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A Comparative Analysis of 13 Sketchy Frozen Burritos

When I was a fat little 12-year-old, my parents moved to Orange County. Along with the many challenges present in transitioning into a large high school in California in the early 1990s (thank you, Mom, for not letting me buy L.A. Raiders sneakers and overalls worn with one shoulder-strap unhooked), one of the biggest changes of all was the difference in school lunches. Instead of mostly wholesome meals, scheduled months in advance and prepared largely by hand, in California, many of the school lunch options were pre-packaged, processed convenience foods.

After trying several different strategies for asserting my “uniqueness,” in a sea of other 13-year-olds, including eating popcorn with a spoon, and getting lunch trays filled only with different kinds of juice, I finally settled into a pattern of eating, almost daily, frozen burritos. They cost about a dollar, they were hot, and they stayed with me all day. And, to turn them into even more of a “Fat Kid Special,” I dunked them, one bite at a time, into a huge, sweaty paper cup of ranch dressing. It’s no wonder the Emilys, the Chloes, and the Sarahs of the world were forever rejecting my stammered advances.

It was only a move back to Maine in the 11th grade that broke me of my frozen burrito habit, but they still hold a soft spot in my heart. The frozen burrito is the unsung hero of the broke-and-starving set, or at the very least, a staple dinner of the Summer intern. Often costing less than 50 cents a piece, and packing all the nutrition of a tossed salad, provided that salad is made of canned deviled ham, frozen burritos have continued to occupy at least some space in my freezer since I was in my early 20s.

I have always been partial to Tina’s brand “Red Hot Beef” burritos, which you can sometimes find for as little as three for a dollar. Double that coupon, and you’re walking out the door with a plastic bag of burritos you’ll never eat, that cost $0.16 apiece. But in the time since I settled on that favorite, dozens more frozen burritos have flooded the bottom shelf of the ghetto-burrito landscape. It was high time for a tasting.

I settled on some rules as I went along:

  1. In selecting which burritos to eat, I would select flavors as close to the “Gold Standard” of Tina’s “Red Hot Beef” variety as possible. In most cases, this meant always opting for a “beef” or “spicy” version of a particular brand. In some cases, this wasn’t possible.
  2. I would prepare my burritos using the “Conventional Oven” directions. Microwaving these things almost always destroys them, and leaves part of the filling frozen, and part of it mouth-devastatingly hot. Though frozen burritos are a convenience food, I was going to take some extra time in their preparation.
  3. I wouldn’t dress my burritos up. These burritos were going to be eaten without any accoutrement, even in instances where some sour cream or some Cholula hot sauce might have saved the day. These burritos were going down bareback.
  4. I wouldn’t evaluate them the way I would evaluate a restaurant burrito. A frozen burrito is never going to be able to compete with something made fresh, and the two types of burrito shouldn’t be held to the same standard. These burritos are evaluated as they relate to each other, not as they relate to a burrito in the real world.
  5. Finally, I would not conduct my burrito testing while in the middle of a blackout drunk. Though frankly, this is the one area in which I may have strayed from the intended audience for these burritos.

Thirteen frozen burritos, 5,590 calories, and $24.44. Join me, won’t you, as we see which of these frozen burritos is deserving of your dollar, and of your heartburn:

Name: Jose Ole® “Steak and Cheese” Chimichanga
Net Weight: 5 oz.
Cost: $1.39
Cost per ounce: $0.28

Notes: Our only “chimichanga” entry in the series (and I use that term very loosely), the Jose Ole Steak and Cheese Chimichanga has a little bit of a different style than the other burritos. Cooking in just 30 minutes, the chimichanga had a lightly greasy, flaky shell, somewhere between a fried flour tortilla and a cracker. It was nowhere near a restaurant-caliber version of a chimichanga, but it provided a welcome break from the other brittle flour tortillas in this tasting. It’s filled with clearly-discernible, pleasantly stringy chunks of shredded beef, separated into sections by oozy, melty, flavorless cheese and visible chunks of lightly spicy green chile. It was surprisingly fresh-tasting, mildly, incomprehensibly tangy, and overall, one of the better entries in the series. Jillian also tried this one, saying, “Not bad! Not something you should eat every day, but certainly not terrible.” I reminded her that none of these burritos should really be eaten, ever.

Tortilla: 4
Filling (Flavor): 4
Filling (Texture): 4
Size: 3
Spiciness: 2
Overall:
3.4/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 350, Total Fat – 15 grams, Saturated Fat – 4.5 grams, Cholesterol – 25 milligrams, Sodium – 580 milligrams, Carbs – 40 grams, Dietary Fiber – 2 grams, Sugars – 1 gram, Protein – 13 grams

Name: El Monterey® “Spicy Red Hot Beef and Bean” Burrito XX Large!™
Net Weight: 10 oz.
Cost: $1.99
Cost per ounce: $0.20

Notes: This is exactly what you don’t want in a frozen burrito. The tortilla got crispy-crackly crunchy, while still managing to get completely saturated by orange grease. The filling ruptured out through the top, while the bottom half stuck to the baking sheet and got ripped apart by the spatula. The inside of the burrito had massive air pockets, and other areas that were filled to overflowing with a dark orange goo. The only taste I could make out was “spiciness,” with no suggestion that there could be any beef or beans inside. The whole thing tasted entirely too synthetic. One of our worst tasting burritos was also one of the worst for you, weighing in at 750 calories and 35 grams of fat. Unsurprising, given that this burrito is almost twice the size of most of the other varieties tested.

