Savory Vegan Quesadillas with pumpkin, apples, and caramelized onions is a unique, but flavorful and delicious combination you need to try! The creamy sweet, smoky, and mildly spicy filling inside the crispy pan-fried tortillas are a little piece of fall heaven!
This vegan quesadillas recipe features several fall goodies. Savory spiced creamy pumpkin and crisp thinly sliced apples mingle with sweet caramelized onions then get all wrapped up in a tortilla and pan fried until crisp.
It’s a fall flavor combo you’ve gotta try!
Ingredients you need
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Pumpkin ~ Quesadillas usually have a creamy component. In traditional recipes, it’s cheese. In this fall inspired vegan version, it’s pumpkin purée.
Be sure to use 100% pure pumpkin purée, not pumpkin pie filling.
Sweet potato or butternut squash purée would also work.
Spices ~ Pumpkin on its own isn’t very flavorful, so we have to spice it up. Chili powder, smoked paprika, rosemary or thyme, a little optional cayenne for heat, and of course, salt.
A tablespoon or two of pure maple syrup balances out the earthy pumpkin and smoky spices.
Apple ~ Winter squash like pumpkin pairs so well with apples. Any crisp textured variety of apple will work. I used a Red Delicious. Gala, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Envy, etc. would all be good choices here.
A firm, crisp pear can be used instead if you prefer.
More winter squash recipes paired with apples
- Butternut Squash Apple Soup
- Butternut Squash, Apple, and Quinoa Spinach Salad
- Apple Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal
Onions ~ Any variety of onion will work for caramelizing. I like to use one white or yellow and one red, but you can use two of the same. Peel and slice them thin.
Broth ~ I used low-sodium vegetable broth to caramelize the onions. This keeps the recipe oil-free. You could also just use water.
If you would rather use oil, choose one with a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, like organic grapeseed or canola oil. You’ll need 2 tablespoons.
Vinegar ~ A drizzle of balsamic vinegar added to the onions after caramelization makes them over the top delicious! Do not use any other kind of vinegar.
Tortillas ~ I like flour tortillas for quesadillas. They are pliable, brown nicely, and can be cut without falling apart.
Use gluten free tortillas, if you prefer, but I do not recommend using corn tortillas as they tend to break easily.
How to make the recipe
For the caramelized onions
Slice the onions thin (1).
Heat broth in a non-stick skillet (I love my ScanPan!) and add the sliced onions with a pinch of salt (2).
Cook them over medium, stirring every 5 minutes for 25 to 30 minutes (3) until sweet and caramelized (4). You will need to add additional broth 1-2 tablespoons at a time each time the pan becomes dry.
Once the onions are caramelized, turn off the heat and add the balsamic vinegar (5). Stir to combine (6).
For the pumpkin mixture
While the onions are caramelizing, whisk together the pumpkin, maple syrup, spices and herbs (7) until smooth (8). Set aside.
For the vegan quesadillas
Lay one tortilla flat and spread the pumpkin mixture all over (9). Top half of the pumpkin mixture with caramelized onions (10). Layer the apple slices over the onions (11) and then fold the other half of the tortilla over the top of the apples (12).
Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Wipe out the skillet used for the onions or grab a clean one and heat it over medium-low heat.
I used a non-stick so did not need any oil. If you do not have a non-stick skillet, spritz it gently with cooking spray.
Place one of the folded-over filled tortillas into the hot pan (13) and cook until browned on the bottom side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Gently flip it over (14) and cook on the second side until browned.
If the tortilla browns quicker than 3 minutes, you need to decrease the heat. You want the inside filling to be heated through before the outside is browned completely.
Repeat with the remaining vegan quesadillas.
How to serve
They also make a great snack.
You could even cut them into quarters instead of halves and serve them as appetizers for perfect fall party food!
These pumpkin quesadillas are best eaten immediately.
If you have leftovers, store them in an air-tight container in the fridge.
To reheat, cook over low in a skillet until the outsides are crisp.
You can also warm them up on a baking sheet in a 350° oven for 6 to 8 minutes until heated through and crispy on the outside.
While technically these vegan quesadillas can be frozen, I do not recommend it. The texture will not be the same upon thawing and reheating.
Pro tips for success
~ Slice the onions thin.
~ Cook the onions low and slow, stirring occasionally, until they are browned and caramelized. This will take at least 25 to 30 minutes. Do not be tempted to turn up the heat to cook them faster – you won’t get the same results.
~ Add extra broth only when the pan dries out as you cook the onions. Scrape up any caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan and stir them into the onions.
~ Don’t skip the balsamic vinegar. Caramelized onions are great on their own, but adding the balsamic adds to the delicious sweet flavor.
~ Use 100% pure pumpkin purée, not pumpkin pie filling.
~ The cayenne is optional, but highly recommended. A bit of heat helps to balance the sweetness.
~ Use a crisp, crunchy apple variety and slice it thinly.
~ Pan fry the tortillas until gently browned and crisp on both sides.
Caramelized onions are onions that have been cooked slowly over medium-low heat to release their natural sugars causing them to brown. This makes them sweet and flavorful.
Sautéed onions are simply cooked until they soften and are translucent. They will still have the sharp onion flavor.
Nope! Onions are naturally sweet. Cooking them low and slow will allow those natural sugars to release, making them even sweeter.
Yes, you can caramelize onions without oil. I use broth in this recipe, but water will also work. Add more broth/water as needed when the pan gets dry. Just be patient and cook them low and slow over medium-low heat until they are browned and reduced greatly in size.
More fall inspired vegan recipes
- Pumpkin Kale Vegan Stuffed Shells
- Vegan Pumpkin Chili
- Creamy Pumpkin Spaghetti
- Southwest Pumpkin Risotto
- Butternut Squash Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Pumpkin Dairy Free Cornbread
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Pumpkin, Apple and Caramelized Onion Vegan Quesadillas
- 2 onions any variety
- ¼ cup low-sodium vegetable broth plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup pure pumpkin purée
- 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon crushed dried rosemary or dried thyme
- pinch of cayenne optional for heat
- 1 crisp apple sliced thin
- 4 10-inch tortillas gluten free, if desired
- In a large nonstick skillet on the stove, heat ¼ cup vegetable broth over medium-low heat.
- Add the sliced onions and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until dark and caramelized. Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable broth as the pan dries out. As the onions cook down, try to keep them in one even layer.
- In the meantime while the onions are cooking, in a small bowl, stir together the pumpkin, maple syrup, chili powder, smoked paprika, rosemary (or thyme) and cayenne, if using. Set aside.
- When the onions are caramelized, turn off the heat and add the balsamic vinegar. Stir to coat.
- Take one tortilla and lay it flat. Spread ¼th of the pumpkin mixture all over the whole thing. Place ¼th of the onion mixture over one half of the pumpkin puree. Add the sliced apple on top of the onions. Fold the half of the tortilla that only has pumpkin on it over the other half and set aside. Continue with the remaining tortillas in the same way.
- Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat (I did a quick swipe with a paper towel of the one I used for my onions). If you don't have a nonstick skillet, spray it with a little cooking spray and place the filled folded tortillas in the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. You may only be able to fit one or two at a time. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until browned and crisp. Repeat with any remaining quesadillas.
- Serve immediately.
Storage/Freezing Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge. To reheat, cook over low in a skillet until the outsides are crisp. You can also warm them up on a baking sheet in a 350° oven for 6 to 8 minutes until heated through and crispy on the outside. I do not recommend freezing them.