Bossed Around at El Bají­o: Plantain Quesadillas

Each time I go back to Mexico City, even before the plane lands, I know there are some formal plans that can never, ever, be messed around with. They are all with my father and they all involve eating in the same places. Each single time.

One of the places is El Bají­o. If you know my father, you know he doesn’t let me order. You also know that he knows the Restaurant manager, waiters, bar servers and valet parking attendants by name. And they all know him too.

He jokes with Elena Quintana Nieto, who has overseen this Restaurant for decades. She monitors the quality of the food with just as much detail as she does the extraordinary service.

See here? Even in the photo, she is eying our proud waiter.

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As they walk us to our table – yes it is OURS, because it is the same one every time – my father starts to loudly recite to the waiter all we are going to eat. Then he turns around and tells me that I am about to have the best meal of my entire lifetime. Though I have eaten it many times before…
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As we pass the bar we grab a glass filled to the rim with one of their freshly made Aguas Frescas. It was tamarind for me, this time.

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Before we sit down, we could taste the delicious mess about to be indulged, as we see the other clients devouring their food. Wearing aprons the Restaurant promptly provides.

Yes they are, scooping up big bowls of Pozole.

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See? Once we sit down, my father is continuing to boss us around. And it doesn’t stop until we are finished…

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Each time, as well, the very first thing that arrives at the table are these plantain masa quesadillas filled with refried beans. They have a special sauce to spread on top, which is made with dried chipotle chiles and piloncillo.

Yes they are.

To die for.

So much so, that I went down to the open kitchen, introduced myself to the cook who was making them, and asked her for the recipe to be able to share with you all. Because there are many plantain quesadillas filled with refried beans throughout Mexico. But there are none like those from El Bají­o.

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I wasn’t surprised to find that Sandra Olvera, a cook who has been working there for 37 years, was besides lovely and sweet, happy to give me a little demo.

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The masa is made with plantains. However, for a good dough or masa, plantains must not be green and must not be ripe. Different from bananas, when ripe, plantains are black on the outside. For this masa, they must be in the between stage showed in this photo: Yellow.

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Plantains are simmered in water until soft. Then processed with a bit of sugar until smooth. With that dough, tortilla shapes are formed. You can use a tortilla press, or a roller, pressing the dough in between plastic. Refried beans are placed in the center and folded as quesadillas or turnovers.

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You can make them beforehand and place them covered in the refrigerator.

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They do hold their shape, quite nicely…

And remember, this masa isn’t corn, it’s plantain masa: Exotic, rich and with a delicious hint of sweetness.

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In the Restaurant they have a deep fryer. But you can use a normal deep skillet at home.

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They take just a couple minutes per side, to be ready. They are pulled out when golden and barely crisp on the outside.

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That was just one of the appetizers. We had sopa de fideo, carnitas, barbacoa, chicharrón, red rice, guacamole, arrachera and mole. Then we had a parade of desserts paired with Café de Olla.

Truth is, I can complain about how my father bosses me around each time I go to Mexico and tells me exactly what to eat and how to eat it.

Truth is, he can be eating a quesadilla from the same plate as mine, spread some salsa on top, take a bite and tell me that his quesadilla is oh so much better than mine, and that I NEED to take a bite. As I look at him with skepticism.

But the truth is, that it does taste better.

And the truth is, also, that although I have had that meal one too many times, each and every single time it turns out that it is, right then and there, the best meal of my entire lifetime.

Trust me too, when I say, that these quesadillas…

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…are one of the tasties things you will have eaten in your entire lifetime.

Plantain and Refried Bean Quesadillas

Quesadillas de Plátano Macho con Frijolitos Refritos

Recipe Yield

6 to 8 quesadillas

Cooking time

50 minutes

Rate this recipe

4.20 from 5 votes


  • 1 pound yellow mature plantains
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup refried beans store bought or home-made
  • Safflower or corn oil to fry

