

I made these without the jalapenos and Alma (at 3.5 years) was initially skeptical but ended up liking them. Derek and I just opened ours up after cooking and sprinkled on the minced jalapeno. It worked fine.

Update Sept 2012:

I made these for dinner for four people, along with Berley’s miso tortilla soup, Frontera salsa, and a salad.  I only only 1/2 (or was it 1?) tsp. of salt in the zucchini, because my beans were quite salty.  (I had cooked 2 pounds of beans with 12? cups of water and 2.5 tsp. of salt, which is about right for soupy cuban black beans but definitely too much when you drain the beans for quesadillas.  Next time I’ll just use 2 tsp. salt in a pound of beans and 3/4 tsp. kosher salt in the zucchini.)   I used a bit more beans (4 cups) and cheese (14 oz) than the recipe calls for, but forgot to add the scallions.  I made four quesadillas but with the soup and salad three would have actually have been plenty, especially if we wanted to have room for dessert.  I had enough filling left for another 3-4 quesadillas.

Update March 2012:

I made these for dinner for five people, along with salsa, guacamole, and the carrot, mint salad.  To serve five instead of four, I used slightly more beans (3 3/4 cups) and cheese (16 ounces) and zucchini (about 2 1/4 pounds).  We finished all of the filling, but in only about 15 tortillas.  Probably I should have filled the first quesadillas a bit more and then it would have made an even 7 quesadillas.  These quesadillas have more filling and more cheese so each one has about 650 calories, but one was plenty for me for dinner, with some carrot salad.  If I had served more sides then I probably would have just eaten 3/4 of a quesadilla.

Update July 2011:

I made these using the original recipe, with the full 12 ounces of cheese.  I only cut down on the salt a bit.  I grated the zucchini using the fine grating blade on my food processor.  Even though I got tons of water out of the zucchini the quesadillas ended up kind of wet and soggy.  Maybe it was the overly-fine grate?

Update Jan 2008: As part of a new food challenge I decided to try to make a recipe using raw winter squash. I picked this one, thinking that grated butternut squash might be an interesting replacement for the zucchini. I guess technically it’s not raw since the quesadillas get cooked, but really the squash just gets warmed up not really cooked through.

I grated my squash, sprinkled it with salt and let it drain in a colander to reduce the moisture. With zucchini I lose a lot of water, but with squash, after 40 minutes draining, nada. I pushed firmly on the squash to try to get all the water out, but still zilch, not a drop of liquid. Apparently, salting and draining butternut squash is not necessary!

I mixed the grated squash with black beans, jalepeno, and 6 ounces cheddar cheese, then put the mixture in a whole wheat tortilla and lightly pan-fried it to make a quesadilla. It had a bit of “raw squash” flavor, but it was very subtle. I didn’t think the squash added as much silky texture or flavor as zucchini, but it wasn’t unpleasant by any means.

The next day I brought the leftover filling and extra tortillas to work with me and made myself a “baked quesadilla” in the toaster oven for lunch. I don’t know if it was because the squash has been sitting longer, or because of the baking (about 4 minutes in the toaster oven), but this time the quesadillas had less raw squash flavor and a bit more good squash flavor. It’s certainly a good way to add some vitamin A to a quesadilla, and an easy way to get rid of leftover squash.


  1. What I’ve been eating lately « The captious vegetarian said,

    […] had friends over for a mid-week dinner and served black bean and zucchini quesadillas (one of Derek’s favorites) with a salad and miso tortilla soup (with avocados and lime and […]

  2. Black Bean and Zucchini Quesadillas – Nimble Veggies said,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: