Huitlacoche Quesadilla

Huitlacoche Quesadilla  – Recipe by FUNGIWOMAN 

Topped with fresh salsa and filled with huitlacoche, tomatoes, corn and melted white cheddar, this quesadilla is a time-tested nutritious Mexican dish.


🍽 Jump to the recipe ↓

Corn Smut (Ustilago maydis)

Corn Smut / Huitlacoche – Ustilago maydis

Ustilago maydis, a pathogenic fungus, attacks corn plants and causes corn kernels to swell up into tumor-like galls which resemble river rocks. It is a traditional Mexican delicacy known as huitlacoche that was first discovered by Aztec farmers. Farmers in the north have a much more derogatory name for it, corn smut, since it destroys their corn crops. 

What is it?

The fungus, which does not have the most appetizing appearance, infects maize and invades its ovaries, which causes the corn kernels to swell up into tumor-like galls, whose tissues, texture, and developmental pattern are mushroom-like. The galls grow to 4 to 5 inches in diameter and resemble river rocks when young. This is the best stage to pick them—when they have a silky appearance and the greyish skin is still intact, but you can easily burst it with your finger. Be careful about picking the galls too early, because they can be bitter. As the galls grow, they will eventually rupture, releasing the blue-black spores into the air. At this stage, the mushroom looks like it's past its edible stage, because the spores also start to liquify and it looks like the mushroom is rotting, but it isn't and many indigenous farmers will still pick it like this. 

Corn Smut / Huitlacoche – Ustilago maydis
The galls are light gray in color on the outside and have a spongy texture. Firm samples are overripe and bitter. The inside is filled with blue-black spores. 

Where can you find it?

Your best bet of finding fresh corn smut is from early summer to fall since it follows corn season. However, instead of harvesting it when the ears are ripe and ready, you get it when you see it. Usually, corn smut will grow after heavy rains and once the spores infect the plant, it takes about 10 days for the galls to appear. 

Make sure that the fields are not sprayed with pesticides—you wouldn't want to eat corn smut sprayed with chemicals. We have lots of corn fields around our family summer house in the Czech Republic and I was able to find a full basket within an hour of walking in a corn field. I found out that it's more frequent by the edges of the fields, where the corn plant is more likely to be damaged and the spores are more likely to infect it. In the US, you're not very likely to find it because fields are sprayed with fungicides.

If you can't find fresh corn smut yourself and you live in Mexico, you can just head to a farmer's market. Otherwise, your best option is to buy it canned in Mexican or international food stores or online.

What does it taste like?

While northern corn farmers despise this pathogenic fungus, because it destroys corn crops, in Mexico it is a prized ingredient known as huitlacoche, a delicacy with many nutritional benefits that is usually eaten as a filling in quesadillas, tacos, and soups.

The bulbous blue-black galls retain much of the corn flavor, but they also have a rich earthy taste that makes it distinctly fungal. Nobel laureate Octavio Paz wrote that huitlacoche is a symbol of Mexican culture with its communion of flavors, passionate color and robustness. Compared with corn, huitlacoche contains a much greater amount of the amino acid lysine, which helps the body absorb calcium, and it plays an important role in the formation of collagen, a substance important for bones and connective tissues including skin, tendons, and cartilage. 

The gray fungus turns into a black oily paste with heat, which is a signature characteristic of this ingredient and the reason why many dishes that contain huitlacoche have a dark hue. 

Huitlacoche Quesadilla 

Huitlacoche Quesadilla  – Recipe by FUNGIWOMAN

Topped with fresh salsa and filled with huitlacoche, tomatoes, corn and melted white cheddar, this quesadilla is a time-tested nutritious Mexican dish.

Huitlacoche is a traditional ingredient in many Mexican dishes and is often used as a meat replacement. Huitlacoche quesadillas are by far the most popular form of consumption of huitlacoche and are available all over central and southern Mexico from the griddles of street carts, restaurants, and municipal markets.  


Please be extremely careful cooking and eating foraged mushrooms. Never eat a mushroom that you are not 100% sure of its ID. The best way to learn how to identify and forage for edible mushrooms in your area is to join a local mushroom club or go with a trusted mushroom identifier or a mycologist. Then, even if you are 100% sure of its ID and know it's an edible mushroom, always try small quantities of a new mushroom first before eating a large batch to make sure it sits with you well. 

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes


  • 2 large nonstick skillets


Corn Smut / Huitlacoche – Recipe by FUNGIWOMAN

Huitlacoche are enlarged corn kernels due to the fungal infection by Ustilago maydis.


Huitlacoche Mixture

  • 3-4 medium whole tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 250 g fresh huitlacoche 
  • ½ cup fresh corn 
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • salt


  • 2 large flour tortillas
  • 200 g shredded cheese (white cheddar, etc.)
  • pico de gallo to serve


    Preparing huitlacoche mixture | Huitlacoche Quesadilla – Recipe by FUNGIWOMANThe grey galls turn into a black oily paste. Adding tomatoes to the mixture helps cut the strong flavor of huitlacoche. At the end, add cilantro or the traditional epazote. I didn't have any on hand, so I used parsley instead.

    Huitlacoche Mixture

    1. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Score the bottom of each tomato with and X, then put in the boiling water for 30 seconds or until the skin around the X starts to peel back. Remove the tomatoes, cool, peel, halve and squeeze out the seeds. Chop the tomatoes. 

    2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until translucent.

    3. Add the huitlacoche and cook, breaking up the galls with a spoon, until a black paste forms. This can take anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes depending on the moisture retained by the galls.

    4. Add the tomatoes and corn, mashing up the mixture further until the pan is nearly dry. Season the mixture with salt to taste. Add the cilantro and reserve.


    1. Lightly grease a large skillet. Add the tortilla to the pan and warm it on both sides to make it pliable. Add the cheese and spread about ½ cup of the huitlacoche mixture on half of the tortilla. When the cheese starts to melt, fold it in half, pressing it down gently to help it brown evenly.

    2. When both sides of the tortilla are golden brown and crisp, remove it from the pan and cut into wedges. Repeat to make the other quesadilla.

    3. Serve with pico de gallo on top and garnish with some cilantro. 

     Huitlacoche Quesadilla  – Recipe by FUNGIWOMAN

    Huitlacoche Quesadilla  – Recipe by FUNGIWOMAN

    Huitlacoche Quesadilla  – Recipe by FUNGIWOMAN

    Let me know what you think in the comments! I'd love to hear from you. Head to my Instagram account @fungiwoman for daily posts about my mushroom adventures. Also, check out my shop for some mushroom-inspired products and sign up for the newsletter to get updates. 



    Grab some mushy merch!

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published