Tortilla: 1
Filling (Flavor): 0
Filling (Texture): 0
Size: 5
Spiciness: 3
Overall:
2/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 750, Total Fat – 35 grams, Saturated Fat – 12 grams, Cholesterol – 40 milligrams, Sodium – 770 milligrams, Carbs – 85 grams, Dietary Fiber – 5 grams, Sugars – 2 grams, Protein – 24 grams

Name: PJ’s Organics® Steak and Cheese Burrito
Net Weight: 6 oz.
Cost: $1.99
Cost per ounce: $0.33

Notes: This burrito was unusual, in that it required an hour’s lead time, as well as foil for wrapping while cooking. If I’m the kind of guy that’s eating frozen burritos, chances are I don’t have things like “aluminum foil” or “an hour’s worth of forethought,” in my kitchen, so right away, this burrito is problematic. The foil did keep the flour tortilla soft, but the end result was more a kind of “gumminess,” that sticks to the back of your teeth with each bite. The filling, ostensibly a combination of “steak, cheese, beans, rice, and onion” may as well have contained none of those things. The smooth paste inside had a few errant grains of rice, but little else to help discern one ingredient from the next. There was a sourness to the filling that I also didn’t particularly enjoy. Overall, it was more expensive per ounce than other burritos we tasted, and its “organic” labeling didn’t make it any more appealing. This one was a sticky, gluey mess.

Tortilla: 4
Filling (Flavor): 2
Filling (Texture): 2
Size: 3
Spiciness: 1
Overall:
2.4/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 380, Total Fat – 10 grams, Saturated Fat – 1.5 grams, Cholesterol – 20 milligrams, Sodium – 800 milligrams, Carbs – 52 grams, Dietary Fiber – 3 grams, Sugars – 0 grams, Protein – 12 grams

Name: El Monterey® “Beef & Bean Red Chili” Burritos 2-Pack
Net Weight: 8 oz.
Cost: $1.49
Cost per ounce: $0.19

Notes: Unlike the “XX Large™” version, the twin-pack variety of the El Monterey burrito doesn’t include instructions for preparation using a conventional oven. So, though I had to violate one of my rules and prepare them using the microwave, I also got to hold to the other rule that said I would strictly obey the package directions. The results were pretty disastrous. The package instructs you to open one end of the bag, and microwave the whole thing for two and a half minutes. What results is a soggy, steamy bag of wet burrito, that are far too hot to touch, let alone be eaten. The tortillas were soaked through with orange grease, and had a terribly gummy texture. The filling was mildly spicy, with no noticeable chunks of the different listed ingredients, and absolutely devoid of any flavor. The decision to include two burritos was also an odd move; I can’t imagine finishing the first one and starting on the second with any kind of excitement. The second one ended up in the dog’s bowl, who looked at me like I was an asshole.

Tortilla: 1
Filling (Flavor): 0
Filling (Texture): 1
Size: 3
Spiciness: 2
Overall:
1.4/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 600, Total Fat – 28 grams, Saturated Fat – 9 grams, Cholesterol – 30 milligrams, Sodium – 740 milligrams, Carbs – 70 grams, Dietary Fiber – 6 grams, Sugars – 2 grams, Protein – 18 grams

Name: Trader Jose’s Shredded Beef Burritos
Net Weight: 14 oz.
Cost: $3.29
Cost per ounce: $0.23

Notes: The Trader Joe’s (ahem: “Trader Jose’s) brand frozen burritos seemed expensive, but they also came two to a package, which drove their per-ounce cost into a similar range as other frozen burritos. Having long been a fan of their frozen taquitos, I was looking forward to tasting these. I was a little disturbed by the lack of conventional oven directions, but much more disturbed by what seemed like clearly insane microwave directions: These burritos asked that I microwave them for two and a half minutes on EACH SIDE. I assumed this would absolutely destroy the burrito, and at first, my suspicions appeared to be confirmed. After the first 2.5 minutes, when it came time to flip my burrito over, the tortilla was completely saturated, and some of the filling appeared on the plate out of nowhere, in spite of the tortilla appearing intact. There was also some WATER on the plate, which was surprising, since I hadn’t added any water to my burrito prior to cooking. I flipped it over and added another two and a half minutes, assuming that the burrito would explode, and I would end up with a cool photograph, at the very least.

Instead, though, something mysterious happened. The water on the plate cooked away, the burrito crisped up, and the whole thing appeared more structurally sound after the full five minutes than it had at the midway point. The filling had a great texture and flavor, with little sections of rather dry shredded beef, whole beans, and whole grains of rice. In fact, the whole thing was kind of dry, but as compared to many of the pastes we tasted, this was a welcome relief. I didn’t pick up on any of the cheddar cheese listed on the ingredients panel.I also noticed that the beans had been reduced to dry dust, probably as a result of the high microwave time.

Overall, this was one of the better burritos we tasted, though Jillian could smell it from the other end of the apartment; a smell she described as “Dinty Moore beef stew being strained through a pair of underpants.” So, there’s that.

