These Gochujang Chicken Quesadillas are the sweet, spicy, crispy, cheesy lovechild of Korean and Mexican cuisines. Featuring glazed shredded chicken, gooey melted cheese, and a gochujang crema, there’s a whole lot of flavor in these portable packages. Serve with crunchy quick-pickled veggies for a party or meal prep hit!
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The fusion recipe that you need to add to your rotation
I’ve been a big fan of Korean-Mexican fusion food trucks and restaurants ever since they made their way from their birthplace in LA to the East Coast years ago. After many a bulgogi burrito, they’ve even inspired me to create some delicious spin-offs of my own. These Korean-inspired tofu tacos, for example, are one of the recipes that I actually repeat fairly frequently-- which is high praise in a food blogger household where not many days are reserved for more than testing and cooking new things. And now, now, I’ve got these Sweet and Spicy Gochujang Chicken Quesadillas, which might just throw a wrench in the whole rotation.
Not only are these Korean fusion quesadillas incredibly flavorful thanks largely to the combo of gochujang-- a fermented spicy chili paste that is a staple in many Korean recipes-- and Karo® Syrup-- a roundedly sweet, smooth syrup that balances the heat; but they also are surprisingly easy to make. Using pre-shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken, leftovers, or by poaching and shredding chicken breasts ahead of time) cuts the prep time drastically. And it’s not only the ingredient prep that comes together in a snap. Baking the sweet and spicy quesadillas on a sheet pan means that you can create a big batch for a party or meal prep without the hassle of individually cooking them in a skillet.
Korean-inspired flavors in easy, cheesy, on-the-go-friendly form-- what could be better?
Why you’ll love this recipe
If my gushing hasn’t convinced you yet, let me give you the quick rundown on why you’re gonna love these Korean fusion quesadillas. They’re:
- FULL OF BIG, BALANCED FLAVORS. This recipe is loaded with bold, Korean-inspired ingredients that shine (but don’t overwhelm!) through the Karo® Syrup sweetened glaze.
- FANTASTICALLY CHEESY. If gooey cheese pulls aren’t a bonus, I don’t know what is.
- EASY TO MAKE. Despite having so many flavorful elements, this recipe is quick enough to throw together on a weeknight thanks to a few shortcuts like using pre-shredded chicken and baking all of the sweet and spicy chicken quesadillas on a sheet pan.
The winning ingredients:
Here’s how each ingredient in this recipe contributes to the balance of fusion flavors.
- Shredded cooked chicken. Chicken serves as the protein base of these Korean chicken quesadillas. Use pre-shredded chicken breast (like rotisserie chicken) or swap in any leftover protein of your choice.
- Gochujang paste. This thick, sticky Korean fermented chili paste adds heat and umami flavor. It can usually be found in the International aisle of chain grocery stores, or at Asian specialty grocers.
- Karo® Syrup. You might associate Karo® Syrup with sweets such as marshmallows, fudges, caramels, and pies, but it’s also fantastic to use in sauces, glazes, and really anything that can use some glossy sweetness. Here, it allows the gochujang-based sauce to transform into a glaze that sticks to the chicken and balances the heat levels of the chili pepper paste. Adding a teaspoon to the pickled vegetables also adds a touch of sweetness.
- Soy sauce. Soy sauce brings added savoriness, saltiness, and depth to the glaze.
- Garlic and ginger. These aromatic components provide brightness, pungency, and warmth to the glaze.
- Green onions, cucumber, and carrots. These ingredients add fresh flavor, coolness, and crunch.
- Rice vinegar. A little rice vinegar goes a long way to add tanginess to the sauces and quick pickles. If you can’t find rice vinegar, substitute apple cider vinegar or white vinegar.
- Flour tortillas. Flour tortillas are where we start to bring the fusion element. The tortillas get crispy and golden when baked, and encase the cheesy filling so the quesadillas can be eaten on the go.
- Shredded cheese. Cheese brings the whole thing together-- literally. Not only does the mildly flavored cheese tame some of the stronger flavors from the glaze, but it also serves as a binder to hold the quesadilla together so the filling doesn’t spill out as you eat. You can opt for any lower moisture, mild cheeses here, but I like using a blend of Oaxaca cheese (a Mexican cheese similar to mozzarella cheese) and cheddar cheeses. Monterey Jack would also do great, or of course mozzarella!
