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Jan 14, 2013 06:07 AM

What is a classic authentic mexican burrito filled with?

I´ve been learning how to make burritos from Youtube videos lately. And they turn out tasting pretty good. I´ve been trying to find as many spanish speaking and latino looking cooks as possible.

So please correct me if I´m wrong, but my impression of the burrito, is that it contains these fillings layered on top of one another:

-Refried beans
-Carne asada

I´ve been making my guacamole fresh, as well as my salsa, and I´m surprised of how much cilantro they use in all this. But it turns out pretty good. I´ve also made some different versions of carne asada, because I always don´t have flank steak, or time to marinate overnight. But my question is, is that combination the authentic version? Is this what you call a classic burrito?

I´d like to learn more mexican recipes, but the popular image of mexican food is pretty distorted by fast food chains, trends and marketing. I understand that tex-mex is a merging of both Texan and Mexican food, but I would like to explore more authentic mexican!

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  1. You may as well ask what goes into an authentic sandwich. Burritos have different ingredients depending on which region of Mexico you're talking about and which period of history. And if you want to set the Wayback Machine to Pre-Columbian Aztecs, they stuffed theirs with chiles and vegetables. I recall reading one burrito fanatic did research in Mexico and the American Southwest and found that 19th century American burritos were made from beans and pemmican reconsituted in hot water. Basically wet beef jerky. For a thoroughly researched history of regional Mexican cuisine, I highly recommend checking out Diane Kennedy's, "The Art of Mexican Cooking." It's available in many public libraries.

      1. A real Mexican burrito often has only meat and refried beans. I wouldn't call other versions necessarily inauthentic.

        While burritos and especially tacos are representative of Mexican cuisine, there's a whole lot more to it. Check out Rick Bayless's cookbooks. You'll find amazing flavors.

        27 Replies
        1. re: JonParker

          Burritos and their interpretations are far more common in the US than in Mexico.

          1. re: Veggo

            Agreed. What you'll find in the US tend to be variations on the Mission-style burrito, which originated in San Francisco tacquerias in the 1960s.

          2. re: JonParker

            But what then is the difference between an enchilada and a burrito? Or a fajita for that matter?

            Especially when some restaurants already serve burritos with cheese on top!

            Anyway, how come I see my flavour combination so often? Why is that repeated by so many then?

            1. re: Ramius

              Enchiladas = made with corn tortillas dipped in a chile sauce. Usually fairly small, stuffed and rolled, but not usually baked in Mexico

              Burrito = 12" flour tortilla filled with anything and everything. Acts as a meal replacement food substance.

              Wet Burrito = same as above but with some sort of sauce - which may or may not be chile based - poured over the top of it and added cheese

              Fajita = contribution from the Tex-Mex lexicon of recipes. Grilled meat and vegetables, lightly seasoned, served with tortillas (usually flour) on the side.

              What flavor combination? Carne Asada? Because the northern part of Mexico is good cattle country and those that colonized and lived in the area got very, very good at cooking beef. Carne asada with beans and perhaps a nopal paddle is a fairly common meal.

              1. re: DiningDiva

                RESPONDING TO DINING DIVA*ding ding* we have a winner...yep, from what I've learned living in SW Florida for many years and having had a neighbor from the Rio Grande Valley in TX...burritos = flour tortillas (she taught me beef & bean filled...I usually sub in a litte turkey and lots of beans for healthier)...and the enchiladas = corn tortillas...dipped...yes! This is how she also does it. Thanks!

                1. re: Val

                  Years ago when I stayed with a small Mexican family in Piedras Negras (on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande), we usually had fresh store bought corn tortillas for the noon meal. Often this was a chicken noodle soup, with frijoles de olla (whole pot beans) at the end of the meal. The lady of the house usually made flour tortillas for supper. While she was better at this than I am, they were not large enough to wrap burrito style. At breakfast we ate leftover tortillas from the other meals, and 'barbacoa' on Sunday mornings.

                  I don't think we ever had antojitos, those streetfood 'whims' that we often think of as the core of Mexican cooking (tacos, enchiladas, questadillas, burritos).

                  And the most memorable meal? Freshly sliced cucumbers and tomatoes with salt and lime juice, eaten with some oil field workers while they monitored a well.

                  1. re: Val

                    Right! By the way, if it's a flour tortilla, it's not a taco, it's a burro, fried or not.

