Would you like a burrito? Of course you would. Everyone likes a burrito. The more you think about it, the more you realize that it’s almost unfair how ingenious the dish is. You take a tortilla, you fill it with your favorite ingredients, you wrap the whole thing up, and voilá! Your immediate future will be full of happiness, with no immediate concerns beyond, perhaps, accidentally biting into tin foil, or dropping some guacamole down your shirt.
Well, that’s the general idea, anyway. While you might get away with ordering "a burrito" and specifying the fillings in any specific burrito joint, panning the camera back a bit will reveal a whole map of burrito styles, some of which are so different from the others that the only way to compare them is to recognize the general essence of their burrito-ness, and the culture that took it in this particular direction.
We at Mashed love all sorts of burritos, and recognize that every type of the dish is something someone out there grew up with, and considers the greatest type of burrito of them all. Nevertheless, there’s something to be said about determining the most burrito-like burrito of them all. With that in mind, we’ve taken up the task of ranking these popular burrito styles from best to worst.
1. Mexican burrito
The burrito, according to Vox, is a relatively late invention of Mexican cuisine, and there are several conflicting stories about its origin. Regardless of the specifics, the food item started its existence as an easily portable, edible container for leftovers. It eventually rose to its current status after making its way Stateside during the mid-20th century, and eventually became a fast food smash hit.
Since the burrito hails from Mexico, it’s only natural to give the prestigious #1 spot to the authentic Mexican burrito. As The Washington Post notes, the flour tortilla-based burrito largely features in Northern Mexican cuisine, with the rest of the country leaning toward corn tortilla-based tacos. The Mexican burrito is often — but not always — a smaller and far more austere affair than the massive Mission-style burritos you’re probably accustomed to (Don’t worry, we’re getting to them soon). You can expect your typical Mexican burrito to include a protein and some refried beans, but pretty much everything beyond that — salsas, cheese, and whatnot — is a bonus. There will be no guac, or sour cream, or rice. There may, however, be some truly inspired regional fillings, ranging from various stews and chile verde to lobster and a dried-and-cooked shredded beef called machaca.
This simple, delicious original burrito-style can be markedly different from many varieties North of the border. Yet, it’s the foundation all the other burritos have been built upon, and for this, it should be respected.
2. Mission-style burrito
Picture a burrito and, unless you’re a connoisseur who’s elbow deep in burrito knowledge, chances are the Mission-style burrito is what you’re imagining (via Bon Appetit). Well, at least technically — a version of this particular style of burrito is what you eat when you chow down one of those familiar, big beasts, stuffed to the brim with delicious fillings. In other words, this is the big boy you might know from Chipotle and countless other fast-food joints of the rolled-up deliciousness variety.
Dig deeper, however, and there are many different versions of the Mission-style burrito, from the foil-wrapped monsters that barely fit in your mouth to leaner, simpler affairs. As Food Republic tells us, this particular burrito style ultimately refers to the vast variety of different burritos available in its place of origin — the Latin Mission district of San Francisco. Many devotees consider this the superior style of burrito for its sheer size and the vast variety of fillings available, which is a fair argument for its high placement on the list. In many ways, it’s the uber-burrito of modern times — the one that’s simply too delicious and versatile to pass by.
3. Breakfast burrito
If you’ve never had a breakfast burrito, it might be surprising to find it ranked this high on the list, especially because it’s so far removed from the "traditional" burrito … or is it? The burrito started its life as an easy way to feast on whatever leftovers people happened to have laying around, as Vox tells us. When you take this approach — and, considering the vast variety out there, many certainly have — a burrito is simply an open invitation to fill with anything that your heart desires. Because many people’s hearts desire breakfast, and because the burrito is a fantastic way to eat all the components of a hot breakfast on the go, it’s only natural to marry the concepts. The end result has proved to be so popular that breakfast burritos have become a whole, delicious subcategory unto themselves.
Because the breakfast burrito combines the fast food nature of the "regular" burrito with the components of a hearty diner breakfast, this delicious mess of egg, potato, cheese, breakfast meats, and assorted start-of-the-day delicacies is best enjoyed as the easy, filling calorie bomb that it is. Luckily, most fast food breakfast joints worth their salt have some version of the breakfast burrito on the menu, so you’re spoiled for choice. However, if you find yourself looking for inspiration, Mashed’s ranking of fast food breakfast burritos is pretty exhaustive.
4. The Los Angeles burrito
You’d expect that a city full of wealthy and health-conscious movie industry people would have a signature burrito that eschews fat in favor of complex creations and plenty of vegetables, but as The Bold Italic notes, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the Los Angeles burrito. The fillings, in their most traditional form, consist of refried beans, salsa sauce, and cheese.
Don’t take the lack of meat to mean that the L.A. burrito is a healthy meal, though. Per Sunset, this minimalist cheese-and-beans and salsa approach is a hearty, sloppy eat — almost a cheesy, creamy, delicious bean stew sealed inside a burrito. As such, it’s hardly surprising that the comparatively complex, but more easily edible Mission-style burrito has gone global instead of this tasty treat. Even so, the almost preternaturally smooth, cheesy, lard-laden Los Angeles burrito is a worthy contender for any meal … at least, as long as you’re not counting calories.
5. Carne asada burrito
The San Diego area’s robust burrito scene has given birth to two specific burrito styles, per CISL. Out of the pair, the absurdly meaty carne asada burrito might rank at the absolute top or the very bottom of your personal list, depending on your stance regarding its heavy protein content. As the name implies, the carne asada burrito is filled with the titular marinated, grilled, and sliced steak. The burrito rides extremely heavily on the deliciousness of the meat, since its only accouterments tend to be salsa and cheese.