To Prepare

  • Place the whole plantains in a large pot filled with boiling water. Simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are thoroughly cooked. Remove from the water and let cool. Peel the plantains, slice, and place in a food processor along with the sugar. Process until smooth. If the dough seems to soft and runny, you may add some all purpose flour to thicken it a bit. You may also let it sit in the refrigerator, covered, for a half an hour so it will harden too.
  • Make round balls of about 1 to 2″. Press in between plastic rounds in a tortilla press or roll with a roller until you get a flat disk of about ¼”. Place about a tablespoon of refried beans right in the center and fold like a turnover. Press down along the edges so they will be tightly sealed.
  • In a large deep skillet set over medium heat, heat enough oil to have about an inch high. About 3 to 4 minutes later, when it is hot but not smoking, insert the quesadillas a few at a time. The oil should be bubbling around the quesadillas as you do. Let them fry, about 2 minutes on each side until nicely tanned and lightly crisped. Don’t let them brown too much. Remove them and place on a paper towel to drain excess of oil.
  • Serve with your favorite salsa.


66comments inBossed Around at El Bají­o: Plantain Quesadillas

  1. Candelaria

    May 14

    ¡Por supuesto! En cuanto consiga la harina de plátano me pongo manos a la obra.

    Gracias de nuevo y saludos desde Canarias 🙂

  2. Candelaria

    May 04

    ¡Muchas gracias por la receta!

    ¿Se podrá hacer la masa con harina de plátano? ¿cuánta cantidad de agua y de harina habría que usar?

    1. Pati

      May 11

      Hola Candelaria, no lo he hecho con harina de plátano, en verdad que quedan deliciosas con le plátano macho fresquecito! pero si lo pruebas con la harina, me cuentas cómo te resultó?

  3. Ceci

    Nov 10

    Esto se ve delicioso!

    Entonces la masa es solo el platano con el azucar? Me da la impresion de que se me puede deshacer al manobrearla. Algun tip?

    1. Pati

      Nov 11

      Pruébala, no se te va a deshacer… el plátano mucho es muy denso…

  4. Kathleen

    Apr 20

    Hi Pati, I love your TV program. This story about your Dad is just precious… I already adore him. These look and sound wonderful but I am surprised that they are called quesadillas…..they seem to resemble an empanada and they are deep fried instead of a griddle and there is no cheese (???). Perhaps I don’t know as much as I thought I did about Mexican food culture. I’ve lived in southern California for 50 years and it’s among my favorite ethnic food. Never had plantains yet… this combination with the beans sounds intriguing.

    1. Pati

      Apr 20

      Thanks Kathleen! Indeed, quesadilla is one mysterious word. It refers mostly to folded tortillas with a filling inside, that does not have to be cheese. And more and more dishes, like this one, get the name “Quesadilla”. When it is an empanada for sure, it is when it is made with a masa (dough) that has all purpose flour as a base. And to confuse matters even more, empanadas can be baked or fried!

  5. Doris

    Oct 20

    Las voy a preparar y quería saber si se pueden congelar ya sea crudas o fritas.
    Me encantan!

    1. Pati

      Oct 22

      Si las vas a congelar Doris, mejor crudas…

  6. Kim

    Oct 16

    Thanks for the recipe! We dined at El Bajio in September 2001 and the food was delicious. I still have dreams about the refried beans,THE.BEST.EVER!!!

    1. Pati

      Oct 16

      Hola Kim, Thank you for sharing!

  7. Rebecca

    Aug 09

    Pati, is there any alternative to deep frying these? Could they be done in a dry skillet or oven and only lightly fried at the end? I know the oil probably gives it amazing flavor…I’m just not accustomed to using “deep oil” and trying to keep it a little light! I’m loving this site so much. Thank you!

  8. Jenny

    Feb 27

    This is one of the best recipes I have ever tried! FABULOUS tasting and so easy to make thanks to this incredibly informative blog and photos. Thank you so much for sharing with us. I have also tried one of your mole sauces and it was the best mole I’ve ever tasted.

    Your blog is a treasure!!!

    1. Pati

      Feb 27

      Oh, this is so great to hear, Jenny!! Thank you. I’m glad the recipes are turning out so well.

  9. Myrna

    Dec 22

    I’m a Guatemalan married to a Mexican. I’m still learning how to cook Mexican food and I love doing it through your recipes. What a pleasant surprise…in Guatemala we have a similar recipe called “rellenitos de platano”. Un abrazo!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 28

      Hola Myrna, I’m glad you are finding my recipes helpful in learning Mexican food!! Let me know if you have any requests!

