If the number of American Tex-Mex fast casual restaurants— Chipotle, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Qdoba, Taco Bell, Del Taco, Baja Fresh, and more— are any indication, burritos are a national favorite and for good reason—a flour tortilla rolled around meat, beans, rice, cheese, salsa, and maybe vegetables. A dollop of sour cream and guacamole, and you’re hitting the high flavors. But, do you want to know more about your favorite edible wrap? Knowledge and understanding food history can enhance your eating pleasure. Here is the history behind the burrito, plus a tasty (and healthy!) recipe for Chicken Bean Burrito with Avocado. Let’s get rolling.
A Brief History of the Burrito
The burrito, which means “little donkey” or burro in Spanish, is a flour or corn tortilla stuffed with meat like shredded pork, grilled steak, and grilled chicken, beans, cheese, along with vegetables, avocado, and salsa. The first recipe mentioning burritos in America appeared in Erna Fergusson’s Mexican Cookbook published in 1934 from New Mexico. The short recipe puts together two other recipes, which is suggestive of how burritos become a great carrier for leftovers.
A quick side note about Fergusson’s recipe: the recipe is actually made of three components, starting with the “Burritos” which has you go to the “Tortillas” and “Chicharrones” recipes. (We’ve put all three together for you). Be sure to read the parenthetical note in “Tortillas.” It seems like we’re all out of luck in making authentic tortillas.
Burritos became a specialty in El Cholo Spanish Café in Los Angeles in the 1930s, and became a signature dish in the Southwest by the 1950s. You can still experience the flavors of El Cholo at one of their casual dining restaurants throughout Southern California. The menu still features “Sonora Style Enchilada (1923),” the first enchilada served at El Cholo with layered corn tortillas, chicken, and fried eggs.
By the 1960s, the burrito became popular nationwide and in the 1970s, fast food chains like El Pollo Loco and Taco Bell featured them. A thriving local brand throughout California, El Pollo Loco, “The Crazy Chicken” in Spanish, specializes in citrus-marinated, fire-grilled chicken and markets its menu as a healthy alternative to traditional fast food. In 2010, El Pollo Loco was recognized by the World Franchising Network as a Top Franchise for Hispanics.
A global chain, Taco Bell is also present in Canada, India, Japan, Spain, Chile, Singapore, and more. The Tex-Mex chain serves burritos, tacos, even vegan options to more than 2 billion customers each year in 7,000 restaurants. Taco Bell claims time-tested rules for the best burritos: “The first rule of burritos is that burritos are best when they’re also quesadillas. Hence why the Quesarito exists.” And, the second rule when burritos are best, well, is that “there are no rules to burritos.” The quesarito is a quesadilla shelled burrito. Other burrito innovations include its “Triple Double Crunchwrap” with double layers each of beef, cheese sauce, and tostada shells.
Fighting against Taco Bell for the lucrative breakfast market, McDonald’s breakfast menu includes a Sausage Burrito made of scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese, green chiles, and onions all wrapped in a tortilla. And you don’t have to wait for the morning either with McDonald’s All Day Breakfast Menu.
If you’re in the car, you can get ready-made burritos at convenience stores. Just re-heat in the microwave.
But, of course, making your own burritos at home is the healthiest and tastiest option. Here’s a recipe to get you started: wholesome Chicken Bean Burrito with chicken, cheese, and beans wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. You can cruise by drive-through with your own awesome burrito in hand.
Chicken Bean Burrito with Avocado
|Yield: Makes 1 delicious burrito|
Chicken paired with beans, cheese, avocado, and fresh pico de gallo all wrapped in a tortilla makes a delicious wholesome burrito that satisfies your hunger for hours. Make a quick and refreshing slaw with shredded cabbage, cheese, lime juice, and mustard. Whip up this recipe, and you'll be powering through your activities today.
- ½ cup bagged coleslaw mix, or ½ cup finely shredded red or green cabbage
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 2 oz cooked and chopped skinless chicken breast, or ½ cup rotisserie chicken
- 2 tablespoon canned black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium-large high protein, high-fiber flour tortilla with 110 calories or less (like La Tortilla Factory)
- 1 oz (2 tablespoons) chopped avocado
- 2 tablespoons fresh tomatoes or pico de gallo
- 1 tablespoon plain non-fat Greek yogurt
- In a microwave safe bowl, microwave shredded cabbage with lime juice for 30 seconds, to wilt just slightly. (This makes it easier to tuck in the wrap). Add mustard, cheese, cilantro, and cumin, and stir until combined.
- In another microwave-safe bowl, add chicken and beans and microwave for 30 seconds, until hot.
- Microwave tortilla on a plate for 15 seconds, or until warm. Spread tangy slaw mixture along the middle of the tortilla. Top with chicken and beans, avocado, pico de gallo, and dollop with yogurt. Fold in the sides of the tortilla, and roll up around the filling. Cut in half, and enjoy!
If you want to make a huge burrito, add 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce or baby spinach to the filling before rolling up. Eating greens gives nutrients, plus fresh flavor to every bite.
One of our favorite sauces is a Yogurt Lime Sauce: Mix 2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt with 1 tablespoon lime juice, and finely chopped scallions. Drizzle over filling before rolling up burrito, or serve on the side as a dipping sauce.