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What is the difference between burritos, enchiladas, and chimichangas?

  • +1. Never knew the difference. A generous amount of sampling across europe (without any research on my part, I must confess) made me give up on any variety: They all turn out the same: Weird pancake shaped discs of mediocre quality, which may or may not be deep fried, of dubious quality. At least now I have something to categorize and compare against. – Willem van Rumpt Jan 10 '17 at 17:35
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An enchilada is a corn tortilla wrapped around some filling (often meat and/or cheese), covered in sauce. The sauce is really defining here: the word is derived from a verb meaning "to season with chili". The sauce usually involves chili peppers, but doesn't always, especially for Tex-Mex and American Variants. Since it's covered in sauce, you eat it off a plate presumably with a fork. The tortillas are usually 6-8 inches in diameter - small enough that you can put a few enchiladas in a row on a plate.

Homesick Texan enchiladas

from Homesick Texan

A burrito is a flour tortilla wrapped around filling, with the ends closed. In the US, they're often pretty large and substantial. They're generally just the tortilla-wrapped thing, so you can hold it in your hand and eat it. They are also sometimes served "wet" or "smothered" in sauce, but that's a variant. The tortillas are usually bigger to allow folding around a decent amount of filling. You'll see "burrito size" tortillas that are as small as 10 inches or so in stores, but the kinds you get in restaurants might be easily 13-16 inches. The big ones are also called Mission burritos, and are often wrapped in foil for easier eating. (That's the tortilla diameter; the actual burrito is substantially smaller after the folding to close the ends.)

Los Altos Taqueria burrito

from Los Altos Taqueria on Yelp

A chimichanga is a deep-fried burrito. It often comes with queso and/or sauce over the top, but that's not a defining characteristic. Usually they're served on a plate, with the idea being to cut into it with a fork and knife.

chimichanga with sauce chimichanga uncovered

first from Wikipedia (completely covered), second from Trudy's in Austin via The Fat Artery (visibly deep-fried)

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    The really big burritos are 'Mission burritos' : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_burrito ... which is squeezing out the other styles of burritos in the US. – Joe Jan 9 '17 at 23:38
  • @Joe Thanks - I haven't heard that name commonly used for things like Chipotle, but I suppose it is the original right name, anyways. – Cascabel Jan 9 '17 at 23:57
  • While I always order fried, most Mexican restaurants on the mid-Atlantic coast offer chimichangas baked or fried. – Cindy Jan 10 '17 at 3:37
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    @Cindy In my experience the default is deep-fried, so if it's baked you say "baked chimichanga" - is that the case there too? – Cascabel Jan 10 '17 at 4:31
  • @Jefromi That's kind of correct, though there really is no default. On the menus you will see the description along with "chicken or beef" and "baked or fried". If you don't specify each when you order, you will be asked. Probably a weird regional thing like the white dipping sauce you get in addition to salsa when they bring the tortilla chips to the table. – Cindy Jan 10 '17 at 11:59

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