Tortilla: 3
Filling (Flavor): 4
Filling (Texture): 3
Size: 4
Spiciness: 2
Overall:
3.2/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 600, Total Fat – 28 grams, Saturated Fat – 9 grams, Cholesterol – 30 milligrams, Sodium – 740 milligrams, Carbs – 70 grams, Dietary Fiber – 6 grams, Sugars – 2 grams, Protein – 18 grams

Name: Amy’s® Burrito “Especial” (Made with Organic Black Beans, Rice, & Tomatoes)
Net Weight: 6 oz.
Cost: $2.99
Cost per ounce: $0.50

Notes: At almost 50 cents an ounce, Amy’s Organic burrito was the most expensive in our tasting, which comes as no surprise when you are buying from the special “organic” frozen section of Hannaford. Always the arbiter of good taste, Amy’s doesn’t make a variety of burrito anywhere similar to the Tina’s “Red Hot Beef” burrito that we were using as our baseline, so we went with their black bean, rice, and tomato variety. Ready in 55 minutes. the tortilla had some satisfying scorch marks on the outside. Unfortunately, the inside of the burrito was so wet, that the burrito wouldn’t hold together as soon as you took a bite of it, spraying beans and rice onto the plate. I was pleased to be able to make out individual ingredients, and this burrito tasted most like a burrito you might actually be served in a restaurant.

It was one of the healthiest burritos we tasted, with only 7 grams of fat. It was also the burrito we tasted that was most similar to “real food,” but I’m not sure that was necessarily a good thing. It tasted the way perfume smells; the perfume girls in liberal arts colleges wear, who have lots of pillows, tapestries on their walls, and listen to Morphine. It tasted like an old velvet Crown Royal bag filled with foreign coins.

Tortilla: 2
Filling (Flavor): 3
Filling (Texture): 5
Size: 3
Spiciness: 1
Overall:
2.8/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 300, Total Fat – 7 grams, Saturated Fat – 1.5 grams, Cholesterol – 5 milligrams, Sodium – 620 milligrams, Carbs – 50 grams, Dietary Fiber – 4 grams, Sugars – 2 grams, Protein – 9 grams

Name: Evol Burritos Shredded Beef (“Tender beef, pinto beans, rice, monterey jack cheese and an authentic tomato & roasted corn salsa – all hand rolled together in an insanely tasty flour tortilla”) Burrito
Net Weight: 8 oz.
Cost: $3.29
Cost per ounce: $0.41

Notes: By rights, this should have been the best burrito we tasted. It had one of the highest costs per ounce, it looked the most like a burrito you would be served in a restaurant, it had lots of descriptive language on the package, AND it came from Whole Foods, which, as we know, sells strictly food that is better than you. After cooking, it was a huge, weighty beast, with brown marks on the tortilla to help encourage the idea that this didn’t come from a factory. I could clearly make out the individual ingredients inside, and the corn in the salsa was a nice surprise. The shredded beef had a great texture, and there was just the right balance between wet and dry ingredients.

Unfortunately, it just didn’t taste very good. It was almost completely unseasoned, which doesn’t make sense for frozen Mexican food; the overwhelming flavor was that of stale, warm air coming out of a latex balloon. Most of the bulk of the pleasingly-hefty burrito came from many, many folds in the tortilla, rather than from being stuffed with ingredients.

Tortilla: 3
Filling (Flavor): 1
Filling (Texture): 5
Size: 4
Spiciness: 1
Overall:
2.8/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 470, Total Fat – 11 grams, Saturated Fat – 3.5 grams, Cholesterol – 25 milligrams, Sodium – 640 milligrams, Carbs – 72 grams, Dietary Fiber – 6 grams, Sugars – 2 grams, Protein – 20 grams

Name: Tina’s® “Red Hot Beef” Burrito
Net Weight: 4 oz.
Cost: $0.53
Cost per ounce: $0.13

Notes: As I pointed out at the beginning of this tasting, Tina’s “Red Hot Beef” Burrito is, for me, the gold-standard of ghetto-burrito fabulousness. I’m not alone, apparently. Even the good people at Tina’s didn’t seem to understand what a following they had, and when they tried to reformulate their flagship burrito to make it even cheaper, there was such an uproar that they were forced to change back to their original recipe. Today’s tasting confirmed my feelings on Tina’s. Though the burrito lost much of its filling, and though the tortilla hardened into a crackly, crunchy, dry mess, there’s something about the unapologetic, spicy beef-flavored “textured vegetable protein” paste inside that continues to define what sixteen-cent (on special) burritos should taste like. They’re incredibly cheap, deeply satisfying, surprisingly spicy, and are perfect for when you have either just had, or are about to drink, a dozen beers. Though they don’t rank at the top of the list, due mostly to their diminutive size, every freezer in America should have one of these in it.

