Venison Quesadilla

Scouting for Next Season’s Big Buck? Here’s the snack you need: A Hand-Held Venison Quesadilla

I love quesadillas, but they’re hard to eat in a blind—or pickup.  So, as soon as I saw this folded version of a venison quesadilla, I jumped on it.  (Apparently they’re a hot trend for city folks, but it’s a natural for eating while fishing for bass and walleye out on the big lake, or scouting for trophy bucks.)

One, it’s easier to handle: instead of being 10 inches around—and needing both open hands to hold it—it fits easily in one hand.  Plus it’s easier both to get in and out of the pan, and to flip it.  Bring an assortment of ingredients to hunting camp and each folded tortilla can be totally different, to suit everyone’s individual tastes. You’ll be the hero.

I’ve eaten at least 5 varieties this week alone including wild turkey with pesto, mozzarella and pepperoni slices, plus my own Polish sausage (from Sausage Season) with sauerkraut, mustard and horseradish sauce and sweet hot pickle relish. Remember, with a freezer full of wild game meat, variety is a great thing.

Plus, it’s walking around food, which a traditional quesadilla is not.  (It’s more a drip down your shirt food.) As a foodie, what I like is that the ingredients stay separate, so each individual quadrant offers a new and different flavor.

cilantro for venison quesadillasThis venison quesadilla recipe is very adaptable: Use tender steaks diced small or ground venison so each individual bite remains neat and orderly.

This is what we did last Tuesday for lunch, but you can add jalapeno peppers, nopalitos, bacon (FYI: bacon’s the new black—it goes with everything), or turn the whole thing upside down with Italian sausage, mozzarella, grated Parmesan, sautéed peppers, onions and pepperoni, making it a quesi-calzone.  They all work.

Two more things: One, don’t crowd the pan. For the best browning, which caramelizes (sweetens) the meat rather than steams (makes it bland) it, about 8 ounces in a batch for a 10” skillet is about right. Two? Don’t overfill the quesadilla quarters. I always do that, but this is enough filling. Trust me.

Hand-Held Venison Quesadilla

Makes 10 folded quesadillas


For the sour cream/cilantro sauce

Makes 1 ¼ cup

  • 4 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • For the meat
  • 2-4 tablespoons oil
  • 12 ounces minced venison
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 yellow onion sliced
  • 1 Anaheim pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground oregano
  • 1/3 cup Pace Picante sauce, mild

To Assemble

  • 10 Flour tortillas (9-10”diameter)
  • 1 pound grated cheese
  • 1 ¼   cups Pace Picante sauce, mild

venison quesadilla preparationPreparation

  1. Start with the sour cream/cilantro sauce, making it ahead of time and chilling it in the fridge. First strip the cilantro leaves from the hard stems with your fingers then, in a mini grinder, pulse the cilantro with the garlic cloves and onion.  Pulse it four to five times so everything is minced—but not liquefied.  Stir into a bowl with the sour cream, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.


  1. In a large skillet heat 1-2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat and brown the minced venison/burger in batches, adding more oil as needed for the second batch. Don’t overcrowd the pan.  When the meat is browned, transfer it to a bowl, and add the garlic, onion Anaheim pepper to the skillet, and sauté them until they soften, 3-4 minutes.
  2. Return the meat to the pan, with the juices, and add the cumin, chili powder and oregano.  Stir to coat the meat and veggies with the spices, then add the picante sauce and stir that in.  Remove from the heat and assemble the tortilla.

Venison Quesadilla assemblyHow to: Assembly

  1. Set a flour tortilla on a plate, warm it 15 seconds in the microwave so it folds easily without breaking then, in your head divide the tortilla into quarters, like 15 minute intervals on a clock; 12, 3, 6 and 9.
  2. Cut the tortilla from the center to 6 o’clock.  Now spread your ingredients, quarter by quarter on the tortilla.  Starting with the 6 to 9 quarter, with something that will stick to the tortilla—like guacamole or the sour cream/cilantro spread –gently fold that quadrant up over the 9 to 12 quadrant, then the 9 to 12 over the 12 to 3, gently folding quadrant over quadrant, rotating clockwise around the face of the tortilla.  You now have a very thick multi-layered triangle, with a layer of tortilla between each element of the filling.

Once you’ve made your first one, you’ll see which layers end up deep inside, and set it up so any cheese quadrant that needs to melt, will end up with only one layer of tortilla between it and the hot skillet.  Don’t worry, it will be obvious.

  1. Now put a smear of oil in the skillet, turn the heat to medium and toast the outside of your tortilla, both sides, until golden brown. If you’re going to be sitting around a campfire while eating these, prep them then wrap in foil and put at the edge of the fire so the cheese melts but the quesadilla doesn’t burn.
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