What is the Difference Between a Burrito and a Taco?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Burritos and tacos are both elements in Mexican cuisine which involve fillings rolled up in a flatbread wrapper, but there are a few key differences which distinguish these dishes from each other. The most fundamental difference is that burritos are typically much larger than tacos, with a single burrito comprising a whole meal, while several tacos might be necessary for a diner to feel full.

Shrimp tacos.
Shrimp tacos.

Tacos are an ancient food. The history of Mesoamerican cuisine has included some form of the taco for centuries. Traditional tacos are made with warmed corn tortillas around the size of a hand, folded or wrapped around a simple filling, and sometimes garnished with salsa, sour cream, or other sauces. Most tacos have a single element in their filling, such as carne asada or pulled pork. Some cooks also made tacos in hard shells, which were historically made with stale tortillas.

Burritos are larger than tacos and the ingredients are completely wrapped in a tortilla.
Burritos are larger than tacos and the ingredients are completely wrapped in a tortilla.

The burrito, on the other hand, is a relatively recent invention. The development of the burrito is usually credited to an enterprising 20th century merchant who wanted to sell plates of rice and beans without having to provide plates. He stumbled upon the idea of wrapping ingredients in an oversized wrapper made from a wheat tortilla, with the wrapper standing in as the plate and insulating the ingredients. Reflecting these origins, burritos are usually tightly wrapped to form a parcel, rather than simply folded or rolled, as with tacos.

Robust salsa is a traditional accompaniment to both burritos and tacos.
Robust salsa is a traditional accompaniment to both burritos and tacos.

The burrito also tends to have a mix of ingredients, such as rice, beans, and cheese or rice, meat, and vegetables. The tortillas used to wrap burritos are significantly larger than those used to package tacos, being closer to the size of a face, rather than the palm of someone's hand. Corn tortillas are rarely used for burritos, because they can crack and split when made so large, and burritos are sometimes made with flavored tortillas, like spinach or tomato tortillas.

Burritos and tacos in Mexico tend to be quite simple, with basic, fresh ingredients and a relatively small size. Outside of Mexico, these dishes have diverged considerably from their origins. Tacos, for example, may be made with wheat tortillas in addition to the traditional corn tortilla, and the tortillas may also be fried for extra flavor and a crispy texture. The burrito has also ballooned considerably, to the point where some people might not even recognize it, with many Mexican-inspired restaurants outside of Mexico offering burritos stuffed with a multitude of fillings and drenched in sauces.

Burritos are sometimes made with spinach tortillas that add color and flavor.
Burritos are sometimes made with spinach tortillas that add color and flavor.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


If you're getting a burrito from McDonald's, you probably need to rethink your choices.


Sonic has good breakfast burritos, too. I always eat just the filling and not the tortilla, since that really cranks up the carb and calorie count. But they are very hearty, and one for breakfast frequently means I'm not really hungry again until dinner time. If you don't get the tater tots inside, that also helps cut down on carbs and calories.

I always want the salsa with it, though. It just isn't a really good breakfast burrito without plenty of salsa on the side. In many ways, it's better than ketchup, in my opinion!


Icecream17-I agree with you. It is better to have some protein for breakfast and a high fiber food that will keep you satisfied for a while.

I eat a big burrito when I go to Disney. I need a lot of energy for all that walking that you do and it really helps my stamina.

I really like Taco Bell and I have had the bean burrito before. It only has like 300 calories and really tastes great.

It is really filling too. I try to stay away from the taco salads. The taco salad with the shell has like 1,200 calories.

If you eat just the inside of the salad then it brings the figure closer to 400 calories. This is another healthy alternative to the burrito, but you should only eat the inside.

The shell is deep fried and has a lot of calories not to mention fat and cholesterol.

I have heard that El Burrito Loco had great food, but they do not have any restaurants close to me.

I usually see these restaurants when I go to California. They have excellent burritos there because of the high Mexican population.


I agree with you. I love those breakfast burritos. I have to say that a burrito diet is quite healthy. A bean burrito has a lot of fiber and contains little fat.

It actually fills you up and the bean stabilizes your blood sugar which not only cuts out the cravings for sweets and it keeps your energy level steady.

You usually won’t feel sleepy after eating a burrito unless it is laden with cheese and sour cream.

For example, Mc Donald’s offers a big burrito for breakfast. While this burrito did have a lot of calories it was very filling and I was not hungry until late afternoon.

This burrito was about 500 calories, but since I had a late lunch and did not eat much the remainder of the day it was actually the better choice for me.


I love the breakfast burrito from Mc Donald's. What a great idea to combine eggs and cheese with a torilla shell. The breakfast entrée is really filling.

I also love fish tacos. The first time I tried it was in a restaurant in San Diego and I was hooked.

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