On a busy weeknight, you can always rely on your favorite Mexican-inspired fallbacks, like nachos, tacos and quesadillas. Everybody loves a crispy tortilla, especially with mountains of melted cheese. But really, do you need to eat all that cheese for dinner?

In the spirit of creative fusion, let me offer you a luscious alternative to the cheese-laden quesadilla. Try filling your tortilla with mashed avocado and beans, for a toasty triangle that is just as creamy and delicious as the queso version. These Avocado Quesadillas with Cranberry-Apple Salsa will become your favorite new meatless meal.

It’s cranberry-eating season, so it’s the perfect time to make the tangy red berries into salsa. As long as we are breaking from tradition, let’s put crunchy apples and cranberries into a fresh and sassy dip for your quesadillas. Cranberries qualify as a local crop, since 60% of the cranberries grown in the U.S. come from Wisconsin. Their tart flavor is balanced by sweet apples and a little sugar, for a tongue-tingling topper. Jalapeño and cilantro give it the essential salsa flavors.

Avocados have become the go-to fruit, for good reason. They give you the creamy richness that you crave, without the saturated fats or cholesterol that animal foods contain. If you are following the advice to “eat more plants,” then turning to avocados in place of cheese is a great strategy.

I always opt for a whole-wheat tortilla when I have the option, but if you want to get into a holiday red and green theme, look for spinach tortillas. You can also find gluten-free tortillas in well-stocked grocery stores and co-ops. Rice flour or teff flour tortillas are a delicious alternative for those who avoid wheat.

Black beans give the quesadillas some protein and provide structure in between the tortillas, so that the filling stays inside when you slice them. Use a sharp knife, so you don’t have to press too hard.

These quesadillas can be a main course, with a salad on the side, or served as an appetizer for a Mexican-inspired entree. Bring them out at a party and they will disappear quickly, especially if you are serving a lager beer or sparkling wine.


Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at robinasbell.com.