Tortilla: 3
Filling (Flavor): 4
Filling (Texture): 2
Size: 2
Spiciness: 5
Overall:
3.2/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 260, Total Fat – 9 grams, Saturated Fat – 3.5 grams, Cholesterol – 10 milligrams, Sodium – 440 milligrams, Carbs – 36 grams, Dietary Fiber – 5 grams, Sugars – 2 grams, Protein – 10 grams

Name: Smart Option “Red Hot Beef” Burrito
Net Weight: 4 oz.
Cost: $0.50
Cost per ounce: $0.13

Notes: I have to admire the “Smart Option” brand, both for their unabashed attempt to copy the Tina’s formula, and for their branding, which almost makes this appear to be health food. I suspect, in this case, the “Smart” in “Smart Option” is referring to what a savvy, thrifty consumer you are, and not to the fact that you are treating your body with any kind of dignity. The two burritos are almost identical, and both have a similar tendency to spill their insides, under the blistering heat of a 375 degree oven. The similarities stop there, however. Smart Option’s version of the “Red Hot Beef” burrito copies the goo, but misses most of the flavor. The spice is dialed way down, and there is an uncomfortable abundance of layer after layer of dry, crunchy tortilla. A poor imitation of a classic, overall.

Tortilla: 3
Filling (Flavor): 1
Filling (Texture): 2
Size: 2
Spiciness: 2
Overall:
2/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 260, Total Fat – 9 grams, Saturated Fat – 3.5 grams, Cholesterol – 10 milligrams, Sodium – 440 milligrams, Carbs – 38 grams, Dietary Fiber – 5 grams, Sugars – 2 grams, Protein – 10 grams

Name: Don Miguel Red Chile “THE BOMB” Beef, Cheese Sauce, and Bean Burrito
Net Weight: 14 oz.
Cost: $2.99
Cost per ounce: $0.21

Notes: I first encountered “THE BOMB” in a 7-11, after a three A.M. drive back to Portland from the Midcoast, where I was surprised that, for 80 miles, there was not a single place to get a bite to eat at that time of the morning. At $2.99, it’s more expensive than other burritos in its class; however, it’s also huge. At 14 ounces, THE BOMB’s cost per ounce is only 21 cents, which gets it more in line with the other burritos we tasted.

In a way, it feels like THE BOMB is cheating a bit. It was the only burrito we tried that appeared almost exactly the same, in both its frozen and cooked form. In addition to its size and staggering Nutrition Panel (one burrito weighs in at 1,000 calories, with almost a whole day’s RDA for sodium), THE BOMB is also the only burrito we sampled that had a thick ribbon of movie theater nacho-caliber yellow cheese sauce running throughout and pooling at one end. Needless to say, this improved everything it touched, adding 38 grams of mouth-and-lip-coating fat to the experience. Thanks to the foil wrapping, the tortilla remained somewhat soft, though it was barely able to contain the bucket of cheese sauce found within. Overall, I was happy to have eaten THE BOMB, which is more than I can say for several other burritos in this evaluation.

Tortilla: 3
Filling (Flavor): 4
Filling (Texture): 3
Size: 5
Spiciness: 2
Overall:
3.4/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 1000, Total Fat – 38 grams, Saturated Fat – 16 grams, Cholesterol – 40 milligrams, Sodium – 1920 milligrams, Carbs – 120 grams, Dietary Fiber – 12 grams, Sugars – 6 grams, Protein – 32 grams

Name: Red’s “All Natural*” Steak Burrito (“Heaping portions of steak raised without antibiotics, beans, brown rice, and veggies.”)
Net Weight: 11 oz.
Cost: $3.99
Cost per ounce: $0.36

Notes: I confess to being somewhat irritated by Red’s Steak Burrito, although that may have more to do with having been the last burrito I ate, rather than with any inherent shortcomings. The cooking instructions are the first thing to perplex me, stating that the burrito must be thawed prior to cooking, as though I have all day to commit to this burrito-cooking project. At 11 ounces, but the same length as other burritos, Red’s burrito is big and fat, to let you know that it is chock-a-block full of “All Natural” ingredients. And at about $4 bucks, Red’s burrito isn’t a bargain. That’s more than I expect to pay for a fast-food burrito, actually eaten outside of my house, and so Red’s needs to deliver on at least that level.

I was stunned by what I found when the burrito came out of the oven. I was head-over-heels in love with the tortilla: a thin layer of tortilla perfectly containing the insides, with just the right amount of crispness and browning. When I cut the burrito open, all hell broke loose: this thing was absolutely stuffed with real food. Whole beans! Grains of rice! Corn! Peppers! And see what I’m holding pinched between my fingers up there? Big huge chunks of real, pot roast-y beef, shredded and chunked throughout. This was unlike the inside of any other burrito we tried.

The problem was…it just didn’t taste very good. In fact, it didn’t taste like much of anything. All of these real, recognizable ingredients don’t mean a thing, if they combine into something you don’t really feel like eating. When I want a tortilla filled with real ingredients, I’ll make my own burrito, which will taste much better, for about the same amount of money.

