What is a Cheese Crisp? Mmmm... it's warm melted cheese and roasted chiles on a crispy flour tortilla. No, it's not heaven, it's an original creation invented right here in Tucson, Arizona.
The Classic Cheese Crisp is a Southwest Favorite and a meal cannot begin at any Mexican food restaurant without one!
Sometimes simple is best.
Take Cheese Crisps for example. Tortillas. A little butter. Cheese. That's it. Really. Sure, you can add toppings if you like. But just those three essentials are heavenly all by themselves.
Our hometown - Tucson, Arizona - is the birthplace of this simple culinary delight, and specifically El Charro restaurant, my all-time favorite place to eat. ((Note: We are going to do a post on El Charro soon here on EDS - IMHO they serve the best Sonoran style Mexican food in the universe.))
It is not a surprise that the Cheese Crisps there are THE best. Ever. Thin, crispy flour tortillas with a little butter toasted to perfection in the oven and then slathered with Mexican cheeses and melted again. Oh. My. Gosh.The Perfect Bite.
I decided it was time to post them here. After all, I'm an Arizona girI and grew up on eating them. Whenever I go to Tucson, my first stop is and will always be El Charro, and my first bite is a Cheese Crisp.
Yes, here we present to you the El Charro Classic Cheese Crisp, reinvented for the home cook. Ooey, gooey cheesy goodness at its best.
I know. You're welcome!
CLASSIC TUCSON CHEESE CRISPS
Classic Cheese Crisps Recipe from Arizona
- 4 medium flour tortillas (buy the thinnest ones you can find - hopefully thin enough to see through when you hold them up to the light!)
- 4 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups grated cheeses (use any combination of good melting cheese you like: I used Longhorn style cheddar and Oaxaca melting cheese. Monterey Jack and cheddar is a good, melty combo as well.)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Brush tortillas with a little butter on each side. Place tortillas on a wire rack on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning halfway through.
- Remove from oven and spread tortillas with cheese and chiles, if desired.
- Turn oven heat to 500 degrees.
- Return tortillas to oven for about 5 minutes, until cheese(s) bubble.
Easy and cheesey - my fave combo!
Thanks, Megan! Do try these!
These are seriously good, but addictive. Thanks, I think, for reminding me how much I love cheese crisps.
SeattleDee - A blast from the past!
We lived in Tucson almost 20 yrs ago and we loved El Charro's!! Wonderful food. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us. 🙂
You are most welcome Dianne. Cheers!
I agree, El Charro makes some of the best cheese crisps. Mi Nidito, on S. 4th, of course, also has killer cheese crisps. It's amazing how many people, outside of this area, have no clue what a cheese crisp is! All locals, and visitors LOVE these. I can't understand why they have not become more widespread! Restaurant style cheese crisps are hard to duplicate at home. Thank You so much for this recipe!
Hi Paul, We love Mi Nidito! And, if you want to go really "old school Sonoran" cheese crisp, Casa Manana in Safford, Arizona still makes the good ol' deep fried cheese crisp with green chile strips. The Casa may be the only restaurant standing that still serves them.
I just broil the cheese crisps and they are delicious, but find the thinest flour tortillas!
Ooops! Thinnest tortillas...
Amen, Paul! I once went to a really bad restaurant that offer Cheese Crisps on the menu. They brought me a flour tortilla that had cheese sprinkled on top and had been heated in a microwave oven. No, I am not making that up! I may have to come to Tucson soon for a REAL cheese crisp!
I ate often at the old El Charro in the 1940s when it was on the plaza which became the La Placita development. We always started the meal with a cheese crisp. I remember Monica Flinn at the cash register and the player piano with rolls of Mexican songs piled on top of it. Both of my grandmothers knew Monica and visited her in her home where El Charro now is. She was a true cook with a variety of sauces and tastes to delight the palette. I'm glad to know that the cheese crisp was invented in Tucson. They are hard to find outside of Arizona
Thanks for leaving your own personal memory of El Charro - favorite restaurant on the planet!
