Learn Spanish from the Chipotle Menu

Quick Answer

“I’ll have a chicken burrito with guacamole and queso blanco, please.” When ordering at Chipotle, you will likely find yourself using a mix of English words, Spanish words, and made-up words. Read on to find out the origin of some of Chipotle's most popular menu items!

Chipotle, A Jalapeño in Disguise?

First off, what does chipotleeven mean? A chipotle is a chile pepper that has been smoked or dried until it turns dark red. Chipotles are most commonly made using jalapeños, but they can also be made with a number of other hot peppers, including chile ancho(ancho chile) and chile pasilla(pasilla chile).

Chipotle is a Nahuatl loanword that was borrowed into Spanish...and then English!

Choose Your Meal

Before you put in your order at Chipotle, first you need to decide what type of Mexican-inspired dish you want. If you go with a burrito, quesadilla, or taco, you'll be using a loan word, a Spanish word that has officially become part of the English language.

At Chipotle, you can't order an authentic soft corn tortillalike you'd see in Mexico because they've been discontinued. Way to go, Chipotle!

Choose Your Protein

After choosing what type of meal you want, you are presented with an array of protein to choose from.


If you’ve ever seen barbacoa (barbecued meat) made in Mexico, you know that the meat (goat, lamb, or beef) is covered with maguey leaves and cooked in an underground oven. Barbacoa is a form of cooking meat that, in spite of its name, does not involve barbecue sauce.

If you order barbacoa at Chipotle, you get pretty close to the real deal. The beef is not cooked in an underground oven, but it is braised slowly at a low temperature until tender. If you want to be as authentic as possible, choose tomatillogreen-chili salsa as your only topping, which is Chipotle’s version of salsa verde(salsa made with green tomatoes).


Carnitas, which literally translates as little meats, is another culinary staple in Mexico. Both the authentic version and Chipotle’s version consist of small pieces of braised pork.

What on Earth are Sofritas?

Isn’t it fun making up your own words in Spanish? Chipotle sure thinks so! Some menu items sound like legitimate Spanish words, but in reality they were just invented by Chipotle. When choosing a protein, the more health-conscious consumers gravitate toward chicken or sofritas. If you look sofritas up in the dictionary, you won’t find it. You will find sofrito, which serves as a flavorful base for a variety of Mexican dishes. Sofrito was the original inspiration for Chipotle’s sofritas, which consist of small bits of tofu that have been braised in chipotle peppers and other spices.

Choose Your Toppings


In Spanish, the word salsarefers to any kind of sauce. In English, the word salsa is a borrowed word that refers to a chunky tomato-based topping or table dip. Most salsas at Chipotle are relatively authentic, except for the fresh tomato salsa. The fresh tomato salsa is not spicy, which is a key characteristic of salsa in Mexico.


Guacamole is another loan word that appears on Chipotle’s menu. The name comes from a Nahuatl word that translates literally as avocado sauce. Many fake versions of guacamole have tomatoes, but not Chipotle’s. At Chipotle, you can get some good ol’ authentically prepared guac!

Queso Blanco

Chipotle’s queso blanco (white cheese) is a melted cheese that's offered as a topping or served as a side with tortilla chips. Queso blanco is made with a delicious blend of white cheddar and aged Monterey Jack cheeses. While the taste is unbeatable, its authenticity is not. Authentic Mexican queso blanco is a soft, unaged fresh cheese made out of pure cow's milk.