The Forty Dollar Burrito Revisited

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Okay I know all of you have been anxiously awaiting this recipe for the past FOUR YEARS. Well here it is, the wait is over.

A long, long, time ago, I wrote about making a burrito recipe that my dad had sent me from the New York Times. Because it was the first time I had made it, I decided to follow the recipe pretty much exactly (though I did cut it down a bit, it called for four pounds of steak, there was really no possible way for me to make that work) and I spent more than forty-five dollars getting groceries for that one recipe. This is not a viable recipe for me given my meager food budget of $90-$120 per month.

However they were really quite delicious and I said I’d work on a revised edition, to see if I could come up with something that wouldn’t require me to take out a payday loan to make it happen.

And I did actually figure all of this out a couple of years ago, and even wrote it up, but never managed to post it. So I’m sorry it’s taken so long, but I made these the other day and they are just darn good, and not too expensive, especially when you get everything at the Hispanic grocery. Even the meat (I used flap steak) was affordable, at around five dollars per pound.

Because they are so good, and because burritos happen to be one of the things that I could eat every day for the rest of my life,  it actually seems worth the trouble and expense for me to make these occasionally and have the exact same thing every day for a week, until, with sadness in my heart that it is all gone, I scrape the last re-heated leftover drop of sauce out of the pan and lick it off my finger.

The Twenty Dollar Forty Dollar Burrito

3-4 servings

1 to 1-1/2 lbs skirt steak, hanger steak, or beef flap meat
1/4 cup mild taco sauce or tomato marinade (see recipe below)
garlic powder or fresh garlic

approx 1 Tbsp oil for pan
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup diced onion
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 chipotle chili pepper in adobo sauce, chopped

1 to 2 Tbsp adobo sauce
1/2 cup prepared salsa
4 to 6 oz. beer
1/4 cup water

1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 to 1 tsp ground chili peppers
salt and pepper to taste

Tomato Marinade
the original recipe calls for mild Old El Paso Taco Sauce — if you have that or can easily get it, feel free to use it (it’s not very expensive). If not, here’s a homemade substitute

1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp minced garlic
2 T onion
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp chili powder

Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Saute garlic and onion in oil. Add tomato sauce. Stir in vinegar, sugar, chili powder. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. Rub garlic over both sides of steak, then coat with taco sauce or tomato marinade. Cook for 10 minutes, turn over, and cook for another 10 minutes. (This is like a fast-track marination process; it tenderizes the steak.)

While the steak is roasting, heat oil in large skillet. Saute garlic and onion until onion is translucent, then add the pepper and cook until softened.

When the steak is done roasting, remove from the oven and slice across the grain into strips of about an inch wide.

Add the sliced steak to the skillet, along with the chopped adobo pepper. Stir to combine. Season with cumin, ground chili, salt and pepper.

Add the adobo sauce, salsa, beer, and water to the skillet. The sauce will be quite thin. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cook at a lively simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has cooked down, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, as needed.

Serve in warm flour tortillas with any or all of the following accompaniments:

grated cheese, sour cream, salsa, rice, beans, chopped cilantro.


For some of my recipe testing I bought beer, but in one of them I remembered that I had some leftover beer that I had saved to cook with and I used that and it worked fine. So if you don’t always have beer around, I recommend sacrificing a few ounces of a beer that you or someone else is drinking to save for later use in the recipe. I did make it once without beer, and I thought it was not as good. A friend suggested using malt vinegar in place of the beer but I never got around to trying any versions with that.

You can buy a can of chilies in adobo sauce, use what you need for the recipe then freeze the rest. You’ll be able to make it a bunch more times before having to buy another can.

The original recipe includes a jalapeño with the onion and yellow pepper, but the first time I made it, I included the jalapeño and it was extremely hot. The next time, I took the seeds out and it was still very hot. The last time, I decided to leave the jalapeño out entirely and it was still plenty hot. If you like things very spicy, or if you are using very mild salsa, then you might want to add the jalapeño, but I’ve found it to be fine without it.

That’s it.