Making chimichangas

A chimichanga is a burrito filled with beef, chicken or pork, mixed with vegetables, beans and assorted spices. Normally a ‘chimmi’ is deep fried, but my partner and I prefer to bake them as a healthier alternative. Served on a bed of lettuce, with salsa, guacamole and sour cream on the side, they’re a definite winner with my family and friends, says graphic designer Kyle Shoesmith

Legend has it that the chimichanga was invented by accident at El Charro Cafe, the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson, Arizona. Monica Flin, who started the restaurant in 1922, cussed in the kitchen when a burrito flipped into the deep fryer. Realising there were children within earshot, she changed the swear word to “chimichanga”, a Spanish translation of the word “thingamajig”. The accidental dish soon achieved cult status in the Southwestern US and, of course, Mexico.

The recipe below is a basic guide – taste as you go and adapt it as necessary.



For the chimichangas

  • 6 tortilla wraps (we used wholewheat)
  • 800g of meat, chopped into small cubes (we used tenderised steak)
  • 1 400g can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 200g of chopped tomatoes (half a can)
  • 2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 3t of cumin
  • 2-3T of olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup of melted butter (about 80ml)

For the salsa

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper
  • Handful of fresh coriander
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2-3T olive oil
  • 1t ground cumin
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


To make the chimichangas

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
2. In a pan on medium heat, sauté the onions in olive oil until golden.
3. Add the green pepper, garlic, chilli and 1t of cumin.
4. Add olive oil as necessary and cook for roughly 5 minutes, turning the mixture occasionally.
5. Remove from the pan.
6. On a high heat, add the meat with a glug or two of olive oil.
7. Flavour with the rest of the cumin. Add salt and pepper to taste.
8. Turn frequently for 1-2 minutes until just browned.
9. Add the onion and green pepper mixture back into the pan.
10. Add the chopped tomatoes.
11. Season generously with salt and pepper.
12. Add the cannellini beans.
13. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture cooks down a bit (it’s best not to have too much liquid in the filling as this can make the tortillas soggy).

To make the salsa

Chop the onion, tomatoes, green pepper and coriander as finely as possible. Mix all the ingredients together and chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Filling and baking the tortillas


Chimichanga filling

Chimichanga folding

1. One at a time, heat each tortilla wrap in the microwave for 5 seconds to soften.
2. Add a quarter cup of cheese in the centre.
3. Place about a half cup of the fried mixture in the centre of the tortilla. Use your own discretion based on the size of the wrap.
4. Fold the tortilla wrap over the mixture from the left and right sides, then fold the top and bottom over this and pin together with toothpicks.
5. Brush generously with melted butter.
6. When the 6 chimichangas are complete, add them to a large baking tray lined with foil.
7. Bake for about 10 minutes per side or until golden.
8. Remove from the oven and serve (don’t forget to take out the toothpicks).

Serve on a bed of lettuce, with the salsa, guacamole and sour cream on the side.

This recipe makes 6 chimichangas

Tips: If the tortilla wraps start breaking when folding them, try heating them a little more in the microwave to soften.