Chickpeas Are The Hefty Protein For Meat-Free Quesadillas

Whether you're in a rush or just craving a classic, easy meal that will please every palate of all ages and tastes, quesadillas get the job done — with only a few simple ingredients and practically no kitchen skills required. The dish is Mexican in origin, dating back hundreds of years. In its original iteration, a quesadilla was made with only cheese and tortilla (the first part of the word comes from "queso," Spanish for "cheese") but the dish has been reimagined and remixed over the years into all sorts of creative new renditions. 

If you're looking to add some entirely plant-based heft and protein to your tortillas and cheese, canned chickpeas are a healthy option you may not have considered, but are probably sitting in your pantry as we speak. Just 1 cup packs in more than 14 grams of protein and 12.5 grams of fiber. Mild and nutty in flavor, chickpeas are essentially a blank slate for any flavors you want them to take on, making them the ideal filling to mash and stuff between two tortillas. 

Simply pop open a can, rinse and mash them, then cook them in a pan with a bit of olive oil for just a few minutes. You can experiment with the consistency of your chickpeas, too. Either run them through a food processor until the mixture is quite smooth or leave some chunky or whole for a more textured experience, before sandwiching them between tortillas and layering on the cheese and toppings.

Chickpeas take on any flavor, so experiment with seasonings

With something as adaptable as chickpeas, the world is your oyster as far as your options for flavoring. Adding Mexican seasoning or taco sauce, dousing them in Buffalo sauce, or cooking them with diced onions, garlic, peppers, and chopped jalapeños for a kick are all good jumping-off points. Use your favorite blend of Mexican cuisine spices like cumin, paprika, and chili powder to season your uncooked chickpeas, then brown them up in a pan for just a few minutes. 

Chickpeas also pair well with Buffalo sauce — which requires very little prep or marinating time and pays off big with bold, lively flavor. Try tossing mashed chickpeas with several glugs of Buffalo sauce then cook them down in an oiled pan for a few minutes with other add-ins like diced onions and garlic. Or, keep chickpeas in the backdrop and simply sauté them with veggies, then load them onto your tortillas, pile them with cheese and other toppings, and brown the quesadillas on both sides. 

For even easier and quicker prep, just mash raw chickpeas with other veggies, spices, salt, and pepper, and slather them onto tortillas, then cook everything together. Dip your creation in a homemade plant-based sour cream or salsa and you have a protein-heavy, fiber-rich, inexpensive treat that makes for the perfect crowd-pleasing meal or tailgate snack.