A few years back, my husband wrote an article for the local paper, rating various taco trucks and hole in the wall taquerias around the Rogue Valley. Being a vegetarian, his firsthand experience was strictly set on the veggie burrito at each of these locations. Since this article was written before I ever met my husband, I’ve lucked out and have spent the last five and a half years simply eating already tested, tried, highly rated burritos. That said, when we’re traveling and come across a new taqueria or taco truck, it’s a gambling game. One we both enjoy playing!
If you’re in the Rogue Valley looking for a good veggie burrito, my top three favorites are the Tacos Michoacan food truck in Talent, Tacopancho truck in Medford, and Los Arcos also in Medford. All three locations can be called ahead of time, then picked up for take-out.
But honestly, who can afford to eat out (even from a taco truck) every single day? We love burritos in this house. Seven-year-old Silas brought home a worksheet from his second grade class the other day called “Getting to Know You.” When I looked through his responses, “favorite food” simply stated “BRETO.” If you’ve got any hesitation about what that means, that would be bree-toe, as in burrito. Ask the boy what he wants for dinner and it’s often a toss up of burritos, tuna melts, or pizza.
What I’ve learned is there’s an art to making homemade veggie burritos. The really good ones are all about how the ingredients blend together once they’re wrapped up. If each individual ingredient is tasty on its own, you’re halfway there. My favorite veggie burritos contain beans, rice, cheese, salsa, sour cream (or crema), and avocado. Occasionally it’ll also have one or all of the following: cilantro, chopped tomatoes, lettuce. Let’s break it down by ingredient:
Beans: You can opt for pinto or black, refried or whole. I prefer homemade beans, as it’s another way to impart flavor into the final product. Plus dried beans are cheap and easy to make. Canned beans can be used too, though. Even then I like to drain off the liquid, rinse the beans, and reheat them in vegetable broth laden with fresh herbs and garlic.
Rice: I use long grain white rice. Typically, I’ll sauté 1 cup of rice in 1 tablespoon of oil until it’s toasty and lightly browned. At that point, I’ll add some cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Then I’ll add 2-3 tablespoons of tomato sauce, along with 2 cups No-Chicken broth, then cover and cook the rice until it’s tender (20 or so minutes).
Cheese: One thing I’ve found is that blending a few different kinds of cheeses gives me a variety of taste and consistency. I like to use sharp cheddar for flavor, mozzarella for stickiness and holding things together, and some monterey jack for both of the above reasons.
Salsa: There is so much variety here. You can go for fresh salsa, homemade salsa, chunky salsas, smoother blended versions… The spiciness is entirely up to your preference. I recently discovered Frontera gourmet salsas in our grocery store. Having tried various flavors, my favorites are the chipotle (with roasted tomatillos and garlic), the tomatillo salsa (with roasted serrano chiles and cilantro), the double roasted tomato salsa (with roasted onion and jalapeno), and the guajillo salsa.
Sour cream: This element works so well with the salsa in the final wrapped up burrito. Placed in the right spot, you end up with a creamy, spicy, saucy burrito. It’s magic. More or less. I like light versions, whole fat versions… whatever tickles your fancy.
Avocado: Also creamy and delicious, avocado blends so nicely with everything else in a good veggie burrito!
Cilantro, chopped tomatoes, lettuce: All three of these I say use with caution. You don’t want too much of any of ‘em, but a little of each creates a nice flavor and texture. If you prefer, you can leave all three off of your burrito and you won’t regret it, either! I know that doesn’t sound very helpful, but merely go with what sounds delicious to you!
The tortilla: We recently discovered Don Pancho Homestyle tortillas and I may have dropped the F-bomb in overzealous excitement right in the middle of the grocery store. Around here, often the largest flour tortillas I can find are 10-inches. These Don Pancho tortillas were 14-inches in diameter! That makes for a potentially large burrito! If you can only find 10 or 12 inch wheat or flour tortillas, they’ll work – you’ll just have to stuff them with less filling.
Putting it all together: I like to heat a cast iron griddle to very hot, then place a tortilla on it for about 30 seconds, flip the tortilla, then sprinkle a very generous amount of cheese on the tortilla, leaving about 2-3 inches around the perimeter of the tortilla. Once the cheese has begun to melt, remove from the griddle either to a plate or a large piece of foil. Spoon a generous amount of rice in the center of the tortilla, in a line, again leaving about 3 inches all the way around the tortilla. Spoon a generous amount of beans over the rice, again in a line. Next comes the sour cream and salsa, be generous and place it right on top of the beans. Place your avocado on top of the sour cream and salsa. I like to add another light sprinkling of cheese next, but that isn’t necessary. Add the cilantro, chopped tomatoes, and lettuce if you’re using them.
Turn the tortilla so the line of ingredients is running parallel to you. Fold in the right side of the tortilla, just over the ingredients. Fold in the left side of the tortilla. Now fold the bottom of the tortilla up, over the ingredients and the tucked-in right and left sides. Keep rolling, tightly. Wrap in foil for easier handling, or simply go for it!