Hot take alert: The burrito is the best single dish of all time. They’re a full meal. They’re delicious. They’re good on-the-go. You can just as easily dig into one in a sit-down restaurant as you can on the commute to work. Their variety is virtually infinite and there’s no better way to clear the pantry than to throw everything in a tortilla and let it ride. They are the perfect food.

This holds water in the backcountry as much as it does in town. Burritos are portable, they keep well without refrigeration, are packed with protein, carbohydrates, and calories, and can be cooked any number of ways at a campsite in the backcountry or at your car. Sure, a full burrito is going to weigh a bit more than your normal freeze-dried backpacking fare, but the value of a real meal in the outdoors is immeasurable.

So, next time you’re gearing up for a backpacking trip, grab something to go from your local burrito joint or, if you really want to take it to the next level, make your own with these directions!

The Parts

The burrito may take many forms but more often than not it will include the following few ingredient groups. Be sure to try different things: Some combinations may work better for one outing than another so experiment a little!


In a dish of infinite variation and derivative, the tortilla is the constant. Homemade tortillas are not difficult to make but for our purposes, store-bought are the way to go. They’re consistent, flexible, and built for on-the-go consumption. Look for flour tortillas that are at least 12 inches in diameter.


Together with beans, rice is a fundamental building block for a good, solid burrito. Both white and brown rice bring some carbohydrates to the table though the latter offers more nutritional value. Either way, don’t underestimate the importance of a good rice portion.


Like rice, beans are incredibly important to the construction of a good burrito. They’re also a significant source of protein. They can be whole or refried, brown or black, dried or canned. The one thing they should never be is overlooked—good beans are a beautiful thing.

Credit: John Lepak


Monterey Jack is a popular, widely accessible, and delicious option but, if you can get your hands on it, queso Oaxaca (a stringy, mozzarella-like cheese) or queso Chihuahua (a mild, semi-soft melting cheese also known as queso Menonita) are fantastic options. Seek out your local Mexican grocery store or turn your eyes to the internet.


Meat is the star of the show. It’s protein-heavy and can go a long way restoring sodium lost during activity. Most importantly though, it adds flavor and texture to the meal and to that end gets most of the attention. You’ve got some decisions to make selecting a meat for your burrito, but keep to something that can be shredded or diced small enough to be integrated with the rest of the filling.


Last but not least, consider the salsa. A good salsa can make or break a dish but, when making a burrito, the application is the most important consideration. Guacamole, for example, is as close to perfect as a salsa can be, but it doesn’t keep well and it isn’t all that good when cooked. Seek a cooked salsa or a raw one with ingredients that can hold up to the heat.

Credit: John Lepak


Sure, the folks at Chipotle make it look easy, but with a little practice, so will you. This is a good one to prepare en masse: Make a bunch of everything and freeze what you’re not going to eat immediately—they’ll keep for a good while.

Start Here

Lay out your tortilla on a clean surface. If you’re working with a crema or sour cream, spread it evenly in the center of your tortilla here—this way, when rolled, it’s distributed equally around the burrito.

Mix and Add Your Fillings

In equal parts add your rice, beans, and meat (if you’re using it) to a medium-sized bowl and mix well. This will distribute everything evenly throughout your burrito and make sure you’re getting the full effect with every bite.

Add a small amount of this mix to the center of your tortilla—it’ll take some trial-and-error to know exactly how much you can add before the burrito gets impossible to roll but “less is more” is a good mantra to follow here. If it looks like the “right” amount, it’s likely a bit too much.

Credit: John Lepak

Top it Off

Add your cheese (if you’re using it) and your sauces ensuring they’re represented from top to bottom. This too will take some doing to get the ratios right to your taste, so experiment and keep notes so the next time around you can add more or less.

Roll it Up

Now, the tricky part. Start by folding in the top and bottom ends of the tortilla. While holding those ends down, rotate the burrito 90-degrees. Fold the end that’s now the top—further away from you—in and, pulling toward yourself, roll the burrito.

You’ll know pretty quickly if you’ve overstuffed it, but don’t despair—fillings can be removed, tortillas are hardy, and you can give it a few goes before exhausting structural integrity of the ingredients.

Credit: John Lepak


No, it’s not the most sustainable solution, but tin foil is your friend here. Beeswax wrap, though lovely, doesn’t stand up well to heat and plastic containers are bulky, and take up room in already-crowded packs. Wrap your burritos in foil. Not only will it hold your creation together from trailhead to campsite, but it can take the heat over a camp stove or on a fire ring, and unwraps easily when it’s time to eat.

Gave a favorite burrito recipe? Share it in the comments!