Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Taco Bell Quesadilla copycat- Brooke for June 09

Taco Bell at home: Fresher, cheaper, better?

My goal for this one was to show my 4-year-old daughter we could make an at-home version of fast food that would use stuff from our garden, be less expensive, and taste better. I was right on (sort of) 2 of 3 counts...

First, a photo of the Taco Bell cheese quesadilla, which Emma loves. It is simple; it is friggin' nasty. A small amount of shredded cheese and a mysterious sauce, folded between the sides of a tortilla and grilled.

Now here's the thing: I worked at Taco Bell for two summers in the late 90s, and I question their use of the word "grilled." Often it means they throw something on a large metal spatula, toss it into this steamy little enclosed hotplate, and wait for the timer to go off. My employment pre-dates their quesadilla sales, but I'm guessing that's how they do it.

Anywho, here are pics of the humble TB quesadilla (wow, look at that terrible cutting job!) inside and out.
We HAVE to be able to make something fresher, cheaper and tastier than this, right?

The at home version uses: A large flour tortilla, extra sharp cheddar cheese, taco sauce, sour cream, jarred garlic, and chives and cilantro from the garden.

The hardest part of re-creating this recipe was to figure out the mystery sauce, so Emma would think it tasted the same as Taco Bell. At first, I assumed it would just taste like a blend of sour cream and taco sauce, but no. It's actually strangely spicy, which must be a top-secret Yum! Brands Inc. (owners of Taco Bell) powdered spice blend. After some trial and error, I found that garlic, chive and cilantro, pureed with the sour cream and taco sauce, yielded the right taste.

I shredded the cheese, sprinkled it onto half of the tortilla, spread the sauce on the other half, and grilled it in a large pan with a very small amount of butter (and forgot to take a photo of this part), then plated it and cut with a pizza cutter. Here's the finished product.

Danged if it doesn't
look like the Taco Bell version! Confession: I got a little nostalgic chill from (ahem, properly) slicing a Taco-Bell-esque product.

Now, let's do a side-by-side comparison that shows a quesadilla wedge moments before entering your mouth.

Check out that awesome greasy cheese drip on the at-home version! Ours came out meltier and less dry; the Taco Bell version is firmer and easier to eat in a car.

Now, let's compare the cost.

Taco Bell version: $1.89 plus tax
At-home version: less than $1.00
I calculated this by taking a fraction of what all the ingredients cost, according to how much I used. It took so little of each thing!

Fresher? Yes.
Cheaper? Yes.
Better? Well...

During the completion of this challenge, Emma has had scarlet fever (a variation of strep). She was taking anti-nausea medication just to keep fluids down. So when I showed her my proud creation, she literally retched. Then she said, "Can I just have Cheezits instead?" So here's a photo of her with Cheezits instead (and hugging them, no less). Guess I'll have to try making this again sometime!


  1. Poor Emma... but the at-home quesadilla looks delicious! (I often make Nan a quesadilla, sans sauce, when I make chicken enchiladas for the grownups. So tasty.)

  2. Tasty! Make yourself a dang Quesa-Deal-Ah! I'll wager you could have used some copycat Ranch for dipping.

  3. Stubs won't quit talking about Ranch. Seriously.

    I feel that Emma retching is what gives the final product credibility. I mean really, who wants TB when they have Scarlet Fever?! Kudos to your entry!!

  4. Oops, it dawned on me that I didn't include the actual recipe amounts, duh.

    1 flour tortilla
    1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
    2 tbsp sour cream
    2 tsp taco sauce
    1 tsp jarred chopped garlic
    1 tsp minced fresh chives
    1 tsp minced fresh cilantro
    tiny pat of butter
    Cooking time: 3 minutes per side on medium