I got a craving for quesadillas after seeing a recipe for them in the current Vegetarian Times—which is odd because I don’t think I’ve ever had a quesadilla. Like a lot of popular foods (buffalo wings is another that comes to mind), quesadillas didn’t come on the scene until after I’d become a vegan. So on the one hand, I don’t really miss what I never had, but on the other, I’m never quite sure what all the fuss is about. And the existence of all these post-vegan foods can leave me feeling pretty old: Like counting the rings to figure out the age of a tree, you can determine the age of a vegan by counting the foods she’s never had!
While it was strange that I was craving a quesadilla, I was fairly sure I knew how one would taste; after all, it’s just melted cheese in a tortilla, both of which I have had. To make a fairly authentic-tasting vegan version, I could simply use one of the packaged vegan cheeses that are becoming more widely available. I’ve sampled several (Teese, Sheese, Daiya, and Follow Your Heart, to name three), and I’ve found them pretty tasty. But if you turn the package over and read the nutritional info, you’ll find that all of them contain a humongous amount of fat. The mozzarella from Follow Your Heart, the only brand I can buy locally, contains 8 grams of fat in one ounce. I’m guessing that I would need at least 8 ounces of cheese to make these quesadillas, bringing the total fat just from the cheese to 64 grams, or 16 grams per serving. That’s pretty ridiculous for something that’s essentially a snack.
So, I did my arteries a favor, skipped the packaged cheese, and made my quesadillas with a nutritional yeast-based cheese. My no-queso quesadillas didn’t really taste like cheesy ones, but I thought they were great, melty and full of flavor, and daughter E gave them 4 out of 5 Num-Crumbs on her new rating system. But please don’t go out and make these for your non-vegan friends. I’m afraid that you’ll be disappointed in their reaction and they’ll come away with the impression that vegan food is even weirder than they thought it was. But, if you like nutritional yeast sauces, I think you’ll find these as tasty as I did.
I think these quesadillas taste best when they’re filled with something in addition to the cheesy sauce. I made them both plain and with spinach, but you can experiment with other fillings. Just don’t add too much or the whole thing may fall apart as you flip it. And be sure to pre-cook any vegetables that you don’t want crunchy.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup lowfat soymilk
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon stoneground mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon tahini (optional)
- 2 tablespoons salsa
- 4 6-inch whole wheat tortillas
- optional fillings: spinach, mushrooms, olives, peppers, onions, potatoes, black beans, etc.
- Put all sauce ingredients (water through tahini) into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a medium non-stick saucepan, add the salsa, and stir as you bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to cook, stirring, for at least 2 minutes after boiling. Sauce should be thick and smooth. Set aside.
- Heat a large, non-stick skillet. Place 1 tortilla in the skillet and cook until brown spots begin to appear on the bottom. Flip over. Spread half of the “cheese” over the tortilla. (If you are adding any other fillings place them on top of the cheese.) Cover with another tortilla. Cover pan and cook for a minute or two, until the bottom tortilla is golden brown. Carefully flip the whole thing over and cook until the bottom tortilla has browned. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into four triangles with a pizza cutter.
- Repeat with remaining sauce and tortillas.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
Nutrition (per serving): 164 calories, 37 calories from fat, 5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 475.5mg sodium, 70mg potassium, 24.2g carbohydrates, 7.8g fiber, 1.5g sugar, 14.6g protein.
Note: The tortillas I used–Tumaro’s Multi Grain–contain 60 calories and 2 grams of fat each. If using other tortillas, adjust fat content accordingly. Tahini provides 21 calories and 1.8g fat per serving.