Tortilla: 5
Filling (Flavor): 1
Filling (Texture): 5
Size: 4
Spiciness: 0
Overall:
3/5

Nutrition Facts
Calories – 620, Total Fat – 16 grams, Saturated Fat – 5 grams, Cholesterol – 30 milligrams, Sodium – 760 milligrams, Carbs – 94 grams, Dietary Fiber – 12 grams, Sugars – 6 grams, Protein – 28 grams

Conclusion:

You learn a lot about yourself, when you taste every single frozen burrito you can get your hands on. For example, I learned that when I have the urge to eat a frozen burrito, it’s usually not fresh, real ingredients that I am after. This made most of the “all natural” and “organic” entries in this roundup failures, on that level. This made picking a favorite difficult. It may SEEM like the winner should be the burrito most like one you would find in a restaurant, or like one you might conceivably make from scratch. I found, however, that these often weren’t my favorite; if you’re going to mentally commit to eating a frozen burrito, you may as well accept that a certain amount of processed chemistry is part of the bargain. With this in mind, I separated my favorites into a couple of categories:

Best “Almost Like Real Food” Frozen Burrito:

This was a close race, with both Red’s “All Natural*” Steak Burrito and Evol Burritos Shredded Beef turning in solid candidates that seem almost like a burrito you might make at home. Ultimately, though, if you want to make a burrito at home, that’s what you should do: these overpriced, complicated-to-prepare burritos disappoint on the “guilty pleasure” level, tasting mostly like brown rice, as well as on the “real food” level, tasting like the foil from a pack of Marlboros.

Best “All Around” Frozen Burrito:

In a stunning upset, my pick for the best buck-and-a-half you can spend on a frozen burrito goes not to a burrito at all, but to the Jose Ole® “Steak and Cheese” Chimichanga. I was won over by its flaky, crispy tortilla, almost more of a crust than like a standard-issue tortilla. The filling walks the perfect line between actual food and some sort of mad scientist laboratory creation. While it certainly tastes as chemically as you would expect, there are still real chunks of beef, pockets of melty cheese, and bits of real green chile, which is completely unheard of in other burritos in this price class. This combination of the synthetic and the real is exactly what I’m looking for when I want a frozen burrito, and at $1.39, you’d be hard pressed to find a more satisfying Mexican meal for the money. In your freezer.

Best “Guilty Pleasure” Frozen Burrito:

Frankly, they’re ALL guilty pleasures, in that you should absolutely not feel good about any of these choices. When you’re ready to own up to the crime you are committing against your insides, there are only two clear choices: First, Tina’s “Red Hot Beef” Burrito, for its spicy kick, and pure economy. Time your coupons right, and you can eat one of these per day for almost a whole week, for less than a buck. Second place goes to Don Miguel’s Red Chile “THE BOMB” Beef, Cheese Sauce, and Bean Burrito, for when you have completely thrown your dignity out the window, and are eating standing outside a 7-11 in the middle of the night. This glorious celebration of non-food, combined in a huge flour tortilla, gives you canned chili flavor, tons of beef, a gallon of gluey cheese sauce, and almost a day’s worth of calories in a convenient package that you can eat in your car. Which you probably live in.

Comments

  1. Matt says

    Way to take one for the team. I’m eagerly anticipating your frozen pizza chronicles. And your heart attack.

  2. Dan Rosario says

    I know you didn’t enhance any of them but I find the Evol satisfying Sriracha or Lost Woods hot sauce…but then again, what isn’t better with Sriracha

    • Malcolm says

      I agree, Dan…dressed with some Cholula or some El Yucateco, the Evol would have been a much different animal. Adding some picante to the otherwise rather bland inside would be a huge, instant improvement.

  3. Morgan says

    I am simultaneously repulsed AND craving a freezer burrito. Thanks for that.

    For the record, there is a 24-hour Tim Horton’s in Brunswick. It may be the only place to find ANY food between Portland and the midcoast late at night; I have been there many times.

    • Malcolm says

      Ah, thank you for the correction, Morgan. I recently had my first 10-pack of TimBits, and there’s no going back.

  4. Trish says

    this was a very compelling read. I must say, I was drawn in, even though I have never had a frozen burrito. Thank you for venturing forth into frozen burrito land, revealing truths the rest of us can use. And I would also be interested in a frozen pizza chronicle.

    • Malcolm says

      !!! You’ve never had a frozen burrito !?! I can’t imagine such a thing! I was happy to put this post together…it’s just the kind of hard-hitting burrito-based journalism you can expect from our site. :)

    • Malcolm says

      I started out with Tina’s as my reference point, and even after tasting the other offerings, I have to say: She’s making one mean 16 cent burrito. Thanks for reading!

  5. Kelly says

    Awesome article…one question though: Have you tried Tina’s Beef & Bean Chimichanga?? Blows Jose away :)

  6. says

    Okay….I have the phone ringing off the hook, chores piling up and kids in the pool yet, I ‘m sitting here reading your ‘analysis’ on frozen burritos? My god you can write! You have me salivating and wondering where in the hell I’m going to find an Amy’s burrito in the city of Merida. I guess I will settle for a real one. Thanks for the great read.

  7. angela murrell says

    While I was eating a Jose old chimichanga, I felt the need to Google them, to see if they were terrible for me since it was about the 4th burrito I had in 24 hours… and that’s all I had to eat. Well I wound up here, which may not have yielded the results i was looking for, but fortunately i now know i am not alone in my obsession. This burrito is hands down the best. Where i live in California they cost about 1.00, but if you’re willing to get them from Costco, which i secretly think Jose makes their 18 pack of chimichangas for them, then you can get them for about 66 cents. I find these burritos are best eaten with tapatio, which has the perfect blend of spice and flavor. Beware. You might eat these too often. In the last 2 months I have probably eaten 50. I eat other things like cereal, yogurt, broccoli so i wont die any time soon, still i think they are probably horrible for me, along with the can of Pepsi throwback i down with them every time.

