Imagine you get to your local food truck and you are starving for a tortilla with your favorite fillings. But then you get confused and ask for a burrito when you actually – desperately – want a chimichanga.
So just what exactly are the differences between a chimichanga and a burrito?
Burritos and chimichangas are both made from wheat tortilla flour and traditionally contain similar ingredients. But burritos are from Northern Mexico, have a soft tortilla shell, and all the ingredients are in the “wrap,” while chimichangas are American, are deep-fried, and served with various sides and a cheese sauce.
After reading this ultimate guide on chimichanga vs burrito, you’ll order exactly the type of tortilla your taste buds are craving for.
What Is a Chimichanga?
A chimichanga, also sometimes called a deep-fried burrito, is more American than its Mexican cousin, the burrito.
A chimichanga is made using wheat tortilla flour, and then the fillings are added to a soft tortilla shell.
Most often, protein, whether it’s chicken, beef, seafood, or a plant-based alternative, is the main filling.
The meat is cooked with spices, salsa or red sauce, peppers, and onions, and then the chimichanga is rolled.
Next, you pop it in the fryer to deep fry it before a cheese sauce (or queso) is strewn over the top.
Chimichangas are typically served with sides of Mexican rice, refried beans, Pico de gallo (salsa fresca), guacamole, lettuce, and sour cream.
The Chimichanga Origins
Chimichangas are definitely American, and the deep-fried part gave that away.
The origin story of the chimichanga tells that the dish was actually an accident. In 1922 Arizona (Tuscon to be exact), Tia Monica Flin, a cook from El Charro Cafe, dropped a burrito into her deep fryer.
She was planning to call the creation “thingamajig,” but then changed her mind to call it “chimichanga,” which means “toasted monkeys.”
What Is a Burrito?
Burritos, which means “little donkeys” came before chimichangas, and these tortillas are part of Mexican cuisine.
A burrito is made from wheat tortilla flour that forms the large soft tortilla shell. The shell is typically filled with meat, beans, rice, and veggies. Other burrito fillings can include cheese, salsa, sauce, sour cream, or guacamole.
Once the fillings are placed in the middle of the shell, the burrito is folded over to close the edges or rolled to form a large wrap, which is cut in half and served in parchment paper or foil.
Possibly the best part of eating burritos is that you can choose from at least 13 different types. Here are the most famous of these burrito styles:
- Mexican burritos (or Tacos de Harina) are small and thin and filled with a max of 2 ingredients.
- Mission-style burritos originate from San Francisco’s Mission District. They are large calorie-rich bombs, and what do you think a burrito looks like?
- Wet burritos, also called smothered burritos, are drenched in a delicious red chile sauce and should be enjoyed with cutlery.
- Breakfast burritos contain classic breakfast foods like eggs, bacon, chorizo, potatoes, and onions.
The Burrito Origins
Burritos originally come from Northern Mexico.
Legend has it that the guy who invented the burrito was always accompanied by a little donkey when he made and sold burritos.
Another legend tells how the burrito inventor fed burritos to hungry children, whom he called “little donkeys.”
Original Mexican burritos were filled with meat and beans.
Difference Between Chimichanga and Burrito?
Even from the descriptions of chimichangas and burritos you can already tell some of the differences.
But let’s explicitly state these so you never confuse a burrito with its chimichanga cousin again!
1. How It’s Made
While both chimichangas and burritos are made with soft tortilla flour and fillings, that’s where the similarities end. A chimichanga is deep-fried, and a burrito isn’t.
2. The Ingredients
Chimichangas are typically filled with protein, peppers, onions, and a sauce or salsa.
It’s then topped with a cheese sauce and served with a few different sides: guacamole, sour cream, refried beans, Mexican rice, Picco de Gallo, and lettuce to help cut through the richness and fattiness of the fried chimichanga.
On the other hand, all the chimichanga ingredients are used as a filling for a burrito. However, the burrito filling depends on what kind of burrito it is: breakfast vs mission-style vs wet vs another kind.
3. How It’s Served
Burritos are usually served at fast food joints in parchment paper or foil so you can easily eat them on the go. However, there are also sit-down restaurants that serve them on a plate with cutlery.
Chimichangas are almost always served on a plate with queso and sides.
4. How It Tastes
The flavor profile for a “traditional” burrito is similar to that of a chimichanga, but one of the main differences is the deep-fried flavor of the chimichanga. Also, the taste will vary depending on what side you eat with each bite of your chimichanga.
5. The Texture
A chimichanga is crispy and crunchy on the outside because of its deep-fried nature. A burrito’s tortilla shell is nice and soft.
6. The Origins
A burrito is originally from Northern Mexico, and once it “got to American shores,” the Americans jazzed up the burrito. That’s why there are so many different kinds of burritos you can enjoy.
A chimichanga is very American, originating in Arizona.
7. How Healthy It Is
A chimichanga is at least 3 times less healthy than a burrito, and a single chimichanga dish can contain at least 1,500 calories.
While burritos aren’t exactly lean on the calorie side, how healthy these tortillas are depended on the filling.
What Is Better: Chimichanga or Burrito?
I can’t tell you whether chimichangas or burritos are better and tastier; only you can decide. And I’m sure your answer may change depending on your craving.
Choose a burrito if you want:
- A soft tortilla shell
- All the toppings inside the burrito
- A choice between various types of burritos
- A meal on the go (or at a sit-down restaurant)
- A healthier meal
Choose a chimichanga if you want:
- A deep-fried, true comfort-food style, tortilla
- To eat at a restaurant
- Enjoy having a side with your dish so each taste has a different flavor profile
- A very calorie-heavy meal
My Last Foodie Thoughts
While burritos and chimichangas share a few similarities, they are, in essence, very different.
A burrito is:
- Served in a soft-shell tortilla
- A complete all-in-one meal as all the ingredients are in the burrito
A chimichanga is:
- Served with sides and topped with a cheese sauce