Backpacker Recipe: Corned Beef Quesadillas for St. Patty’s Day

Written by on March 5, 2012 in Guest Posts - 23 Comments

Editor’s Note: This guest post comes from Executive Chef Jose M. Navarro from the Las Vegas outlet of the popular Beso Steakhouse. He’s agreed to lend his culinary expertise to d travels ’round and provide backpacker recipes you can make without breaking the bank or getting too elaborate. We all know how great some hostel kitchens can be! 

I had been cooking for about five years the first time that I stepped into a cafe kitchen.  And it was probably a couple months before I had a run in with a Reuben sandwich. It was a fluke really, the cook– might have been me— fired one too many and ended up with an extra.

As for the Reuben sandwich … I had made many, but never before tried it.  The pink meat looked and smelled a little bit off. Briny and a little sour.  The sauerkraut was not much help either.  But on this particular day I was hungry.  I had skipped on lunch and clock-out time was still a few hours away. I took a look at the sandwich and thought “What the hell?”

It wasn’t love at first bite, but I was intrigued. I realized it was more my apprehension towards the meat, than me actually disliking it that kept me from realizing that I liked it! Eventually, I came to terms with it, and accepted it!  I liked corned been, and I was now a fan of Reuben.

There’s no doubt. Preparing corned beef is an act of love.  Sure, there are quick recipes out there, but good corned beef takes at least five days worth of brining, followed by three hours of slow simmering and cooking. (And, if you want my recipe for this, leave a comment and perhaps it can be included in another post.)

Fortunately, once cooked, corned beef can be used in other recipes besides rubens. I like it in quesadillas, and for those who want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a little Irish ingredient, a corned beef quesedilla is a quick, easy and affordable way to do so.

Braised cabbage


For four people (hey, might as well share the St. Patty’s Day love), you will need at least four Guinness beers (or beers dyed green) and the following:

8   flour tortillas

1/2   lb  cheddar cheese, shredded

1      lb  cabbage, shredded.  I like to use a blend of red and green.

6     oz  onion julianed

1     oz  chopped garlic

2    fl oz  oil, canola or an olive oil blend

4    oz  1000 island dressing

5    oz corned beef

1    beer (whatever you’ve got that’s cheap … don’t waste the good stuff!)


Ideally, a large 10” skillet will do the work for four people, however– not all hostel kitchens  may have this. So, feel fre to use a smaller skillet and just cook separately.

Heat the skillet over medium high heat; add the oil, garlic and onions. Once they begin to brown add the cabbage. With a spoon or a utensil,  stir the cabbage around, pushing it down.  When the cabbage is half-cooked, add about 1/4 cup of beer, reduce heat down to half and cover. Drink the rest of the beer while the cabbage cooks. Once the cabbage is about 3/4 of the way cooked, add the corned beef. Cover it and allow it to steam warm. In a griddle, over med heat, place the tortillas– with an ounce of dressing spread over it– and cheese.  When the cheese is melted, add some of the braised cabbage, one quart of the corned beef, more cheese and another tortilla.  Flip over to the other side cook for another minute or so. Cut into fourths and serve.

Is there a recipe you’d love to learn for the road? Leave a comment and let us know!

About the Author:  Executive Chef Jose Navarro is no stranger to the kitchen. He began his culinary journey at the young age of 14. Now, a few (ahem) years later, Navarro is at the helms of Beso Steakhouse’s Las Vegas outlet inside City Center. He’s worked in nearly every aspect of the kitchen, perfecting his craft along the way. As executive chef at Eva Longoria’s popular outpost, Navarro develops seasonal menus based on the restaurant concept, oversees the daily kitchen operations and trains staff. Follow along and get the inside scoop on the Las Vegas culinary scene on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

23 Comments on " Backpacker Recipe: Corned Beef Quesadillas for St. Patty’s Day "

  1. Nomadic Samuel March 5, 2012 at 9:32 pm · Reply

    D, those look seriously delicious. I love that you’ve included a recipe.

    • Diana March 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm · Reply

      Thanks!! Chef is someone I have worked with for a year, and he’s always making yummy stuff. Since I can’t cook, and I plan on traveling again soon, and my readers are mostly travelers, thinking some of his easy recipes would be great to share!

  2. Nina F March 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm · Reply

    I am so going to try this recipe!

    • Diana March 8, 2012 at 1:57 pm · Reply

      Let us know how it goes, Nina!

  3. Pete March 6, 2012 at 5:27 am · Reply

    When I read the title I was intrigued, Irish Quesadillas….. But after reading I want to give these a try. I might have a little difficulty finding corned beef and thousand island dressing here in Turkey though… That’s what improvisation is for I guess 😉

    • Diana March 8, 2012 at 1:57 pm · Reply

      Haha … yeah … I don’t recall seeing either of those ingredients!! Let me know how you make it!

  4. Federico March 6, 2012 at 10:24 am · Reply

    What a great recipe!

    • Diana March 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm · Reply

      Chef has some delicious stuff up his chef sleeve!

  5. Megan March 6, 2012 at 10:50 am · Reply

    This is going to gross the chef out, but I’m going to try this with Tofurkey. There are different flavors of Tofurkey so I’ll try to figure out which one is the best substitute for corned beef. As an Irish vegetarian, I often eat separately from my family on holidays… no steak and potatoes for me!

    • Diana March 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm · Reply

      Let me know how it tastes with the tofurkey!! Chef — any suggestions for a good flavor??

  6. Stephanie - The Travel Chica March 8, 2012 at 9:09 am · Reply

    I love reuben sandwiches, so this looks like something I should try.

    • Diana March 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm · Reply

      You should! Plus, Chef is AMAZING so if you follow his recipe, it will be delicious!!

  7. Jose M. Navarro March 8, 2012 at 2:14 pm · Reply

    Wow! Thank you for the feed back!

    If you’ve a little time in your hands, about five days, I’ll post a recipe later tonight for corned beef. It takes a little while, but it’s very rewarding.

    I saw that there’s a pastramy style Tofurkey, I would start my venturing along that route. Love to hear how it turns out.

    Again, thanks for all the positive feed back.

    • Diana March 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm · Reply

      You’re awesome!! 🙂

  8. Tawny- Captain and Clark March 10, 2012 at 12:30 am · Reply

    Thank you for including the recipe! My mouth is watering and I will definitely be giving these a test-run tomorrow night.

  9. Emily @ Maiden Voyage March 11, 2012 at 10:38 pm · Reply

    We eat a LOT of quesadillas here in Texas, but I’ve never heard of a corned beef one before! Very clever idea…

    • Diana March 12, 2012 at 10:24 pm · Reply

      Try it! Anything from Chef Navarro is pretty much guaranteed to be delicious!

  10. Erica March 15, 2012 at 8:32 am · Reply

    I’m drooling… seriously.

    • Diana March 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm · Reply

      Make ’em!!

  11. lynn B @ Gatwick March 16, 2012 at 10:35 am · Reply

    Shouldn’t it be St Paddy’s day rather than St Patty’s? At least that is what we call it this side of the pond ! I might add some sand to mine, so remind me of the corned beef sandwiches we had on the beach at Southsea (Portsmouth) on the many holidays of my youth. Ah, we lived the life !!

    • Diana March 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm · Reply

      I think it can be either. 🙂 Sand makes everything taste better. 😉

  12. Sebastian @ March 22, 2012 at 4:50 am · Reply

    I haven’t eaten much all day… now I have to go to buy all these ingredients!!!! It looks delicious!

    • Diana March 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm · Reply

      Do. It. Let me know how it turns out!

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