This is one simple classic that’s well worth trying for, and fans of delicious carne asada might in fact not look back from the simple beauty of the burrito’s no-frills nature. However, its relatively few ingredients also mean that everything needs to be absolutely on point, which opens it up to potential weaknesses that prevent it from climbing higher on this list. Carne asada packs plenty of flavor, and can absolutely be enough of a hero ingredient to carry a burrito on its own.
If you’re able to locate a tortilla joint with life-changing meat and amazing salsa, the wrapped-up carne asada awesomeness could very well be the best burrito you’ll ever eat. However, if even one of the elements leaves something to be desired, you might find yourself woefully hoping for a few more fillings to bring variety to the flavor profile.
6. California burrito
The other, arguably better-known scion of the San Diego burrito scene, the California burrito is basically a hyper-charged version of the more streamlined carne asada burrito (via The Culture Trip). Sure, the carne asada and the cheese are there, but after that, things take a wild turn. Expect impressive amounts of sour cream and guacamole, and don’t be surprised if other ingredients feature in the mix as well, per CISL. However, the biggest gut-punch comes in the form of French fries, which the California burrito uses instead of more familiar burrito carbs like rice and beans.
As you can probably guess, whether you love or loathe the California burrito pretty much hinges on your opinion about French fries in a burrito setting. In our opinion, the combination works just fine, but at the end of the day, the hodgepodge of potatoes and other fillings can actually take away from the deliciousness of the meat. Unfortunately, this makes it impossible to rank this otherwise perfectly delicious burrito higher than its more simplified — and dignified — San Diego sibling, the carne asada burrito.
7. Korean-style burrito
Korean cuisine has enthralled the world with dishes like bulgogi and kimchi, and as NBC News tell us, it has been combined with Mexican cuisine with strange-sounding, yet delicious results. This, of course, has led to the creation of the Korean-style burrito, which is essentially a bunch of Korean staples wrapped up in a burrito. A Korean-style burrito might include bulgogi-style beef, kimchi, delicious gochujang paste, and a number of other delicacies (per Serious Eats).
It’s an excellent meal, and the strong, yet subtle flavors of the Korean kitchen work exactly as well as you’d expect in burrito form, as well. However, to our taste buds, the Korean-style burrito doesn’t quite have what it takes to rise to the absolute top of Burrito Mountain, simply because it comes across as more of a curiosity than a stone cold necessity.
You might first find yourself ordering a Korean-style burrito to find out what it tastes like, and once you’ve established that it’s great, you could easily end up grabbing one every once in a while when you fancy a change between more classical burrito meals. Still, if you could only eat one style of burrito for the rest of your life, would it be the Korean-style burrito? We didn’t think so.
The jury may be out on the deep-fried chimichanga’s precise status in the pantheon of burritos, but since the Los Angeles Times outright calls it "a glorious, deep-fried burrito," there’s no real reason to keep it out. After all, according to legend, chimichangas are the accidental brainchild of one Monica Flin, who accidentally dropped a bean burrito in scalding oil, and proceeded to invent the name immediately afterward as a sort of spontaneous semi-swearword. You might buy into this story, or believe in the state fair-proven tendency of human beings to deep fry anything if given half a chance. Regardless, there’s no denying that chimichangas are delicious.
There’s no stopping you from eating your chimichangas by hand, as something akin to savory meat donuts. In practice, though, they tend to be topped with things like cheese and sour cream to offset the greasiness from the deliciously unhealthy deep-frying process. While this definitely adds flavor to the chimichanga, it also means that the dish’s already somewhat tenuous burrito connection is further disrupted by the presence of ingredients outside the tortilla. This minor blemish doesn’t take away from the taste of the dish, but a purist might find it very difficult to rank a deep-fried, sour cream-slathered chimichanga too high on the list of burrito styles.
9. Wet burrito
Ah, the wet burrito. Taste Atlas says that its place of origin is questionable, though the state of Michigan might be a fair place to point a finger at when it comes to this odd duck of the burrito brotherhood. The wet burrito’s cardinal sin is, of course, in its very name — the style is defined by the sauce and melted cheese slathered atop an otherwise normally-constructed burrito.
This burrito is by all means a fine plateful of food, and you have no reason to hang your head in shame if you want to feast on one, or even consider it your favorite burrito style. The problem is that when you close your eyes and picture a burrito, there’s every chance that you also imagine a hand holding it. With the wet burrito, this simply isn’t an option, and a burrito that’s not easily portable or hand-held is, unfortunately, destined to linger near the tail end of our listing.
This is not because the things on your plate aren’t delicious — they certainly are. They’re just, you know, on the plate. Removing the ability to feast on the burrito with your own two hands and introducing utensils in the mix basically puts this particular dish on the same conversation with burrito bowls. Speaking of which …
10. The burrito bowl
We’ve criticized some food items on this list for their lack of innate burrito-ness, but the burrito bowl blows them all out of the water. Now, like everything else on this list, a good burrito bowl can be extremely delicious. On Mashed’s ranking of popular Chipotle menu items, the Burrito Bowl with chicken actually earned itself a well-deserved place at the podium.
Once again, then, it comes down to presentation and maneuverability, and that’s where things fall apart for the burrito bowl. All of the multiple origin stories of the burrito (per Vox) describe the food’s history as easily portable street food, which is something a bowl just can’t be, even if it contains the exact same ingredients as its wrapped-up counterpart. In fact, one can’t help but suspect that the reason the word "bowl" has to be added in the name is that no one would believe it to be a reasonable vessel for a burrito, unless it was specifically stated in the name. Because of this, there’s just no denying that burrito bowls must come dead last in our ranking of burrito styles.
They’re still pretty tasty, though.