Corn tortillas are gently wrapped around a protein-rich stuffing of creamy white beans and earthy kale, nestled in a bed of sweet and salty butternut squash purée, and topped with perfectly caramelized onions, for an out of this world meal, delivering irresistible flavor. If you want a traditional quesadilla, these white bean quesadillas are NOT that! But if you're looking for a unique spin on the classic, you're in the right place!
While this delicious recipe uses a variety of seasonal Fall produce, the ingredients are available year round, so you can enjoy it anytime.
Heart Health Benefits of White Bean Quesadillas
These white bean and kale quesadillas provide an assortment of health benefits, particularly for the heart.
Firstly, the white beans in our quesadillas are an impressive source of protein and dietary fiber. These are vital components of a heart-healthy diet as they help to reduce levels of 'bad' LDL cholesterol. Reduced levels of LDL cholesterol limit the risk of developing dangerous arterial plaques.
Another heart-friendly ingredient is olive oil, which is rich in monounsaturated fats. Substituting monounsaturated fats for saturated fats in your diet has a demonstrated ability to lower your cholesterol, further decreasing your heart disease risk. Adding to this, the kale found in these quesadillas is packed with antioxidants, vitamin A, and vitamin K. Consuming kale can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, which are key contributors to heart disease.
Finally, the other ingredients like butternut squash, onions, and miso paste enhance, not only the flavor, but also the nutritional profile of the dish. They add a significant amount of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, providing substantial nourishment and protection for your heart.
So, at only 200 calories each, these white bean quesadillas are not only dairy free, but they're also gluten free, low in sodium, cholesterol free, and high in protein, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, iron, and potassium. They're deliciously hearty and incredibly heart-healthy!
Check out my guide on cooking with less salt.
We start our recipe with simple, seasonal ingredients. Here's what we need for our gluten free quesadillas.
- Butternut squash
- Olive oil
- White beans
- Miso paste
- Chili powder
- Corn tortillas
See recipe card for quantities.
There are several ways to save a bunch of time on this recipe (see recipe card!), but here's how we do it without those conveniences!
Thinly slice the onions.
Add the onion slices to a preheated, large, nonstick pan with olive oil, and turn the heat to low.
Continue to cook the onions on low, stirring frequently, to prevent burning.
The onions will take 45-60 minutes to properly caramelize. Remove from the heat.
While the onions caramelize, prepare the squash by peeling it, halving, and removing seeds.
Chop the squash into pieces roughly 1 inch.
Toss the squash with oil and ground pepper on a lined baking sheet.
Bake the squash until it's very soft and starting to brown on the edges.
Put the squash in a food processor, along with the miso paste.
Process on high, slowly drizzling in water, a few tablespoons at a time, until a smooth, but thick, consistency is reached.
Now make the filling by heating the oil, and adding the garlic, beans, and spices to a hot skillet.
Sauté a few minutes, until fragrant.
Add the chopped kale to the skillet, along with the water, and cover until the kale is wilted and bright green.
Stir to fully incorporate the ingredients, and remove from heat.
Make the quesadillas by smearing a spoonful of squash puree on half the tortilla, followed by a few spoons full of the bean kale mixture, finally ending with a heaping spoonful of caramelized onions. Place the tortilla on a preheated, dry, skillet for a few seconds before folding it in half.
Cook the quesadillas for about 5 minutes on each side, or until they have reached the level of browning that you prefer.
Hint: both the squash purée and the caramelized onions can be made up to 5 days in advance to cut prep time on the day you want to eat these!
Time Saving Tips
Not everyone wants to (or can) spend the time it takes to make these from scratch, using all the raw ingredients. Try these great time saving tips to make these butternut squash quesadillas a breeze.
- Use frozen butternut squash - Instead of a whole butternut squash, use frozen squash. No need to thaw - toss with oil and pepper and follow the recipe from there. Your baking time may be less, so keep an eye on it.
- Use already pureed squash or pumpkin - You’ll need about 1 or 1 ½ cups of it, then simply mix with the miso paste. You may want to mix the miso with a little warm water first to make it easier to incorporate into the squash.
- Sauté the onions - Properly caramelized onions take lots of time. But if you want, you can simply sauté them to your liking and use them that way.
- Make slow cooker caramelized onions - That's right! Your slow cooker will make caramelized onions that are ready for you to use in these quesadillas when you get home from work!
Try this recipe for Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions from Gimme Some Oven, using the olive oil option, limited salt, and none of the optional brown sugar. This recipe will make more than you need for the quesadillas, but is that really a bad thing?! YUM!
The beauty of these white bean quesadillas lies in their versatility. You can easily modify the ingredients to cater to your personal preferences, diet restrictions, or simply to experiment with new flavors.
- Extra spicy - add jalapeño slices in your quesadilla
- Cheesy - these quesadillas were made dairy free, but if you love cheese, you can add a few tablespoons to each one - right on top of the squash puree! Go easy though - there's room for a little leeway in the saturated fat and sodium here, but we don't want to go overboard.
