Talking about burritos is a great opportunity to brush up on the differences between real Mexican food and Tex-Mex cuisine!
Chili con carne? Fajitas? You may be able to find both specialties in Mexican food, they are in fact Tex-Mex recipes. These dishes were created and adapted from Mexican recipes by Mexicans living in Texas and other states close to the border, not only to satisfy the local population’s tastes but also to adapt the traditional recipes with the regional products.
Burritos are Tex-Mex specialties that are often wrongly attributed to Mexico. But the history of these little donkeys, literal translation of burritos, is rarely questioned. Although there are several stories behind this specialty, the origin of burritos seems to be attributed to Juan Mendez, a food stand merchant from the Bella Vista neighborhood of Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua.
It was during the Mexican Revolution between 1910 and 1921, after which Mexico acquired its independence, independence that we celebrate on Tuesday. The story goes that Juan designed this particular technique of wrapping food in a large flour tortilla to keep the food warm as long as possible and to be able to transport it to the workers for their lunch.
The increasing number of orders pushed him to find the assistance of a donkey for the deliveries of his stuffed tortillas. Workers watched the arrival of the burrito and this is how this dish eventually got its name.
The authentic version of Mexican burritos consists of a tortilla filled with ground or shredded beef and frijoles refritos (refried beans). Some variants eventually appeared with other meats such as pork, chicken or even an omelette with chorizo. And it is now even allowed to add extra ingredients, although rarely more than two or three including cheese, shredded lettuce or fresh chopped tomatoes.
Burritos are also popularly called burritas in many cities of northern Mexico, and in some places they made the burritas smaller that burritos, just so they can be differentiated. Also, in Baja California, birthplace of fish tacos, burritas are filled with lobsters and called burritas de langosta.
Another interesting fact about these burritos is that they are made with flour tortillas which are specific to northern Mexico and not corn tortillas, which are the most prevalent in the rest of Mexico.
One of the reasons that explain this choice is the fact that corn tortillas tend to cool and dry faster than flour tortillas and also become more brittle as they cool. Indeed, the primary concern of our friend Juan Mandez was to be able to deliver his burritos to all his customers in the best conditions.
As is often the case with Mexican specialties, nobody was disappointed at home. It is actually my daughter Ava’s favorite recipe. She often eats these at school and order her bean and cheese burritos whenever we go to a Mexican restaurant!
- 8 flour tortillas (recipe in the notes)
- 1½ lb minced beef
- 30 oz. cooked red beans , or 2 (15 oz/400g) cans
- 3 onions , finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves , crushed
- 4 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- Sunflower oil
- Lettuce leaves , shredded
- 2 tomatoes , finely diced
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- Grated cheese
- In a hot pan with two tablespoons of oil, brown the ground beef with two chopped onions.
- When the meat is almost cooked, add the garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Stir for a few minutes over low/medium and set aside.
- Cook the beans in water for 45 minutes and keep the cooking water.
- In a hot pan with four tablespoons of oil, fry the remaining chopped onion over medium heat until it becomes translucent but not brown.
- Then add the cooked beans, drained and 8 tablespoons of cooking water from the beans and salt.
- Mash beans while cooking to get a rather coarse puree. Continue to stir.
- Add a little cooking water if necessary so the mashed beans are fairly thick but not too compact.
- Keep on low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Warm tortillas by steaming or baking them wrapped in aluminum foil to prevent them from drying.
- Top tortillas with ground meat,
- frijoles refritos
- and any of the optional toppings.
To fold burritos, start by closing the top and bottom edges for about 2 inches (5cm), so food is enclosed properly when folding is completed.
- Finish by wrapping the burrito on itself.