Burrito in Spanish means “little donkey,” quite literally. Did you know that? “Burro” means donkey and “ito” means small. Wise ones believe that burrito is named not because donkey meat was involved in its creation but because the tightly-rolled delicacy stuffed with all things good appeared quite like a bedroll that the animal traditionally carried on its back. It takes a lot of creativity to come up with such a name but that’s not all. The burrito is packed with more stories than you could have given it credit for.

The Story of the Burrito

The love affair between Mexicans and burritos started many decades back. It is believed that in the 1910s and 1920s, Juan Mendez, a street vendor who sold tacos in the Mexican city of Juarez, carried the supplies on the back of his donkey. His idea to keep his homemade food items warm was to roll them up tightly in a huge flour tortilla. One day, he probably realized that the technique would serve well as a food item on the menu. Thus, a delicacy was born, tightly stuffed with meat and other ingredients.

These are not the only versions of the burrito’s origin. The stories about the advent of the burrito varies as much as the item itself does. Dictionaries date the origin of the word to 1895 which is well over a decade before Juarez set up shop.

The “Diccionario de Mexicanismos” explains the burrito as a rolled tortilla filled with meat. It was popularly called “cocito” in Yucatan and “taco” in Cuernavaca and Mexico City then. These were smaller than Mendez’s giant tortillas. Over the years, the burrito became more popular in the south of Mexico among tourists rather than the northern areas that invented them. But at any point, it is not half as popular in the country of its birth than it is in the USA now.

How the Americans Wrapped it Up

The commercially available burritos served by well known restaurant chains in America and popular in the Cinco de Mayo Restaurant in Vancouver were rolled out in the 1930s. They were reportedly served with meat, rice, beans, cheese and sour cream as a war food during the Mexican/American strife.

The overstuffed burritos as we know them now were said to be served in the 1960’s. They were known as Mission Burritos, introduced in San Francisco by El Faro who famously created double-sized burritos for a group of firefighters, then offered to everyone eventually. In 1964, the frozen burrito variation was invented in California, instantly rising to fame. In the 1970s, “Breakfast Burritos” tempted palates. Today, annual sales in American restaurants are in the billions of dollars.

Nutritious and Delicious

Perhaps of the reasons for the burrito’s popularity is also the nutritional value it offers. The black beans in burritos are a good source of dietary fibre and phytochemicals. A burrito packed with chicken, lettuce, tomato salsa, corn salsa, fajita veggies and guacamole would be about 510 calories. Fill it with beans, rice, cheese and sour cream and it all adds up to about a 1000 calories.

However, the classic soft flour burrito from Mexico using slow-cooked lean meat is less fattening and more tender. It is deliciously seasoned with healthy ingredients that add up to fewer calories. The fibre-rich beans are not fattening on their own. Dried beans softened in water or broth do not contain fat inducing calories either. Brown rice is a healthier substitute than white rice or you can skip the rice altogether. Well seasoned Mexican rice cooked in chicken or vegetable stock is a tasty option. The actual fats lie in the generous drizzle of sauces. But avocados that go into a guacamole are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart. Limit your sour cream and all is good.

Cinco de Mayo Mexican Grill, Vancouver

For the best, most authentic burritos in town, visit Cinco de Mayo. We indulge you with an extensive selection of tequila and Mexican craft beer to go with it. We also serve fresh, traditional vegan fare. Call us for a memorable meal.