A sincronizada is a popular Mexican food that is a type of quesadilla or grilled cheese sandwich. It typically consists of two corn or flour tortillas filled with Oaxaca cheese or other melting cheese like mozzarella or Chihuahua cheese. In addition to cheese, sincronizadas are often filled with a protein like meat, chicken, pork, beans, or vegetables. They are then grilled or fried until the cheese is melted. Sincronizadas make for a satisfying meal or snack and can be customized in many different ways.
What are the origins of the sincronizada?
The sincronizada originated in Mexico, most likely in the central and southern regions of the country. The name sincronizada literally means “synchronized” in Spanish, referring to the two tortillas sandwiched together with fillings in between. While the exact origins are unknown, sincronizadas developed as a creative way to transform simple ingredients like tortillas and cheese into a hearty and portable meal.
Cheese-filled tortillas were likely inspired by quesadillas, which have been eaten in Mexico since colonial times. Sincronizadas as we know them today emerged sometime in the 20th century as quesadillas evolved to include two tortillas grilled on both sides. Their popularity grew across Mexico, becoming a staple food found everywhere from small taco stands to restaurants and home kitchens.
Early sincronizada recipes
Some of the earliest published sincronizada recipes appeared in Mexican cookbooks in the 1950s and 60s. These early recipes called for basic fillings like Oaxaca cheese, sliced chorizo sausage, shredded chicken, or refried beans. The tortillas were brushed with oil before being grilled and then cut into wedges.
While sincronizadas were traditionally made with corn tortillas, flour tortillas also started being used as they became more widely available. From these humble beginnings, the sincronizada evolved into the varied and customized dish we know today.
What are the most common fillings and ingredients?
While the classic sincronizada filling is stringy Oaxaca cheese that melts beautifully, many other fillings can be added for more flavor and texture. Here are some of the most popular sincronizada fillings:
– Oaxaca – Stringy melting cheese, similar to mozzarella
– Mozzarella – Fresh, creamy, and melted cheese
– Chihuahua – A mild, semi-soft white cheese
– Queso fresco – A creamy, crumbly Mexican cheese
– Queso quesadilla – A cheese specially made for quesadillas
– Monterey Jack – A mild white cheese that melts well
– Cheddar – Shredded for a sharper flavor
– Carne asada – Grilled steak
– Pollo asado – Grilled chicken
– Carnitas – Braised, shredded pork
– Chorizo – Spicy Mexican sausage
– Milanesa – Breaded chicken or beef cutlets
– Grilled shrimp
– Al pastor – Spiced pork
Beans and Vegetables
– Refried beans
– Black beans
– Pinto beans
– Sautéed mushrooms
– Bell peppers
– Roasted and diced squash
In addition to different fillings, there are a few other key ingredients that go into sincronizadas:
– Tortillas – The outer layers are typically corn or flour tortillas up to 10 inches across. Corn tortillas have a distinctive flavor while flour tortillas hold their shape better when grilled.
– Oil or butter – The tortillas are lightly brushed with oil or butter before grilling to get them crisp and prevent sticking. Vegetable oil, olive oil, butter or mayonnaise are commonly used.
– Salsa – Salsa is a traditional topping for sincronizadas. Common salsas include tomato-based red or green salsa, salsa verde with tomatillos and cilantro, or roasted salsa with chili peppers.
– Crema – Mexican sour cream is often drizzled over sincronizadas before serving. The rich, tangy crema contrasts nicely with the other ingredients.
– Guacamole – Fresh guacamole adds creaminess and flavor to sincronizadas.
– Onions and cilantro – Thinly sliced onions and chopped cilantro add freshness and spice.
What are the different varieties of sincronizadas?
One of the great things about sincronizadas is how versatile they are. While the classic version is cheese between two tortillas, the fillings can be customized in endless combinations. Here are some of the most popular modern varieties:
Sincronizada de carne asada
Thinly sliced grilled steak is the star of the show here. The steak is often marinated in lime juice, garlic, cilantro and chili peppers before grilling. Melty cheese binds everything together and salsa adds a burst of fresh flavor.
Sincronizada de pollo
Shredded chicken sautéed with onions and bell peppers is a delicious filling. Variations use chipotle chiles for a smoky spice or add mushrooms for more substance.
This fusion sincronizada includes elements of Tex-Mex cuisine. Fillings like barbacoa (shredded beef), carnitas (braised pork), or fajita veggies are sandwiched between flour tortillas with both Mexican cheeses and cheddar or Monterey Jack. Salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and jalapeños can be added on top.
For a meatless option, vegetables take center stage. Combinations like sautéed mushrooms, onions and bell peppers, roasted squash, spinach and black beans or refried beans create hearty vegetarian fillings. Oaxaca cheese pulls everything together.
Why limit sincronizadas to lunch or dinner? Creative breakfast versions pile fluffy scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, avocado, onions, peppers, and cheese between tortillas for a handheld morning meal.
Buttery grilled shrimp, fried fish fillets, or flaky crab meat paired with cheese make for luxurious seafood stuffed sincronizadas.
For something sweet, fruits like sliced bananas, strawberries, or pineapple can be used as fillings along with dulce de leche, cajeta (Mexican caramel), chocolate chips or sauce, and cinnamon sugar instead of traditional fillings and cheese.
