Some of you straight up don’t know how to make a burrito. I’ve seen you in that Chipotle line, f*cking everything up for yourself. I’ve waited patiently behind several of these burrito f*ck ups, suffering in polite silence. I’ve seen friends do it, strangers, family! I swear some of you have never eaten a burrito with the way you build these things up. I don’t say this as some sort of magical authority on burritos. I, for the record, think there are a lot of ways to make a burrito and a great burrito comes in many forms. But not at Chipotle.
At Chipotle there is really only one way to make a burrito. And now I’m going to tell you how.
Where do I get off telling you how to make your burrito? Because I care that much. I spend every week deep-diving into the world of fast food, separating the good stuff from the trash, and I don’t want you wasting any more money. I’ve also eaten a lot of burritos. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, arguably the burrito capital of the world. My whole life I’ve been a stone’s throw away from great burritos, I’ve had them at family parties, friends’ houses, and the best taquerias in the city and state. I live for burritos. From San Diego to San Francisco, this state is full of unique and delicious burritos and I know them all — mission, cali, double-wrap… my expertise is impeccable.
So let me help you make your Chipotle burrito experience as delicious as possible. Because I’ve analyzed the menu to an almost unhealthy degree and I think I’ve unlocked the best burrito build.
To achieve the best burrito build it’s important to understand what Chipotle is. It’s not really the build your own burrito bar it pretends to be. It’s based entirely on the Mission Burrito, which originated in San Francisco’s Mission District. We could write a whole article on the rich and debated history of the Mission burrito (in fact, we have!). It’s fascinating! But that’s not what we’re here to do right now. Friend of the site Gustavo Arellano wrote a great piece on it for Eater. Read that for the history, read this for the best burrito.
To be brief, what makes a Mission burrito a Mission burrito is a giant steamed tortilla packed with rice, beans, meat, cheese, sour cream, salsa, fresh avocado, and lettuce and wrapped in aluminum foil. Sound familiar?
Before we get started, here are some simple guidelines that’ll help your burrito whether you make it my way or not (but you should make it my way).
Keep It Slim:
This is the biggest problem with most of the burritos I see being made at Chipotle. Stop trying to fit everything in it, just because Chipotle has something, doesn’t mean you need to include it, especially if you’re asking for “extra” anything. Meat, beans, rice, fajitas, sour cream, salsa, corn salsa, lettuce, queso, cheese, guacamole — you’re setting yourself up for a disaster. For your ingredients to shine, you need to give the flavors space to be tasted.
If the only way to make your burrito work is to double wrap it… you f*cked up.
Keep It Dry:
A burrito can only handle so much moisture, so you should keep that in mind while building your burrito. If you get beans, queso, sour cream, two types of salsa, and guacamole, the person rolling your burrito is going to have a problem making it work and they’ve probably roasted you on r/Chipotle.
The aim should be to create as little mush as possible or else that liquid build-up will rupture your tortilla. If you’ve ever eaten a Chipotle burrito and at one point you end up finishing it with a fork… you f*cked up.
Know The Flavors:
Chipotle overuses lime and onion. There is lime in the rice, and the guacamole, and onions in the fajitas, guacamole, and most of the salsa. On their own, you’d never notice the overuse, but when they combine in your burrito they compound together and create an overly sour and onion-forward flavor.
It’s the way Chipotle hides that their food lacks flavor. In fact, my biggest gripe with Chipotle is that the chain’s food all tastes like it was conceived in a vacuum, there is no harmony between the flavors. They taste good on their own, but together, the balance is all messed up. That’s what makes a real Mission-style burrito or a burrito from your local taqueria superior, the flavors have character. Chipotle has none, so you need to take that into account.
If your burrito ever makes you wince when you bite into it or leaves your breath smelling like you bit into a whole onion… you f*cked up.
I know it’s a bit more inconvenient, but your burrito will come out better if it’s made in front of you. Every. Time. I know this isn’t always possible, but if you can, definitely go inside and order. Plus your burrito will be hotter. Burritos taste best when they’re hot.
If your cheese has re-solidified in your burrito… you f*cked up.
