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Ancho chile shrimp quesadillas

Ancho chile shrimp quesadillas DSC5130

For me, driving through Texas is therapeutic. Seeing the big sky, the wide-open spaces, the cattle, the trees, and the cacti out my window is always a pleasure—coming from New York, it’s always a memory come to life.

Last week, however, another memory returned—that dreadful feeling when you look into your rearview mirror, and see flashing lights from the car behind you. I thought I was being careful, but when I looked at the odometer I saw that I was indeed going a bit too fast. Yep, for the first time in 20 years, I was going to get a speeding ticket.

Pathetic doesn’t even begin to describe my pleading with the officer. I explained to him that it was an honest mistake, and that I hadn’t meant to go fast. I said that I had a clean record and that surely there were more criminal types out there who deserved a confrontation with the law. As a last, desperate attempt at getting out of the ticket, I told the policeman that I was scared to be driving by myself in such a remote area, and I was in a hurry to return to civilization. Well, he didn’t buy any of it (and in hindsight, I’m lucky he didn’t haul me to jail). So when he handed me my ticket, I simply said, “Thank you,” and bid him goodnight.

Ancho chile shrimp quesadillas | Homesick Texan

It was getting late, and as I was in the middle of nowhere, by the time I returned to a place where I could grab some dinner, all of the restaurants were closed. My remaining choices were gas-station food, Whataburger or a 24-hour taco joint. I’d already enjoyed a couple of Whataburgers on the trip, so I opted for the taco joint, seduced by its offer of shrimp quesadillas. Well, that was a mistake, as it was a handful of rubbery shrimp that had been sealed with bland cheese into a cardboard tortilla. I was disappointed.

There were a couple more days spent in Texas, and I did finally eat some excellent shrimp dishes—meals that helped fade my memories of that mediocre shrimp quesadilla. But when I returned to New York, I was still craving one—a shrimp quesadilla that had some flavor, some life, and some snap.

One of the things I love about shrimp is that it’s a terrific match for so many flavors. I’m partial to citrus and chiles, so I decided to pair mine with an ancho chile and orange marinade that was a little earthy, tangy and sweet. To assemble my quesadillas, I used a combination of creamy Monterrey Jack along with tangy Muenster. I also added some chopped jalapeños, and when I saw a few slices of bacon leftover from breakfast, I added them to the quesadillas, as well.

I don’t think I have to convince you that shrimp, jalapeños, and bacon are a winning combination. Plus, besides the time spent marinating the shrimp, the quesadillas came together in almost no time. These shrimp quesadillas could work as either an appetizer or a meal, best served with salsa and guacamole.

Of course, a quesadilla recipe is about as simple as a grilled cheese recipe—but the star of this dish is the shrimp flavored with ancho chile and orange juice, which, if you’re not in the mood for a quesadilla, can also be eaten on their own, with rice, with pasta or spooned over some grits.

Ancho chile shrimp quesadillas | Homesick Texan

So yes, while I’m a bit upset about my now tarnished driving record, if getting a speeding ticket is what it took me to make quesadillas with an excellent batch of ancho-chile shrimp, then I reckon I can’t complain too much.

Ancho chile shrimp quesadillas DSC5130
5 from 2 votes

Ancho-chile shrimp quesadillas

Servings 4
Author Lisa Fain


Ingredients for the shrimp:

  • 1 dried ancho chile, stems and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 pound of large uncooked shrimp, 31-35 count, heads removed, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Ingredients for the quesadillas:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (4 ounces)
  • 1 cup shredded Muenster cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 jalapeño chiles, stems and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 cooked pieces of bacon, crumbled (optional)
  • Salsa, for serving


  1. In a dry skillet heated on high, toast the ancho chile for about 10 seconds or just until it starts to puff. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover chiles. Leave the heat on until water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let the chile soak until soft, about 30 minutes.
  2. Drain and rinse the chile, and place into a blender. Add to the blender the orange juice, the lime juice, olive oil, the ground cumin, ground allspice, cayenne and garlic. Blend until smooth. Add salt to taste.
  3. Pour the ancho-chile and orange marinade into a nonreactive container, and add the shrimp. Toss to coat and then store in the refrigerator for 2-8 hours.
  4. To cook shrimp, melt the butter on medium-low heat in a large skillet, and add the shrimp, cooking for a couple of minutes on each side or until pink. (You may have to do this in batches.) Roughly chop the cooked shrimp and toss with some of the pan sauce, if you like.
  5. To make the quesadillas, in a clean skillet heated to medium, melt another tablespoon of butter. Add a tortilla and cook it on one side until it puffs (about 30 seconds). 
Flip the tortilla over and sprinkle over entire surface 1/4 cup of the Monterey Jack, 1/4 cup of the muenster, 1/4 of the chopped shrimp, 1/4 of the chopped jalapeños, 1/4 of the bacon, if you’re using it, and a tablespoon of chopped cilantro. Top with another tortilla, and after cheese has melted and the two tortillas stick together, flip the quesadilla and cook for a couple of minutes more. 
 Repeat procedure for the remainder of the filling and tortillas. Cut into slices and serve warm with salsa.

