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Chimichanga vs Burrito: The Ultimate Tex-Mex Guide

November 20, 2020 4 min read

Chimichanga vs Burrito: The Ultimate Tex-Mex Guide

Chimichanga vs burritos. The ultimate battle between two of Tex-Mex cuisine’s most iconic tortilla staples is a battle that’s bursting with salsa and brimming with guacamole. But as tasty as this foodie showdown is, are there really that many differences between these two types of food?   

Chimichangas aren’t burritos; that much we know. But exactly what makes a burrito a burrito, and what’s in a chimichanga? To get to the bottom of this Tex-Mex mystery, we decided to delve deep into the world of chimichangas and burritos. 

Who invented the chimichanga? Are burritos Mexican? What does chimichanga mean? 

Keep reading to discover the answers to these important Tex-Mex questions and more. 

What is a burrito? 

Everyone knows what a burrito is, right? You take a large burrito tortilla, and you wrap up beans, rice, meat, vegetables, cheese, and salsa, then chow down on this glorious creation.  

You can find burritos for sale across the world, but the most popular types of burritos today aren’t exactly the traditional burrito types. The burrito origin story is one that’s shrouded in myth. The name itself translates to English as ‘Little Donkey’, and it’s entirely unclear how the burrito ever got this name in the first place. 

It is known, however, that burritos originated in northern Mexico, where flour tortillas became popular in the wake of Spanish colonization. The original Mexican burrito was only ever filled with beans and meat, but when the burrito made it over the border to the USA, things began to change. 

Rice, salsas, cheese, more beans, and lots of different meats and even seafood are added to Tex-Mex burritos, so today, finding a standard burrito definition is challenging. There are big burritos, small burritos, veggie burritos, and vegan burritos. What we can say, though, is that all burritos consist of ingredients wrapped up in a soft (usually flour) tortilla!

What is a chimichanga?

Just like burritos, chimichangas are an evolution of ancient Mexican culinary traditions. For thousands of years, the inhabitants of the Americas would use a tortilla press to fashion tortillas from corn, as tortillas happened to be particularly good for wrapping up food. 

The chimichanga is just one of many dishes involving a tortilla, but are chimichangas Mexican? That’s uncertai, because the chimichanga origin story is even more blurred than that of its close cousin, the burrito. The chimichanga burrito story is a story that’s intertwined, because like the burrito, the chimichanga also contains similar ingredients (such as rice, meat, vegetables, cheese, and salsa), all wrapped up in a large tortilla. 

The major difference, however, is that chimichangas are deep-fried. In fact, the simplest way to define chimichanga is as a deep-fried burrito. It’s thought that a burrito was dropped into a deep fryer, with the result being what we now call Mexican chimichangas. This probably took place, not in Mexico, but in the kitchen of a diner in the USA (in one of the border states, such as Texas or Arizona, where Tex-Mex cuisine was popularized).

This simple chimichanga definition skips over many different yet subtle nuances, which have evolved over time. The differences are considerable enough for it to be considered a distinct type of food on its own. As any Tex-Mex connoisseur will tell you, a chimichanga is not just a deep-fried burrito!

Chimichanga vs burrito: so what’s the difference?

So, if your burrito is deeply fried, then it’s a chimichanga; if it’s not deep-fried, then it’s a burrito. That’s the most fundamental difference between burrito and chimichanga. But what are the other key differences that make these foods unique?

Both have similar ingredients; however, chimichangas are often served with more meat and fewer vegetables. Burritos tend to have more beans and rice fillings than chimichangas, as these ingredients aren’t always as easy to deep fry. 

One major difference is the way that chimichangas are served. Burritos are generally rolled up in foil and eaten with the hands, whereas deep-fried chimichangas are served on a plate. Because of this, chimichangas can be easily topped with layers of sauce or melted cheese on the outside of the deep-fried burrito.

All that extra sauce and melted cheese on top of a chimichanga make it much harder to eat with the hands, so you’ll probably need a knife and fork to get the job done!

Chimichanga vs burrito: can you tell the difference?

Chimichangas and burritos are two of the most popular items on Tex-Mex menus but, with similar fillings and salsas, at first glance they might not seem too different. Now you know that chimichangas are deep-fried, and burritos aren’t, but there are many more subtle changes between the two!

Which do you prefer: are deep-fried chimichangas your kind of thing, or does the burrito do it for you?

Learn more about Mexican cuisine in our enchilada vs. burrito article or discover the types of tacos

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