Cheese-Free Sweet Potato "Quesadillas" Recipe

Quesadillas with sweet potato instead of cheese is worth the backlash.

Close up of wedges of sweet potato quesadillas on a serving plate.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why This Recipe Works

  • Mashed sweet potato is combined with cilantro, pickled jalapeños, and scallions for the filling.
  • The key to great, puffy, crisp quesadillas is moderate heat and enough oil to brown each side evenly.

I think it's safe to say that the phrase "They're coming to take away your cheese!" has never been uttered in recorded history—or, at least, uttered and meant. Or, at least, uttered and meant literally. Yet you'd think it was one of the great fascist plots of our time based on the reaction I got when I suggested that swapping mashed roasted sweet potatoes for cheese in a quesadilla makes for a delicious treat.

With the arguable exception of a single incident involving a particularly ripe wheel of Stilton and a police department that had quotas to meet. Mrs. Nesbitt of Great Gidding still claims that, as she was house-sitting at the time, it was actually her neighbor's cheese they were coming to take away.

Some responded with poor logic: "Why do you hate cheese?" (As ridiculous as suggesting I hate pepperoni because I decided to put sausage on my pizza.)

Some took nutritional offense: "Cheese is less unhealthy than the empty carbs in effing sweet potatoes. The USDA Food Pyramid has always been a lie." (Someone needs to brush up on both their sweet potato nutrition facts and their "replying with relevant responses" skills.)

Still others tried to confound me with nomenclature-based pedantry: "That's a sweet potato sandwich." (This suggests that a plain old cheese quesadilla is a sandwich, which is as silly as suggesting a hot dog is. Moreover, as I discovered in Mexico City last year, cheese-free quesadillas are indeed a real thing—the name refers to the form rather than the contents, sort of like the American descriptor "chicken-fried," as in chicken-fried steak or chicken-fried chicken.)

Or, as one user simply put it, "Ño."


Well, I'm here today to tell you three things:

A) Nobody is taking away your cheese.

2) "To like" is not a zero-sum game. Liking one new thing doesn't prevent you from liking everything you liked before, including, and perhaps especially, cheese.

D) Those of you who actually try this sweet potato quesadilla (or batatadilla, if you prefer) will be rewarded with deliciousness and deliciosity combined.

Making it is really easy. You start with a roasted sweet potato. It's always a good idea to have some roasted sweet potato lying around, since you never know when you're going to want to make sweet potato pancakes. If you don't have a ready-roasted sweet potato, that's easily fixed: Just grab a sweet potato from your yam stash; toss it in an ovenproof cooking vessel (a cast iron skillet, small sheet tray, or small casserole will work fine); and pop it into a 425°F (220°C) oven until you can poke through it with a knife tip without meeting any resistance. It takes about 40 minutes. Don't have a yam stash? It may be too late to help you.

When the sweet potato is done roasting, let it cool a little (or wrap it up and throw it in the fridge for up to a few days), then peel off the skin. It should come right off in a couple of large pieces. Finally, mash up the flesh with the back of a fork.

Now comes the hard part. Bring up your favorite quesadilla recipe, and replace the grated cheese with the mashed-up sweet potato. I've tried this now using sweet potato seasoned with chopped cilantro and pickled jalapeños (Delicioso!), sweet potato with ground sautéed chicken and Hatch chiles (Rico!), and sweet potato with sautéed corn and crumbled cotija cheese (yes, cheese! Muy sabroso!). I haven't attempted it yet, but I am certain that it would be delicious with a 50/50 split between sweet potato and grated cheese, and no, nobody, not even the government, will stop you from trying it out.

Quesadilla filled with mashed sweet potatoes on a cutting board.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

As with any great quesadilla, the real trick is to make sure you get that tortilla nice and crispy, so that you get good textural contrast between the soft interior and the crispy crust. This means cooking over moderate heat, with enough oil to really fry the surface.

I know that some folks are going to have trouble with the mental gymnastics required to conceive of a sweet potato–stuffed tortilla. As the proud daughter of seven generations of cheesemakers, I can't approve of this, we'll hear. (Let me reiterate: Eating this will not prevent you from enjoying cheese.)

Is this...vegan food? Because I don't like vegans or their food, some will say. (They haven't met enough vegans or tried enough of their food.)

I'm sure some will even give a flat Ño.

(Guess what? You weren't invited over for dinner anyway.)

Sweet potato quesadilla cut into wedges and served with salsa verde.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

I urge all of you, except the last group, to get over your hang-ups and join me on the other side. Life is delicious over here, I promise.

November 2017

Recipe Details

Cheese-Free Sweet Potato "Quesadillas" Recipe

Active 20 mins
Total 60 mins
Serves 4 to 6 servings

Quesadillas with sweet potato instead of cheese is worth the backlash.


  • 1 large sweet potato (about 12 ounces; 340g)

  • Small handful minced fresh cilantro leaves (see notes)

  • 3 tablespoons (45g) minced pickled jalapeños (see notes)

  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced (see notes)

  • Kosher salt

  • 4 to 6 (8-inchflour tortillas

  • Vegetable oil, as needed


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Place sweet potato in an oven-safe vessel (such as a cast iron pan or a small baking dish) and roast until a knife or skewer inserted into its center meets no resistance, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Roasted sweet potato can be wrapped and stored in refrigerator for several days before you continue with the recipe.

  2. Peel and discard sweet potato skin and mash flesh with a fork in a medium bowl. Add cilantro, pickled jalapeños, and scallions (see notes). Stir and fold to combine. Season to taste with salt.

  3. Spread about 1/2 cup of the mixture evenly over half of 1 tortilla, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Fold tortilla over and seal edges by pressing down firmly. Repeat with remaining filling and as many tortillas as needed (about 4 to 6, depending on the exact size of the sweet potato).

    Spreading mashed sweet potatoes on a tortilla.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) oil in a large skillet or on a griddle over medium heat until shimmering. Carefully add 2 folded tortillas and cook, swirling and moving tortillas around, until golden brown and puffy on first side, about 2 minutes. Using a flexible metal spatula, flip quesadillas, season with salt, and continue cooking until golden brown and puffy on second side, about 2 minutes longer.

    Folded tortilla filled with mashed sweet potatoes on a griddle.
  5. Transfer quesadillas to a paper towel to drain and repeat step 4 to cook remaining quesadillas. Serve immediately.

Special Equipment

Large skillet or griddle, flexible metal spatula


You can replace the cilantro, jalapeño, and scallions with any of your favorite quesadilla fillings, or use one of our suggested combinations here, replacing the cheese with mashed sweet potato.

Read More

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
269 Calories
12g Fat
35g Carbs
5g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 269
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 16%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 500mg 22%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 14mg 68%
Calcium 45mg 3%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 364mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)