My first taste of this delicious treat was in 1978 when we had first moved to Tucson from Iowa. I had NO idea what these were! We had gone to Las Margaritas on Oracle and ordered one as an appetizer, which was recommended to us by the waiter. Oh my goodness, I was in love at first bite! They don't have these where I live now, in Las Vegas, but I can now make my very own version. Thank you so very much for this recipe! I made it tonight, and it was perfect! The Old Pueblo lives! =)
Jami - YOU are a kindred spirit!
I went to the U of A from 72-76 and used to love the cheese crisps at Casa Molina's on Speedway. I have travelled all over and never had another like it except when I was in Scottsdale a couple of years ago and had one at Los Oliva's. Anyone know the secret to making a great cheese crisp?
The recipe is located above the comments Fred. I've made it, and followed it to a "t" and it is wonderful! Just like we used to get in Tucson!
Growing up in Arizona, I was raised on cheese crisps... and discovered long ago that they are local to Arizona. Macayo's in Las Vegas is the only place outside AZ I've found 'em, but Macayo's started in AZ). I'm now living in Canada and hunger for the Sonoran-style comfort food I grew up on.
I've tried to re-create them at home, with little success. There was nothing I could do to make them taste like the restaurant ones. Your recipe using butter to crisp the tortilla must be the secret! I can't wait to get home and try this - thank you thank you thank you!
Cheese crisps and El Charro - My idea of food heaven.
I can't wait tp try this. I always go to El Charro and get the Cheese Crisp with green chilies. I don't think there is much better in the world for a great treat.
Thanks for this recipe. I used to get them in Miami at a place that is no more, Brothers II, and boy do I miss them. They upped the ante a bit by smearing them with refried beans when they come out of the oven the first time, then added chopped tomatoes, chopped black olives, scallions and a dollop of sour cream, on top of the melted cheese, when they come out the second time. Oooooeee, so good. Now, thanks to you, I can recreated my fond memories.
We're glad you love them, Bonnie! And ooooh! The refried beans and other topping are a great idea! I love mine with carne seca.
LOVE cheese, and these look wonderful. I love quick and easy. Hubby likes a light quick snack.
I am from Iowa. And have had cheese crips at a chain Mexican restaurant here. Unfortunately they are closed now. But it is one of my favorites. I’ve also been to Arizona twice and had them there. They were different in Arizona than Iowa. But I’ve been wanting to make them. And now I know what I’m Gavin for dinner tonight
Hello Heidi, I'm amazed that our humble cheese crisps have made it all the way to Iowa! They are delicious and a favorite of mine, also.
Growing up in Tucson, these are a staple appetizer at any Mexican restaurant! Moved to California only to realize nobody had ever heard of them! Found a restaurant in Santa Cruz that makes them but it’s not the same!
Hi Pandora, Isn't it amazing how delicious and simple cheese crisp is? And, how hard it is to find a "crisp" cheese crisp? I hope you like this recipe.
I remember eating these when I visited Tuscon as a kid they were a favourite so when my kids asked what we ate whilst we road tripped I mentioned this searched high and low and found the recipe. It was just as I remembered and went down a hit with my cheese loving daughter - she now wants to visit to try it in the real place and not our kitchen!
Wendy | Around My Family Table
There is nothing better than a perfectly crisp tortilla with tons of gooey cheese. These look AH-MAZ-ING!
What a delicious treat this was! It was so cheesy and delicious!
I think you're song. This IS heaven. My kid and I are addicted!!
I love cheese crisp. I grew up in Tucson and used to go to Midway Molinas and have cheese crisp. I've moved to Texas and since then north Carolina. Every time I order a cheese crisp I get a hard corn tortilla with hot cheese sauce on it. They have no idea what a real cheese crisp is.
Hi Yvonne, Those do sound more like a big nacho. Cheese crisps are an art form to Tucson girls like us. I'm happy to hear from you! let me know if you find a good cheese crisp anywhere in Texas. 🙂
I'm all about glorious cheese! These Classic Cheese Crips were just what my husband and needed this evening when binge watching a Netflix series. How fun that it was invented in your hometown of Tucson, Arizona. We'll be making them again soon!
