I’m just going to say it: I love a chimichanga in a painful, star-crossed-lovers kind of way. I know in my head that stuffing a big tortilla with
stuff cheese and deep-frying it isn’t, y’know, exactly sensible, in a caring-about-your-health kind of way, but in a crispy, cheesy, delicious way – in my heart, in other words – it not only makes perfect sense but is basically essential. Fortunately/unfortunately, I don’t eat out a lot and so my opportunities to order chimichangas don’t come around all that often. And deep-frying things at home isn’t an adventure I’ve embarked on.
But the good news is, there is a compromise for my taste buds, and it comes in the form of veggie-packed baked burritos. Even more exciting, the burritos are a perfect freezer meal, and (since you bake them after they’re thawed) they’re just as crispy, melty-cheesy, spicy-meaty as they are if you bake them immediately!
Start with an onion and a pepper. Stir them around in a skillet with some hot olive oil and let them begin to cook and soften.
Push the vegetables to the side and increase the heat, and add a little more oil to the middle of the pan. Add the ground turkey (or beef, whichever you prefer) and let it brown for a couple of minutes, then break it up with a wooden spoon or spatula and stir it around until it’s cooked through.
Add the spices and a cup of whatever salsa you love. Throw in a couple of big handfuls of spinach and stir until the spinach wilts – and continue to cook the meat mixture until it’s saucy, but not so liquidy that it will make your tortillas soggy! It took a couple of minutes for me, but it will mostly depend on the consistency of the salsa you use.
Then you need a little assembly line! Baked burrito filling, tortillas, shredded cheese, and a foil-lined baking sheet.
I like to divide the filling into rough quadrants in the skillet to help me portion it out into the burritos. To make 8 burritos, just use half of each quadrant (or about 1/3 cup of the filling mixture) per tortilla. Plop the meat on the side of the tortilla closest to you, then top with a generous couple of tablespoons of cheese (I mean, the moderation has to stop somewhere, right?). I really like to put the cheese on top (or what will become the bottom of the burrito when it bakes) since it forms a barrier between the filling and the tortilla and helps prevent sogginess. The melting cheese also helps the bottom of the tortilla get brown and crispy!
Fold the sides of the burrito in toward the center and roll the burrito away from you, tucking the filling in as you roll. Place the burrito seam-side down on the baking sheet. You can flash freeze and then store the burritos at this point, or bake with a drizzle of olive oil for crispy baked burrito perfection!
I always, always serve these with a huge (like, way more than I would eat for a normal side salad) pile of chopped romaine lettuce and Roma tomatoes. I love the contrast of the fresh, crunchy lettuce with the heat (both temperature and spiciness!) of the burrito. I treat it like a mega-garnish, but if you could also add a dressing, like this super simple lime vinaigrette [love that salad, btw!] or a creamy avocado cilantro dressing.Print
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided (plus more for baking the burritos)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 lb ground turkey (or ground beef)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 cup salsa (I used a medium restaurant-style salsa)
- 2-3 big handfuls of raw baby spinach
- 6-8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (or any kind of cheese you like!)
- 8 flour tortillas (I use whole wheat)
- lettuce and tomato, for serving
- You could also add avocado, cilantro, guacamole, more salsa, extra cheese, sour cream, or any other toppings you like!
- Heat about two teaspoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add onions and peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes until softened. Season with some salt and pepper and push the vegetables to the sides of the pan.
- Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the middle and increase the heat to medium-high to high. Add ground turkey and let it brown, undisturbed, for a couple of minutes, then break it up with a wooden spoon or spatula and stir it around with the onions and peppers until it is all cooked through. Add the chili powder, cumin, and another sprinkle of salt and pepper.
- Reduce the heat back to medium and stir in the salsa and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted and the mixture is saucy, but not too liquidy – you don’t want the burritos to get soggy when they bake. This will depend on the consistency of the salsa you use. I cooked mine for a couple of minutes more to evaporate some of the salsa liquid.
- Set up an assembly line with the meat mixture, tortillas (warming them slightly in the microwave helps them to roll more easily), cheese, and a baking sheet lined with foil (if baking immediately), or a baking sheet or plate lined with foil (if freezing). Use a spatula to divide the meat mixture into approximate quadrants, and use about half of each quadrant per tortilla (it’s about 1/3 of a cup). Add a few tablespoons of cheese on TOP of the meat. Fold in the sides of the tortilla partway and roll it up, placing it seam-side down on the foil.
- To bake, preheat the oven to 400 and drizzle a little olive oil onto each burrito and rub it in with your fingers (or you could brush it on). Bake for 10-20 minutes until the tops of the burritos are brown (when I bake them in my toaster oven, they get brown in 10 minutes – maybe because they’re closer to the heating element – but they take closer to 20 minutes in my regular oven to get as brown and crispy as I like them).
- To freeze, flash freeze the unbaked burritos on the pan or plate in your freezer. Once the burritos are frozen, store them in a zip-top freezer bag. You can thaw them overnight in the fridge or for a couple of minutes in the microwave before baking as above!
- Serve the baked burritos with a big pile of crispy romaine lettuce and chopped tomatoes, and any other garnishes you like!
This recipe is slightly adapted from Quick and Easy Beef Burritos on Pie Birds
To stretch the filling, I’ve also added about a cup of cooked brown rice to the meat mixture and made about 10 burritos.