Who invented the Microwavable Burrito? (Invention Timeline Explained)

The microwavable burrito is unmatched as a convenience store staple. It’s simple and cheap, packed with flavor, and can be pretty easy to prepare. The burrito itself is something of a phenomenon, but it took some time for that to happen. It wasn’t until burritos were built to be microwaved that they started selling like crazy.

The microwavable burrito is one of those inventions with a more fascinating history than people realize. While it’s not the kind of question everyone asks, it’s always fun to dive into the history of things such as the microwavable burrito. Here’s how the delicious convenience staple got its start, with a bit of history on the side.

Who invented the microwavable burrito?

That distinction goes to Duane R. Roberts, who invented the frozen burrito and caused the popularity of the burrito to snowball into an avalanche. No, the inventor of the burrito is not Allistair Oh — the man is a fictional character and it’s surprising how many people keep crediting him!

The microwavable burrito’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Mesoamericans
    The use of corn tortilla as a wrapper

    Surprisingly enough, the history of the burrito goes as far back as 10,000 BC (!), where the Mesoamerican cultures would make it a habit to wrap foods with corn tortilla!

  • Félix Ramos y Duarte
    Dictionary of Mexican Spanish

    The Dictionary of Mexican Spanish was written in 1895, and has references to a dish that could have very well been a burrito. 

  • Juan Méndez
    The purported inventor of the burrito

    One of the most persistent theories over the creation of the burrito is that of a man named Juan Méndez, who kept the tacos he sold warm by wrapping them in flour tortillas. The donkey he rode was the origin of the word burrito. 

  • Duane R. Roberts
    Inventor of the frozen/microwavable burrito

    Thanks to the smarts of Duane R. Roberts, burritos experienced a golden age of popularity with the introduction of the microwavable burrito. While microwaves would only become a common household appliance a few years later, he still brought about the age of the microwavable burrito.

When was the microwavable burrito invented?

The very first microwavable burrito was invented in 1956. Coincidentally, the microwave was still in the process of becoming a household appliance at this point.

A brief history of the microwavable burrito

To talk about the history of the microwavable burrito would be to talk about the history of the burrito itself! The origin of the burrito starts around 10,000 BC, which is an incredibly early period for humankind. Even as early as 10,000 BC, people were already thinking of using corn tortillas as a wrapper for various types of food.

It took many years, however, for the burrito to grow into its own. There was also a potential mention of the dish around 1895, in the book titled the Dictionary of Mexican Spanish. It was described as a tortilla roll filled with meat and various other ingredients, which is about as close to the burrito as one can get, though it could still be a taco.

The actual invention of the burrito is still a subject of debate, though there’s a persistent story about Juan Méndez and his invention of the burrito around 1910-1920. The story goes that Juan would try to keep his tacos warm by wrapping it in flour tortilla. Juan would get around and sell his tacos with his donkey, which was where the term burrito came from!

Regardless of how burritos were invented, it didn’t become too popular all-around until the frozen/microwavable variant was invented. Naturally, the frozen burrito would be a good idea no matter the scenario as it had a much longer shelf life and could be thawed and prepared for consumption easily. Duane R. Roberts has the distinction of inventing the concept of the microwavable burrito by introducing the frozen burrito in 1956. By 1965, the popularity of the microwavable burrito was fever pitch as just about every household had a microwave.

The microwavable burrito timeline

  1. 10,000 BC
    Mesoamerican burritos

    While not necessarily burritos just yet, the concept is quite similar. The food was wrapped in corn tortillas.

  2. 1895 AD
    The burrito is featured in a book

    A dish very close to the burrito was featured in the 1895 book, the Dictionary of Mexican Spanish.

  3. 1910-1920
    Juan Méndez accidentally invents the burrito

    A popular story about the invention of the burrito involved Juan trying to keep his tacos warm by wrapping it in flour tortillas.

  4. 1956
    The invention of the microwavable burrito

    Duane Roberts’ creation of the frozen burrito made it the perfect candidate for microwaving.

Where was the microwavable burrito invented?

The microwavable burrito was invented in California.

Why everyone loves the microwavable burrito

  • A convenience store staple

    Nothing quite matches the popularity of the microwavable burrito when you think of the convenience store staple. If you don’t have a microwave at home, you could simply have the store microwave it for you and you can eat it right away!

  • Cheap and it keeps for a long time

    The point of the microwavable burrito was to make the burrito as affordable and accessible as possible. You could take the frozen burrito home and microwave it at your leisure. It’ll keep for a long time, as it’s frozen.

  • A surprising amount of flavor

    One of the fun things about the burrito is how much flavor it can pack in a single package. There’s just something magical about flour tortillas wrapping all sorts of ingredients. The microwavable burrito is more than enough to satisfy anyone with a craving for convenience store food.

  • Practical and efficient

    Somehow, microwavable burritos popped up at just the right time. It was not only practical and efficient for those who bought burritos, but it was the same for those who sold it as well!

The microwavable burrito by the numbers

  • 6The 6 most common ingredients in a microwavable burrito are chicken, pork, beef, rice, beans, and veggies!
  • 1922The year when the first burrito was documented! Whether the stories about Juan are true, there’s no denying that the burrito never quite fell out of style after.
  • 2The average price of a frozen burrito is about 2 dollars. It’s quite a lot of bang for buck when you consider the price.
  • 1700The number of Chipotle locations around the world. They basically spread the love of burritos wherever they go — microwavable or otherwise. Burritos have always been popular, though it’s the microwavable variant that really reinforced that success.

Five facts about the microwavable burrito

  • Duane’s reasons for the microwavable burrito

    The simple fact is that the microwavable burrito is fully frozen, and can be thawed and enjoyed whenever you want. It’s meant to ensure that those selling burritos have an easier time producing and handling them, as they keep for a long time and can be prepared right away.

  • The growing popularity of the microwave

    While microwaves were around long before the creation of the microwavable burrito, it wasn’t yet common in the household at the time. It would take a few years before microwaves became a household staple, which in turn reinforces the popularity of the burrito.

  • An easy meal to have on the go

    Even if you might not have a microwave at home or you’re on the go, you can purchase any microwavable burrito and have them microwave it for you.

  • A surprisingly popular invention

    The funny thing about burritos is it was still growing in popularity when microwavable burritos were invented. It wasn’t until the arrival of the microwavable burrito when the recipe itself garnered enough attention from the masses.

  • A platform for various microwavable foods

    With the introduction of the microwavable burrito came the avalanche of many other products. While the TV dinner was around before the microwavable burrito, the latter served to elevate the TV dinner’s popularity.

FAQ about the microwavable burrito

  • What’s the best way to microwave a frozen burrito?

    The thing about frozen burritos is that the microwave can easily thaw it for consumption. All it takes is 1 minute for the average microwave to get the job done. That said, you’ll want to wrap a damp paper towel around the frozen burrito to ensure that it doesn’t dry out completely.

  • Why are microwavable burritos so good?

    It’s sometimes strange how good microwavable burritos are, given the affordable price. However, the ingredients can be pretty affordable too, as beans and rice offer texture while being easy enough to add as ingredients to cheap products. Considering everything is packed together, the flavors are sealed in and pack more of a punch.

  • What’s the best burrito flavor?

    If you’re looking for a great combination of flavors, sometimes all you have to do is go the simple route. Bean and cheese is a surprisingly great combo, and is also one of the most popular combinations of flavors in America.

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