                    In Puerto Penasco there are burrito ladies on the beaches in the morning, they usually have a couple of kinds of burritos, and will tell you what kind they'll have the next day, too. My favorite, which kind of surprised me, are the bean and the potato and chorizo ones. They tortillas are small, they're like little cigars, the burritos are hot and two or three for a dollar or two, I've had dozens of them and have never ever gotten sick of or from them.
                    Having said that, it's been too long- it's all I can do not to jump in my car and head for the border tomorrow at the crack of dawn for Penasco. One more beautiful culinary thing there (otherwise it's not really a foodie town, actually), they use Mexican wild shrimp, being on the shore in Mexico.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      It is the case that burritos are always made with flour tortillas, but it's not the type of the tortilla that distinguishes a taco from a burrito. You'll easily find tacos made with flour tortillas in northern Mexico where wheat is grown. And for instance here in Mexico City I have a favorite Ensenada-style fish taco place that offers you a choice of corn or flour tortillas. It's a taco either way.

                      1. re: Soul Vole

                        Can you get BIG corn tortillas in the US?

                        Here the only corn tortillas you get are very very small. Too small for me to bother. I make enchiladas with them once in a while. But I would use it alot more if they were big.

                        1. re: Ramius

                          They max out at about 7 inches. I suspect they cannot be larger due to the lack of gluten (strength) in corn.

                      2. re: EWSflash

                        Small, like little cigars... aren't those called "Flautas" or "Tacquitos?"

                        1. re: GraydonCarter

                          Flautas would be flour and tacquitos corn, but just meat or meat and cheese rolled tightly and deep fried.

                          1. re: bbqboy

                            Looking around the web, it appears that the corn/flour distinction is stronger in the USA than Mexico. Several Mexican sources (including Pati's Mexican table) make flautas with corn, and don't mention tacquitos.

                          2. re: GraydonCarter

                            Flautas (flutes) are usually fried, not simply rolled. I'm not sure tacquitos (little tacos) exist outside the freezer display.

                            1. re: paulj

                              sure they do. Partially depends on what part of our country one is in.

                            2. re: GraydonCarter

                              Flauta and taquitos are the same item, they're called different things in different parts of the country (similar to the hoagie, sub, grinder nomenclature in the U.S.)., Type of tortilla doesn't matter, once again, it's a regional thing.

                              They can be filled with almost anything. Potato flautas are outstanding, so are the bean ones.

                              1. re: GraydonCarter

                                from a while ago...

                                The comments(and there are many) mirror our discussion,
                                with Californians and some others maintaining
                                the flour/corn distinction.

                        2. re: Ramius

                          An enchilada has to have chile sauce! That and the size are different.

                        3. re: JonParker

                          I have never seen a Burrito in Mexico.

                          1. re: chefj

                            I have, see above. I don't doubt that they're there for the turistas, but they do a damn good job.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              They are traditionally found in the northern part of Mexico but I have never traveled in that region.
                              In Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Oaxaca I saw Hide nor Hair of them. Though in Zacatecas there where great Wheat based Gorditas that are very traditional for the area.

                              1. re: EWSflash

                                As I've said elsewhere in this thread, here in Mexico City anyway, burritos are not terribly uncommon. Just walk into any 7-Eleven. And once in a while I see them on the menu, but generally not in the types of restaurants tourists would go to.

                                1. re: Soul Vole

                                  I would bet that their presence in a 7-11 is a reinterduction from North of the Boarder.
                                  I assure you that I eat where locals eat and have never seen them on a menu in any of the areas I mentioned. I imagine that in DF there are many things available from all over Mexico and the world for that matter.

                                  1. re: chefj

                                    That's possible, but I doubt it -- they're smaller than what you usually see NOB. And I should have said *any* convenience store -- Oxxo and Extra both sell burritos (larger than 7-11's and prepackaged).

                                    I don't doubt that you haven't seen one, but they most definitely exist and really aren't that rare. I can think of six places just in Condesa-Roma that specialize in burritos, and I just remembered that the Ensanada-style place I mentioned in another comment also has burritos on the menu -- photographic proof:

                                    I remember a handful of places in Mérida that had burritos. Any notion that they only exist in the north is simply not true.

                              2. re: chefj

                                Go to any city in Chihuhua (state)

                                1. re: mextex

                                  Chihuahuais on the Boarder with the US and in Northern Mexico which I already stated is where you traditionally find them. So your point?

                              3. re: JonParker

                                True: It's a tortilla filled with anything, eggs beans Cotija cheese or any of the hard cheeses ...ect. No sour cream, bell peppers, onions...nope. Whatever is for dinner rolled in a burrito. Tacos: two small corn tortillas with fried carne asada or any meat with topped cilantro cebolla con limon. These are poor/working man's quick cheap meal.

