Classic Cheese Crisps

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Cheese Crisps are my life. Literally. They probably make up about 50% of my body because they are pretty much all I ate until I turned 16. Growing up in Tucson, AZ (where the original cheese crisps is rumored to be invented) it’s pretty hard to stay away from these little treats. It’s pretty much an open faced flour tortilla, smeared with a little butter, toasted in the oven and then smothered with cheese, toasted again and voila – a cheese crisp!! I kid you not, these will change your life. If you’ve never had one before you need to run to the store immediately, pick up the ingredients and make them. Because they are a.w.e.s.o.m.e. And if you’re feeling jazzy – then you can sprinkle on a few of your favorite toppings like scallions, sauteed poblano peppers and some spicy chorizo. (drool)

Here are some plain cheese crisps. They are pretty much heaven. You could serve them just like this and people would be begging you to make them again.

Maybe you sprinkle on a few sliced scallions. Or some cilantro. Perhaps some chives. Whatever floats your boat.

As an Arizona girl, I had to add some peppers. It was only right.

And then I finished it off with some chorizo. Be still my heart. I literally couldn’t control myself when I made these. I just wanted to keep eating them. But then I remembered they were for a party and people were coming over in 20 minutes and I needed to stop stuffing my face and get myself cleaned up because there may or may not have been cheese and chorizo all over my clothes. Don’t judge. 🙂

Promise me you’ll make these immediately. Okay, I’ll even wait 24 hours. But you’ve gotta do it. They will rock your world!

Classic Cheese Crisp from (@whatsgabycookin)

Classic Cheese Crisp

4.5 from 2 votes
The all time best recipe for a classic cheese crisp – a tucson staple from growing up in the Southwest! Essentially an open faced quesadilla with a little bit of butter to make the tortilla crispy. True perfection
Prep Time 2 mins
Cook Time 8 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Appetizer, Snack, Lunch
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 1 person


For the Cheese Crisp:

  • 1 large burrito size flour tortilla (13-inch diameter or larger)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Serve with:


  • Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle.
  • Butter the flour tortilla all the way to the edges. Transfer to a baking sheet.
  • Bake the plain buttered tortilla for about 6 minutes or until it begins to get lightly toasted.
  • Remove the tortilla from the oven and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese, leaving about 1/2-inch from the edges. Return the tortilla to the oven and cook for 2 more minutes, or until all of the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and eat with desired dipping sauces


  1. You just have no idea how much this post means to me. I L.O.V.E. cheese crisps. Growing up, my snack was always melted “cheeseonbread.” But you had to say it like that – “cheeseonbread.” Then, as I got older I transitioned into the tortilla, and all kinds of sexy hotness occurred. And NOW, as a 35-year old, I still make crispy torts with melted cheese and herbs on it, for snacks. And I’m OKAY with that. HAPPY in fact. GIDDY even.

    yes, yes!

  2. If I have one vice (ok, who am I kidding – I have several), it would be cheese. I love cheese crisps and as a Phoenix (by way of Gilbert) girl, I never knew that crisps started in Tucson! What a fun tidbit of trivia. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Very cool, always ordered these as appetizers at the Mexican restaurants. La Parilla Suiza on Speedway still offered them the last time I visited

  3. OMG – love these things – reminds me of the walking elephants ears I had at Lydia Shire’s place Scampo in Boston – could they be Mexican Pizzas?!

    1. A Mexican pizza is a cheese crisp with ground beef, onions (or scallions)., tomatoes. Poblano peppers refried beans (if you like),. extra cheese, and black olives (if you like), and most of all salsa! You can top it off with guacamole, or sour cream. Your favorite salsa or hot sauce, Jalapenos and Habaneros’ top off the pizza.

    2. Can you say tostado deluxe! Cheese crisis with toasted green chillies…. Be still need heart.

  4. I have to work late…wonder if I could find someone to go make these for me and bring me some……think ….think…think….

  5. The moment I finished reading this post, I went straight to the kitchen and made 4 of these for me and my two teenage sons. SO freaking delicious…..especially the crispy bits of cheese that fell onto the baking sheet. =)

  6. I’m going to have to agree with you here. These snacks probably make up 65 percent of my body’s chemistry. I think I ate a version of this every day for at least twenty years…so that’s saying a lot. I like these crisps A LOT. (just like you!)

