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History of the Burrito

Updated on September 25, 2014

You've left work late. You're child has to be at practice soon. You realize you don't have time to cook dinner and decide to stop at Taco Bell for dinner. You're thinking simple, quick and easy for someone on the go, right? Well have you ever wondered how this "on the go" food got its start?

As you probably assumed, the burrito got its start in Mexico. In fact, according to Mexican tradition there was a man named Juan Mendez who used a donkey to transport his self and the food to his taco street stand. This occurred during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921) in the Belle Vista neighborhood of Ciudad Jurez, Chihuahua. He wanted to be able to keep the food warm that he was to sell, so he decided to wrapped the food in large homemade flour tortillas. He then wrapped them in napkins.

Even back then, they were a hit with the local townsfolk. The word spread though, causing people from all over Northern Mexico to sell burritos. Although they are popular in Northern Mexico, they aren't commonly found throughout Mexico. Sure you can find restaurants and stands today in other parts of Mexico, but it just isn't as prevalent as in Northern Mexico.

Another thing to realize is that the burritos of Mexico aren't like the burritos you find at Taco Bell or other American restaurants. Authentic Mexican burritos generally only have two ingredients in each burrito and are wrapped in a thin flour tortilla. Some of the ingredients to choose from would have been: some form of meat, beans, chile rajas, potatoes, and asadero cheese. Even still, most of the tortillas used to wrap the food are made from wheat flour. In fact, in Mexico the burrito isn't even called a burrito. It is called tacos de harina meaning wheat flour tacos in Central and Southern Mexico. In Northern Mexico it is called burritas. In the state of Sonora, located next to Chihuahua, they are long and thin and resemble chimichangas. In Sonora these chimichanga look-a-likes are called chivichanga.

So now that you know the basic start of the burrito, how did something so simple turn in a variety of different choices at Mexican restaurants in the United States, not to mention the quick and easy Taco Bell? People are creative and always working to improve simple concepts. So now the once simple two ingredient meal of Mexico has turned into a multi-ingredient large meal in the United States.

One of the most popular burritos in the United States is the San Francisco burrito. It is a large multi-ingredient burrito wrapped in aluminum foil. The San Francisco origins can be traced back to the Mission District of San Francisco, California. It is said that this burrito was born in September 29,1969 by the owner of Tacqueria near Valencia and 16th. However, the owner of El Faro claims that he created the first San Francisco burrito September 26, 1961 when he served it to a group of firefighters. The debate doesn't stop there. Some California Central Valley farm workers insist that they were making these San Francisco burritos long before the restaurants did. Unfortunately, there is no way to verify who exactly is right.

So what ingredients go into a San Francisco burrito? The ingredients vary depending upon the customer's preference. Today you will find a variety of choices to choose from that will surely please everyone's palate. Although, the most common choices are loaded with meat, beans and rice. There are even burritos out there that appeal to the healthier side of life.

Heart Healthy Burrito
Heart Healthy Burrito

Heart Healthy Burrito

Ingredients:

  • 4 (10 inch) Fat Free Flour Tortillas
  • 2 cups grilled chicken strips, pre-cooked, prepared refrigerated or frozen
  • 1 1/3 cups brown rice, cooked
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped broccoli, steamed
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions:

  1. Cook chicken strips, brown rice and broccoli according to each of their package instructions.
  2. Warm tortillas in a microwave for 10 seconds.
  3. To build one burrito: Place 1/2 cup of chicken on the bottom third of each tortilla, followed by 1/3 cup of brown rice, then 1/3 cup of broccoli. Evenly sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheese over the broccoli.
  4. Repeat step 3 for each tortilla, then roll each tortilla into a burrito, forming a larger size burrito.
  5. Cut each burrito in half, on an angle, and serve hot.

Another type of burrito is called the New Mexican burrito. It is simple in nature and generally only contains one ingredient with or without cheese. It is then wrapped in a flour tortilla. The most common New Mexican burrito is the bean burrito. Just take a flour tortilla and fill it with refried beans. Hardly ever will you find this style of burrito without some sort of sauce.

An American favorite that became popular in 1975 was the Breakfast burrito. Tia Sophia's lays claim to inventing the first breakfast burrito back in 1975. They filled a rolled tortilla with potatoes and bacon then served wet with chili and cheese. McDonald's fast food chains caught on to the idea and added breakfast burritos to their menu in the late 1980s. It didn't take Taco Bell long to offer their own version of the breakfast burritos in 1990s. Of course, Taco Bell wasn't the only one to add the breakfast burritos to their menus in the 1990s. Many restaurants were adding them to their menus as well. It wasn't just the restaurants that started fixing them; households all over the United States began creating their own version of the breakfast burrito.

