Applebee's is one of those iconic 90s chain restaurants known for half-priced appetizers and large plates of food that don't break the bank. The chain has had its rise and fall over the years, but if there's one thing we can count on at Applebee's, it's that it serves reliably solid bar food. There's nothing fancy or extravagant about it, but they have a classic (or a spin on a classic) to pair with your favorite drink.
Applebee's quesadilla burger is the perfect example. They have several classic burgers on the menu when you're in the mood for a stand-by favorite. Or, if you can't decide between Tex-Mex and American, order up their famous quesadilla burger. The menu describes as accurately as it gets: "Part burger, part quesadilla, all taste."
It seems like one of those items that's too complicated to make at home, but we wanted to put it to the test to see if it was worth the effort. Spoiler alert: Making it wasn't as difficult as we thought!
What Comes on a Quesadilla Burger from Applebee's?
We took a peek at Applebee's menu and nutrition information to get the breakdown of ingredients used in Applebee's quesadilla burger. It starts with two cheddar cheese-filled quesadillas sandwiched around an all-beef patty. The burger is seasoned with blackened seasoning and is topped with Pepper Jack cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, and something magical called Mexi-ranch sauce.
Most of the ingredients are fairly straightforward. The pico de gallo is listed as containing tomatoes, onion, jalapeno pepper, lime juice, salt, dehydrated garlic, cilantro, spices, and soybean oil. You can make your own or purchase store-bought pico de gallo (which is what we did to save time). We recommend straining out the excess juices when using the stuff from the store, though, as cut tomatoes tend to become juicy as they sit.
The final piece of the puzzle was the Mexi-ranch sauce. Most copycat recipes we found use sour cream and taco seasoning, but the Applebee's ingredients list doesn't support this. The main ingredients listed in the Mexi-ranch are buttermilk, tomatoes, onion, salt, egg yolk, green chili and jalapeno peppers, cilantro, chili powder, garlic, and spices. Most store-bought ranch dressing contains both buttermilk and eggs, and salsa contains many of the remaining ingredients. So we pureed ranch with mild salsa, chili powder, and garlic powder. The end result was a smooth, creamy, slightly spicy ranch that tastes almost exactly like Applebee's.
How Many Calories in Applebee's Quesadilla Burger?
Okay, you might want to skip over this answer if you don't actually want to know the answer. I'm not sure I really wanted to know, because it turns out Applebee's quesadilla burger is not one of the healthiest items on Applebee's menu. With fries, this dish contains a whopping 1770 calories. For most people, that's close to an entire day's worth of calories! Things get a little better when you order it without fries (a mere 1370 calories).
Unfortunately, there's only one way to make this recipe contain fewer calories: Using low-fat cheese. One ounce of cheddar cheese contains a little over 100 calories, while the same quantity of low-fat cheese contains right around 50 calories. That said, this is an extravagant burger, and sandwiching ground beef between two quesadillas and topping it off with bacon and ranch will never approach a nutritionist's definition of health. Is it worth it? Absolutely, the burger is nothing short of delicious. So instead of trying to make it something it's not, we suggest splitting the burger if you're watching your calories or consuming it on your cheat day.
Applebee's Quesadilla Burger Substitutions
Applebee's quesadilla burger contains gluten, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, and sulfites. To make the burger gluten-free, swap in corn tortillas instead of the flour tortillas. You can make it egg-free by using a vegan ranch as the base of the Mex-ranch, but it's difficult to make it dairy-free without getting rid of all that cheese.
Copycat Applebee's Quesadilla Burger Recipe
For the Mexi-Ranch: (Makes approx. 3/4 cup, or 12 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup ranch dressing
- 1/4 cup mild salsa
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
For the Quesadilla Burger
- 4 flour tortillas (street taco sized)
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
- 1/3 pound ground beef 80/20
- 1/2 teaspoon blackened seasoning
- 2 slices cooked bacon
- 2 slices Pepper Jack cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
- 2 tablespoons pico de gallo
To Make the Mexi-Ranch:
- Combine the ranch dressing, salsa, chili powder, and garlic powder in a blender or food processor. Puree until well combined. Alternatively, you can mix the ingredients by hand, but keep in mind the sauce will be chunky instead of smooth
To Make the Quesadilla Burgers:
- Preheat the oven to 200°F.
- Make the quesadillas by heating a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place two tortillas on the preheated skillet, sprinkle each with 1/4 cup of cheese, and top with the second tortilla. Cook for two minutes per side, until the cheese is melted and the quesadillas are lightly crispy. Transfer the two quesadillas to a sheet pan and keep them warm in the oven while you make the burgers.
- Form the ground beef into a 1-inch-thick patty and season both sides with the blackened seasoning. Wipe out the skillet used to make the quesadillas and preheat it over medium heat. Cook the seasoned burger patty for 4 to 5 minutes a side, until it reaches the desired internal temperature (130 to 135°F for medium-rare, 140 to 145°F for medium, 150 to 155°F for medium-well, 160 to 165°F for well-done).
- Remove the pan from the heat. Top the burger with the cooked bacon and Pepper Jack slices and cover it for about 1 minute, until the cheese has melted.
- Top one of the quesadillas with shredded iceberg lettuce, 2 tablespoons of the prepared Mexi-ranch, and half of the pico de gallo. Add the burger patty and top it with the remaining pico de gallo and the second quesadilla.
- Serve immediately.
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