- Sweet - add in a little pineapple when you sauté the beans for a more tropical vibe
If you are making the recipe as written, there are a lot of moving parts, and you'll want certain kitchen tools to get the job done. Some of the most important items are a nice large nonstick skillet, and a good food processor. Other than those, you need more basic items like a cutting board and knife, vegetable peeler, and measuring cups and spoons.
This Ninja Foodi NeverStick PossiblePan (affiliate link) is one of my favorite skillets. I find myself using it most days, and it's the one in the process photos above. It's especially great for caramelized onions, because you can use less oil without worrying about them burning to the pan. Plus, it can go from the stove to the oven, making it a versatile tool that can do lots of different jobs!
My top recommendation for a home food processor is the Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Stack & Snap Food Processor (affiliate link). It's my go-to!
These butternut squash quesadillas won't store well after they are cooked. I recommend only cooking what you can eat in a sitting. Then you can refrigerate each of the elements separately - the squash puree, the caramelized onions, and the bean kale filling - and cook more quesadillas when you need. They'll only take about 15 minutes to make when you have all the elements ready to go!
To cook the quesadillas, a cast iron skillet or griddle can't be beat! I love ones like this ProSource Reversible Griddle (affiliate link), because they can lie right across the burners on your stove, and they are a griddle on one side and grill on the other. If that's not in the cards for you, a nonstick pan will work. If not that, a regular pan can work, but watch your quesadillas for burning and sticking.
Adding white beans to your quesadilla not only increases its protein content, but also boosts the levels of essential nutrients. They bring in fiber, folate, and iron while offering a creamy texture and subtle flavor that pairs well with other ingredients.
I recommend using either great northern beans or cannellini beans. They are small beans that hold their shape well in such recipes.
Make sure to allow the tortilla to sit flat on the hot pan or griddle for about 10 seconds before you try to fold it over the fillings. This makes the tortilla soft and pliable. Otherwise, the corn tortilla will break when you try to fold it.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
These are my favorite dishes to serve with white bean quesadillas:
White Bean Quesadillas with Caramelized Onions, Kale, and Butternut Squash
- 8 Corn Tortillas
For the Onions:
- 2 large Yellow Onions
- 2 tablespoon Olive Oil
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
For the squash:
- 2 ½ cups Butternut Squash cubes
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- Ground Pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon White Miso Paste (any variety will do)
- ¼ cup Water (more or less)
For the Bean Filling:
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 3 cloves Garlic minced
- 1 can No Added Salt White Beans (like Great Northern or Cannellini Beans)
- 2 teaspoon Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- 2 tablespoon Water
- 2 cups Kale chopped with thick stems removed
- Salsa, avocado/guacamole, or sour cream (use plain, unsweetened dairy or non dairy yogurt for a heart healthier option)
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
Make the caramelized onions
- Peel, halve, and thinly slice the onions.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sprinkle with salt.
- Turn the heat to low, and sauté for about 45-60 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Note: you don’t want the onions to brown too fast and get crispy. You want them to caramelize low and slow, and this takes time.
Make the butternut squash purée
- Meanwhile, prepare the squash. Peel, halve, and remove the seeds.
- Chop the squash into pieces, approximately 1 inch square.
- Toss with oil and sprinkle with some ground pepper, on a lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the squash is soft and starting to brown around the edges.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes before dumping them into a food processor.
- Add the miso paste to the squash and process on high. Pour in water a few tablespoons at a time until you achieve a smooth consistency. Scrape down the sides a few times - you don’t want the consistency to become runny. I usually need around ¼ cup of water total, but it depends on how much water is in the squash to begin with.
Make the bean filling
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, beans, and spices, and sauté a few minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.
- Now add the chopped kale and 2 tablespoons of water. Put the lid on the pan and let the kale wilt down until it is vibrant green.
- Stir the mixture to combine, and turn off the heat.
Make the quesadillas
- Preheat a griddle or large pan over medium heat. Do not oil the pan - we will dry cook these. A cast iron or other non stick pan will work best for this, but use what you have.
- Take a tortilla and smear a spoonful of the squash puree on half of it. Add a few spoonfuls of the bean filling, and a scoop of caramelized onions.
- Place the tortilla on the preheat griddle, and heat for about 10 seconds before trying to fold it in half.
- Cook on one side for about 5 minutes, until the tortilla is toasty and browned, then carefully flip and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
- Repeat with the remaining tortillas, working in batches if needed.
- Serve hot with recommended toppings, or your own favorites!
Instead of a whole butternut squash, use frozen squash. No need to thaw - toss with oil and pepper and follow the recipe from there. Your baking time may be less, so keep an eye on it.
Alternatively, use already pureed squash or pumpkin. You’ll need about 1 or 1 ½ cups of it, then simply mix with the miso paste. You may want to mix the miso with a little warm water first to make it easier to incorporate into the squash. For the onions:
Properly caramelized onions just take time. But if you want you can simply sauté them to your liking and use them that way. You can also make caramelized onions in the slow cooker!
Safety is our top priority in the kitchen! Always keep these tips in mind.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands before touching food, and after touching raw meat, your hair, face, pets, etc.
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours (or 1 hour if the weather is hot)
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Your purchase helps me keep the lights on, at no additional cost to you! I never recommend products that I don't personally use and love. Thanks for your support!