                              4. What is authentic?

                                Burritos are not that common in Mexico, especially as you go further south in the country and those you do find are smaller than the jumbo burritos found in the U.S.. There is no one single recipe for a "burrito". The border is pretty porous with regard to how food travels back and forth across it, meaning ideas that got their start in the U.S. are migrating south.

                                Really, the only thing that matters with your burrito is if you like it. If you do, than you've been successful at creating a burrito that suits your tastes. You can put anything you want in it. Where I live burritos are tortilla, carne asada, pico, and guac. That's it. Eaters can add additional salsa - red or green depending upon one's preference. Add french fries to it and it's called a California Burrito. You'd not find that in Mexico :-)

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  Ah, typical of americans to increase the size manyfold.
                                  I actually managed to track down the one store in my city who have these big sized tortillas.

                                  But the way mexicans use tortillas, is to fill them different foods from their culture right? And all guacamole, salsa, carne asada, comes from the mexican kitchen?

                                  1. re: Ramius

                                    In the popular imagination, tortillas are often served as tacos, fajitas or burritos, but at the dinner table they are often served as an accompaniment, a flatbread really, to pair with stews, soups and grilled dishes. Large wheat tortillas can also be served smothered (see tlayudas) or folded (see sincronizadas).

                                    1. re: Ramius

                                      If you think of the endless debates about what ingredients go into a "classic, authentic" chili (e.g. beans / no beans, etc) -- with burritos in Mexico you are at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

                                      First, burritos aren't that popular in Mexico and are mostly eaten in the North. Second, there isn't really the same level of rigidness in areas in Mexico where they are eaten about what must or must not be done to make a burrito "authentic."

                                      If there is a characteristic about burritos in Mexico that is different from in the US, it is that they are smaller. Generally fewer ingredients. No french fries :)

                                      You would probably get a lot more responses if you asked for an ingredient list for either a "San Francisco burrito" or for a "California burrito" (which are not the same).

                                      1. re: Ramius

                                        Guacamole, salsa and carne asada do, indeed, come from the Mexican kitchen, but you need to understand that they are but a very, very small part of it. Mexican cuisine is breath-taking in it's depth, breadth and diversity. Simply looking at tacos or burritos is like the blind men with the elephant...they all feel a part of the elephant and assume/think that they elephant is defined by what they've touched. Mexican food is an interegal part, and extension of the culture and heritage.

                                        The tortilla comes in many sizes and even shapes, and while the flour tortilla is making some in-roads SOB, corn tortillas (and corn based items) are far more popular and common the further south you go. The primary use for tortillas is NOT as a receptcal for an assortment of random foods. They are served at every meal, but mostly as an accompaniment to whatever is being served.

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          Thank you, Diva, for that beautiful post.

                                          Originally, since only the dry northern parts of Mexico are dry enough to grow wheat, flour tortillas were a northern product.

                                    2. Mexico's a big place, and half of what used to be Mexico is now a third of the Continental US. There's been - and continues to be - a wide variety of influences in "Mexican" food and it changes over place and time. [/lecture]

                                      I think of the "classic" dry burrito as a San Francisco variation on the sandwich - stuff wrapped up in a bread substitute to be eaten with ones hands. The larger flour tortillas were used because first, the dough is more flexible so it's a little easier to fold them around the fillings and second, that's what they had available. The taquerias near me [south of San Francisco: we have a substantial Mexican population in the area, largely from Michoacan] make their burritos with beans and rice, with a variety of meats: one of my favorite places offers carne asada, grilled chicken, carnitas [slow-grilled pork], tongue, and tripitas [grilled tripe] (not all in the same burrito - the customer selects one). Pickled vegetables, sauces and cilantro are available for patrons to add as desired, and guacamole inside costs extra. Since they're meant to be taken away to be eaten at the work site or in the local park they're not covered in sauce or cheese.

                                      That's what a burrito is around here. In New Mexico, they put red or green chile sauce on anything that doesn't move fast enough: they also wrap scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, green chiles, cheese, and a small amount of bacon or ham in a flour tortilla and call it a breakfast burrito.

                                      Where do you live? See if your library can get you a copy of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America by Gustavo Arellano, for a brief history of fusion food.

                                      23 Replies
                                        1. re: sr44

                                          Wow! Being in Norway, he's doing well with burrito versions! Beats lutefisk.

