The Origins of The Burrito

BY: 
Sofia Jones
 | March 26, 2024

Beans. Rice. Cheese. Meat. Vegetables. Sauces.

Take all of these ingredients and stuff them into a tortilla, and voila! You’ll have a burrito, the portable meal that’s loved all over the world.

You can find these bundles of flavor are everywhere, treating our taste buds and hearts simultaneously.

Burritos have transcended borders, becoming a global phenomenon. They’ve evolved beyond Mexican cuisine, with fusion variations like sushi burritos and Korean BBQ burritos.

“Sometimes people say burritos are not real Mexican food. It absolutely is Mexican food,”  Mexican Food critic Gustavo Arellano explains.

Food trucks, fast-food chains, and gourmet restaurants all offer their unique spin on this handheld delight.

“There’s many styles of burritos,” Arellano explains. “People should be trying as many burrito styles as possible.” 

But what is the origin of the beloved burrito? Turns out, the history of the burrito is a bit complex.

The Origins of the Burrito

“The roots of the burrito go back thousands of years. As early as 10,000 B.C., using corn tortillas to wrap foods was a common practice among the Mesoamerican cultures living in the region that is known as Mexico today. Historians believe this was the precursor to modern tortilla-based dishes like tacos and burritos,” Quesada writes. “In 1895, a dish that could be identified as the burrito appeared in the book ‘Diccionario de Mejicanismos’ (Dictionary of Mexican Spanish) by Cuban writer Félix Ramos y Duarte. He described it as a rolled tortilla filled with meat or other ingredients. However, it is unclear whether he was referring to a taco or a burrito.” 

As for the modern day burrito, there are three origin stories. And all go back to Mexico, to the 19th century.

“Juan Méndez, a street vendor in Chihuahua, Mexico, invented the burrito,” Hide Tide Taco Bar writes. “During the Mexican Revolution in the 1910s, Méndez decided to wrap his food in flour tortillas to keep it warm and transport it on his small donkey. He then realized that wrapping the food in a tortilla was tasty and a good way to serve it.”

The second origin story, according to the outlet Vox is that “ … people from Sonora (a northwestern Mexican state) invented the burrito because it was easy to travel with. The name ‘burrito’ may have come about from its role as a sidekick to the donkey.”

Then, there’s a third theory. “The burrito was invented in Ciudad Juárez in the 1940s by a street vendor,” Hide Tide Taco Bar writes. “He portioned the food and wrapped it in a tortilla, making it appropriate for school children, whom he derogatively referred to as ‘burritos’ because he believed they were unintelligent.”

Types of Burritos

Today, burritos are everywhere, mostly thanks to fast food restaurants like Chipotle and Taco Bell, and frozen burritos. “In 1956, Duane R. Roberts invented the frozen burrito after success selling frozen burger patties to McDonald’s. He apparently got the idea from a Hispanic butcher, and the rest is history,” Vox writes.

As for home chefs, they’re serving up all types of burritos including the top 5 types of burritos:

  1. Classic Bean and Cheese Burrito: Simple yet satisfying, this version features refried beans, melted cheese, and perhaps a dash of salsa. It’s a timeless favorite.
  2. Carne Asada Burrito: Grilled marinated steak takes center stage in this burrito. Add rice, beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo for a flavor explosion.
  3. Breakfast Burrito: A morning delight, it includes scrambled eggs, crispy bacon or chorizo, and potatoes. Top it off with salsa or creamy avocado.
  4. California Burrito: Born in San Diego, this burrito packs French fries alongside carne asada, guacamole, and cheese. A fusion of flavors!
  5. Vegetarian Burrito: Packed with roasted veggies, black beans, rice, and a sprinkle of cheese, this option caters to plant-based eaters.

Brunch Breakfast Burritos

Hungry for a burrito yet? We’ve got you covered.

Here’s a breakfast burrito recipe, from our friends at culinary.net, that’s easy to make and totally customizable to accommodate every palate. Enjoy!

Breakfast Burritos
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt, to taste 
pepper, to taste
4 eggs
4 egg whites
½ cup shredded pepper jack cheese
nonstick cooking spray
4 flour tortillas
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup salsa
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
1 avocado, sliced
hot sauce (optional)

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add red onion and red bell pepper; cook for 8 minutes. Add black beans and red pepper flakes; cook for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and egg whites. Stir in cheese until combined. Heat large skillet over low heat, add egg mixture and scramble 3 minutes, or until cooked through.

Spread sour cream over tortilla. Spread salsa over sour cream. Spoon 1/4 bean mixture over salsa. Spoon 1/4 scrambled eggs over bean mixture. Top with diced tomatoes and avocado. Drizzle with hot sauce, if desired. Roll-up burrito. Repeat three times with remaining ingredients and serve.

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