Mission-Style Carne Asada Burrito Recipe

[Photographs: Jillian Atkinson]

The mission burrito is well known for its comical size and heft, stuffed with things like grilled meat, rice, beans, and an array of condiments. Though it comes from San Francisco’s Mission District, this taqueria burrito is now consumed all over the Bay Area and beyond via taqueria-inspired chain restaurants like Chipotle.

Many of my high school years in the San Francisco Bay Area were spent persuading my mom to stop by our local taqueria, El Balazo, for dinner so I could order a steak burrito, super. For a couple dollars extra, the mountain of burrito got slathered with extra guacamole, cheese, and a blanket of sour cream. There was always something joyful about watching my overstuffed burrito get tightly wrapped, most of the time with two sheets of foil to keep it from bursting at the seams.

El Balazo’s burritos weren’t just a hit with me, they were a popular choice for much of my Kenyan family. Living in California and with no Kenyan restaurants nearby, we really only had two choices when we wanted familiar food: Indian or Mexican, two cuisines that share a lot of flavors with Kenyan cuisine. When my grandfather, a very picky eater, visited the US for the first time, the only food he enjoyed was from the taqueria, specifically the carne asada—marinated and grilled beef.

In this recipe, I’ve recreated the Mission-style carne asada burrito he loves so much. The beef is marinated in a flavorful mix of orange and lime juices, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and chipotle powder. It’s a bit more streamlined than Kenji’s carne asada recipe, a deliberate choice since the burrito has so many other components that will both take more of your time to prepare, and also will cover up some of the finer points of his marinade. That said, his recipe can be used here if you prefer.

The beef is preferably cooked on a grill, as explained in the recipe below, but it can also be cooked indoors in a cast iron skillet. Just be sure to keep the windows open and your fan on, since a good sear (and all the smoke that comes with it) is what you’re after.

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