  10. Kathy Kieler

    Apr 01

    Patti, I have seen you on Paula Dean and you made taco mix with beef an juice i think you added tomittilos but not sure I was wondering if you could do this recipe or send me the recipe?
    Thanks Patti
    I just found your show I cant wait to see more.
    Lov ya

    1. Pati Jinich

      Apr 05

      Hi Kathy, here is the recipe for the tacos I made on Paula Deen Enjoy!

  11. Gina

    Jan 12

    las acabo de hacer y quedaron riquisimas. Les rellene de queso y frijoles negros refritos. La masa del platano esta riquisima y se frien muy bonitas. Las servi con crema …yuuumm yuuummm.. me esposo estaba muy contento ayudandome a cosinarlas. Ya me dijo que me comprara tu libro en cuanto salga. Gracias Pati!!!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jan 13

      Hola Gina, Que bueno que le gustaron! Gracias a tí!

  12. Carlos Zepeda

    Oct 05

    Hola Pati, The dough is way to sticky to roll or put in the tortilla press. Do we have to add flour to them? Also, my plantain dough looks bright yellow and the ones in your pictures above look like “whiteish”, why is that? I will give them a try and hope they come out OK, but I am not very optimistic!!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 06

      Hola Carlos, Yes, you can add 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice or all purpose flour to harden the dough. Also, once you make the dough you can cover it with saran wrap and put it in the refrigerator. This will harden the dough and make it more moldable. The color of the plantain shows how ripe it is. The harder/less ripe the plantain the yellower it will be. I used plantains that were mature but not fully ripe, so they were lighter in color. Yellow or “whiteish” they will still taste good with this recipe! Be positive you are almost there!

  13. Irene Vazquez

    Aug 11

    I LOVE your show. My Nana was from Aconchi, Sonora and my mom was born in East Los Angeles, CA..just like me.
    I make tamales from scratch and, capirotada. They are lost arts because they take time. I love the foods you prepare and the history behind each dish. Maybe one day, you can show how to make them . ALso, Sonora has two kinds of tortillas, the flour ‘gorditas’, and a big one that seems transparent and is made without the rolling pin…I learned that by visiting Aconchi twenty five years ago but I cannot make them.
    Mil gracias, IRENE

    1. Pati Jinich

      Aug 12

      Hola Irene, It is so true that in this busy world we often lose sight of small treasures, like making tamales from scratch! I’m so touched that you enjoy the food from the show, as well as the historical component. For me, I think it is so enriching to understand the history of each dish. It adds that much more flavor to your meal!

  14. Abel

    Jun 21

    I watched you make these on your show and have been craving them ever since. I found this page and read the story behind them and went out and bought the tortilla press (because I have been procrastinating on that) so that I could make these (without having to roll).
    They are incredible, truly. If you like plantanos and frijoles negros it is impossible not to like these.
    Thank you!

  15. Jimena

    May 20

    Y como haces la salsa?? Suena deliciosa!!!

  16. Judith R

    May 02

    Pati, thanks to your post about these Plantain Quesadillas I had a “must go to” restaurant on my itinerary last week when I visited Mexico City =)
    I had read your post a few months ago and despite the obsessive craving I had after that, I couldn´t find the time to cook this recipe…but now I know I have to cook!!!
    You were right….They are to die for!!! (I had 4 of them hehehe)
    Thanks, although this is a cooking blog you gave my family trip a twist of culinary adventure =)

  17. Nate Tanner

    Apr 26

    Pati, We watched your show and gave the recipe a try. They were delicious! I only wish that we had made more. I’ve shared your recipe on my blog and linked back to this page. So why do they call this a quesadilla if there is no queso?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Apr 26

      Hello Nate,
      I just saw your post! That is great that you tried them and you liked them, and thank you for writing about them…
      It is a great question that you ask: Not all quesadillas have cheese “queso” though many do. A quesadilla is known for 2 things. 1. their shape, which is like a turnover and 2. because of what the outside is made with, it can be corn flour dough, corn tortillas flour tortillas or other ingredients that work well for dough such as plantains in this case. However, quesadillas are never made with all purpose flour dough, those are called empanadas.

