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.
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.
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.
The San Francisco-style burrito has become immensely popular throughout the US, popularized by eateries like The Moe's Southwest Grill, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Illegal Pete's, Freebird's, Qdoba, and Barberitos.
A burrito bowl is a burrito or fajita served without the tortilla wrap. It is instead placed in a bowl. Its establishment can be traced to the beginning of the low carb fad in the early 2000s. However, it does have carbohydrates, traditionally in a layer of rice at the bottom. It is not to be confused with a taco salad which has a foundation of lettuce, and a tortilla with it. The burrito bowl is found in some form at all the major national Mexican chains including Chipotle, Qdoba, Panchero's, and Moe's. Chipotle refers to it as the "Burrito bol," sans the "w" in their menu (bol is the Spanish word for bowl). Qdoba informs customers to: "ask for it naked. Moe's menu states: "be a streaker! Lose the tortilla!." Panchero's menu states to order "just the insides.
For author Linda Furiya, burritos evoke "pacifying" comfort food qualities that "soothe the soul." Furiya offers a unique recipe for the "Spirit-Lifting Burrito," containing Monterey Jack cheese, scrambled eggs, sautéed spinach, sesame seeds, black beans, rice, mung bean sprouts, sriracha sauce, cilantro and lime juice.