Sincronizadas and quesadillas are both made with tortillas and warm, melty cheese, but there are many things that make each dish unique. Learn about the difference between the two to ensure you order the right thing in Mexico.
Sincronizadas and Quesadillas are two dishes that are often confused. It’s easy to see why. Both are made with tortillas and cheese, cooked until crispy on the outside and perfectly melted and gooey on the inside. But there are subtle differences between the two!
For true fans of traditional Mexican food, the differences are easy to spot.
It is amazing how big of a difference a slight variation in ingredients can make to the final dish. It can also be confusing because many families have their own twist on these classic dishes–which can make them almost indistinguishable.
Sincronizadas are basically the Mexican version of a ham and cheese sandwich. They are made with flour tortillas, cheese, and slices of ham.
They are savory and very, very simple.
Quesadillas are traditionally made with corn tortillas. While the main filling is cheese, it may also contain other ingredients like beef, chicken, or pork. Some quesadillas actually only contain a small amount of cheese, just enough to hold the dish together.
Both dishes are cooked in a pan on the stovetop until the Mexican cheese is melted and the tortilla is golden brown. This article can help you understand even more differences.
While it is obvious that sincronizadas and quesadillas are related, they most likely came from different parts of Mexico.
Quesadillas are the more traditional dish of the two. They were made by the Aztecs who would make flat corn tortillas (tortilla de maíz) and stuff them with meat or vegetables.
When the Spanish came to Mexico, they were likely the first to introduce cheese to the dish.
Sincronizadas came later and originated in Northern Mexico. In that area, flour tortillas are a more popular option, and homemade flour tortillas proved a great option for creating a delicious ham and cheese lunch or dinner!
Sincronizadas may have come from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, where Oaxaca cheese is produced. This is the best choice for cheese in a sincronizada, although many chefs make it with other white cheeses like mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, manchego cheeses or even American cheese.
Of course, the main difference between sincronizadas and quesadillas is the ingredients used to make them.
Sincronizadas are made with very specific ingredients. Only flour tortillas can be used, and ham must be included. The cheese may be any melty variety. Feel free to use your favorite cheese, but queso oaxaca, a white cheese from the Oaxaca region of Mexico, is the most authentic.
It is possible to see a sincronizada made with chicken or beef, but these variations are not the original. A true sincronizada is made with only cheese and ham.
Quesadillas are more flexible. They were traditionally made with corn tortillas but over time many people have opted for flour tortillas as well.
A typical quesadilla contains cheese, which helps keep any additional filling stuffed in the tortilla. But you may find other types of quesadillas are also common. Additional filling may include beans, meat, or vegetables. A very basic and traditional (but still delicious) quesadilla contains only cheese.
One similarity between quesadillas and sincronizadas is the way they are prepared. To make both you need a shallow frying pan, large skillet, or a griddle, set to medium-low heat.
Pile your warm tortillas (corn tortilla for a quesadilla or flour for a sincronizada) with your ingredients and allow it to cook slowly until the cheese melts and the tortilla begins to brown. The best way to test if the dish is done is to take a peek at the melted cheese on the inside and the little brown spots on the outside of the tortilla.
Both of these dishes make the perfect quick and easy lunch or weeknight meal and have also become popular street food options. They are made with very simple ingredients and it only takes a few minutes for the tortilla to cook and the cheese to melt to perfection.
There is, however, a difference between sincronizadas and quesadillas in the shape they are served in.
Mexican quesadillas are usually made with a single tortilla. Ingredients are placed on half of the tortilla and then the tortilla is folded on top of itself. The result is a dish that is shaped like a half circle.
Sincronizadas are made with two tortillas and all the cheese and ham layered on the inside. This stack of delicious ingredients creates a dish that is round and flat like a pizza and cut into slices to enjoy.
The stacked nature of a sincronizada makes it a bit more challenging to prepare. You must wait for the cheese to be fully melted to keep the rest of the contents from spilling when it is flipped. It is also important to stack a tortilla, then cheese, then ham, more cheese, and then the second tortilla. Cheese on both sides helps the dish stay together.
The stacking of ingredients and the way the distinct flavor of ham and cheese perfectly compliments each other may have contributed to the name sincronizadas which translates to “synchronized.”
Both of these dishes are incredibly easy and flavorful. They are made even more enjoyable with the addition of a wide variety of fresh toppings like guacamole, sour cream, diced jalapenos, lime wedges, or pico de gallo salsa.
For the purists, the simplicity of cheese quesadillas cannot be beaten. The tortilla is perfectly crisp. The cheese is soft and warm on the inside. Each bite is perfection.
For those who are looking for something just a little more substantial, the sincronizada is an excellent choice. The ham adds just the right amount of texture and flavor and pairs perfectly with the creamy cheese.
Both of these dishes, the sincronizada, and the quesadilla, have been passed down for generations and, because of their simplicity, it is easy to change them up to fit your liking. Add more protein with chicken, beef, pork, black beans, or refried beans, or add more flavor with some sauteed onions and peppers.
However you enjoy these dishes, you can’t go wrong!