- Sour cream. What’s a quesadilla without a sauce to serve alongside it? Sour cream adds a cooling element and extra tangy flavor to these Korean-inspired quesadillas when mixed with just a little gochujang and rice vinegar to create a dip.
- Sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are optional, but they add a nutty, toasty flavor and serve as an attractive garnish. I like to sprinkle them in the pickled vegetables and over the tortillas to serve.
Keep in mind, if you want to make this recipe even simpler, you can opt not to make the pickled vegetables or gochujang crema-- these simply act as condiments that complement the quesadillas, which are delicious on their own! This recipe is also very customizable, so don’t be afraid to use whatever meats or cheeses you have on hand, add in some veggies if desired, or swap out the dipping sauce for Mexican or Korean-style condiments you’ve got in the fridge. If you have questions about what will work well, leave them in the comments and I’ll let you know what I’d suggest!
How to make Sweet and Spicy Chicken Quesadillas
You only need to follow a few steps to make these Gochujang Chicken Quesadillas. Here’s the quick rundown:
- PREPARE THE CONDIMENTS. In separate bowls, mix together the ingredients for the glaze, the dipping sauce, and the pickled vegetables.
- PREPARE THE FILLING. Pour the prepared glaze over the shredded chicken, and add in the whites from the green onions. Mix until the chicken is fully coated.
- LOAD THE TORTILLAS. Brush the tortillas lightly with oil, and place oiled-side down on a baking sheet. Fill generously with cheese and the glazed chicken. Fold the tortillas over to enclose the filling.
- BAKE UNTIL BROWNED. To get the tortillas to be nice and crispy, bake for 6-8 minutes on one side, and then flip and continue to bake until both sides are golden brown and the cheese is melted, about 6-8 additional minutes.
- SLICE AND SERVE. Cut your quesadillas into thirds, then serve with the pickled veggies, gochujang crema, the greens of the green onions, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds (if desired.)
Q: Can I adjust the heat level?
A: “Mild Gochujang” can often be found at many Asian specialty grocers if you’d like to keep the gochujang flavor with less kick. Otherwise, the proportion of gochujang you use will directly correlate to how spicy your finished recipe is. This recipe is created to balance sweet and spicy, but you can play with the amounts of the sauce ingredients to get your desired level of heat. Additionally, adding more cooling elements to the quesadillas (such as extra cheese or veggie add-ins) can tame the kick slightly!
Q: Can I prep the quesadillas ahead of time?
A: While these Korean fusion quesadillas are best made just before serving, they actually reheat really well for things like meal prepping. You can reheat them on the sheet pan, in a skillet, or in the microwave and then serve with the dipping sauce and pickles.
Q: What other proteins can I use?
A: Beef, pork, and tofu all work wonderfully with the flavors in these quesadillas, so feel free to swap the chicken out for your preferred protein. You can also quickly cook up ground chicken (or other ground meat of choice) to use in this recipe and expect similar results!
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- ¼ cup gochujang paste
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 ½ tablespoons Karo® Syrup
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 6 flour tortillas
- 12 ounces low-moisture shredded cheese (I use a blend of Oaxaca and cheddar cheese)
- 4 green onions, sliced, whites and greens separated
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)
For the pickled slaw:
- ½ medium cucumber, cubed
- 1 carrot, julienned (or use pre-shredded carrots)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
For the dipping sauce:
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon gochujang, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Meanwhile, make the pickled slaw: In a medium bowl, combine sliced cucumber, carrot, rice vinegar, and 1 teaspoon Karo® Syrup. Add salt, to taste. Toss to coat and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, 1 tablespoon of gochujang, and 1 teaspoon rice vinegar for the dipping sauce. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the remaining gochujang, soy sauce, 2 ½ tablespoons Karo® Syrup, garlic, and ginger. Thin with 2 tablespoons of water, or as needed to achieve a glaze-like consistency. Add the glaze to the shredded chicken and onion whites and toss to coat.
- Brush one side of the tortillas with oil. Place, oiled side down, on a large sheet pan and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Divide the chicken evenly between the 6 tortillas. Top with the remaining cheese and fold over the tortillas to enclose the filling. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the tortillas are lightly browned and the cheese is melted, flipping halfway through.
- Slice the baked quesadillas into thirds. Top with green onion greens and sesame seeds, if desired. Serve with the pickled slaw and dipping sauce on the side.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins