What is a chimichanga?
Chimichanga comes from the southern US and is essentially a deep-fried burrito. This Tex-Mex dish, especially popular in Arizona, usually features a flour tortilla filled with rice, beans, cheese and meat, then rolled up and fried.
Carne asada, carne seca, barbacoa, ground beef, carnitas and shredded chicken, are commonly used meats, but you can choose any meat you like or go vegetarian or vegan. Almost any cheese will do. Black beans, pinto beans, and refried beans are the most common beans used for this dish. Once the tortilla is filled, the chimichanga is wrapped tightly into a rectangular shape and fried until golden brown. You can top it with guacamole, salsa or any dressing of your choice.
Chimichangas’ best and most addictive characteristics are their crunchy shells. Chimichanga fillings vary widely, but the crispy shell is the hallmark of this dish.
You can achieve that crispiness by baking, frying or air frying them. These Mexican delights are packed with complex flavours and are easier to make than you’d think. Plus, they’re hugely filling and will keep you going until your next meal.
Chimichanga vs burrito: what’s the difference?
Chimichangas and burritos are staples of Mexican (or Mexican-American) cuisine.
They’re both made with flour tortillas filled with meat, beans, rice and cheese. Burritos can also be filled with vegetables and condiments such as pico de gallo, guacamole, and salsa. Chimichangas are deep-fried burritos, and cold condiments like pico de gallo and guacamole are served on the side as they don’t tolerate high heat well. Both of these dishes are delicious when smothered in salsa.
Chimichanga vs enchilada: what’s the difference?
Enchiladas are another staple of Mexican-American cuisine, but they are usually made using corn tortillas. These are wrapped around a traditional filling of meat, cheese, beans, vegetables or other ingredients to create enchiladas, which are lined up with other enchiladas in a dish, covered in savoury sauce and baked in the oven.
A degree of uncertainty surrounds the origin of the chimichanga. Some say it was created in Mexico, while others say it was born in Arizona. In 1922, Tucson-based restaurateur Monica Flin’s nieces or nephews bumped into her, causing her to drop a burrito into a deep fryer. The woman immediately began to utter a Spanish profanity beginning with “chi…” but quickly, due to the presence of children, stopped and instead yelled out “chimichanga!” (a Mexican nonsense word). Its popularity gradually spread beyond Tucson, gaining appreciation elsewhere in recent decades.
What to serve with chimichangas
You can serve chimichangas with a variety of Mexican side dishes. Traditionally, chimichangas are served with lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, salsa and/or sour cream. In contrast to other Mexican-inspired wraps, these cold ingredients are typically piled on top or on the side.
Traditional chimichangas are deep-fried, but many prefer to make them in the oven to reduce the amount of oil used. Our step-by-step guide will show you how to make pan-fried chimichangas and the healthier version in the oven.
Cooked and shredded chicken
How to make pan-fried chimichangas
Over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil to a medium-sized skillet.
Place the chimichanga seam side down.
Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
How to make chimichangas in the oven
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Using a medium mixing bowl, combine chicken, chilli powder, cumin, paprika, salt, salsa, cheese, cream cheese and green onions.
To assemble the chimichangas, place 2 tablespoons of refried beans on each tortilla about 2 inches from the edges. Add about 1/2 cup of shredded chicken to the centre.
On a baking sheet, fold the sides of the tortillas in and roll up the bottom. Place seam side down.
Brush the tops with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
This article was updated on 31/03/2023.