Crispitos | Cafeteria Copy Cat

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copycat crispito recipe

School may be out for the summer but the bell is ringing in my kitchen! This recipe comes straight from the halls of my own alma mater, Carroll High School in Dayton, Ohio, where I fondly recall racing my fellow students to the cafeteria to be the first in line on crispito day.

Back then, we didn’t mind wolfing down the mystery-meat filled tortillas that also spewed some kind of orange-ish, watery liquid. We LOVED them. Everyone looked forward to crispito day at good ol’ CHS.

Recreating this meal as an adult was a trip down memory lane. I’ve since learned that the meat inside was actually chicken – though my recipe uses ground beef. Either can be used – but the beefy version was closer to how I actually remember the crispitos tasting. Also – the bright yellow-ish orange-ish color comes primarily from tumeric. If you don’t want to recreate the color – only the flavor – you can halve the amount of tumeric in the recipe!

Word on the street is that you can actually still order crispitos from wholesalers like GFS. I haven’t personally tried it myself but it seems a promsing route if you are seriously itching for the real deal.

Now, nearly ten years out of high school and four years out of college, crispitos have come back to haunt me – in a good way! This week’s challenge was cafeteria food, no doubt to torture any students just released into the summer.

Cafeteria food may seem like an unusual challenge, but school lunches can be surprisingly nostalgic to make. The only thing missing from this recipe is the smell of stinky teenage boys.

Despite the fact I had a total “my dog ate my SD card” (true story) and had to make these crispitos two nights in a row (no complaints here), these crispitos brought back of flood of high school memories.

Sometimes I wish I would have taken the Home Economy classes offered by my high school. For whatever reason it never worked out for my curriculum. While I did have to carry around a flour baby (I still remember, I named her “Lyla”), we never did cool things like learning how to make tiramisu. Personally, I think these crispitos would have been a great recipe to recreate in class!

The most important part to crispitos is getting the right flavor and texture to the “mystery meat” – which in my recipe is just regular ground beef. The real trick to getting the right consistency is to use a food processor or blender to get the meat down to a paste-like texture.

You can also use ground chicken for a learner substitute, though both varieties are delicious!

The meat should be a yellow-orange-ish color if you want to be truly authentic to the cafeteria cuisine. But definitely feel free to adjust the seasonings to your now refined, adult palate.

If you really want to spice things up, you can add things like jalapenoes and onions. Just be sure to blend them in with the meat mixture so they aren’t too big to wrap with the rest of the crispito.

The next trick to achieving the perfect crispito is to only use half of each tortilla. If you use the whole thing, the tortilla is too thick to properly crisp up, so you’ll be left with, essentially, a sad soft-shell burrito.

And plus, by using only half of a tortilla, you get twice as many crispitos.

I wasn’t very good at math in high school, but I’m pretty sure the numbers check out.

Crispitos are rolled pretty tightly, so I shaped my meat into the right form before I folded the edges of the tortilla over the filling and wrapped it up. My high school immaturity returned with a vengeance as I formed these meat logs.

Just don’t think about their appearance too much. It’ll be rolled up soon.

Place the filled tortillas seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Use an veggie oil based cooking spray – the same you’d use to grease the baking sheet – to quickly spritz the tops of each tortilla.

That’s how they get crispy!

Bake the crispitos in the oven for about fifteen minutes – the best way to know they are done is when the first one “pops.” That’s how you know you’ve rolled them tight enough and they’ve cooked all the way through.

It’s not a crispito if at least one doesn’t pop open while you cut it!

Back in my high school days, we smothered our crispitos in cheese sauce and sour cream…it’s a wonder we didn’t all weigh a million pounds, especially after some football players would wolf down twenty or more in one sitting.

Seriously, I remember the football team walking out of the lunch line with plates piled high with crispitos. More than I could bake for myself for a week! At least as an adult, I hope I have more self control to only eat what I need – and not be carbo loading for a big game night.

I’m not sure if CHS still has crispito days – I’d hope for the sake of tradition they do!


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Crispitos | Cafeteria Copy Cat

The Starving Chef
The most important part to crispitos is getting the right flavor and texture to the "mystery meat" – which in my recipe is just regular ground beef.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Copycat Recipes, Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 24 crispitos


  • 16 oz ground beef OR ground chicken
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoons turmeric + more for "authentic" school lunch color
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons chunky salsa
  • 5 tortillas 10-12 inch round
  • vegetable oil cooking spray
  • queso sauce for serving
  • sour cream for serving


  • Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cook and crumble the ground beef. Rinse in a strainer then transfer to a food processor. Add the paprika, turmeric, cumin, water and salsa. Use the food processor to blend up the meat until paste-like in consistency.
  • Cut the tortillas in half. Measure out approximately 1/4 cup of the filling and arrange it in a log-like shape about a half inch in from the cut side of the tortilla. Fold over each end and tightly wrap the tortilla around the filling.
  • Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the filled tortillas, seam side down on the greased baking sheet. Spray the tops of each filled tortilla with a mist of cooking spray.
  • Pop the baking sheet into the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes, until they are just starting to get crispy but haven't started to brown. Serve topped with a generous helping of nacho cheese and sour cream. Enjoy!


Keyword cheese, ground beef, tortilla
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