  8. Senic says

    I just ate a Tina’s red hot beef burrito and I agree, for the price, it’s definitely worth it! I really want to try all the other brands you mentioned as well but I haven’t seen them at my local stores yet.

    Great review!

  9. Chase says

    Hey man, if you were a kid in school like me in the early 90’s.. You have to remember those delicious burritos with the little Mexican picture on them.. The wrapping for red chili was all red and for green chili all green? I think they were called the little Mexican microwave burritos.. I haven’t had 1 of those in 20 years and I miss them so much!! Do you know which ones I’m talking about? Do you know if they still make them?
    Thanks for your help.
    Chase

    • Malcolm says

      Chase, you’ve got me racking my brain. I know EXACTLY what you are talking about, and can very clearly picture them from my school lunch in California. My best guess is that they were Tina’s brand with a different packaging…although the texture of the tortilla was more similar to Jose Ole. If you figure out the answer to this riddle, please let me know.

    • Geoff_lord_of_Crisps says

      You might be thinking of the “Jimi s’ ” brand otherwise it might be a variation of the ” State Fair ” brand they made the best corn dogs, and I think they had a deal with food service accross the country.

      Tell me if you ever had “DG’s tater teezers” They are long Tots w/jalpeno filling and fantastic with ranch.

  10. Cody says

    First off, love the blog. Now let’s recap how I ended up here. I was introduced to “The Bomb” about two weeks ago, when the convenience store that is just down the way from my dorm starting carrying them in addition to the scrumptious beef and green chile chimichangas I normally pick up, and since the store accepts “meals” from my dining plan as payment, instead of playing Russian roulette at the cafeteria, come lunch time I’m normally headed home with one of these frozen delights. One thing I can thank Taco Bell for is the grilled burrito, as it applies quesadilla logic to the cylindrical package; crunchy yet soft and gooey. My preferred method for cooking any frozen burrito is to thaw them in the microwave until they are pliable and then finish them on the stove top skillet by browning all four sides. This produces a fantastic blend of crunchy shell with a soft and thoroughly heated center, allowing you to enjoy the fountain of cheese that awaits. As you can imagine The Bomb was an undertaking on the skillet, but oh so worth it, the cheese oozing everywhere, and I didn’t mind the filling falling out as I ate, it was simply cleaned up with tortilla chips. Naturally I ended up googling it to see if anyone had found and enjoyed this gem as much as I have. And so here I sit typing this, every so often stealing a glance towards the fridge, where two bombs currently reside…taunting me. Anyway I enjoy your posts man, I grew up on Tina’s too haha, but my burrito of choice was the pizza edition….ah to be a nerdy middle schooler again.

  11. Ryan says

    The burritos that Chase mentioned are Little Juan burritos. They are by far my favorite and they do resemble the Tina’s as you mentioned. My favorite was “spicy” which was in the yellow wrapper. They also had a chili dog one in a brown wrapper. It was not too good……

  12. Jennifer says

    Best comparative analysis article, EVER. Found this by accident while researching frozen burritos, and now I’m loving your blog! Frozen burritos are my crack, and I have been ‘sober’ for many years now – until my husband brought a package of El Montereys home last night. :\

  13. Mike says

    When I was in high school in the late 90,s early 2000’s my mom bought frozen burritos at Costco.These were the best frozen burritos I actually went there today looking for them only to be heart broken that they didn’t have them. I had to settle for El Monterey. Does anyone remember these and the name of the brand??

  14. A. Clarke says

    Trader Joe’s used to have the best frozen burrito I’ve ever found: the beef and green chile burrito. It came without beans, which I think was a smart move (the beans always dominate the flavor in frozen burritos and they hardly ever taste very good), so it was just chopped, greasy beef, green chiles, and rice. It always came out of the microwave a little soggy, but the flavor was as good as some restaurant burritos.

    When it comes to the ones on the list, the Bomb is my guilty pleasure. PJ’s and Evol suffer from blandness and bean-heaviness, Tina’s has a weird texture and taste, Trader Joe’s shredded beef burrito disappeared with the beef and green chile; but the Bomb combines spicy beef paste and nacho cheese for the ultimate post-midnight frozen food experience. Though I’ve only honestly had it once (the gas station that sells it is in a part of town I don’t usually go to), I’ve been craving it enough lately that I think a Bomb expedition is going to be a necessity soon.

  15. Geoff_lord_of_Crisps says

    My Guilty find was the “Red Hot Beef Burrito” one could find at the gas station in college towns in the cold deli area. You simply opened one end and vented it, while the gases cooked out the side for one minute. It was fantastic. I recall the brand was “Deli Market” does that seem right?

  16. says

    I googled best frozen burrito brand and yours was the first up..fromaway…wouldn’t it be funny if he was from Maine? Well, I live in Gray and I also had recollections about burritos in SoCal. Except that it was before you were born. I was working in an industrial park in Glendale (hey, I told you it was a long time ago) and we had a roach coach. Now that I think about it, that’s really politically incorrect because a Mexican couple owned it. Everything on it was fresh, homemade and delicious. One day I tried the beef and potato (real potato, not tater tots, not there’s anything wrong with that) and I said, “Holy ****! I could eat this for lunch for the rest of my life and be happy.” It rivaled the chicken with lemongrass and chilies at a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese place in Hollywood. Dirt cheap and yummy. I don’t care if it WAS cat, it was great cat! Moved back to New England and was broke so I developed a taste for Tina’s. And tried most of those brands. Enjoyed your site immensely!

