A chimichanga with refried beans and rice served at an Illinois restaurant.
Woody Johnson, founder of Macayo's Mexican Kitchen, claims he invented the chimichanga (chim-ee-ch-anga) in 1946 when he put some burritos into a deep fryer as an experiment at his original restaurant Woody's El Nido. These "fried burritos" became so popular that by 1952 when Woody's El Nido became Macayo's the chimichanga was one of the restaurant's main menu items. Johnson opened Macayo's in 1952.
Although no official records indicate when the dish first appeared, retired University of Arizona folklorist Jim Griffith recalls seeing chimichangas at the Yaqui Old Pascua Village in Tucson in the mid-1950s.
Given the variant chivichanga, mainly employed in Mexico, another derivation would have it that immigrants to the United States brought the dish with them, mainly through Nogales into Arizona. A third, and perhaps most likely possibility, is that the chimichanga, or chivichanga, has long been a part of local cuisine of the Pimería Alta of Arizona and Sonora, with its early range extending southward into Sinaloa. In Sinaloa the chimichangas are small.
Knowledge and appreciation of the dish spread slowly outward from the Tucson area, with popularity elsewhere accelerating in recent decades. Though the chimichanga is now found as part of the Tex-Mex repertoire, its roots within the U.S. seem to be in Pima County, Arizona.
Eating a typical 6.5 oz serving on a regular basis is usually not a very healthy lifestyle choice due to the dish relatively high sodium and saturated fat content.