5 Tips for Making the Best Burritos

Like many Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, the burrito emerged as a way to make use of common and beloved ingredients—tortillas, meats, beans, and seasonings. Since then, hundreds if not thousands of renditions of this dish have emerged.

Sure, bland beans and leftover meat wrapped in a tortilla can pass as a burrito…but that’s not necessarily the best way to approach this dish. A burrito should burst with flavor, yet no single note should overwhelm another. The tortilla should be soft and tender yet serve as a secure casing for the inner ingredients.

If you’re thinking that sounds delicious, then stay with us as we dive into some tips for making the best burritos.

1. Choose Your Protein

Some burrito ingredients are negotiable, but protein is not. So one of the first steps to making your burrito is choosing which protein you’d like to use.

Options include pork, beef, chicken, and shrimp, as well as plant-based options like beans and tofu. Once you figure out whether you’d like to whip up meat-based or plant-friendly burritos, it’s time to select the exact ingredient. For example, beef burritos could consist of seasoned ground beef or grilled chuck steak, aka carne asada. When you choose a cut of meat, you should consider cost, cook time, and your desired end result.

As with all dishes, choosing high-quality ingredients will lead to a better end result. So look for fresh proteins and inspect meat carefully before purchasing.

2. Season Each Ingredient Individually

Along with protein, burritos often include rice and vegetables. Since these ingredients have different cooking methods and times, the best move is to cook them separately and then combine them when you assemble the burritos.

As you cook individual ingredients, take time to properly season each one rather than dousing your meat in salt and spices while leaving your rice bland. If each component contains a pop of flavor, every bite of the burrito will be well-seasoned, making the burrito more balanced.

When it comes to the rice, you can rely on spices including cumin, chile peppers, bay leaves, and garlic to add flavor. You can also cook the rice in vegetable broth or chicken stock rather than water to add a subtle boost.

3. Cook Each Ingredient Fully

Even if you plan to crisp your burrito on a griddle after stuffing and rolling, recognize that this won’t cook the filling much if at all. Therefore, fully cooking your meats, beans, and rice before assembling the burrito is crucial. Not only will fully cooking ingredients lead to favorable textures, but it’s also essential for proper food safety.

Whole beans should be fully cooked yet tender, and refried beans should be creamy. Chicken, pork, and steak should all be cooked to safe internal temperatures but not overcooked.

Along with paying attention to cooking time, keep an eye on your knife skills. If one piece of onion is an inch long and the other is only half that size, you’ll end up with some pieces that are either undercooked or overdone. By creating consistently-sized pieces, you’re more likely to end up with properly-cooked ingredients.

4. Time Your Cooking Steps

Biting into a warm tortilla only to be met with a cold filling is a quick way to ruin a burrito-eating experience. However, making sure all the ingredients are warm when it comes time to assemble can be a bit tricky. To help with this, take a look at cooking times and do your best to manage time well.

If you’ll only need 20 minutes to cook rice but ten hours to slowly simmer pork carnitas, you don’t want to start each component at the same time. Rather, you can check in on the carnitas and put on the rice when the meat is almost done. This way, you’ll end up with fully cooked ingredients that aren’t overcooked.

If you find that your meat, beans, or rice are done a bit before you need them, you can keep them warm on the stove until it’s time for assembly.
Chefs hands rolling a burrito with beef and peppers

5. Roll with Confidence

Now comes what some consider the trickiest part of the burrito-making process—the big roll. While it’s easy to become intimidated by the process, rolling is easy as long as you consider a few key components and know the proper steps.

First, start with the right type of tortilla. While corn tortillas are often preferred for tacos and tostadas, flour tortillas are the best option for burritos. Since they are more pliable than their corn counterparts, they are less likely to crack during the rolling process.

You should also note that starting with a larger tortilla will make rolling easier, no matter the amount of filling you include. An 8-inch tortilla is considered the minimum size you should use, but a 10-inch or 12-inch tortilla will make rolling even easier.

Once you’ve got your tortilla ready, it’s time to fill and roll. Avoid the temptation to overfill the tortilla—about three-quarters of a cup to one-and-a-half cups of filling will do, depending on the size of the tortilla. Start by placing the filling on the lower third of one side of the tortilla, keeping it one inch away from all edges. Next, fold the two sides in to keep the filling contained. Finally, fold the bottom edge of the tortilla over the filling then continue rolling upwards.

If you plan on grilling your burrito after rolling, make sure to place the burrito seam-side down to ensure the filling doesn’t spill out. After the heat seals the edges of the tortilla together, you can flip it to create equally-crispy sides.

Explore Flavor Development and Cooking Techniques

Whether you’d like to learn more about how to make burritos or are interested in exploring another dish, it never hurts to expand your understanding of ingredients and cooking techniques. Learning on your own is one option, but if you’re interested in professional instruction at home, check out online cooking classes.

America’s Test Kitchen and Escoffier have teamed up to offer top-of-the-line culinary classes to home cooks. After you enroll, you’ll have access to hundreds of individual classes covering topics ranging from basic knife skills to how to make spiced red lentils.

And if you find you’re looking for a more thorough dive into the culinary arts, you may want to explore culinary school.

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This article was originally published on February 24, 2017, and has since been updated.

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