Soft Shell Taco vs Burrito – What’s the Difference?

Ever wondered what the difference between a soft shell taco and a burrito is? Do you have heated debates with your friends over your favourite Mexican dishes, arguing the merits of the soft shell taco vs burrito? 

Tacos and burritos have both been adapted into different variations over time all around the world. Although they are both delicious and part of the Mexican cuisine, tacos and burritos should not be confused as being the same dish. 

Keep reading to get a breakdown of the type of tortilla used, ingredients, and serving methods for each dish. By the end of this article, you’ll know the difference between a soft shell taco and a burrito. If you’re like me, you’ll also wind up with a craving to eat one right now!

What is a Taco?

This famous light snack originating from Mexico has become famous in all corners of the world. You can enjoy tacos from a street vendor or even a high-end restaurant. 

Tacos are a traditional Mexican dish that is not only delicious and tasty but also nutritious and practical. You might think all tacos are the same, but there are so many taco variations that you can enjoy, such as breakfast tacos to fish and shrimp tacos.

The beginning of tacos dates back to centuries ago when Mexican wives used to cook small warm snacks, half-folded tortillas filled with meat, for their husbands working on the fields. They were easy to eat and packed with goodness. Tacos have been a part of Mexican culture and history for the longest time. The rich history of Mexican food might explain why Mexican cuisine is the first cuisine recognised by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.

Over the years, you might have heard of Tex-Mex, the fusion of Texan and Mexican food, and seen a couple of build-your-own-taco kits. 

With that, you might have also noticed soft shell tacos and hard shell tacos on the shelf, and wondered, are they the same thing?

The short answer – no. Soft shell tacos are the authentic Mexican tacos, while hard shell tacos are a modern adaptation. 

What is a Soft Shell Taco?

So what is a soft shell taco? Soft shell tacos are the authentic and traditional Mexican taco. 

They usually contain grilled or fried marinated meat and topped with finely chopped cilantro and white onions. All neatly wrapped in half with a small and soft corn tortilla

Tacos are not typically spicy, but Mexicans also add some salsa for an extra kick of flavour and spice. 

What is a Hard Shell Taco?

Hard shell tacos are a variation of Mexican tacos which have developed in the United States. These hard shell tacos are usually U-shaped and crispy. 

They are typically served with ground or baked chicken or pork. They’re usually topped with chopped lettuce, diced tomatoes and shredded cheese, and occasionally with guacamole and sour cream. 

What is a Burrito?

Just like tacos, burritos are another traditional and popular Mexican dish involving tortillas.

Although burritos are a popular Mexican dish, they specifically originate from Northern Mexico. Burritos can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, accompanied with a side of beans or salad, or you can enjoy them just on their own. 

Burritos usually consist of a soft flour tortilla wrapped around various fillings. They are typically held together by tightly folding the tortilla and covering it with aluminium foil. 

Burrito fillings typically consist of a mix of ground meat (chicken or beef) and beans as the main ingredient.

The thing I love about burritos is you can fill the tortilla up with a wide variety of other side ingredients. For example, you can add lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, rice and more.

Soft Shell Taco vs Burrito

You now know everything there is to burritos and soft shell tacos, but can you tell them apart in a restaurant? 

What Do They Have in Common?

Soft shell tacos and burritos both are:

Wrapped in a Tortilla

The basic construction of a soft shell taco and burrito is relatively similar. Both of the dishes use the tortilla as the base ingredient that wraps or folds various fillings. 

Mexican Cuisine

Of course, they are both part of the Mexican cuisine. The taco has been around longer, whilst the burrito was only introduced in the 20th century. 

The meats used for tacos and burritos both use similar seasoning, which holds so much flavour and spice. The spices usually include paprika, cumin, chilli and garlic powder.

Simple and Easy to Assemble and Eat

Tacos and burritos are my favourite go-to meals. All you need is a tortilla, one main protein and some other ingredients as fillings.

Besides the marinating and cooking of the main protein, you can prepare the rest of the ingredients in no time.

Assembling a taco or burrito does not take long either. You can do it in a few minutes!

With that being said, they are both relatively easy to eat and are dishes everyone will enjoy.

Customizable

Don’t like onions? Lactose intolerant? You can take out the onions and cheese, and anything else you don’t like, and replace with whatever want!

They are both similar in a way, so all you need are the spices for marinating and tortilla.

What’s the Difference Between a Soft Shell Taco and Burrito?

As you’ve learnt, soft shell tacos and burritos do have similarities. However they have key differences that make them unique and individually loved by many worldwide.

Here are some of the key differences between a soft shell taco vs a burrito:

Tortilla

The the tortilla used to make each dish differs.

Soft shells taco typically use corn tortillas which are more delicate and tend to break easily with wet ingredients.

Burritos use flour tortillas that are thicker and firmer. While some may use corn tortilla for burritos, flour tortillas are much better at holding all the filling together.

Size

The most visible difference between them both is the size! Tacos are smaller and are a few bite-size big. Tacos are usually eaten as a light snack and not as a meal. My family and I would typically eat more than 2 tacos to keep ourselves full.

Burritos, on the other hand, are much bigger and thicker compared to tacos. They can be considered a hearty meal in itself, and all you need is one burrito (or more if you are extra hungry). 

Filling

What really matters is what’s on the inside. Tacos and burritos usually have different fillings.

Tacos usually consist of just one type of protein, enough for a light snack, and some vegetables. It’s important to note that authentic tacos do not contain cheese or lettuce, though this is commonly added in various recipes.

Burritos hold so much more variety and a large amount of filling. They usually have meats, beans, vegetables, rice, cheese, all enough for a whole meal. 

Garnish

Tacos minimal fillings are perfectly complemented with their garnish! You would typically garnish tacos with cilantro, lime, salsa or onions.

Such garnish is not found in burritos. 

Assembling and Folding

When assembling tacos, you place your ingredients in the middle of the tortilla and fold it in half to create a crescent-like shape. Simple!

When assembling a burrito, after adding the filling, you fold the tortilla together like an envelope to keep your ingredients from falling out of the tortilla. This creates a rather large cylindrical shape, with an opening on one end.

Eating

The most essential part, eating!

Soft shell tacos are open-faced, and from experience, you will definitely make a mess while eating it. Your ingredients tend to fall out of the shell easily. But, you can’t go wrong by using plate underneath your taco to catch it all.

Burritos are much easier to eat as the large tortilla wraps all the filling into a big rolled-up envelope.

To keep it extra secure, you can wrap your burrito in aluminium foil. This makes burritos especially easy for takeaways and keeping them warm.