What Distinguishes a Soft Shell Taco from a Burrito?

Although both dishes are staples of Mexican cuisine and include many of the same ingredients, there are several important differences between a soft shell taco and a burrito. Before venturing into the soft shell taco vs burrito debate, however, it will be helpful to define both dishes. The taste, preparation, and presentation of tacos and burritos can vary depending on personal preferences and local ingredients, but a few key attributes should be present in order for a meal to fall into one category or the other.

What Is a Soft Shell Taco?

Tacos have been around in some form for hundreds of years and emerged as a handy way to take a meal on the go. The dish soon began to show up in nations around the world as different cultures put their own twist on the classic and simple recipe of a tortilla shell wrapped around ingredients such as marinated meat and vegetables. While the taco originated as a humble and basic food built around portability, it is now enjoyed by posh diners in elegant restaurants and available for consumption any time of the day. 

The soft shell variety is more authentic, since crispy tortilla shells were introduced much later. Generally speaking, a soft shell taco is created with a soft corn tortilla packed with meat that has been marinated and either fried or grilled. Additional ingredients such as onions and cilantro. Based on individual tastes, many preparations call for spicy salsa and other added flavors to create unique and regional delicacies. 

What Is a Burrito?

Unlike a soft shell taco, the burrito’s tortilla is traditionally made from flour instead of corn. This dish can easily become a meal by itself because of its size and the amount of ingredients wrapped inside. In addition to chicken or beef, many burritos also include beans, rice, or other hearty foods, along with veggies, cheese, and salsa. 

The entire thing comes together when the shell is rolled up tightly and tucked securely, often wrapped with a piece of foil to ensure everything stays intact until it is time to eat. Depending on the fillings, a burrito is popular for any meal and can be served a la carte, with a side of beans, or in just about any format imaginable. 

Similarities Between a Soft Shell Taco and Burrito

At first glance, it might appear that a taco and burrito are simply different versions of the same dish. This is because they share several key components. For starters, they both originated in Mexico and authentic versions of each one generally contain ingredients that are commonly found in that country. Additionally, tacos and burritos require a tortilla to serve as the edible container for the typically savory ingredients inside. Many of the flavors found in each dish are also similar, with chili powder, garlic, and paprika among the common spices used to create the distinctive taste.

The basic purpose of both dishes is also similar, since they are both made to be eaten conveniently and are easily portable for those who need a quick meal. In addition to being easy to eat, they are relatively simple to create. All it takes is the right type of tortilla, a protein of some type, and additional fillings to create a more complex taste. Despite their many similarities, however, it is important to understand what makes each dish unique.

Soft Shell Taco vs Burrito: What Are the Differences?

Despite all their clear similarities, there is a reason that these two dishes have distinct names. For starters, tacos have been around a lot longer than the burrito, which only dates back about a century. Aside from their respective origins, the way soft tacos and burritos are created, packaged, and enjoyed by fans around the world are different in a few significant ways. The shell of a burrito, for example, is generally sturdier than that of a soft taco, which means that ingredients such as beans and juicy meats can be packed more densely in a burrito without the tortilla tearing or breaking apart. In some cases, burritos can be made with a larger version of the corn tortilla used for soft tacos, but flour shells are far more common and do a better job of keeping all the ingredients intact throughout the dining experience. 

That brings us to another distinction in the soft shell taco vs burrito discussion: the size difference. Most tacos are considered a component of a larger meal or are enjoyed as a light snack. A burrito, on the other hand, is significantly larger and can be a complete feast without the need for any side dishes. Because of the smaller size and relatively fragile tortilla, soft shell tacos do not typically contain as many ingredients as a burrito. In most cases, a taco contains a small amount of meat along with a few vegetables and spices. Some preparations call for cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and other toppings, but more authentic versions tend to keep the ingredient list very simple. In contrast, the heartier burrito shell can be packed with a wide range of fillings in addition to the chosen protein. With beans, rice, cheese, veggies, and salsa, it is possible to pack an entire meal into the sizable shell used to create this crowd-pleasing dish. 

Finally, a taco is only folded around the ingredients while a burrito features a shell large enough to wrap entirely around all the assorted fillings. This means it is a bit easier to prepare a taco, but a burrito creates a fully encased meal that is therefore less prone to spillage. 

Kunal Sharma
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