  17. Ciara says

    I LOVE Amy’s Indian Tofu Wraps, and I have found that the best way to prepare these babies are with a toaster oven. 5 minutes on one side, flip, 5 minutes on the other. Then microwave for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. This makes the burrito crunchy on the outside and fully cooked on the inside.

    And the best part is you don’t have to waste all of that time with a conventional oven!

  18. K says

    Great read! I must offer you a helping hand though: cooking frozen burritos at a lower power in the microwave defeats the whole ‘burn your lips but freeze your teeth’ problem. Try 2 mins at power 4 or something. No one who eats a frozen burrito has an hour! I want you, like me, to have a perfectly warmed burrito in less thn 3 minutes. This knowledge may come from the 2 million and 1 Tina’s burritos I have consumed in my life.

    • Clif Marsiglio says

      Microwave is the only authentic way to eat these. It has been tradition in my household passed on from father to son for at least 2 generations.

      I just nuked my Tina’s and I screwed up. 4.5 minutes in the microwave where the unopened bag is blowing up and almost to explode. However to ensure that it is done through and through…put an upside down bowl in the middle and place it on top of it. I forgot the bowl tonight and get the frozen middle.

      Luckily, it was a Tina’s and thus is almost designed to taste great in this style. Its like getting a steak done black and blue…charred on the outside, rare on the in.

        • Clif Marsiglio says

          Yeah. Most foods like this are designed to be cooked in the bag.

          However, the bag doesn’t store enough steam that heats it up…you lose 90% of the energy of cooking right there. Especially as the microwave acts upon the frequency of water molecules…you are releasing everything that allows it to cook!

          I use to poke a few holes in the bag, but dammit…its a frozed damned booreeto. Ain’t got time for no fancy hole pokin’.

        • Jim Conforti says

          I’ll have to ditto Clif. In the bag.

          Cook it like this:

          Seam down until the bag puffs up then an add’l 10-15 sec.
          Seam up until the bag puffs up then an add’l 10-15 sec.
          Seam down again, maybe 20 sec or so – bag will have likely popped and may not puff up again.

          Now, put the bag on plate seam up, burn yourself horribly, open the bag up along the seam and let her rest for a bit (otherwise your burrito will stick to that paper plate.

          Complicated? No, because you can cook 1-3 burritos at once in any microwave of any power now. No times, no BS, no cold center. Two get cooked on opposite sides of the plate and three in a triangle.

          Enjoy your Tina’s the way it was intended. Cold beer or Mtn. Dew throwback on the side!

  19. Brandon Campbell says

    I tried “The Bomb” about 10 years ago and liked it, although I don’t remember it having cheese, I’ll have to see if I can find one again. These days I usually have the beef & bean chimichangas from El Monterey, Tina’s, or Las Campanas (whichever is the best deal for the money that day), and dip them in Tapatio so I can control the hotness of each bite myself.

  20. Erick says

    Have you or anyone else tried the 7 Eleven brand burritos, how would you rate them? They have them in green chili and beef, bean and cheese, and red hot beef. The red hot beef has to be my guilty pleasure and I love the green chili and beef (with some taco bell Fire Sauce or Tapitio or whatever packets I have leftover in my fridge). At 3 for $2,00, they’re a steal, not to mention the perfect drunken food.

  21. Sammy says

    I’m so glad that this article exists. I’m sort of Tina’s purist. It’s oddly encouraging to know that they have sort of a cult following. Also your writing is very entertaining. Thanks!

  22. Kerry Maxwell says

    I don’t know if Evol changed their recipe since this article, but I just had one, and it had a decent cilantro and spice flavor in addition to the solid beef, bean and cheese flavor.

  23. Emm says

    I admit to being addicted to Red’s All Natural Steak Burrito. I just gotta take out all of the beans for it to taste good. The beans’ taste is way too powerful for there to be so many in one burrito.

  24. Nothingface5384 says

    Not too many frozen burriitos/chimachangas over my way.

    Tinas burritos are aight at about 68 cents..but smaller then jose ole or las campanas.

    I love the Las Campanas Steak and cheese and Steak and Cheese with Green chili Chimichangas Love this brand!..sadly cant find anything but these 2 variations and only 1 store carries them That I found.. allot bigger and more filling then tinas and Jose ole..

    I picked up Jose Ole mistakenly as Las camanas as the wapper looks similar and the familiar colors don’t help much..but they were very disappointing compared to even the cheaper tinas.. it was simply a liquidity watery-mess
    since I cant find Las Campanas breakfast burritos/wraps. i’m hopeing Jose ol version is good and not crappy like their Steak/Chicken N Cheese Chimichangas!

    Havent tried the El monteray brand as of yet

  25. Valand says

    Great article! This brought me back to high school where my daily midnight snack consisted of two Tina burritos covered with sour cream.

