Easy Arizona Cheese Crisp Recipe

There's authentic Mexican food, there's Tex-Mex, and then there are a few lesser-known (and less euphonic) variants on the southwestern theme such as New Mexico-Mex and even Arizona-Mex. Of all the foods associated with the great state of Arizona, one of the best known and loved is also one of the simplest: the cheese crisp. This dish is kind of like an open-faced quesadilla, only, as its name implies, it's crunchy rather than floppy. According to the Arizona Daily Star, the cheese crisp most likely came to be over 50 years ago. Eateries in Tucson like El Charro Café and El Minuto started offering the cheese crisp on their menus (and still make them today).

You don't need to travel to Tucson to get a taste of this southwestern goodness, though. Recipe developer and private practice registered dietician Kristen Carli shares a cheese crisp that is so simple to make, it can be ready to eat in less than 10 minutes. Carli raves, "We LOVE this dish," and says it's "something I grew up with growing up in AZ and it's something we get out all the time." (Her favorite places to order cheese crisps are Macayo's and Ajo Al's.) While Carli's recipe makes just a single serving, you might want to have extras on hand so you don't have to share yours. Trust us, you'll want to keep every bite for yourself!

The ingredients you'll need to gather for this cheese crisp recipe

This cheese crisp, which is something Carli describes as "super thin pizza but [with] no sauce and instead green chiles," requires only four ingredients. Some, if not all, of these ingredients are things you probably already have on hand. The base of the crisp is made from a large flour tortilla, and yes, it does need to be flour. If you use a corn tortilla instead, what you'll have is a cheese tostada.

In addition to the tortilla, you'll need butter, of course, and some cheese, otherwise you'd have just a "crisp." Carli kept things simple by using a pre-shredded Mexican cheese blend. To top off her crisp, she likes diced green chiles, the kind that come in a can.

How to make the cheese crisp

Before you begin making your cheese crisp, take just a moment to set the oven to 350 F. That way, it will have time to preheat while you go about the not-very-arduous task of assembly. Place the tortilla on a pizza pan or baking sheet, and use a fork to poke a few holes in it — gently, as you don't want to damage the pan. 

Brush the tortilla with melted butter, then sprinkle it with shredded cheese. Spread the cheese evenly over the tortilla, then spoon the chiles over the top of the cheese. Bake the chile/cheese-topped tortilla for three to five minutes until the cheese has melted and the tortilla is crisp, but not too crisp. Carli says, "This is not super crunchy," so don't leave it in too long since, as she adds, "You don't want the cheese to be burnt."

What to serve with it

If you're making your cheese crisp for a quick afternoon snack, it's substantial enough to tide you over until dinner, but it will be even better with a nice glass of horchata or perhaps a cold Mexican beer should the sun be over the yardarm (whatever that may be).

Another great way to serve cheese crisps would be to cut them into quarters or eighths before baking, then serve these mini crisp wedges as an appetizer. If you're having cheese crisps with a meal, they go great with Mexican food. As Carli puts it, "I love this with my typical order of ground beef taco with a bean tostada when eating this out!" Of course, you could also pair them with another Arizona classic, the Sonoran dog: a bacon-wrapped, bean and salsa-topped frank wrapped in a soft bolillo bun.

How to dress up your cheese crisp

While the cheese crisp in its basic form is simplicity itself, this recipe is eminently tweakable. You can, of course, substitute your favorite meltable cheese. Cheddar and Monterey (or pepper) jack, or a blend of the two, are popular choices. You can also swap out the mild green chiles for diced pickled jalapeños. Carli suggests serving the cheese crisp with hot sauce (her favorite topping), and says it would also be great with black olives and black beans. You could even turn your cheese crisp into something resembling a Mexican pizza by adding heartier toppings such as refried beans and chorizo. Yet another way to dress up your cheese crisp would be with dipping sauces served on the side. Carli tells us her go-to cheese crisp dips are salsa, guac, and sour cream.

If you like, you can even veer way off the beaten path, as the El Charro Café does with its dessert cheese crisp. As the Arizona Daily Star revealed, this sweet version is made with mango-infused cheese and topped with cinnamon sugar and sliced fruit.

Easy Arizona Cheese Crisp Recipe
5 from 38 ratings
You don't need to travel to Tucson to get a taste of this southwestern goodness. This Arizona cheese crisp recipe comes together in less than 10 minutes.
Prep Time
Cook Time
cheese crisp with sour cream
Total time: 8 minutes
  • 1 large (10 to 12-inch) flour tortilla
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican-style cheese blend
  • 2 tablespoons diced green chiles
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place the tortilla on a large pizza pan. Using a fork, poke several holes in the tortilla.
  3. Brush the tortilla all over with the melted butter.
  4. Top the tortilla with shredded cheese, spreading evenly. Sprinkle green chiles over the cheese.
  5. Bake the cheese crisp for 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!
Calories per Serving 892
Total Fat 71.4 g
Saturated Fat 40.8 g
Trans Fat 2.5 g
Cholesterol 195.7 mg
Total Carbohydrates 27.7 g
Dietary Fiber 1.5 g
Total Sugars 2.6 g
Sodium 1,218.1 mg
Protein 36.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Rate this recipe