What is the Difference Between Chimichanga and Burrito

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Don’t we all love food that we can buy or make and eat on the go? I know I do! No wonder burritos and chimichangas are extremely popular. These wrapped meals are yummy, budget-friendly, convenient, and can be healthy as well.

However, many people confuse one for the other and wonder what the difference between chimichanga and burrito is. In this article, we’ll talk about these two amazing dishes and what sets them apart from one another. 

So what are you waiting for? Scroll down to find out!

What is a Burrito?

First, let us establish what a burrito is. A burrito is a large flour or wheat tortilla wrapped around a filling made with various ingredients. It is a Tex-Mex or Mexican dish particularly popular in northern Mexico.

What is a Burrito

The ends of a burrito cylinder must be closed because the main idea behind it is to be able to hold it in your hands to eat it. However, there are current versions that are served on a plate smothered in sauce. Because of this, it is called the “wet burrito”.

In Mexico, burritos are often only filled with refried beans and meat. However, the Americanized version of the dish in the U.S. may contain a wide range and combination of ingredients as fillings including plain rice or Mexican-style rice, refried or boiled beans, cheese, salsa, lettuce, sour cream, chorizo, ham, beef, chicken, scrambled eggs, pork rinds or chicharrón, guacamole, and many other types of vegetables. 

There are also vegan burritos, seafood burritos, sushi-style burritos, or turkey burritos. Any combination of ingredients wrapped in a flour tortilla into a cylinder can be considered a burrito. There are no rules of thumb to do it in any particular way. 

The sizes of burritos vary greatly, and some can be huge. Mexican burritos are typically smaller than the ones you will see in the US since American versions are often pretty substantial and large. 

Burrito-sized tortillas that are sold in stores can be as small as 10 inches or so in diameter, but the ones you can buy from restaurants can easily have 13 to 16 inches of width. These are the tortilla diameters, and the actual burritos turn out to be a lot smaller once they are wrapped, folded, and closed in the ends. The bigger ones are sometimes called Mission burritos, usually wrapped with an extra layer of foil for easier consumption. 

What is Chimichanga? 

Next, let us look at a chimichanga. Also a Tex-Mex dish from a Spanish origin and a little bit of influence from Southwestern U.S. cuisine, a chimichanga is a deep-fried burrito. 

What is Chimichanga

It contains the same variety of fillings wrapped in a flour tortilla much like a burrito but deep-fried in oil before serving. It is more often to find a chimichanga with sauce or melted cheese smothered on top although this is not strictly a defining characteristic of the dish. Unlike burritos that are usually eaten with the hands, chimichangas are typically served on a plate and cut and eaten with a fork and a knife. 

The term “chimichanga” is said to come from two Mexican-Spanish terms: “chimi” comes from chamuscado meaning singed or seared and “changa” can be traced to chinga which is a mild insult or a rude expression. 

Debate Over Chimichanga Origin

As to the real origin of chimichangas, there is still currently an ongoing debate. In one story, it is said to have originated in Tucson, Arizona where it is extremely popular. According to a legend, Monica Flin, the founder of the restaurant El Charro Cafe, discovered the dish in 1922 when she accidentally dropped a burrito into the deep fat fryer. Other versions of the story say she dropped it in boiling lard towards the early 1950s. 

Flin then began to say a Spanish profanity “chingada” but upon seeing that there are children around, stopped herself and uttered “chimichanga” instead. The term, then, was kind of like a Spanish equivalent of a thingamajig. 

However, another individual in the person of Woody Johnson, the founder of Macayo’s Mexican kitchen, claims that it is him who invented the chimichanga in 1946 when he deep fried some burritos at Woody’s El Nido restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona as an experiment. 

By 1952, around the same time that the restaurant’s name was changed to Macayo’s, his fried burritos became so popular that it rose among the main menu items. 

Difference Between Chimichanga and Burrito 

So, based on these descriptions, here is a rundown of the difference between a chimichanga and burrito based on three categories: preparation, origin, and ingredients. 

1.    Preparation

First, a burrito is prepared by wrapping the filling in a flour tortilla and then served immediately. The iconic way to do it is by creating a big cylinder and closing off the ends. There are also variations like the “wet” burrito that involves a smothering of sauce or cheese on top.

Mexican chimichanga
Mexican chimichanga

The tortilla is sometimes steamed or lightly grilled to heat them up and make them more pliable so that it adheres to itself upon wrapping. 

The main difference between a chimichanga and a burrito is that a chimichanga is deep fried. It is prepared much like the same way as a burrito but dropped in boiling lard or oil just before serving. Some chimichangas are also created into a rectangular shape instead of the usual cylindrical roll.

Some consider a chimichanga as more accurately a deep-fried version of the wet burrito because it is often consumed on a plate with a layer of spicy chili sauce or melted cheese. 

2.    Origin

Burritos trace their roots from northern Mexico although the version we know and have popularized today is primarily Americanized and is an iconic dish of Tex-Mex cuisine.

Mexican burritos
Mexican Burritos

Chimichangas have a more complicated origin story regarding the actual inventor and place according to various sources, but one thing is clear: it has become known and has long been part of the local cuisine of Arizona. The term and idea, however, can still be considered rooted in Mexican or Tex-Mex culture. 

Chimichangas, are not traditionally made, sold, or found in Mexico save from some touristy places near the border. 

3.    Ingredients

While generally, burritos and chimichangas can contain the same fillings and ingredients, they also have distinctions in this department.

First, a big part of chimichanga fillings often consists of meat mixed with a few other ingredients while burritos often have vegetarian or vegan fillings, mainly consisting of beans or rice. There are also meat-filled burritos, of course. 

Burritos may contain different types of meat, rice or beans, salsa, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, and veggies. Sometimes, it comes with chipotle sauce.

Chimichangas, on the other hand, can contain different meats like shredded chicken, carne seca or dried beef, carne adobada or marinated meat, machaca or dried meat, beans, rice, and cheese. The sour cream, cheese, salsa, and guacamole are often served on the side. 

In Summary

These two popular dishes are similar in more ways than one, but the difference between chimichanga and burrito come in terms of preparation, origin, and ingredients. Chimichangas are deep-fried burritos, both have Tex-Mex roots, and burritos sometimes contain meat whereas chimichangas almost always do. 

So, I hope you learned a thing or two! Regardless of their differences, there are undoubtedly many things to love about both burritos and chimichangas! 

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