Turkey Bacon-Potato Burritos
Turkey Bacon-Potato Burritos

Turkey Bacon-Potato Burritos

Ingredients:

  • 8 turkey bacon strips
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons dried minced onion
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 6 (8 inch) flour tortillas

Instructions:

  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels.
  2. Brown potatoes and onions in bacon drippings.
  3. In a bowl, beat eggs; add milk, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
  4. Pour over potatoes; cook and stir until eggs are set.
  5. Crumble bacon and stir into eggs.
  6. Sprinkle with cheese.
  7. Meanwhile, warm tortillas according to package directions.
  8. Spoon egg mixture down center of tortillas; fold in sides of tortilla.
  9. Serve with salsa.

There are even more variations of the burrito. One of those variations includes the burrito bowl. It is a burrito or fajita served without the tortilla. This tradition began in 2000 as a part of the "low carb" fad. It does however contain carbohydrates due to the rice at the bottom of the bowl.

The burrito bowl wasn't the only other burrito style created. There was a tex-mex dish, called the chimichanga that was created by dropping a burrito into hot oil. Even with this burrito, there are disputes on who created it. According to the owner of El Charro in Tucson, Arizona, Madame Susan Sourkoff, it was her employee Monica Flinn who accidentally dropped a burrito in a vat of hot oil in 1922. When she did this she began to say the Spanish curse word that begins with "chi-" but she stopped herself and shouted out chimichanga instead. However, Woody Johnson, the founder of Macayo's Mexican Kitchen in Phoenix, Arizona claims he made the first chimichanga in 1946 when he decided to fry the unsold burritos from his restaurant El Nido . These fried burritos where so popular that he added them to his menu in 1952 when he opened Macayo's Mexican Kitchen.

Chicken Chimichangas
Chicken Chimichangas

Chicken Chimichangas

Ingredients for chimichangas:

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup red enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/2 onion, diced, divided
  • 6 (12 inch) flour tortillas
  • 4 cups diced cooked chicken breast, divided
  • 1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, divided
  • 1 (6 ounce) can sliced black olives
  • 4 cups refried beans, divided
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Ingredients for topping:

  • 3 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped jalapeno chile peppers
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan combine the broth, rice, sauce, and 1 diced onion. Mix and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat tortillas in a large skillet (so that they are soft enough to fold). When rice mixture is ready, spoon equal amounts of the following onto each tortilla: Chicken, shredded Jack cheese, diced onion, olives, rice mixture and beans.
  3. Roll tortillas, tucking in sides to prevent filling from spilling over.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet and fry the filled tortillas, turning, until browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels.
  5. In a medium bowl combine the avocados, cilantro, lemon juice, green onions, chile peppers and tomatoes. Mash together.
  6. Place shredded lettuce on a platter, topped with chimichangas, avocado mix, sour cream and shredded Cheddar cheese.

Regardless of who was the first to make the varied styles of burritos, we have enjoyed them over the ages. We will continue to enjoy them through the ages as more and more people use their creativity to create even more ways of fixing burritos. Whether you need a quick burrito on the go or cook a large meal for your family, I guarantee that there is a burrito out there for you. If not, create your own. Who knows maybe decades later you too will have become a part of the burrito history.

© 2014 L Sarhan

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    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      We call the flat bread here in India as Chapati, roti or paratha, etc. And the rice paper you are referring here is dosa, I think. It is rice flour and black gram flour mixture which is spread on the heated pan and roasted both sides by sprinkling a bit oil.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It is amazing that so many cultures have similar flat bread. Here in Hanoi, we wrap things with rice paper. You have really sold me though to burritos now that I know more about it. This is really a very comprehensive hub.

    • LindaSarhan profile image
      Author

      L Sarhan 2 years ago

      Mmmm... I have paratha in my home as well. Of course, I cook a lot of Indian and Arab foods so I know exactly what you are talking about. :D

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting recipes. I hope they taste very delicious and awesome. Here in India, we prepare some rolls similar to these. For example, parathas stuffed with cooked potatoes and vegetables. You can mix them in the dough itself or separately keep them between two layers of chapathis. And masala dosa or onion dosa are also like these burritos.

      Thank you for sharing this wonderful burrito varieties.

    • profile image

      minababe 2 years ago

      What a coincidence! I was just going to go out and buy some frozen Jose Ole burritos when I noticed this hub in my feed, lol. Very fascinating read--thanks. I had no idea that burritos date to the early 1900s. For some reason, I thought they were so much older. This hub also had me wondering what "real" burritos from Mexico must taste like. Probably a lot better than what we have stateside.

      I have never tried to attempt a homemade burrito (too discouraged after I disastrously tried replicating chalupas one time), but I might give them a try after reading this hub!