Mexican food is characterized by variety, flavor and comfort. The country’s cuisine is known for its regional variety as well as inspiring many dishes that have become fast-food staples. Burritos have become global favorites and yet it’s rare that two would follow the same recipe. The burrito is an ever-changing wrap that stays true to its heritage.
The burrito is a mysterious foodstuff. Its name means little donkey and yet there is little evidence as to why that is. Some argue that this is because the clientele who originally ordered the delicious snack in roadside cafés and dive bars were mostly illiterate, so written menus or recipes would have been obsolete. There are several theories as to how the chunky wrap got its name. The two most convincing being that the snack was named after the donkey-driven trucks it would have been sold in or that it was named after the bedrolls that donkeys often carried.
Northern Mexico lays claim to the inception of the burrito during the Mexican revolution in 1910 to 1921. Legend has it that in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, a man named Juan Mendez sold tacos in a street stand, transported by his trusty donkey. He supposedly saw an opportunity in the new-style tortillas that could be rolled out into bigger circles than the delicate corn tortilla. He used the large wrap to fully engulf all his ingredients and wrapped them up tightly in a napkin, keeping his food hotter and making it more appealing to the masses.
Little did he know that this brainwave would lead Chipotle to create one of the most profitable food items in the world. In fact, the only ingredients that are native to Mexico in the burrito are onions and guacamole. Rice was brought to them from Asia by Europeans. Cheese, beef, sour cream and lettuce were introduced by the Spanish and, while beans were a staple of the Aztecs, they didn’t use fat to cook them in the way we do now.
How to Make Beef and Vegetable Burritos
2 tbsp oil
1 finely chopped onion
4 finely chopped cloves of garlic
1 tbsp dried cumin
1 tbsp dried coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp cider or wine vinegar
500g beef (mince or diced beef)
400g chopped tomatoes
400g seasoned cooked rice
400g black beans
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of Cayenne
8 flour tortillas
To serve: lime wedges, fresh coriander, pico de gallo salsa, guacamole, shredded lettuce, soured cream, grated cheddar and sliced red chillis.
- Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add onion and fry on medium heat until brown, then throw in the garlic, herbs and spices and cook for one minute. Next, crumble over the beef and sizzle until the meat starts to caramelize. Stir in the sugar until dissolved then add tomatoes and vinegar.
- Simmer over medium heat for five minutes and add the beans into the mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper and leave to simmer for a further 20 minutes until the sauce is rich and thick. This sauce can be frozen and reused.
- Heat the tortillas according to the instructions on the packet. Once hot, stuff the wrap with as much filling as you like and then carefully fold over each end. Finish off by rolling the burrito into a tight bundle and wrap with foil to serve. Eat immediately.
The burrito has evolved from a simple wrap with beef, sauce, onion and chillis to the raucously overstuffed and delightful bundle of joy we know now. The dish started out in the heart of the Mexican borderlands and has been updated en-route through Texas and San Francisco. Whichever variation of burrito you prefer, just make sure your tortilla is strong enough to handle the bundle inside.