What is the greatest burrito ingredient? [Think Tank]

What is the greatest burrito ingredient? [Think Tank]

The Think Tank takes apart burritos.


Sweet, a little tangy, leafy but not in a bad way… cilantro truly is the king of herbs.  By adding a burst of flavor right where it is needed, cilantro (to paraphrase The Big Lebowski) really brings a burrito together.

Consider a burrito from the best of the burrito franchises, Chipotle.  Although cilantro, on its own, is not a choice from one of those silver bins at your local Chipotle store, it is nevertheless a vital ingredient of both the guacamole and the cilantro-lime rice.  What would cilantro-lime rice be without the cilantro?  Lime rice?  Ese, please.

Cilantro is arguably the most important flavor in both the Mexican and Indian food traditions, which themselves are arguably the two greatest cuisines the world has ever seen.  (French?  Feh.  Does French cuisine have a dish as beautiful as this:

Or this?

Or this?


I doubt it.  And what do these three dishes have in common?  Cilantro.)

Cilantro is also a common garnish in Chinese, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, and African dishes.  So let’s be honest here.  Those of you who hate cilantro are probably racist.

But Overthinkingit.com is a pop culture blog, not a foodie blog, so let’s talk pop culture.  Lately, the Internet has come out AGAINST CILANTRO.  The second hit on a Google search of the word “cilantro” after the wikipedia article is a site called “I Hate Cilantro!”  (My antivirus program won’t let me open the site. Evidently AVG is another ticked off cilantro fan.  Here’s another cilantro-hating website that my computer will let me open.)  Lately, it seems everywhere I look, someone on the Internet is raging against cilantro.  Cilantro, possibly the best herb in the history of herbs!

I can’t believe that a majority of people on the Internet hate cilantro.  (Unless a majority of people on the Internet are racists.)  So I speak now to you, the silent majority, the cilantro lovers out there.  Let loose your song!  Let your words ring out from the rooftops and the Mexican restaurants: We Love Cilantro!  Cilantro is King!

At its best, the burrito represents a synthesis of everything that is good in food and in society. It is both phallic and yonic, assertively thrusting into your mouth while tenderly enclosing its precious contents. It represents a marriage of primitive man’s earliest labors, both the hunt for delicious meat to roast on the fire and also the agriculture necessary to produce wheat or corn for the tortillas, as well as beans to accompany the meant. (Rice, I would argue, represents a turning away from the Platonic form the burrito, a dilution of its essential burrito-ness. Notice you don’t see anyone here sticking up for rice. It’s filler.)

Before the burrito is constructed, the ingredients are separate. Rice in one bowl, delicious delicious carnitas in another (sorry, I can’t stay impartial), cilantro on the cutting board, tortilla on the plate. But through an alchemical culinary magic, the finished burrito is a unified entity, its contents a heterogeneous melange but a melange nonetheless.

What, you may ask, what is the glue that holds these disparate forces of food and of culture together? What can unite the masculine and the feminine, the hunter and the farmer, the meat and the beans? What sticky, unctuous, ooze can overcome boundaries of cuisine and society to achieve the Epicurean harmony that has been the dream of right-thinking gastronomes since, well, Epicurus?

The answer? Cheese.

You know you want it.

You know you want it.

Cheese, itself a product of culinary alchemy, and itself an exemplar of balance and harmony—both a solid and a liquid, full of both fat and protein—is what gives the burrito its special, transcendent magic.

Don’t believe me? Just try to keep your mouth from watering:

And what is a nacho but a mini open-faced burrito? (Rice would be terrible on nachos. Just saying.)

And what is a nacho but a mini open-faced burrito? (Rice would be terrible on nachos. Just saying.)


The greatest ingredient in a burrito doesn’t come from a beast of the field or a tree of the forest – or even from a corn processing plant in Iowa. No, the best ingredient in a burrito isn’t stocked in the walk-in or kept on the hot line behind the sneeze guard.

Every day, when that burritista looks him or herself in the mirror, groggy and hung over from a night of too many tequila shots or dollar High Life drafts, and imagines all the people he or she will make happy with the gift of burritti — the anger and hatred the customers bring into his or her place of work, and the mollified corpulence they take home when they leave — there comes from deep deep inside an upwelling of something special — that special ingredient, that secret sauce, if you will, that makes a burrito so much more than just a Mexican sandwich.

For no plant or animal but the human being can put in the burrito what really makes it turn your frown upside down.

The best ingredient is love. It always has been.

And pinto beans. Fuck yeah, pinto beans.

6 Comments on “What is the greatest burrito ingredient? [Think Tank]”

  1. Gab #

    What about us under the “no hablo Español” category? No idea what Mr. Banderas is saying, there. He could be pointing out facts I don’t know about the candidates that could influence my ultimate decision.


  2. Ryan R #

    I think Carnitas vs. Barbacoa is splitting the vote.

    Did you know that, according to wikipedia, some people hate cilantro because it is possible they have a genetic variation in taste perception where they can taste an unpleasant-tasting chemical that others cannot? Fascinating.

    Want a chipotle burrito? there’s an app for that: http://www.chipotle.com/#/flash/order_iPhone-app


  3. DaveW #

    Despite my deep and abiding loves for all things tasty, tasty burrito, I feel I must side with Mr Banderas on this one – PAELLA VALENCIANA, cabrones!


  4. DarylN #

    Carnitas beats barbacoa for me. I love its warm, loving touch and depth of flavor.


  5. Dan #

    Couldn’t you have found a slightly more appetizing photo of sour cream?


  6. Perich #

    @Dan: I had a choice of several, but I wanted one of sour cream on a burrito.


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