                                            1. re: wyogal

                                              + 1,000! Thankfully lutefisk only shows up at Christmas here in the U..S.

                                              1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                Thank goodness! One year, I was a little homesick at Christmas. I went to several grocery stores, looking for it. Found it, brought it home, fixed it. Yep, that cured me. Just give me lefse.
                                                I brought my husband home for Christmas one year, folks decided he was a keeper because he actually tasted it.

                                            2. re: Veggo

                                              Might be difficult to simulate Queso Fresco. This cheese crumbles easily, maybe a goat cheese or cottage cheese?

                                              1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                Feta is a pretty good stand-in for cotija, the crumbly cheese you see as a garnish on many corn-based antojitos

                                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                                  I´ve been using mozarella. But our own norwegian Jarlsberg tastes pretty good in a burrito.

                                                  Feta sounds very wrong, but I might try out cottage cheese. Is that more like the mexican cheese?

                                                  I´ve seen several recipe videos on youtube where the mexicans use a shredded yellow cheese. What kind of cheese is that?

                                                  1. re: Ramius

                                                    Um, I wouldn't use cottage cheese. I can't imagine cottage cheese, creamy cottage cheese, in a burrito.

                                                    Depending on how Americanized the cook you were watching was (and if they're demonstrating burritos, probably pretty American) it could easily have just been Cheddar.

                                                    1. re: Ramius

                                                      I think using the Jarlsberg is a great idea. Mozzarella is probably the closest cousin to Oaxacan quesillo and if your mozz melts well, then it's a good choice too.

                                                      The crumbled white cheese that you often see as a garnish on things like tacos, tostadas, sopes, huaraches, enchiladas, etc is usually Cotija cheese in Mexico. Feta is a good substitute for Cotija because it has similar crumbling properties and texture. Feta is a bit tangier than Cotija, but in small amounts as a garnish the taste difference is minimal. I don't think I'd try Feta in a burrito :-)

                                                      The shredded yellow cheese is probably a cheddar of some sort. Chihuahua cheese is another good Mexican melting cheese, but it typically isn't yellow.

                                                      1. re: Ramius

                                                        Monterey Jack is a good Americanized cheese for this purpose. I do not recommend Cheddar for Mexican food of any sort.

                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                          Monterey Jack is American, developed in Monterey, California, by the Jack family, but there may be some Mexican influences. I use it for cooking some Mexican dishes, but it's nothing like the Mexican cheeses I find here - those are closer to feta or Indian paneer.

                                                          Tex-Mex cooking does use cheddar, and I see cheddar cheese used in old-style Mexican restaurants.

                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                            Agreed, though Jack is much more greasy than Oaxaca cheese. The latter has the texture of string cheese (dry mozzarella) but the flavor of Jack. If I were in Norway, I'd use something like havarti.

                                                          2. re: Ramius

                                                            Diningdiva is right, feta is the closest substitution for cotija. Cottage cheese is nothing like it.

                                                            1. re: rasputina

                                                              A hard, more aged mizithra would be closer to cotija.

                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                It would, and romano can also work.

                                                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                  We get absolutely none of the mexican cheeses here. So thats out of the picture.

                                                                  1. re: Ramius

                                                                    Do you get Farmer's cheese? Ricotta is a possible substitute for queso fresco but of course not exact.

                                                                    1. re: Ramius

                                                                      Go with havarti. Creamy, melty, not greasy -- close to the melting cheeses you'll find in Mexican quesadillas.

                                                              2. re: Ramius

                                                                The classic Mexican cheese in a burrito is Cotija. It's a dry, soft, grainy white cheese with a very salty flavor. It's not well liked by the American palate, so you often see Cheddar substituted here. That is probably the yellow cheese you saw in the video.

                                                                1. re: Booklegger451

                                                                  Cotija is closest to mizithra and other salty, hard, grating cheeses. Soft cotija may resemble feta, but then feta comes in many variants (cow, sheep, goat etc). I wouldn't put it (soft or hard) into a burrito. My understanding is that Mexicans don't put cheese in their burritos, but then again, in my stays in Mexico I never saw one.

                                                                  Cotija most often gets grated on top of beans. I personally substitute pecorino romano.

                                                        2. re: sr44

                                                          ahhhh, this makes sense, then! thanks!

                                                        3. re: tardigrade

                                                          "In New Mexico, they put red or green chile sauce on anything that doesn't move fast enough"

                                                          Easily the funniest thing I've read in a week or so. It's also completely true. Thanks!