  26. Jason says

    Tina’s are my favorite, though I’m partial to the chicken flavored ones that I can’t seem to find in my area anymore. Was going to try one of those chicken chimichanga ones but the picture looked like real food instead of the industrial goop I was craving.

  27. Alex says

    I ate an El Monterey Burrito while reading this. Amazing. My experience with the El Monterey Beef and Bean Red Chile is way different. I bought it in like a 10 pack, microwaved it and it’s absolutely fantastic. Perhaps some of the flavor only gets activated in a microwave….just saying

    • cds says

      I completely agree with you on this, about the microwaved El Montereys.
      My default frozen burrito is the ‘Beef & Green Chile’ El Monterey 8-pack. I find them to be larger & more flavorful than my fallback Tinas Terrible Burritos, if the store is out of El Monterey.
      I usually only cook them for about 60 sec in the microwave, as any longer & it turns into a plate full of molten meat. Naturally, being a multi-pack there is no bag to cook inside of – I never would have considered that, actually.

      I eat these morsels for lunch every day at work, much to the horror of my foodie co-workers, who plead with me to try something different. I’ve been doing this for the last 3-4 years, to no ill effects, surprisingly. I just can’t be bothered to spend more than 5 minutes on lunch & these fit the bill.

      Some Costcos I’ve been to carry the -Supreme- Shredded Steak & cheese burritos. If you can find these, give them a try. They come in blue 12 or 18-packs. These are truly a treat & a step above the typical ghetto burrito.

  28. says

    Stumbled onto this page after tucking into my second José Olé Chicken Chimichanga in just two days, from the nearest 7/11 — and wondering if there was any kind of following for this brand. Don’t know what brand it was but there was some freezer section chimichanga that I recall from my own childhood that this thing reminds me of, like a version of Proust’s madeleines for fat American kids.

    (Proust’s frozen chimichanga: “… a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me.”)

    My worldly, adult palate tells me this is junk but it takes me back to a place of comfort from a lonely childhood.

  29. skh.pcola says

    I’ve tried the conventional oven method with frozen burritos, but the microwave is a much better method…you simply can’t plug the ‘tos in the cooking compartment and punch up some time, then walk away, though. I usually do three at a time, for an initial 1.5 minutes. I turn and flip the burritos, rotate the plate 180 degrees (although my 1300-watt microwave has a rotating platform, the standing waves will still zap some areas more than others, so mitigate that by rotating both the food and the plate). Another minute on the cooking timer, then another flip and turn and rotate. From there, do all of the rearranging at 30-second intervals and you’ll have uniformly-hot, not-dried-out burritos. For the final 30 seconds, I put a half-slice of American cheese on top of each one…makes it much mo’ better. It generally takes about 3-3.5 minutes to thoroughly heat up three, which is much better than 30 minutes or more via the conventional oven option.

  30. Chris says

    As someone who has spent 90% of my life in both Los Angeles and Portland, and who loves gas station burritos…

    God bless you.

  31. says

    As soon as I saw you say that you loved Tina’s red hot beef burritos, I knew this was going to be good, and it was. There rally is something mesmerizing about Tina’s burritos. The beef n beans are my secod fave.

    I don’t think they make them anymore but when Inwas a kid, Patio made the worst frozen burritos all around. They were thin, the insides were runny, and the whole thing was disgusting. Don’t miss those at all.

  32. Gabriel Elias says

    God bless you! This is probably one of the more important issues of our time. Keep up the good work. I disagree about EVOL. It’s pretty damn good.

  33. Vonnie says

    I have been searching for the burrito I used to get in high school back in the 70’s………and up until a few years ago, I was able to get them at Gordon Food! They disappeared from the shelf. I found them on the internet, ordered 3 cases……and they have disappeared once again. I am at a loss. They are called Pre-fried Red Hot Beef Burrito’s. The taste still lingers in my mouth………I can’t believe they are TOTALLY GONE FROM THE PLANET! They were originally from Butcher Boy……where are they now?

  34. says

    I enjoyed your article whilst consuming two Tina’s burritos (the brown ones), which are close to the LA public school frozen burritos of the 80’s. I came across your article during a search for bulk burrito filling…I’d eat the stuff like chili if I could find it!

  35. Jay says

    I Just recently stumbled upon the Jose Ole brand and felt the need to add my 2 cents on this subject. My mom usually kept some Tina’s or El monterey burritos in the freezer when I was a kid. Now days I rarely buy frozen burritos but when I noticed the new (to me) brand (Jose ole) at Winco, I had to give them a try. I grabbed a couple chicken and cheese chimichangas. First off I was surprised to find what looked and tasted like actual pieces of real chicken inside, lots of gooey cheese and some green chiles. Overall I was impressed for a frozen burrito at .78 cents.

    After trying the Jose Ole Steak and cheese chimichanga and the steak and cheese burrito I was again impressed by actual pieces of shredded beef inside and overall flavor.

    Knowing i couldn’t be the only one who felt this way I had to do a google search. Although I haven’t tried some on your list, I think it would be hard to beat the Jose Ole.

    Great article.

    Jay

  36. Jay says

    After my rant on Jose Ole I decided to click on the food truck link at the top. I live in Vegas and just read about the World Food Championships a few days ago. The wife and I plan on heading down there as part of our staycation next month. We’ll be sure to by your truck for a wich.

    Good Luck!
    Jay

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