For the purposes of this review of Johnny Ringo’s Handmade Frozen Burritos, it would help if we all got on the same page about our expectations for frozen burritos.
Chances are, frozen burrito connoisseurs like yourself are accustomed to a few of the tried-and-true facts about these frozen delicacies: First, that the insides will be filled with an indiscriminate goo, sometimes stuffed with textured vegetable protein to add heft but not cost, and that this goo will taste remarkably the same from one burrito to the next, despite the flavor indicated on the package.
Second, we all accept that when prepared according to microwave directions, the tortillas on frozen burritos are not going to hold up well to the reheating process. The ends will wind up dried out, hard, and crunchy, and the burrito will likely split open along the seam, revealing the violent red, unseemly innards (which will also, impossibly, be still frozen, even as the ends of the burrito reach 1,000 degrees).
Finally, we acknowledge that these burritos must be filling, must be cheap, and must be treated as their own unique product, that exists outside of the established burrito ecosystem. We don’t compare any frozen burrito to, say, one of those baby-sized burritos from San Francisco’s Mission District, or even to the burritos being slung at the corner taco spot. Frozen burritos occupy their own niche, and in a way, when they try to stray too far from our expectations, the result is less satisfying. You can try to make the ingredients distinct from each other, use quality tortillas, or make your frozen burrito cost $4, but ultimately, eating them won’t be as satisfying, and you won’t get your frozen burrito itch scratched.
We want you to take all of these expectations, and throw them away.
We want you to take all of these expectations, and throw them away. Why? Because Johnny Ringo’s Handmade Frozen Burritos are here, and they have forced us to reconsider the possibilities, and the new heights that can be reached by the frozen burrito format.
We tested three varieties of Johnny Ringo’s 9-ounce burritos: Chicken Chipotle (with Monterey Cheese, Beans, and Mexican Style Rice), Spicy Beef (with Cheddar Cheese, Beans, and Mexican Style Rice), and Bean and Cheese (with Pepper Jack Cheese and Green Chile Sauce). But before we take a look at the individual flavors, let’s look at what the three varieties have in common.
The biggest thing that sets Johnny Ringo’s apart is that, across the board, they come out of the microwave cooked absolutely perfectly. The flour tortillas stay perfectly pliable and pleasantly chewy, with very little over-hardening at the ends. In the six different burritos we cooked for this review, not a single one of them split open during the cooking process. And the filling was heated through evenly and appropriately, so that the burrito can be eaten immediately after cooking. How this independent, Las Vegas-based company has managed to achieve the kind of microwave magic that has eluded larger manufacturers for decades, we’ll never understand. It is truly remarkable, and is a huge contributing factor in the deliciousness of these burritos.
The other item of note, in all three of the burrito flavors, was the filling’s careful balance between “real, recognizable ingredients” and “munchie-satsifying microwave goo.” In each of the varieties we tested, the individual ingredients were clearly discernible, with whole pinto beans, individual grains of rice, pockets of warm cheese, and chunks of chicken or shredded beef, all present and accounted for. But Johnny Ringo’s also includes a “sauce” component in each burrito, which contributes to the “goo-factor” that we crave, when we crave frozen burritos.
Johnny Ringo’s Handmade Chicken Chipotle Burrito
The Johnny Ringo’s website promises that this is the only “true” chipotle chicken burrito that you’ll find in your frozen food section. They don’t elaborate, but we can assure you: This is one bomb-ass chicken burrito. Big chunks of premium, white meat chicken, whole beans, rice, and here and there, pleasing pockets of melted Monterey Jack cheese. The filling is also seasoned with a mildly spicy, smoky chipotle sauce, which delivers a burst of heat, without ever being overpowering.
Johnny Ringo’s Handmade Spicy Beef Burrito
Around here, we’re Tina’s “Red Hot Beef” people. We can’t help it. It’s the gold standard, by which all other spicy beef burritos are judged. But in this test, Johnny Ringo’s absolutely blows Tina’s out of the water, in terms of spiciness, the quality of the beef (which is actually recognizable, and tastes great on its own), and overall deliciousness. This was, by far, our favorite burrito of the bunch.
Johnny Ringo’s Handmade Bean and Cheese Burrito
Do people buy burritos that don’t have meat in them? We suppose it’s possible, but usually the kinds of people that are preoccupied with things like “ethical, sustainable food choices” aren’t grazing the bottom shelf of the frozen snack aisle. These vegetarian burritos may be enough to change your mind, however. The real star here is HUGE amount of pepper jack cheese, which is smooth, creamy, satisfying, and studded with green chiles, lend plenty of brightness to the pepper jack cheese and the mayocoba beans. Also, we don’t know what mayocoba beans are.
Overall, we couldn’t have been more impressed with the frozen burritos being cranked out by the team at Johnny Ringo’s. What’s most impressive is their ability to balance real-deal, quality ingredients and flavors, without completely losing the very qualities that make a frozen burrito, a frozen burrito. While the elements of each type of filling remain distinct and flavorful, there is still that satisfying, junk-food feeling hidden in each one. Add to that the insanely high-quality, split-free, soft tortillas, and the perfectly even microwave preparation, and you have a product that is poised to revolutionize the field.
Though Johnny Ringo’s is still expanding from its base of operations in Las Vegas, when these appear in your grocery store, please buy them. Buy every single godamned one you can get your hands on. Buy another freezer, if you have to. You’ll thank us.