1. The Beans:
Pinto. Go pinto every time. The pinto beans are tender with a creamy inside and are considerably spicier than the black beans. They actually taste seasoned! The black beans by comparison are bland and in general, not as soft. They have a bit more of a bite to them, it doesn’t really work for a burrito. In a perfect world, you’d be able to add whole and refried beans. But we’re not in a perfect world, we’re at Chipotle — so… pinto for the win!
2. The Rice:
This is simple, white rice. Brown rice is healthier, sure, but if you want a better-tasting burrito you need to go with white rice because the flavor is less earthy and distracting and the texture isn’t as gummy.
Rice in a burrito is more about texture than flavor, the white rice tastes more neutral, so it’s our pick.
3. The Meat:
Get the barbacoa. Look, you can get any type of meat you want, but I’ve tasted and ranked each of Chipotle’s protein options and thought very deeply about which option has the best flavor and it’s the barbacoa, no contest. It has a wonderful tender texture that practically bursts with savory goodness each time you bite into it and it’s way less dry than the chicken, steak, and carnitas.
There is some actual flavor here, notes of oregano, clove, and bay leaf add a lot of earthiness. Not the silkiest and most sumptuous barbacoa you’ll ever have, but Chipotle’s best protein by a mile.
If you don’t eat meat, Chipotle’s new plant-based Chorizo easily beats the Sofritas.
Skip them. I know, it’s shocking because the fajitas add some delicious aromatics to the whole dish, but ultimately they end up diluting the flavor of the barbacoa. You don’t want that, fajitas work a lot better on top of Chipotle’s salad, bowls, and tacos than they do in a burrito.
Consider ordering your salsa on the side. Nothing is lost by ordering it on the side, instead, it makes your burrito a whole lot less wet (keep it dry!) and allows you to portion out the perfect amount per bite.
I think when it comes to choosing a salsa, like the meat, there is some flexibility here. I love Chipotle’s tomatillo-green chili salsa, but it’s a bit too onion-y and sour, and we already have those notes covered once we add the guac. So I suggest the tomatillo-red, it adds an earthy, slightly floral, and smokey flavor to your burrito. It’s the spiciest sauce Chipotle has and the most complex.
Skip it. If you love sour cream go ahead and get it on the side and dip your burrito in it before putting on the salsa, but something has to be compromised in this burrito, you can’t have it all (keep it slim!).
7. Cheese + Lettuce:
Get them. It’s a Mission-style burrito, it’s supposed to have lettuce, it’s their thing. And it’s going to add needed texture. As for the cheese… I shouldn’t have to tell you to put cheese in a damn burrito.
This is what we’ve been working towards. The reason I’ve had you skip the sour cream, get the salsa on the side, and avoid the queso is to make room for the guacamole. The best Mission-style burritos I’ve had were made with fresh avocado, which is more structurally sound and less mushy than guacamole. You don’t have that luxury at Chipotle, so we had to make room for this necessary ingredient by ditching everything else that creates mush and moisture (except, of course, the beans). This is why sour cream had to be left on the cutting room floor.
If you’ve followed these steps, your burrito should look like, well, a burrito, not some weird tortilla boulder that needs two foils or tortillas to wrap. It also won’t explode all over your hands while you eat it.
A touch of sweetness from the barbacoa hits you followed by an immediate burn across the palate courtesy of a healthy dab of salsa. The heat starts to dilute once the ingredients combine through your chewing, easing back and introducing the creamy-earthy flavors supplied by the meat’s marinade and the beans.
Crisp lettuce and rice help to create a mouthfeel that isn’t overly mushy, which allows the guacamole in all its onion-y and lime-y glory to really shine as your burrito’s softest substance. You’ll be thankful you skipped the fajitas and corn salsa, this is all the onion you need in this baby.
Take note of how many ingredients I left out of this burrito. And it’s still gargantuan! But it’s balanced, and that’s what a great burrito is all about.
The Bottom Line:
This is the best way to make a burrito at Chipotle. Look, at the end of the day you might not agree with me, but at the very least I hope you use my advice as a springboard for creating your own burrito masterpiece at the embattled chain. And then we can put our burritos head to head.
Spoiler: I’ll win. This is as good as Chipotle gets — trust me, I’m an expert.