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Taco vs Burrito

Updated on January 22, 2011

Tacos y Burritos

Which one do you prefer? Is there really a difference between a taco or burrito? I wanted to better understand the difference between these two delectable Mexican favorites. I had always thought that the basic difference between a taco and a burrito was that burritos had beans. Is this right? I did some quick research to discover what exactly the difference may be. Join me and weigh in on this delicious subject.

***Photo used under Creative Commons from jeffreyww

Mexican Cooking and Recipes

Taco or Burrito

That is the Question

Step 1: Entered "difference between taco burrito" into Google. The initial results were from websites like Wisegeek.com, Wiki.Answers.com, etc. I did not want to accept these as definitive answers to the question, so I kept looking.

Step 2: Decided to visit Foodnetwork.com. Entered "difference between taco burrito" into the search box and received no results. Entered "Taco or Burrito" into search box and received recipes for tacos and ideas for a Cinco de Mayo party. Decided to move on from Foodnetwork.com.

Step 3: Decided to visit Dictionary.com, and look up the definition of both to see if there was a clear distinction. I got some good answers through both Dictionary.com and the parent site Reference.com.

Define Taco

via Dictionary.com

Taco at Dictionary.com

-noun, plural -cos

[tah-koh], [tah-kohz]

Mexican Cookery . . . an often crisply fried tortilla folded over and filled, as with seasoned chopped meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.

More Taco Information: direct excerpts from Reference.com

A taco is a traditional Mexican dish composed of a maize or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. The fact that a taco can be filled with practically any meat, fish, shellfish, vegetable, and cheese allows for great versatility and variety. A taco is generally eaten out of hand, without the aid of utensils, and is often accompanied by a garnish such as salsa and vegetables such as cilantro, onion, cabbage, tomato, or lettuce.

History

The taco predates the arrival of Europeans in Mexico. There is anthropological evidence that the indigenous people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico traditionally ate tacos filled with small fish. Writing at the time of the Spanish conquistadors, Bernal Díaz del Castillo documented the first taco feast enjoyed by Europeans which Hernán Cortés arranged for his captains in Coyoacán. (Note, however, that the native Nahuatl name for the flat corn bread used was tlaxcalli . The Spanish give it the name tortilla .)

Preparation

A traditional Mexican taco is normally served on a flat tortilla that has been warmed up on a comal [griddle]; since the tortilla is still soft, it can be folded over or pinched together into a U-shape for convenient consumption.

In the United States and Canada

Hard-shell tacos

Beginning from the early part of the twentieth century, various styles of tacos have become popular in the United States and Canada. The style that has become most common is the hard-shell, U-shaped version first described in a cookbook authored by Fabiola Cabeza de Vaca Gilbert and published in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1949. These have been sold by restaurants and by fast food chains. Even non-Mexican oriented fast food restaurants have sold tacos. Mass production of this type of taco was encouraged by the invention of devices to hold the tortillas in the U-shape as they were deep-fried. A patent for such a device was issued to New York restaurateur Juvenico Maldonado in 1950, based on his patent filing of 1947. (U.S. Patent No. 2,506,305) Such tacos are crisp-fried corn tortillas filled with seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce and sometimes tomato or sour cream. In this context, soft tacos are tacos made with wheat flour tortillas and filled with the same ingredients as a hard taco.

Quick Poll: Pick a Taco Style

What's your favorite kind of Taco?

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Define Burrito

via Dictionary.com

Burrito at Dictionary.com

-noun, plural -tos

[buh-ree-toh], [buh-ree-tohz]

Mexican Cookery . . . a tortilla folded over a filling, as of ground beef, grated cheese, or refried beans.

More Burrito Information: direct excerpts from Reference.com

A burrito or taco de harina is a type of food found in Mexican and Mexican-American cuisine. It consists of a flour tortilla wrapped or folded around a filling. The flour tortilla is usually lightly grilled or steamed, to soften it and make it more pliable. In Mexico, refried beans, spanish rice, or meat are usually the only fillings and the tortilla is smaller in size. In the United States, however, fillings generally include a combination of ingredients such as spanish rice, beans, lettuce, salsa, meat, guacamole, cheese, and sour cream, and the size varies, with some burritos considerably larger than their Mexican counterparts.

The word burrito literally means "little donkey" in Spanish. The name burrito possibly derives from the appearance of a rolled up wheat tortilla, which vaguely resembles the ear of its namesake animal, or from bedrolls and packs that donkeys carried.

History

Mexican popular tradition tells the story of a man named Juan Mendez who used to sell tacos in a street stand, using a donkey as a transport for himself and the food, during the Mexican Revolution period (1910-1921) in the Bella Vista neighborhood in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. To keep the food warm, Juan had the idea of wrapping the food placed in a large home made flour tortilla inside individual napkins. He had a lot of success, and consumers came from other places around the Mexican border looking for the "food of the Burrito," the word they eventually adopted as the name for these large tacos.