  1. Lisa {Authentic Suburban Gourmet }

    WOW – these sound SO amazing! I sure wish I had one right now and could grab from the computer. Have a great weekend!!

  2. Lisa Fain

    Lisa–Thank you! Hope you have a wonderful weekend, too!

  3. Courtney

    Do they still have the program where you can take defensive driving and get the ticket off your record? When I lived there (~10 years ago) you could do that once per year, as long as your ticket was for 20 miles over the posted limit or less. Between the court fee and the cost of defensive driving, it doesn't save much money over paying the ticket, but it keeps it off your record (which offers savings on your insurance.) Most companies will give you a discount for having taken the defensive driving class too.

  4. Emily Rae

    Yum, these look so good! I may use a shortcut (some of the raspberry ancho marinade in my fridge) for a quick lunch. I see you recommend salsa for serving — what kind is that in the bowl?

  5. Michelle Stiles

    I thought for the longest time Whataburger was called waterburger and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why some one would want a water burger. Then I just realized they had a sweet Texan accent…

  6. awwww! that is the WORST feeling. and for what it's worth, ive never been able to talk my way out of a ticket. EVER, not even when I went to court and explained my case to the judge with an 8×10 photo… but yes, these quesadillas look amazing! i must try soon.

  7. We had quesadillas last night and I was wishing I could come up with something a little more creative the next time I made them… I'll try this version soon.

    And good try with the officer – we DO love our law enforcement here in Texas! 🙂


  8. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    Love the combination of smoky ancho chile and citrus. And I've never met a shrimp quesadilla I didn't love! This one's going on my make-it-soon list.

  9. Lisa Fain

    Courtney–I think they'll let me take defensive driving, which I understand you can do online. And I'd love to keep it off my record!

    Emily Rae–I love the sound of raspberry ancho marinade! The salsa in the bowl was my usual red salsa., though I also love it with
    tomatillo salsa.

    Michelle Stiles–I used to call it waterburger, too!

    Amelia–Nope, I've never had much luck with that myself, sigh.

    Lu–He was a good man just doing his job!

    Lydia–It's hard to go wrong with shrimp quesadillas!

  10. Melanie of Brave the Kitchen

    Lisa, It's a great time to visit the Texas Hill Country..the temperature is perfect and the peaches and Mountain Laurels are blossoming! This dish looks great. I love shrimp! Sorry about the ticket!

  11. Obviously that officer has no idea who you "are". 🙂 I have two shrimp tostada/taco recipes that I adore. I believe I've just added a third to my database as this contains much different flavor combos. Once again, thanks for a great post and recipe.

  12. Lisa Fain

    Melanie–I hope to return in early April so I can see some bluebonnets. And if you see someone driving a rental car reeeaaal slooooow, that would be me.

    Lea Ann–Ha! And you're vey welcome–hope you enjoy the shrimp!

  13. Hi Lisa….what a refreshing blog you have. I myself moved to NY 10 years ago from Houston and deeply miss good authentic mexican food, amazing BBQ, and of course, Whataburger (always my first stop from the airport)…My husband being a native new yorker has learned to appreciate all of the sourthern recipes that I grew up with, including Lime Soup and his favorite breakfast.. Chorizo and Eggs…your recipes look amazing and I cant wait to try them out…my heart belongs to NY but my soul and my tastebuds, will always belong to Texas <3 Heather

  14. Lisa Fain

    Heather–It's very nice to meet you! My first stop from the airport is always Tex-Mex, but I'm very familiar with that feeling of needing to eat Texas food the second you get off the plane. Hope you and your husband enjoy the recipes!

  15. Christi Nielsen

    I used to work at the Whataburger Headquarters when they were still in Corpus Christi. If you were in a position to answer phones, they got you to say Whataburger during the interview to make sure you didn't sound too much like waterburger. lol

    Now I'm in Los Angeles. I sooo miss the chicken strips. yum

  16. FreeRange Pamela

    Do you have a NY or TX driver's license? I ask because we moved to TX but I still have a NY license, and I have managed to get TWO speeding tickets. Will they tarnish my NY license? Bummer. I was hoping to just wipe the slate clean with a new TX license. It seems like police officers in TX (whether local or state troopers) are way more zealous about pursuing speeders than they were in NY.

    Anyway… the shrimp recipe sounds delicious!

