The “chimichanga” is said to have originated in Tucson, Arizona (at the El Charro Cafe?), but it’s considered a part of “Tex-Mex” cuisine.
Chimichanga, or chivichanga, (pronounced /t??mi?t????/ in English and /t?imi?t?a?ga/ in Spanish) is a deep-fried burrito that originated in Tucson, Arizona. Flour tortillas are folded into rectangular packages and filled with a wide range of ingredients, most commonly beans, rice, cheese and shredded meat. They are then deep-fried and usually served without a sauce, but may be accompanied with salsa, guacamole, sour cream or cheese.
According to a legend, Monica Flin, who started the restaurant El Charro in 1922, accidentally dropped a pastry into the deep fat fryer. She immediately began to utter a Spanish curse-word, but quickly edited herself to say chimichanga, the Spanish equivalent of thingamajig.
The origin of the chimichanga is subject to some debate. In addition, Central Macayo’s restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona claims that its founder, Woody Johnson, invented the chimichanga some time in the 1950s. Retired University of Arizona folklorist Jim Griffith recalls seeing chimichangas at the Yaqui Old [Pascua] Village in Tucson in the mid-1950s.
Tucson’s Mexican Restaurants: Repasts, Recipes, and Rembrances
Tasted and Written by Suzanne Myal
Ucson: University of Arizona Press
Fiesta Publishing paperback
Pg. 13: However, things immediately start to get complicated in southern Arizona, because what are locally called “flat enchiladas” or “Sonoran-style enchiladas” aren’t really like other enchiladas—they are thick cakes of corn masa, red chile, and often cheese that are fried and then served in a red sauce!
Pg. 14: If you deep-fry a burro, it becomes a chimichanga—a truly local dish from southern Arizona or northern Sonora. There are many legends concerning the origin of the chimichanga, and its apparently meaningless name (some folks insist it’s a chivichanga). I don’t know which, if any, might be the truth…. I’d honestly rather eat the things than argue about their origin.
El Charro Cafe: The Tastes and Traditions of Tucson
by Carlotta Flores
136 pages, hardcover, $24.95
Fisher Books, Tucson
Deep Fried Burro
When flour tortillas are deep fried, hey puff and brown, almost like puff pastry, because of the shortening they contain. “Thingamajig” is about as close as anybody has come to a translation for chimichanga, an El Charro invention.
3 May 1960, Tucson (AZ) Daily Citizen, pg. 21, col. 1 ad:
6225 E. Sp’dway
TRY CHIMICHANGA (A MOST UNUSUAL DISH) Chimichanga (che-me-chahn-gah) is made with chicken, beef or beans as a filling. A big favorite is chicken. Tender slices of chicken are combined with onions, green chili and tomatoes, wrapped in a wheat tortilla and deep fried until crisp! Served with lettuce and tomato. Sin Igual!
5 October 1960, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, AZ), pg. 2-C, col. 6 ad:
6225 E. Speedway
One of the Rare Delights of Mexican Cookery…Chimichanga!
Chimichanga (che-me-chan-gah) is made with chicken, beef or beans as a filling. A big favorite is chicken. To make it our chefs carefully combine tender slices of chicken with onions, green chili and tomatoes. All of this is then wrapped in a wheat tortilla and deep fried until crisp and crunchy! Served with lettuce and tomato it is a pleasure to eat. Try it with a big pitcher of ice cold foaming draft beer!
The Food and Drink of Mexico
by George C. Booth
Los Angeles, CA: Ward Ritchie Press
In Vera Cruz one tortilla is filled, rolled like a cigar and called a molote, and in Nogales the rolled, meat-filled snack staggers under the name of chimichanga.
11 October 1967, Casa Grande (AZ) Dispatch, “In Eloy: On Midge’s Side” by Midge Ollerton, pg. 4, col. 6:
Clara Sullivan gave me her delicious recipe for chimichangas sometime ago but I couldn’t spell chimichangas. However, did try making these things (even tho I tried to call them green chili fried won ton,) it is good, quick and adaptable.
