In the pantheon of great American food inventions (many of which have been co-opted from other country’s food traditions, let’s be honest), the breakfast burrito, in our opinion, stands out as the most satisfyingly culinary innovation to start a day.
First off, it is a breakfast food, and we’ve long been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. More than that, breakfast burritos are a relatively mess-free way to pack a bunch of great foods into the first meal of the day. They can surprise and delight, and they can be eaten anywhere—ski chairlifts, beaches, during a hike, even, dare we say, in a moving car.
Flour tortillas, eggs, salsa, hot pepper sauce, potatoes, onions, peppers, avocado, beans, bacon, and cheese—you never know what you are going to get with a breakfast burrito until you take that first bite. Then, next thing you know, you are empty-handed and the burrito that once existed is but a grumble in your belly.
As to the roots of the breakfast burrito, it most likely originated in the southwest U.S., that melting pot where American, Mexican, and Latin American cuisines have traditionally amalgamated. We’ve dug into the history of tacos a bit before, and the burrito—”little burro/donkey”—has as rich a backstory, that can be traced to the food culture of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. As one of the legends has it, the burrito was invented by Juan Méndez during the Mexican Revolution; he wrapped foods in flour tortillas and traveled on a donkey to sell them, hence the name.
The breakfast burrito’s history isn’t as epic, as a restaurant called Tia Sophia’s in Sante Fe took the New Mexican breakfast tradition of eating eggs and bacon with a tortilla and started selling the dish in burrito form.
Whether that was the first breakfast burrito is debatable, but the dish grew in popularity across the southwest and California. Each region developed its own take on the dish, so there is no singular way to make the breakfast burrito. Although you may get arguments about which is best.
How to Make a Breakfast Burrito
The foundation of any breakfast burrito is the tortilla. A flour tortilla probably works best, but you can try any other type—or, if you are really ambitious, make your own homemade flour tortillas as see in this all-encompassing breakfast burrito breakdown.
Next comes the eggs. Most breakfast burritos feature scrambled eggs. But the New Mexican-style breakfast that breakfast burrito can trace its roots to featured fried eggs. Both styles are amazing, and we recommend trying both, because… more breakfast burritos!
Most importantly is the meat. We won’t shy away from a vegan or veggie breakfast burrito filled with as many veggies as we can fit into a tortilla, but we do prefer a bit more protein to start our day. Here are some ways to include your favorite breakfast meat into a breakfast burrito:
- Bacon – Uncured bacon adds the savoriness that can balance out all the flavors in a breakfast burrito. Cook your bacon in the oven or in a griddle first—or even the night before—and layer it on top of your eggs. You can also try different bacon flavors or thick-cut bacon to see how it changes the overall taste of the burrito.
- Sausage – Ground breakfast sausage is perfect for a breakfast burrito. One way to spice up a breakfast burrito is by replacing breakfast sausage with chorizo. More than bacon, different flavor profiles of sausage will mix better with the type of cheese you use, so think about how a maple sausage might pair with cheddar and other matches.
- Ham – Canadian bacon or any other type of ham can really change the smokiness level of your breakfast burrito. Better yet, if you have some leftover spiral ham, shave some off, reheat, and then add for a bit more bite.
- Experiment – The greatest thing about a breakfast burrito is that you can try endless combinations with your eggs and fillings. Have some leftover taco beef? What about a bit of chili from a recent party? Carnitas? All work well and add different flavors to a breakfast burrito. Even try some leftover corned beef brisket or steak for a real flavor-bomb of a burrito.
Breakfast Burrito Fillings
From the foundation of tortilla, eggs, and meat, the options to fill your breakfast burrito are endless. Try any combination of these:
- Cheese – Monterey Jack is probably best, but also give cheddar, Swiss, queso fresco, or Cotija a chance.
- Avocado or guacamole – My favorite breakfast burrito in the world is made at Kono’s Cafe in San Diego’s Pacific Beach. The fire of their spicy pica salsa is perfectly balanced by the generous amounts of avocado. It is a must if you head to the city, but there will be a line. Always.
- Beans – This is where we start to get into breakfast burrito battleground territory. Most commonly, black beans are the legume of choice, however, occasionally you’ll find a breakfast burrito filled with refried beans. Best of all, you usually don’t know which until your first bite.
- Salsa – This is a breakfast burrito standard. Depending on the region of the country, you might find green chilis, chipotle sauce, pico de gallo, or your standard salsa.
- Potatoes – This is where breakfast burrito fans tend to get divided. There are two major styles of breakfast potatoes found in burritos—if there are any at all. In New Mexico, for instance, most commonly, breakfast burritos have a hash brown filling. In other areas, Colorado, for instance, the potatoes are usually cubed.
- Onions, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, and tortilla chips—the potential add-ins are endless. Get creative and give anything a try.