My hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania has an impressive restaurant scene. From an international perspective, the offerings rival any big city. There’s literally something for everyone: Greek, Thai, Australian, Nepali, French, Latin American, Italian, Vietnamese, Korean—the list goes on.
Growing up, my family’s infrequent dinners out varied between the long-shuttered Rose Bowl and the kid-favorite Pappy’s (where you could watch the pizza dough being thrown high into the air and play the video game Frogger!). Given the wide variety of Tex-Mex fare now available, it’s hard to believe I never had an authentic Mexican meal until I went to college in Washington, D.C.
Occasional trips with friends to the Cactus Cantina were always a favorite. On my first few outings, I played it safe with the familiar-sounding taco salad before working my way through the vast menu offerings, most of which seemed to be wrapped, stuffed, or rolled.
Flash-forward a generation, and Lancaster’s restaurant scene includes an array of south-of-the-border fare. During a recent Mexican meal, my mom mentioned her tendency to confuse burritos and chimichangas, although she knows she enjoys them both.
Traditionally, a burrito is a flour tortilla that is wrapped around a filling (such as refried beans and meat) with the ends of the tortilla closed. A chimichanga is a deep-fried burrito. Beyond that, there’s much variety in terms of how they are filled and topped.
The following recipe may add to the confusion, but for good reason. Baking the rolled tortillas replicates the crispness of the fried chimichanga, creating a healthier meal with less mess.
Leftover chicken makes for extra quick assembly. You could employ last week’s method of preparing chicken for future use, even keeping the designated amount in the freezer to grab as needed. Rotisserie can be used as well. I like to mix the filling ingredients ahead of time for added ease at mealtime.
Yield: 6 servings
- 1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (You might like this handy method)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Mexican blends work well, too)
- 3/4 cup your favorite salsa
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
- 6 (8-inch) flour tortillas* (or gluten-free tortillas)
- 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil** (may use an olive oil spray)
- Optional for serving: additional salsa; guacamole or chopped avocado; sour cream or Greek yogurt
In a medium bowl, mix the chicken, cheese, salsa, chili powder, cumin, and green onion. Make ahead tip: The chicken mixture can be prepared, covered, and refrigerated up to a day in advance.
When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla. (I lay all the tortillas out on the counter so I can adjust the filling and make them all even. I also like to form the filling into a rectangle for even distribution once rolled.) Fold opposite sides over filling—I fold across the short end of the filling first. Fold in the remaining two sides to form a little package, and place seam-side down on a baking sheet. (No need to grease; may line with foil or parchment for really easy cleanup.) Brush the tops and sides of the chimichangas with the melted butter or oil. Bake for 20 minutes, give or take a few minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Serve with toppings of choice. (Be careful if biting in immediately. The filling will hot!)
- *Whole wheat tortillas may be used, although whole wheat options don’t tend to crisp up as much. Additionally, I’ve tested this recipe with Mission’s gluten-free tortillas/soft tacos with excellent results. Tip: If your tortillas are not soft and pliable, place them between damp paper towels or wrap in a damp tea towel and microwave for 30-45 seconds or until heated through. This will help soften them and prevent cracking when folding them around the filling.
- **Avocado oil is another good option that is well suited to cooking at high temperatures. I use it interchangeably with olive oil.
How many times do you see a recipe that calls for cooked chicken? This easy method will make all of those recipes infinitely easier, as it’s perfect for making ahead and freezing until ready to use.
If you’d like to add homemade guacamole to the mix, you may enjoy this recipe.