September 27, 2013

Kidney Friendly Pumpkin Quesadillas

Kidney-Friendly Quesadillas

Fall. It’s the time of year that people go totally bonkers over pumpkin. Pumpkin spiced lattes. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin perfume. Pumpkin colored pants. Pumpkins in windows, on doorsteps, and pretty much every which way you look.

Which leads me to this announcement: It’s officially gourd season, people, and we want to be a part of it.

So I started thinking of new ways to get more pumpkin in my food and my life. Because as a kidney-friendly and low-sodium ingredient (both in the canned and fresh forms), it will help you spice up and switch up favorite recipes.

Of course, there’s always the obvious re-use for pumpkin: switching out high potassium tomato sauce for low-potassium turkey and pumpkin pasta sauce. But I’ve been there, I’ve done that. And I wanted a new, unexpected way to use the creamy texture and vibrant orange color for this 2013 fall season.

Which  led me to the elusive quesadilla.

For years, I’ve skipped making (and enjoying) gooey quesadillas due to the high sodium content of cheese. I’ve made alternative versions with zucchini ribbons (which are fab for dinner parties). But I still craved the  velvety texture of the original, cheesy, stringy, melty quesadilla. And this is where our new friend canned pumpkin comes to the rescue.

By mixing a cup of unsweetened pumpkin with some roasted red pepper and tex mex spices — cumin, salt-free garlic powder, chipotle — the holiday feast pie filling transforms to a fiesta worthy spread. From there, you just need some salt-free or low-sodium corn tortillas (always lower in sodium than flour), a hot pan, and a rumbling belly.

Then it’s simply toast, spread, flip, slice, eat, repeat.

Pumpkin Quesadilla Filling

Pumpkin Quesadilla Pan Fry


Call it breakfast, call it brunch. Call it dinner, call it lunch. But however and whenever you decide to eat these flavor-smothered pumpkin treats, be sure to call them quesadillas.

Happy fall. Chow on.

Kidney Friendly Pumpkin Quesadillas


makes two quesadillas


  • 1 red pepper, stem and seed removed
  • 1 cup no-salt-added canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp salt-free ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt-free chipotle spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt-free garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • Fresh, ripped cilantro leaves



Preheat oven to 350 dg F.

Place the red pepper in a small baking pan and roast in the oven for an hour. Take it out of the oven and allow the pepper to cool for 15 minutes. Place the roasted pepper, the cup of canned pumpkin, and spices into a blender and pulse until it forms a creamy, thick puree.

Then, place  a medium to large pan over high heat and begin toasting one tortilla until it starts to get crispy and charred, about 3 to 5 minutes. Spread on some of the red pepper pumpkin filling and some cilantro leaves. Top with the second tortilla and flip, toasting the other side, another 5 minutes. Slide out of pan and repeat with the other tortillas.

Slice up and serve. And save any leftover spread for a dip with low-sodium crackers or fresh vegetable crudite.

+ Sodium Count: Corn tortillas: 0 to 15mg sodium depending on brand

Debra Elmore September 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Hi Jessica, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but pumpkin (and other winter squash) ARE high in potassium. Not as bad as tomatoes or potatoes but still on the list of high potassium vegetables that some kidney patients need to avoid.

The recipe sure sounds good though!

Denise September 27, 2013 at 6:06 pm

What a fantastic idea. We recently gave up dairy, alcohol, wheat and sugar to calibrate our diets, and I was looking for creative ways to incorporate more veggies into our diets. This is a great idea! Even though we are done with recalibration, we are still eating that way, just not being crazy about it. Definitely giving this version a try, and checking out the zucchini ones as well.

By the way … great photos!! Love the pretty napkin, makes everything so bright and fresh!

Jay Scott October 3, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I’m so in love with canned pumpkin lately. I’ve been adding it to greek yogurt with a little pumpkin spice (very good) and I’ve been making a Quinoa Flake dish with canned pumpkin.

This looks like the perfect pumpkin snack. I’m going to try this out after the grocery tomorrow. Thanks for the great recipe!


mannythehealthnut October 6, 2013 at 11:14 am

wow, you’ve just combined 2 of my favorite foods, but would have never of thought to put pumpkin in a quesadilla! Very timely too.
thanks for the post/recipe.

Jordan October 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm

This is a really good idea seeing as we don’t eat dairy. Nice work on your photos! We still need to get our little girls together!

Mark Knight October 14, 2013 at 11:45 am

Love your recipe for quesadillas, but I like the photos you have taken even more. Do you take your own food photography?

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