Burritos are a traditional food of Ciudad Juárez, a city in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, where people buy them at restaurants and roadside stands. Northern Mexican border towns like Villa Ahumada have an established reputation for serving burritos, but they are quite different from the American variety. Authentic Mexican burritos are usually small and thin, with flour tortillas containing only one or two ingredients: some form of meat, potatoes, beans, asadero cheese, chile rajas or chile relleno. Other types of ingredients may include barbacoa, mole, chopped hot dogs cooked in a tomato and chile sauce, refried beans and cheese, deshebrada and (shredded slow-cooked flank steak). The deshebrada burrito also has a variation in chile colorado (mild to moderately hot) and salsa verde (very hot). The Mexican burrito may be a northern variation of the traditional "Taco de Canasta." They are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Although burritos are one of the most popular examples of Mexican cuisine outside of Mexico, in Mexico itself burritos are not common outside of northern Mexico, although they are beginning to appear in some non-traditional venues.

Wheat flour tortillas used in burritos are now often seen through much of Mexico, but at one time were peculiar to northwestern Mexico, the Southwestern US Mexican American community and Pueblo Indian tribes, possibly due to these areas being less than optimal for growing maize.

Burritos are commonly called tacos de harina (wheat flour tacos) in Central and Southern Mexico and burritas (feminine, with 'a') in northern-style restaurants outside of Northern Mexico proper. A long and thin fried burrito similar to a chimichanga is prepared in the state of Sonora and vicinity and is called a chivichanga.

Varieties

The most commonly served style of the burrito in the United States is not as common in Mexico. Typically, American-style burritos are larger, and stuffed with multiple ingredients in addition to the principal meat or vegetable stuffing, such as pinto or black beans, rice (frequently flavored with cilantro and lime or prepared Spanish-style), guacamole, salsas, cheese, and sour cream.

One very common enhancement is the wet burrito (also called an enchilada-style burrito), which is a burrito smothered in a red chile sauce similar to an enchilada sauce, with shredded cheese added on top so that the cheese melts. This type of burrito is typically placed on a plate and eaten with a knife and fork, rather than being eaten from hand to mouth as with the San Francisco variety of burrito. When served in a Mexican restaurant in the U.S., a melted cheese covered burrito is typically called a burrito suizo ( Suizo meaning Swiss , an adjective used in Spanish to indicate dishes topped with cheese or cream).

Some cities have their own variations with one of the most well-known being the San Francisco burrito.

Quick Poll: Pick a Burrito Style

What kind of Burrito do you prefer?

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Quick Poll: Burrito or Taco?

Which do you prefer?

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Time to Decide - Tacos and Burritos Defined for Our Purposes

For this discussion, we will say the following:

Tacos are smaller, filled with only meat, cheese, and fresh vegetables. They can be soft or hard shelled. They can be garnished with Salsa, Sour Cream, and other fresh vegetables.

Burritos are larger, filled with anything you choose such as rice, beans, meat, guacamole, sour cream, and vegetables. They can be grilled, fried, or served straight and/or topped with melted cheese.

Which do you prefer?

Sombreros Son Buenos

Would you ever wear a Sombero?

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Here's the deal with this recipe. My father made something similar to this when I was growing up. He didn't do it often, but I loved it. When I was in College, I used to make this for Sunday afternoon Football games, and it was a hit. The great thing about this recipe is that it easily customizable. Don't like something? Take it out! Want something else? Put it in!

Special Notes: Look for BOGO deals at Publix on Velveeta Products.

  • Prep time: 5 min
  • Cook time: 25 min
  • Ready in: 30 min
  • Yields: 5-10

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground meat (of your choosing)
  • 1 package Taco Seasoning
  • 2 - 8 oz. packages of Mexican style Velveeta
  • 1 (or 2) small can of re-fried beans
  • 1 -2 Bags of Tortilla Chips
  • 1 Can Rotel Tomaotes and Chiles (optional: Suggested by GrammaLinda)

Instructions

  1. 1. Cube Velveeta into 1" or smaller pieces.
  2. 2. Cook meat according to directions on seasoning package.
  3. 3. At the same time, combine Velveeta with Re-fried Beans and heat on medium-low stove until cheese is melted. Stir until nicely blended.
  4. 4. Drain meat, and add to the cheese and bean mixture.
  5. 5. Serve with Chips
  6. Optional: Put the entire Queso Dip into a Casserole Dish. Add Rotel over top. Serve this way for a better presentation.
Cast your vote for Mexican Velveeta Queso Dip Recipe

A Final Comment - For Tacos and Burritos Alike

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    • ellagis profile image

      ellagis 6 years ago

      Naughty you!!!! With this lens you made me think about Mexican food, which I like a lot, but in the place I live in Denmark I cannot find it!!!!!

      Now you have to send me a big box of tacos and burritos :D

    • galant profile image
      Author

      galant 6 years ago

      @Linda Pogue: Thanks Linda. Your recipe is even simpler!

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 6 years ago from Missouri

      I will have to try your queso dip. I usually just melt the Velveeta and stir in a can of Rotel tomatoes with chilies.