  17. DessertForTwo

    Aww, this story made me kinda sad because you had to waste a meal in Texas on rubbery shrimp in a tortilla. I try to make all my meals count when I'm home in Texas and this one would surely stick with me for a while. At least you finally got it right, even in NYC! 🙂

    P.S. Thanks for always making me cravy spicy food before noon 🙂

  18. Lisa Fain

    Christi–That's too funny!

    FreeRange Pamela–I think these things cross state lines, but I could be wrong. You might call and ask.

    Dessert For Two–I'm the same way, and it was disappointing. That said, I usually eat 6 to 7 meals a day when I'm home, and this was the only bad one, so it wasn't so bad.

  19. lisa is cooking

    The orange and lime with anchos for the marinade sounds great! Yes, I can see why this version was a big step above the one at the 24-hour taco joint.

  20. Your blog always makes me miss chiles like whoa. I´m going back to the states at the end of the month and you can bet a good portion of my suitcase is going to get taken up by guajillos, anchos, chipotles en adobo…

  21. You need to bribe cops with doughnuts! Good try though.

  22. SeattleDee

    I'm doing the happy dance over your ancho shrimp quesadillas – and also because I just got a warning/no ticket when I was pulled over for not wearing my seatbelt. It WAS 6:30 a.m., but there's no excuse for me. I did deserve a ticket. Yes, ticket or no, we DO love our police officers.

  23. Lisa Fain

    Lisa is cooking–Yep, I usually prefer homemade to store bought.

    E–Maybe you should bring an extra suitcase!

    Tommy–Of course! I'll think of that next time (though hopefully there won't be a next time).

    SeattleDee–Glad you only got a warning!

  24. Maris (In Good Taste)

    Hi Lisa,
    thanks so much for mentioning my quesadillas. This is a great post and I love ancho chiles…well, really anything spicy!

  25. Hi Chef,
    Always love reading new Southwestern recipes. I haven't tried orange and ancho yet and am looking forward to trying that combination out. Sounds like it may be good with other seafood as well.


  26. i have dried ancho chiles languishing in the cupboard. I'm a bit nervous of them actually. I once made a sauce with them, then didn't complete the dish. The chile and orange combo sounds good, am going to give that one a go. Lisa, your blog rocks. I've made two dishes from your blog and they worked a treat! I enjoy the background stories that you write with each recipe too.

  27. Chilewheel

    I was formerly married to a Texan and my current companion lived deep in the mountains of Michoacan for several years. She generally does the Mexican food and I generally do the Asian, but I made these for dinner last night and they were a big hit. The citrus was great and the allspice was a big part of the flavor. My food muse has made thousands of quesadillas herself, but told me she'd never sauteed the tortillas in butter before. She loved the flavor and texture that added. Although this round was made two tortilla style, we frequently have quesadillas made with a larger flour tortilla that is simply folded over. One of those "where you learned to make them " type of things. I suspect I'll also go with a seafood mix at some point in the future as well. Kudos! You are becoming a real constant in the quest for good Tex and Mex dishes. Eagerly awaiting your book.

  28. Lisa Fain

    Maris–I'm a fan of anything spicy, myself!

    Rob W–I think it would be great with other seafood, as well as chicken and pork.

  29. Lisa Fain

    Deb–I find that ancho chiles need other spices to round out its flavor and make it shine. I like to use it with cumin, allspice and clove.

  30. Lisa Fain

    Chilewheel–Hurrah! I'm so pleased that y'all enjoyed the quesadillas! And I'm also a big fan of the fold-over quesadilla technique, too.

  31. Heather @ chiknpastry

    these look extra tasty :). i got a speeding ticket on a vacation last year, and i tried to talk my way out of it too, which worked in the past, but not that time! even had to take a traffic court class. boo.

  32. Kartik @ Bakeology 101

    I would swoon, but I'm allergic to shrimp. Could other types of flaky fish be used, like dover sole?

  33. Mooreplease

    Hey Lisa, sorry the hear about the speeding fine. But it did result in some great food, every cloud…
    My family (husband and two sons, 7yrs and 9yrs) and I recently visited the States and fell in love with Mexican food. I have stocked up on all my Mexican supplies (a little thin the ground in my part of Australia)and just made your shrimp quesadillas. Smiles all 'round – I'm a very poplular Mum. Thanks for the recipe.

  34. My site is about TX, and your comments make me want to suggest the Flatlanders, who have a beautiful song about the road–I like to play it on the freeway and always envision the Texas sky.

  35. I suppose if you'd had a quesadilla with you the officer would have considered it a bribe had you offered him one…lol…he'd been a fool to pass it up!

