When it comes to Mexican cuisine two of the most popular dishes have to be the taco and burrito. Although they share some similarities, there are also some fundamental differences. In this article we’ll highlight the differences between a taco and burrito: origin, ingredients, size and much more – we leave no stone unturned.
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What’s the difference between a taco and a burrito?
The key difference between a taco and burrito is the serving size. One taco would be considered a snack for most; tacos for dinner would usually involve eating more than one. Burritos are a generous serving size and one is usually enough for a complete meal.
Tacos are open ended soft or hard shells whilst a burrito is usually a large, soft tortilla that has the end folded over to ensure the fillings don’t fall out. A burrito houses more ingredients than a taco, including refried beans and rice.
Taco vs burrito – summary table
|Date of origin||Estimated 18th Century||Estimated 19th Century|
|Wrapper type||Soft tortilla or hard corn taco shell||Soft flour tortilla|
|Wrapper size||Relatively small||Relatively large|
|Assembly||Ingredients fill a shell shaped taco||A tortilla wraps around fillings with one small opening|
|Common fillings||Ground beef or chicken, cheese, salsa, lettuce, sour cream, guacamale, tomato.||A range of meats, vegetables, rice, refried beans and sauce.|
|How to eat||With hands||With hands|
|Ease of eating||More messy||Less messy|
The origin of the taco and burrito isn’t well documented and there are a variety of theories on how they came about. According to the Smithsonian, tacos came from the Mexican silver mines in the 18th Century. Back then, miners would wrap paper around gunpowder to excavate sections of the mine; they called them tacos. It isn’t hard to make a connection between these explosives and a taco filled with fiery hot salsa.
It is speculated that Burritos originated from the North Mexican cowboys, aka vaqueros, during the 19th Century. Source.
Whatever the origin of these two dishes, it is commonly accepted that both originated from Mexico.
The outer casing of a taco is relatively small when compared to a burrito. It can come in two formats: a soft tortilla or a hard corn taco shell. Burrito tortillas are larger than tacos and are made using flour* to ensure it is soft and flexible. This is essential in order to house the larger quantity of fillings. Burrito tortillas will sometimes contain additional ingredients to add extra flavor and color; spinach is one example.
*It is possible to make corn tortillas for burritos but they tend to be flimsy and don't hold the fillings as well as the flour version.
A taco is open ended. When hard shells are used they can’t be closed over. Burritos differ as they use a large, pliable flatbread. Fillings are added then the bottom in folded up and the sides are folded over like an envelope. The burrito is usually wrapped in aluminum foil to keep everything neatly in place.
A burrito is relatively large in comparison to a taco. It is tempting to over load a taco with fillings but it usually ends badly with more food on the plate than in the mouth. A burrito would serve as a solid meal for most whilst a taco is more of a snack. To make tacos a meal you’ll need several.
Fillings for both the taco and burrito can vary depending on personal taste preferences. However, a burrito will often have more substantial, heavier fillings like rice and refried beans. Based on a sizeable survey, some of the favorite taco fillings include cheese, salsa, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole and tomatoes. Popular meats are ground beef, chicken and bacon.
Burrito fillings are similar except there's usually a larger quantity and some additional elements such as rice, nopales, and refried beans.
Hint: Mexican cuisine loves cotija cheese for its strong flavor which compares with Parmesan. If you don't have any cotija in the kitchen then check out our recommended substitutes for cotija cheese. You'll get some excellent alternatives that work just as well in a taco or burrito.
Both the taco and burrito are eaten with the hands. Hard taco shells have a large opening and tend to be a little messy to eat as the fillings fall out easily. A burrito neatly wraps up the fillings like an envelope with a smaller opening at the top. It is encased in aluminium foil to make it easier to eat.
Although they’re both common Mexican dishes, the taco and burrito have several key differences that set them apart. The wrapper, assembly, fillings and serving size all vary. Choosing one over the other really comes down to personal preference. They both make excellent meals although you’ll probably need more than one taco if you’re anything like me.