  7. On the list of “world’s perfect foods” this would easily make the top 5 !! This is, hands down, my son’s favorite after workout treat – yep, I am pretty much keeping the tortillaria in my neighborhood in business!!

  8. Cheese Crisps! Aren’t they the best?! I had no idea that you were from Tucson… me too!
    I’m so happy to see you remember authentic cheese crisps. They have become an endangered species around here, since quesadillas came along.
    Thanks for the memory.

  9. I just made these. Something about melted cheese on tortillas spoke to me on a deep level. It’s been over 100 degrees in this state for a month and I haven’t turned my oven on. Except for cheese crisps. It’s how much I love cheese.

  10. I got addicted to cheese crisps back in the seventies. The very best were served at a Mexican restaurant in Payson, smothered with green chile pork. Heaven on a plate. Thanks for the instructions.

  11. Hello from Australia! I discovered your amazing website via Pinterest. I just made these cheese crisps and they have as you stated, changed my life. Wow! I added a dollop of guacamole on top with a dash of salsa. I am hosting a Mexican dinner party next weekend and i am going to make teeny cheese crisps for canapes. Im going to try your pulled pork sliders on friday night, this blog is amazing.
    Thanks again!

  12. I remember eating these in a small Mexican restaurant on Speedway in 1961 when I was in college in Tucson. They were wonderful. I had them again in February when I was visiting in Tucson. Just as good as I remembered. Thanks for this recipe.

  13. These would make great appetizers for a Mexican restaurant. I know they may not be completely authentic, but they look absolutely delicious! Thanks for the recipe.


  14. They started in a local to Tucson Mexican restaurant chain, Casa Molina. Any of the Molina restaurants had great food.

    I grew up in both CA and AZ.

    Outside of Tucson, eyes roll when I ask for them. Phoenix has had enough guests from Tucson demanding them to start doing them too.

    They really are like an open faced quesadilla with a crispy crust..

    We went to AZ this Christmas from Texas and my wife and I introduced our children to cheese crisps. They loved them.

  15. I grew up in west Phoenix since 1950 and have been eating cheese crisps
    since I could eat..
    macayos restaurants
    and love them..I put red chilie on them sometime but 90%just plain cheese with hot sauce..enjoyed your about a recipe for Arizona red chilie..thanks the samms family

  16. Born and raised in AZ, never realized these were an AZ thing until I moved away and realized other people folded their tortillas in half and called them “quesadillas”! I was like, “where are my open faced cheese crisps?!” Can’t wait to try this (again)!

  17. 5 stars
    I just saw your recipe for cheese crisps…I will be making them for tonights dinner to accompany the beef and bean enchiladas. I’ve never made them but have enjoyed them for years.
    We have a condo in Tucson and spend winters there. Casa Del Rio, a Tucson restaurant, makes a good cheese crisp.
    Altho, I’ve always thought the name of this dish is Mexican Cheese Crisp it seems to always be referred to as cheese crisp…a cheese crisp is made without the tortilla and by melting shredded cheese in the over on a baking sheet until it’s crispy.
    Am I in error?
    I too, VERY MUCH enjoy them (whatever they are called).

  18. 4 stars
    Back in the 70’s when I lived in Connecticut there was a Mexican restaurant that served these. Never saw them before and never saw them since. The owners? You guest it, were from AZ.

    I do something slightly different with this recipe. I actually pan fry the tortillas in a thin layer of canola oil on both sides until crisp. Take the tortilla and put it on a baking sheet, sprinkle on the cheese, and I also add diced tomatoes or salsa and under the broiler they go. Does not take very much time as the tortilla is plenty hot to start melting the cheese..

  19. A flour tortilla and cheddar is all I need. Restaurants in Arizona always seem to do it better than me, in fact, I’ve never come remotely close to recreating what they do. It’s all in the cooking method and ingredients. All two of them.

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