A burrito that doesn’t fall apart when bitten into is easier to achieve than you think. These four tricks will help you get there without hassle.
Unless you’ve worked in a Mexican joint or a burrito truck—in which case, more power to you!—the hardest part of making burritos at home is wrapping them up in such a way that they stay closed. After all, nobody likes a burrito that’s folded so poorly, it falls apart in the first bite or two.
“How hard can it be,” you think to yourself, until you experience one of those humbling moments that remind you just how much cooking technique goes into something as simple as topping a tortilla and rolling it out into a burrito.
Armed with the right information, which we are about to share with you in a moment, you can learn the proper tortilla folding technique in no time, making tortillas that fall apart a thing of the past. So let’s get right into it.
Warm the Tortilla First
Heat a ceramic, non-stick, or cast iron skillet over medium-low and warm the tortillas in it for 20-30 seconds each. You don’t want to brown the tortillas, just to heat them up and make them more pliable.
If your tortillas have gone stale, usually because they’ve been opened for a while or because the package was accidentally left opened, The Kitchn’s Sarah Rae Smith recommends to bring them back to life by wetting two or three paper towels, stacking the tortillas on top of them, and microwaving for 50-60 seconds.
When In Doubt, Use the Smiley Method
Lay the tortilla on your cutting board and imagine it as a smiley face. All the toppings should go where the smile is, which is the lower half that’s facing you. The smiley face should have a chin, so you want to leave some space between the toppings and the edge of the tortilla.
The fillings should be spread out evenly, but should not rise so high that they make folding the wrap difficult for you. Smaller wraps can handle no more than ⅔ of an inch of toppings, bigger wraps can handle 1 to 1½ inches when folded properly.
Another trick is to make the fillings at the bottom of the smile, the part that’s toward the chin, thicker than they are in the middle. This ensures that the filling takes its place when the tortilla is rolled and does not spill.
I came up with this technique a couple of years ago. Or at least I think I did; I have not found anything similar on the Internet. And I can tell you with hand on heart that it took my burrito-folding game to the next level.
Try the smiley method, and you will take your tortilla folding to new heights, too. A friend who cooks with her kids also deemed it a “fun and fruitful” way to teach her kids how to fold a wrap.
Add the Toppings in the Correct Sequence
Sour cream, queso blanco, guacamole, salsa, hot sauce, and any other “wet” toppings should go on the tortilla first. This way, they will be on the opposite side of the wrap when you fold up the burrito and won’t mush out on you as you do.
The trick is to add only a tablespoon or two of moist toppings. Too much not only makes it difficult to impossible to fold the burrito, but also releases too much moisture into the tortilla wrap, making it soggy and unable to hold its weight.
Crumbly, grainy, and small toppings, such as browned beef, sautéed mushrooms, sweet corn, black beans, and cooked rice, go next. Then come diced tomatoes, cilantro, and the likes, followed by slices of avocado, onion, and chili peppers.
Grated cheddar should always be on top. When you fold the tortilla and brown it in a hot skillet, the cheese will melt and seal it. Sometimes, I like to sprinkle some grated cheese where the edges of the wrap intersect; it melts and acts as glue that holds the whole thing together.
Apply the Correct Folding Technique
In a video on her YouTube channel, vlogger Vishwesh Shanbhag from Seattle, WA, masterfully shows how to fold a burrito:
She starts with a warmed tortilla, topping it with what seems similar to the smiley method. She then folds the sides of the bottom half of the wrap with her hands into the shape of the letter “W,” taking the part that’s sticking out in-between with her two thumbs and folding it into the burrito tightly.
Shanbhag holds the half-finished burrito in place and uses her pinky fingers to grab and fold the top two parts of the letter “W” that are sticking out, then rolls the whole thing and packages it in aluminum foil for the convenience of the eater.
The result? A burrito folded so well, it will hold its shape even if you bang it against the wall (don’t try this at home).