2 cans (12 oz.) roast beef
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chili
1 medium onion, chopped
2 or 3 small tomatoes, chopped
1 doz. flour tortillas
grated cheese and shredded lettuce
4 March 1969, Tucson (AZ) Daily Citizen, pg. 25, col. 2 ad:
Fried Chicken, Beef Tacos,
Chimichangas, Pepper Steak
July 1970, TUCSON (AZ) YELLOW PAGES, pg. 405, col. 1:
EL DORADO TAVERN
Homemade Mexican Food—Icy Beer—Wine
ALL FOOD TO GO
1949 S 4 Av…622-9171
8 October 1971, Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff, AZ), section A, pg. 12:
TENOCHTITLAN RESTAURANT is conveniently located in east Flagstaff at 2229 E. (Copy missing—ed.) albondiga soup, chimichanga and all your favorite Mexican dishes.
July 1973, TUCSON (AZ) YELLOW PAGES, pg. 577, col. 1:
DON JUAN’S FINE MEXICAN FOOD
CHIMICHANGA . FLAUTA
1120 A Wilmot Rd…298-9905
July 1973, TUCSON (AZ) YELLOW PAGES, pg. 580, col. 2:
AUTHENTIC MEXICAN FOOD
FLAUTAS . CHIMICHANGAS
ORDERS TO GO
Open 11 A.M. to 10 P.M.
(Across from Randolph)
3326 E 22…325-9272
July 1973, TUCSON (AZ) YELLOW PAGES, pg. 512, col. 3:
LERUA’S MEXICAN FOOD NO 1
Featuring Green Corn Tamales
(NOTE: No chimichanga—ed.)
July 1974, TUCSON (AZ) YELLOW PAGES, pg. 620, col. 3:
LERUA’S FINE MEXICAN FOOD
SERVING TUCSON SINCE 1922
GREEN CORN TAMALES
2005 E Broadway…624-0322
Seasoned with Sun: A Blending of Cultures
by the Junior League of El Paso (TX)
3 pounds beef, cut in small cubes
6 green chiles, roasted and peeled
1-2 serrano chiles
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic
2-3 tomatoes, quartered
2 cups beef stock
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper
Longhorn or Monterey Jack cheese
Brown meat in lard. Place chiles including seeds in blender with onion, garlic and tomatoes. Puree and add to browned meat with stock and seasonings. Cover and simmer 2-3 hours. Cook until thick, being careful not to burn during last part of cooking. Fill flour tortillas as for burritos, using toothpicks if necessary to keep filling inside. Deep fat fry until golden brown; drain and put on broiler rack. Sprinkle with grated cheese and melt under broiler until bubbly. Serve immediately.
February 1977, Family Circle, pg. 110, col. 2:
A chimichanga is a burrito or rolled, stuffed flour tortilla that has been fried to a golden crispness. The frying changes the flavor and texture of the tortilla. They can be made with any type of filling, such as chili con carne, refried beans or cheese. They’re also excellent as a dessert filled with pie filling and dusted with 10X sugar.
January 1979, Gourmet, pg. 40, col. 2:
(Southwestern Fried Burritos)
Make Mexican fried beans, adding 1/3 cup grated Monterey Jack or longhorn cheese when they have formed a thick paste, and cook the mixture over moderately low heat, stirring, until the cheese is just melted. Let the mixture cool and make flour tortillas.
Spoon 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the beans onto the lower third of each tortilla, roll up each tortilla egg-roll fashion, folding in the ends, and secure each one with a wooden pick. In a deep fryer fry the chimichangas 2 at a time in hot deep oil (375 degrees F.) for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are golden brown and transfer them with tongs to paper towels to drain. Remove the wooden picks, arrange the chimichangas on a flameproof platter, and sprinkle them with 1//2 cup grated longhorn cheese. Put the platter under a preheated broiler 6 inches from the heat for 30 seconds, or until the cheese is melted. Spoon 1/2 cup sour cream over the chimichangas and serve them with tomato sauce with green chiles. Serves 6.
Jane Butel’s Tex-Mex Cookbook
by Jane Butel
CHIMICHANGOS Wheat-Flour Tortillas Filled with Beef and Deep-Fried
In the cities nearest the Mexican border, particularly in El Paso and Tucson, a new favorite has become established as one of the specialties. In restaurants featuring chimichangos, the managements seem to agree that they have become their most requested dish. Since the recipe is kept closely guarded, I found I had to develop this recipe myself after many samplings and conversations with the secretive restaurants.