Now this is my kind of southwestern dish! This is so easy to make and my kids absolutely loved them.
I love how easy this is. Perfect for me and my kids!
Hi Sarah, Yes! Kids love these cheese crisps! You can also add other veggies that the kids love as well as leftover taco meat or diced chicken.
I make them at least once a week. The only problem is that I now live in Texas and the tortillas are as fat as pancakes here. Luckily, I get back to Tucson twice a year and load up on tortillas from Anita Street Market. They freeze really well and it enables us to have our cheese crisps often. Haven't been to El Charo in 43 years. Is it still downtown?
Hi Jeannie, Aren't Cheese Crisps the best? Yes, El Charro is still downtown. They have also opened a restaurant on Oracle RD About 1/2 mile North of Ina. I go to the North El Charro more often. There is even an El Charro to go type restaurant in the Tucson airport (just incase you fly in once and a while) I totally agree with you about the pancake like tortillas it Texas, too doughy! I haven't been to Anita Street Market yet, thanks for the tip!
I live in Fl. Now. Lived in Globe Az which ALSO has excellent SONORA N MEXICAN FOOD. The Sonoran IS THE BEST!! I have not found one Mexican Food Restaurant that EVEN comes close to Tucson’s Mexican Food. Mexican food here is from Quatamala (sp).. Hondurus & Columbia! It’s also hard sometimes to find a standard TACO(made with a CORN tortilla! A couple of restaurants told me they only serve tacos in a flour tortilla & the taco made with a corn tortilla is not a real Taco!!! ....& not ONE RESTAURANT has heard of a CHEESE CRISP OR A DRLICIOUS BOWL OF GREEN OR RED CHILE!! Would love to have a 1/3 plate!! Refried beans, Spanish rice ,green Chile & a flour tortilla!!! The salsa here is awful! Don’t know what a half green/half bean burro is! Burros are called Burritos . We do have a TACO BELL... when I’m desperate! Globe Az & TUCSON AZ REALLY HAVE THE BEST MEXICFN FOOD IN THE UNITED STATES! Also Mesa, Gilbert, Scottsdale,Phx etc also have a few good restaurants. Ppl from Globe, Tucson have moved to these areas & serve the Sonoran style Mexican food but they are few & far between!!! MISS AZ!! The ppl & the food!
Hi Peggy, I totally agree, Sonoran Mexican Food is the best! Tucson food is at the top of my list. Do you have a favorite Mexican food dish that you especially miss?
Great recipe! Had in Arizona when I was living there and tried a recipe online and wasn’t that great but your recipe is amazing. Thanks !!!!
Going to add blackened chicken to one and see how it turns out
Hi Sean, Thanks! I'm so glad you like the recipe. Cheese Crisps are so delicious and I'm sure adding blacked chicken will be perfect on them. Please let me know how it goes, I'd love to hear.
I grew up in Tucson. I left for college in 1984 at the tender age of 31. I lived in Tucson for about 25 years, El Charro is everything you say and I love their food but my first stop is always Lucky Wishbone for some steakfingers. I wish they would allow franchises.
Oh yes! Lucky Wishbone is one of my all-time favorites! Beats the Colonel every time.
Well I made this today from this recipe and must say pretty dang good......we had the best Mexican place in Coral Gables, (Miami, FL!) Mexico Lindo's and ate there often in the 70's, they were the best, need to tweek my recipe etc., but brought back so many memories......
HI Kathy, I'm so glad you liked them! Isn't it funny how food can bring back so many memories? You can try these with all kinds of toppings!
Hi Sandy, does this recipe work with both corn and flour tortillas (I prefer flour), and if so, does the cooking time/heat need to change depending on the type? Thanks!
Hi John, Great question! This recipe works best with flour tortillas.
I have been making these for years, but I fry the tortillas in oil, they get golden, puffy, light and delicious., I add the cheese and place under a broiler for a couple minutes. I also add onions on top,
Just gotta have the chiles! 🙂 It's hard finding the thin flour tortillas here, but when I find them, this does make a great snack! Your pictures show just how yummy these are.