Tacos vs. Burritos
Sometimes both the choices are good—yummy vs delicious! That’s the case with tacos vs burritos, and it’s really tempting to order a whole lot of both to eat while you’re deciding. Since tacos and burritos share many of the ingredients of Mexican cuisine, your choice may depend on whether you’re making or buying, who’s eating with you and the reason you’re having them. So have a great time choosing—and nudge the sour cream a little closer over here, while you’re at it.
Nothing beats a taco for versatility. While the taco name originates from a Spanish word meaning “little snack,” tacos can serve as a snack, light lunch or dinner main course, depending mostly on how many you allow per person. Usually made with a 6-inch or 8-inch crisp corn tortilla, tacos can also be made with soft flour tortillas. The size of the shell limits the amount of filling; a pound of meat, chicken or fish can fill from 6 to 10 tacos, depending on other ingredients. Tacos remain essentially light fare, with a slice or two of this, a tablespoon of that and a sprinkling of the others. This makes them perfect for both snacking and meals, satisfying a lot of different appetites.
Tacos give you a lot of different tastes, textures and nutritional elements at the same time. Proteins include meat, poultry or fish plus usually a sprinkling of cheese. Sour cream or crema joins cheese as a dairy component. Cooked vegetables like beans and onions join fresh ones like lettuce, scallion, avocado, tomato, cucumber, radishes and fresh herbs like cilantro. Add a spicy touch with peppers and salsa, and you’re looking at a whole balanced meal in a 6-nch shell—a real street-food step up from a hot-dog or giant pretzel, and a great way to get fresh veggies into your kids.
Tacos are great for entertaining. Prepare vegetables and dairy toppings ahead of time, pop cooked meat into warmed tortillas, and let everyone customize their own. Great for fussy eaters as well as those willing to experiment. And making your own taco is fun, whether you’re doing family Taco Tuesday or letting the couple that just moved in get acquainted with the neighbors. The serve-yourself aspect of tacos lets you relax and enjoy your company.
Tacos are portable. You don’t need a plate, though you can add enough toppings that it’s probably a good idea. But a basic taco’s meant to be eaten with your hand and a napkin. That’s one of the things that makes it great street food—and a favorite of kids, who may not like every ethnic dish you try.
Burritos are a soft wheat tortillas filled with enough goodies to qualify easily as a dinner main course. There’s room for meat, beans, rice and cheese to meld their great flavors into a single delicious filling. Usually made on a 10-inch tortilla, burritos can hold a quarter pound serving of meat with room left for add-ons. Make a simple salad or put out bowls of guacamole and sour cream, and you have a generous sit-down meal.
Unlike tacos, burritos can be assembled ahead of time, wrapped individually in aluminum foil and reheated in a warm oven, or frozen for later meals. This makes them great for large families and cooks who want to prepare meals for the week in a weekend cooking-session or two. Stored, wrapped, in the fridge for a day or two, burritos also make an easy, hearty meal for family members on different hectic schedules to enjoy.
Burritos are a great way to stretch fresh or leftover high-quality protein over several servings. Shred the last of the roast chicken and combine it with the small serving of leftover corn kernels, a little salsa, leftover rice, a can of kidney beans, mashed, and the last scallion in the bunch—wrap and congratulate yourself on a money-saving winner dinner.
Because tacos are light, you’re going to have to eat several if you’re really hungry, and that can mean a lot of fried or baked starchy tortilla shells. Calorically, the range can be pretty wide, but, just because it looks like a salad in a shell, the ratio of carbs to veggies or proteins can still be high. In a study of Taco Bell offerings, CalorieLab pegs a single as between 170 and 280 calories, with between 8 and 14 grams of protein, 13 to 23 grams of carb, and 10 and 17 grams of fat, part of it saturated. Big eaters are going to take in a lot of calories.
Tacos are best fresh. You can cut up veggies, grate cheese and even pre-cook and refrigerate meat, but last-minute prep means a lot of pieces in your puzzle: dishes, utensils and foods. What make tacos from the truck so good are all the add-ons and garnishes. If you like prep-work, you’ll regard tacos as an easy meal, but they’ll seem like a nuisance if your favorite meals go pan-to-plate-to-table in one quick trip.
Because of their size, burritos are really sit-down food. And you want a fork and lots of napkins. All the great things you can put in burrito filling make them hard to eat standing on the curb near the food truck. Plus, the garnishes that make them especially delicious, like salsa and sour cream, along with the add-ons that make them more of a balanced meal, like lettuce and other veggies, can’t really be tucked into the burrito, so they need some place to sit.
It can take some testing to find restaurant or food-truck burritos that emphasize nutrition over bulk. Beans and rice cost less than meat and cheese, letting vendors compete for a rep as producers of the biggest burrito for the buck. Because burritos are pre-made and wrapped tight, you can only assess the quality of the contents by biting in.
Burritos really deliver when family or guests are hungry, but their generous portions cut both ways. CalorieLab’s reading on Taco Bell burritos puts them ahead of tacos calorically in every category: 370 to 680 calories each, 14 to 35 grams of protein, 55 to 80 grams of carbs, and 7.5 to 16.5 grams of fat. Homemade burritos offer plenty of scope for cutting back in all categories, but that big 10-inch wrap begs to be filled with something, and you’re putting a lot of food on the table when you serve burritos, even when you cut the wrap size back to 8 inches. With lavish add-ons, you may be serving too much of a good thing.
Whichever is your favorite, both tacos and burritos enrich our ethnic food vocabulary in delicious ways. Straddling the line between convenience food and home cooking, they let you make quick, tasty snacks and meals. Mexican imports, tacos and burritos have both become North American favorites. Which do you like best?