How are sincronizadas made?
Making sincronizadas at home is easy and only requires a few basic steps:
- Assemble the fillings – Cook any proteins and vegetables, shred or slice as needed. Grate or slice the cheese.
- Heat oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush both sides of the tortillas with oil or butter.
- Place one tortilla in the skillet and top with cheese and other fillings, spreading them evenly over half the tortilla.
- Place the other tortilla on top and press down gently to flatten.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are lightly browned.
- Slice into wedges and serve warm with desired toppings like salsa, guacamole, crema, etc.
The key is to use enough filling to get a nice melty cheese pull but not overload the tortillas. Gentle pressing while cooking ensures the fillings stick together inside. Keep in mind the cheese will continue melting after removed from the heat.
Griddle or pan?
Sincronizadas can be cooked either on a griddle or in a skillet on the stove. A flat griddle results in more even heating and quicker cooking. Skillets work well too but may take slightly longer for the fillings to heat through. Use a heavy pan and keep the heat at a moderate temperature to prevent burning.
For convenience, sincronizadas can also be assembled and then baked in the oven. Simply prepare the tortillas and fillings, place on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake at 400°F for 10-15 minutes until the cheese melts and the shells are crispy.
What are some key tips for making great sincronizadas?
Follow these tips to prepare picture-perfect, crave-worthy sincronizadas at home:
Choose high quality tortillas
Start with fresh, handmade corn or flour tortillas from a local tortilleria if possible. Machine-made tortillas work too but may be thinner and more prone to tearing.
Don’t skimp on the cheese
Melty, gooey cheese is what brings sincronizadas to the next level. Use generous amounts of Oaxaca, mozzarella, Chihuahua or other melting cheese.
Get the fillings hot
Warm up the other fillings like meats and veggies before assembling so the hot ingredients start melting the cheese immediately.
Brush both sides of the tortillas
Coating both sides with a thin layer of oil or butter prevents sticking and gives delicious flavor.
Press gently while cooking
Use a spatula to gently press down on the sincronizadas as they cook. This flattens them and helps the fillings adhere.
Rest before cutting
Let cooked sincronizadas rest 1-2 minutes before slicing to allow the cheese to further set up and solidify.
Slice on an angle
For prettier presentation and clearer views of the melted cheese, slice sincronizadas diagonally instead of straight across.
Sincronizadas are best enjoyed warm and fresh off the skillet. The melted cheese will start to solidify as it cools.
What are the best sides to serve with sincronizadas?
While sincronizadas are filling enough to be a meal by themselves, certain sides and snacks pair well with them:
– Rice and beans
Mexican rice and beans complement sincronizadas nicely. The rice absorbs any extra sauce and cheese drippings.
A fresh salad with spicy dressing balances out the richness of the melted cheese. Greens, tomatoes, onion, and avocado are nice salad additions.
– Chips and guacamole
Crunchy tortilla chips and creamy guacamole make an quintessential combo with sincronizadas.
A spoonful of fresh salsa adds moisture, acidity, and brightness to counter all that cheese.
– French fries
For an indulgent pairing, serve sincronizadas with piping hot French fries, especially spicy ones.
Chicken tortilla soup and other Mexican soups go well with sincronizadas for a homey and comforting meal.
Amp up the cheese factor by pairing nachos covered in toppings with ooey-gooey sincronizadas.
What are some fun ways to customize your own sincronizada?
Once you master the basics, get creative with your own signature sincronizada fillings. Here are some fun ideas to mix and match:
Try unique cheeses:
– Manchego – Nutty Spanish sheep’s milk cheese
– Pepper jack – Oaxaca cheese with spicy jalapeños
– Goat cheese – Tart, creamy, and spreadable
– Cotija – Crumbled Mexican grating cheese
Stack with your favorite veggies:
– Sauerkraut – Tangy fermented cabbage
– Jalapeño peppers – Spicy fresh sliced or pickled
– Caramelized onions – Sweet and rich
– Roasted red peppers – Smoky and sweet
Include mix-ins for texture:
– Corn – Grilled or sauteéd kernels
– Pico de gallo – Diced tomato salsa
– Tortilla chips – Crushed on top
– Bacon bits – Smoky crispy pork
– Fried egg – Runny yolk richness
– Mole sauce – Rich Mexican chocolate chili sauce
– Ranch dressing – Cool herby creaminess
– Honey – Sweet contrast to spice
– Chimichurri – Fresh zesty Argentine salsa
Substitute the tortillas:
– Naan bread – Soft, pillowy Indian flatbread
– Pita – Sturdy pockets for fillings
– Hawaiian rolls – Sweet, soft and doughy
– Waffles – Crispy, crunchy, and wavy
Sincronizadas are one of Mexico’s classic and most crave-worthy street foods. Their endless versatility and customizability are what make them so enduringly popular. Whether you stick with timeless fillings like carne asada, chorizo, and beans or venture into novel territory, hot melty sincronizadas fresh off the grill or skillet are pure comfort food. So get creative with fillings between pillowy tortillas, pile on the toppings, and enjoy this Mexican favorite.