San Diego is home to incredible beaches, scenic vistas, and outstanding gourmet cuisine. Like anywhere, there is a food option of choice locals love and go crazy for, and in San Diego, Mexican food is all-the-rage. When people think about San Diego, they know about the fantastic San Diego Mexican food throughout the county. Still, there’s one dirty little secret that locals know about, the California Burrito.
There are two thoughts on what makes the best burritos. One is the “Mission District” burrito that is popular at all points in Santa Barbara and north, which derives its name from the Mission District of San Francisco. Made up of meat, cheese, salsa, guacamole, rice, and beans, this burrito is tasty and filling for sure.
Yet south of Santa Barbara, burritos do not have rice and beans added. So it’s the North vs. South debate of which burrito is better, with both sides claiming theirs to be superior. While both are delicious, the truth is, in Southern California, it’s all about the California burrito.
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What is a California Burrito?
This burrito isn’t your standard one. Loaded with carne asada, sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, and either potatoes or french fries, the California burrito is the perfect antidote to a late night out with friends or whenever you’re feeling hungry. Yes, that’s right, a California burrito has french fries inside, making the delicious burrito rate on a scale of 1-10. They take it to 11.
How to Make a California Burrito?
The basics of a California burrito come down to what you put into it. Suppose you’re wondering what’s in a California burrito. In that case, the traditional definition of one includes carne asada, which is just a way to say seasoned steak. Next is guacamole, pico de gallo (a rough-chopped salsa of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro), cheese, sour cream, and french fries wrapped in a large flour tortilla.
While the traditional California Burrito gets made with carne asada, you can substitute steak for chicken, shrimp, eggs, what-have-you. The burrito is a versatile dish and delicious however you make it. Still, other recipes can deviate from the traditional such as substituting hash browns or mashed potatoes for french fries, but the critical ingredient is a potato to the burrito.
Otherwise, it’s not a California style burrito, just whatever burrito you chose to make.
A few recipes call for a slight char on the tortilla after the burrito gets wrapped to add texture to each bite. Yet, this option is an entirely personal preference.
California Burrito Ingredients
To be known as the California burritos standard, it includes marinated steak, known as carne asada, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, french fries, and flour tortilla.
Before you try to make one, you need to know all the ingredients n a California burrito recipe:
- Carne Asada (or any other protein): Carne asada is a marinated flank steak with a savory flavor.
- Guacamole: Guacamole is made from avocados, cilantro, cilantro, salt and pepper, and jalapenos or serranos. Depending on rough/chopped or smooth style, you can make it with tomatoes, sour cream, or plain yogurt (not traditional).
- Pico De Gallo: Pico de Gallo is a roughly chopped salsa of tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and a light citrus zest like lime, with occasional jalapenos or serranos added for spice.
- Cheese: Monterrey Jack or mild-cheddar work best.
- Sour Cream: Choose to add a little or a lot, or none-at-all.
- French Fries: The key ingredient that separates a California Burrito from all other burritos is the french fries. Lightly salted and fried, the french fries add some texture and flavor without overpowering the rest of the ingredients.
- Flour Tortilla: Flour tortillas have more gluten than corn, a protein in the wheat that makes them more elastic than other tortillas.
How many Calories in a California Burrito?
As delicious as this burrito is, it can be laden with calories. The largest source of California Burrito calories comes from french fries, as they are fried and starchy. So, if you’re concerned about the total calories, you can substitute fries for a different type of potato, limit the amount of cheese and sour cream, or add a few extra miles to your run beforehand!
There are roughly 1,100 calories to a traditional California Burrito. Over 500 of those packed into the french fries with the following two largest calorie sources come from the carne asada and tortilla at approximately 200 calories each.
Of course, the beauty of the burrito is its versatility, so if you’re worried about how many calories are in a California Burrito or don’t like certain ingredients, you can modify it however you like!
The one critical ingredient that separates a California burrito from a regular one is the potato, so if you’re looking to change it to save on calories, the one thing you can’t eliminate is the potato from your recipe.
What’s a California Breakfast Burrito?
As we’ve discussed, the beauty of a burrito is its versatility. A case in point is the breakfast burrito, California style!
To make a breakfast version of this delicacy, you substitute eggs and bacon for the carne asada. The main ingredient that separates a California breakfast burrito from a traditional breakfast is a potato in one form or another inside.
In general, the breakfast burrito is one made with;
- Bacon or sausage
- Potatoes, hash browns, fries, or tater tots (potato is an individual choice)
- Avocado or guacamole
- Pico de Gallo or red salsa
- Sour Cream (optional)
- Flour tortilla
If you don’t feel like going to the trouble of making your breakfast burrito, several La Jolla breakfast spots make some of the best ones in all of Southern California.
Where to Find the Best California Burrito in San Diego
Most people know that San Diego has some of the best Mexican food in the world. From fast-Mex to fine dining, the cuisine of Mexico permeates San Diego, and if you’re craving a California Burrito, our list of the best La Jolla restaurants won’t steer you wrong.
Whether after a late night out or a long day of surfing, a California Burrito is the sure thing to fill you up. Check out some of our top spots, or create your list of the best take-out burritos around San Diego. While some burrito spots are better than others, there’s no such thing as a bad California Burrito. That fact is just one of the many that make it the perfect meal anytime, day or night.
About the author: David Throop is a freelance writer specializing in marketing, health, fitness, and wellness with an eye toward his clients achieving their outcome objectives. When he is not being bitten on the ankles by precocious puppies and children he likes to spend his time outdoors.
There comes in a time in everyone’s life when they realize that they’re just scrolling through photo after photo of California burritos. That’s okay–keep scrolling, friends! 🙂
If you lived in San Diego, fell in love with California burritos, and moved away, our hearts go out to you in this time of sorrow. Some taco shop-loving transplants have been able to find a place across town in random cities that makes a legitimate California burrito. But most have to wait until they come back.