  18. Judith R

    Dec 29

    I totally loved your review, so much I´ve already told my husband he has to eat there next time he flies to D.F., they look so tempting I almost feel like cooking =)
    Your dad rocks!!!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 30

      Thank you Judith! Try making them at home…. I will pass on your comments to my dad, he will be delighted ; )

  19. Janet Levin

    Dec 26

    This is the first December in a dozen years that I am not in Mexico (Teacapan, on the west coast), but rather in Alaska… and literally laughing and weeping, drooling over recipes while drinking agua de jamaica that was already in the fridge (especially I love your salad recipe that uses the blossoms) even though the temps outside are well below zero… Your husband’s comment “Pues que te puedo decir….no solo es con la comida que haces arte….” is especially delightful in addition to those from your dad.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 28

      Hi Janet,
      So happy you found my site then! I hope these stories and recipes bring you the overall Mexican warmth we are familiar with ; ) Thank you so much for your lovely comments and happy New Year!

  20. Carla B.

    Nov 16

    Wow, thanks for that clarification! That’s the kind of distinction one wouldn’t know about unless you’d lived and cooked in Mexico. I love the details.

  21. Carla B.

    Oct 29

    P.S. What makes these “quesadillas” and not “empanadas”, by the way?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 31

      Hi Carla B,
      So happy you made them and liked them! The difference between quesadillas and empanadas in Mexican cooking, is that we tend to refer to empanadas as the turnover looking foods that have dough made with all purpose flour. Whereas quesadillas are made with tortillas, corn dough or other kinds of dough… Like these plantain ones!

  22. Carla B.

    Oct 29

    Wow! So many Carlas responding on your blog!
    I made this last night and it was terrific! Like your reader Kimberly, my plantains split in the boiling water too, but it didn’t seem to make a difference; I pulled them out after 20 min. I used wax paper in the tortilla press, and that worked like a charm. My husband doesn’t eat beans, so I’m also going to try these with some kind of ground pork mixture – maybe with garlic, onions, nutmeg, allspice. But I love how the creamy texture of the refritos and the plantain masa meld together under the crispy outer crust. Thanks for an awesome, creative recipe.

  23. Carla

    Sep 14

    I linked over from AT’s The Kitchn & so glad I did. I’m a Cubanita from NJ who is now a New Englander. I crave good Spanish food & this looks divine. I ate something just like this on my honeymoon several years ago & it was so amazing I took pictures of the dish & called home to tell friends about it. My hubby thought I was mad. I still talk about them. So I will definitely be trying these! Gracias =)

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 15

      Hi Carla, I heart Cuban food! And they also eat so many plantains in so many different ways… No need to thank: My pleasure.

  24. aubrey

    Sep 14

    These look amazing! I’d love to try them with a little bit of melty white cheese mixed in. Or ground turkey!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 15

      Oh yes Aubrey! I have tried them with cheese and it works wonders …

  25. Kimberly

    Sep 12

    Dear Pati,
    I made these empanadas last night. The peel on the plantains split open in the water while they were boiling. Are they supposed to do that or does that mean that I over boiled them? When I blended the plantains the dough was really sticky and hard to work with. I patted a little bit of flour around them just so that I could flatten them in the tortilla press. They also absorbed alot of oil when I fried them. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 15

      Hi Kimberly,
      Some plantains have thicker skin than others, and its ok if they open while cooking. You can keep water at a gentler simmer, so they won’t break apart too much. As for the dough, it is sticky!! You may add a bit more flour to the mix and wet your hands before you make the balls. As for the oil, it should be rather hot before you insert the quesadillas, but at medium heat so they don’t burn. So let the oil heat for anywhere form 4 to 6 minutes before you add the quesadillas. If the oil is very hot, the quesadillas will absorb less of it. When you take them out, place them on paper towels, so the excess of oil can be absorbed there… I hope that helps!

  26. Sophia

    Aug 30

    I could totally eat cheese and bread in any form, especially quesadillas. They’re so easy to make and they really fill me up. I usually make these Quick Chicken Quesadillas. I love them!

  27. Paige Orloff

    Jul 13

    Yum, I have to make these for my kids, who will love them, but more important: HOW GREAT WAS IT TO SEE YOU ON THE TODAY SHOW!!!! while I was sweating my brains out at the gym yesterday????? I turned on the monitor when your segment was underway, so I missed the intro, and the whole time I was going crazy, because they never once again said your name, and I was nearly certain it was you, but you know, having never met outside the digital world, I couldn’t be absolutely sure. So, so cool, and the tinga looked fab (almost as fab as you.) Congrats, and keep it up!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 14

      Hey Paige!
      Thank you so much for your lovely message. So glad you saw it, and liked it, and recognized me even without the name!!