  36. Those shrimp sound great grilled! What do you think? Would it work?

  37. Lisa Fain

    Heather–I think cops are in general more strict these days. And I'll be taking a defensive driving course myself. Ah, well.

    Kartik–I think this marinade would be great with any fish or chicken!

  38. Lisa Fain

    Mooreplease–You're very welcome and I'm so pleased that it made you a popular mum!

  39. Lisa Fain

    Shelley–Thanks for the music tip–I'll definitely check it out!

    Sherry–You know, I bet you're right!

  40. Lisa Fain

    Thomas–Absolutely, they'd be fantastic grilled.

  41. Seems to me after glimpsing this recipe that we've been awfully boring with our quesadillas of late. Gotta get back in the kitchen and bring some "snap" into those babies! Thanks, as usual, for the inspiration.

  42. Lisa, never know where to leave a question hidden within the comments section, after which entry, all enjoyed while laughing, loving and starting to drool. Next I share with my sister so she can laugh, love & drool with me. Now … she is going to join me on a road-trip swinging through Texas from California via Arizona and New Mexico. How'd I choose this particular entry to leave my comment? Natch! The rear view mirror I'll need glance up & into ocassionaly as I tootle through the big sky country enjoying good sights, good times, good eats with art also on our minds. We're swinging through Marfa and … got comments? Or a post I missed that you can refer me back to? Thanks! Am forevah thankful I chanced upon your 'Homesick Texan' blog sometime in the past year; how it resonated with my thoughts, my spirit … and my stomach! Now, Marfa words, thoughts?

  43. Lisa Fain

    Michael–Thank you for the kind words! As for Marfa, I love that town. I haven't been in a couple of years, but it doesn't change much. Carmen's, Food Shark, Cochinea, Mandos, and Pizza Foundation are all good. If you're going on I-10, you'll enter Texas at El Paso (which is also a great town for food and cowboy boots) and then enjoy the drive to Marfa.

  44. Been following you on Twitter for a long time via Kate Payne, and this is the first time I've noticed the link to your blog. Yum! I'm not a Texan, I'm a NYCer but I lived in Austin for 4 yrs and miss the city and the food….

  45. Susan Lindquist

    Never made quesadilla … these look killer ….

  46. I'm guessing that the olive oil gets blended into the marinade? That's where I put it. Thanks, delicious recipe and has earned a place in our favorite recipe book. David

  47. Lisa Fain

    David–Yes! Thanks for the catch.

  48. Sara in America

    I love your blog and I'm making this tonight. I'm gonna try using oil instead of butter for making the quesadillas though, because I just ran out. Could I maybe use bacon fat?

  49. Lisa Fain

    Sara–I think oil would be fine.

  50. Sara in America

    Thanks Lisa. I actually had forgotten there was butter in the freezer. They were AMAZING. wow. I just had the leftovers for lunch, folded up in some plain tortillas.

  51. Whitney F.

    I just made these for dinner and they were a grand slam! I'm lucky that I'm not a homesick Texan, as I was born, raised and currently live in Austin, TX, but this blog and your cookbook have made it possible for me to make my favorite Tex-Mex creations at home. I gave it to my homesick sister for Christmas, and she is on her 5th recipe! My other favorite is the Jalapeno Bacon Cheese ball. Thanks so much for sharing your delicious recipes!

  52. RetroMom

    I grew up in South TX and then relocated to Southern CA. I had never had seafood in my Mexican/Tex-Mex food and was resistant at first, but it is something I came to love. In Ocean Beach, a suburb of San Diego, there is a place that makes the most amazing shrimp enchiladas in an ancho chile sauce. Your marinade sounds fantastic, and I will definitely try the quesadillas, but I was wondering if you thought it could do double-duty as an enchilada sauce? If not, do you have a recipe for ancho chile enchilada sauce?

  53. Lisa Fain

    RetroMom–The marinade would not make a good enchilada sauce, but you can try the sauce for my summer squash enchiladas, and substitute 4 anchos for the guajillo chiles.

  54. Whataburger por vida! I'm having a passionate affair with the patty melt, thankyouverymuch. A few months ago they had promotional spicy ketchup and it was life-changing. My parents managed to procure a box of it and we're rationing it like nobody's business. I want to make these quesadillas for supper; they look marvelous. I have a sneaking suspicion that your 24 hour taco joint with rubbery shrimp was Taco Cabana?

  55. Terry Combs

    5 stars
    r/t ticket…Defensive driving was an option as is paying a traffic ticket attny and having him/her get you a deferred adjudication which is a few months probation without anymore violations and voila, ticket dismissed…Worth the $ for attny btw bc of the “record” and insurance costs…

    • Lisa Fain

      Terry–Thank you for the advice! I ended up doing defensive driving, which definitely helped, though I will consider an atty if it happens again.

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