  28. Maura

    Jul 11

    Pati, El Bajío is hands down one of my all-time favorite restaurants in the DF. I’ve written about it on my blog, and undoubtedly will write about it more because I make it a point to visit each time I go to Mexico City. In fact, El Bajío was the first restaurant I ever ate at on my very first visit to Mexico City! I still remember what I ate. Our family most often frequents the Polanco location (mostly because abuelita lived a few blocks away for many years). These empanadas are one of my favorite things they make – and they are not always on the menu! But if you ask, they will always make them. Last summer, I went on an experimental quest to figure out the recipe on my own because I was craving them so badly. I did end up with a very delicious replica, though my recipe differs ever-so-slightly from yours. These empanadas, by the way, are Veracruz-style. My suegra has shared many fond memories of growing up eating these little empanadas in Veracruz where her family originally was from, and kept a second home up until just a few years ago after her mother passed away. Que rico! Thank you for bringing them up! I’ll be sharing my own recipe for them on my blog before the end of the summer.

  29. Kitty Gordon

    Jul 11

    Oh my God, I’m from Tapachula, Chiapas and have lived in Mexico city, Mty., Cancun, traveled to lots of places in Mexico and never tasted or heard of these. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I must make them ASAP. My daughter and I love plantains but there is only one place where we can buy them nice and ripe, they bring them from El Salvador. If I get them green from any other store it’s always that 50/50 chance that they will not ripe right. I even put them in a paper sack. Do you have any suggestions?
    I love your Dad comments!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 13

      Thank you Kitty!
      For letting green plantains ripen, I suggest just leaving them outside of the refrigerator, in your kitchen without any paper or paper bag… The more yellow that you can buy them though, the better! My dad will be so happy that you liked his comments ; )

  30. Magic of Spice

    Jul 09

    Those look fantastic, and great post:)

  31. Carla P

    Jun 29

    Beautiful pictures and excellent writing! I felt I was in Mexico City at your table, experiencing it all. Thank you for sharing such an incredible moment in your life!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 30

      Hi Carla,
      Thank you so much for your lovely comment ; )

  32. Jennifer Leal

    Jun 27

    Will your Dad adopt me? :o)

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 27

      I am sure he would!

  33. shayma

    Jun 27

    oh, isnt it so lovely to be bossed around by those we love and who love us back? it must be utter heaven going to this place with your father and being bossed around. i love it. x shayma

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 27

      Dear Shayma,
      You made me laugh!! Yes! It is absolute heaven to be bossed around by those we love and who love us back ; )

  34. Olivia

    Jun 27

    Perfect timing…I just bought a couple of plantains and wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them. Thanks for the recipe!

  35. Sharon

    Jun 26

    Me hiciste llorar!!! Te adoro…Sharon

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 26

      En el verano nos las comemos juntas… Y lloramos! Te adoro tambien, Pat.

  36. Jennifer Leal

    Jun 26

    Those look wonderful. Are they made with refried black beans?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 26

      Hi Jennifer,
      Yes they are, filled with refried beans. And they are scrumptious!

  37. Tu Marido

    Jun 26

    Pues que te puedo decir….no solo es con la comida que haces arte….

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 26

      ; )

  38. Jennifer Leal

    Jun 26

    Oh those look so good! They look like they were stuffed with black beans. Which is better?

  39. moises drijanski

    Jun 26

    dear chef patricia:
    am so glad that you are finally geting to the escence of the food in general, its not only one of the senses that plays the role in eating, its the other four senses that when you become a genius in cooking, you have to understand how important is the whole.
    ej. when i told you that the quesadilla was 25 inches long, its not realy the phisical size, its the size of pleasure i got from the quesadilla.
    well im so proud of the way you focus your speciality, and thats why i think you got there already
    YOU MAKE FROM FOOD….MAGIC, MUSIC, A PAINTING, ETC,and at the end that is whats all about
    i love you dearly,
    tu pa

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 26

      I love you dearly too!!! Though you boss me around…

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