Last Updated on November 22, 2022
Being the centerpiece of Mexican cuisine, tortillas are not only the love of Central America but also one of the world’s most beloved breads. Yet, as much as we consume these yummy treats daily, are they healthy? Are tortillas vegan?
Tortillas – The Centerpiece of Mexican Cuisine
Tortilla production can be traced back to B.C. times when Aztecs and local tribesmen battled it out over land, resources, and, of course, the food supply.
Primarily used as a staple during long excursions, tortillas became popular due to being solid on the stomach, travel-friendly, and simple to make. Traditional tortillas are made with two ingredients: corn and water- and today’s society has not deviated much from the original recipe.
Actually, modern tortilla production has simply replaced grinding stones with flat tops and swapped out mortar and pestles with large machines. Yet, there are still pockets of the world that keep the tradition alive- Mexico is one of them.
You’ll be hard-pressed to dine at an authentic Mexican restaurant and receive tortillas made in a factory. No, keeping large quantities of flour, corn, and oil on hand, each tortilla delivered to the table has been hand-rolled, flattened and fried in-house- made with precision and care which is half of the reason why the world is obsessed.
Type of Tortillas
Due to the emergence of various grains and flour, there are many types of tortillas on the market today. The main two categories, however, are corn and flour. From there it gets a little spicy- literally.
❇️ Corn Tortillas
As the name suggests, corn tortillas have a corn flour base (corn maize), and wheat tortillas have a wheat flour base; and, although this is simple to understand, some consumers mistake the two as being the same. And to add to the confusion, there are now wheat and corn-blend tortillas lining supermarket shelves- yikes!
Corn tortillas, made from white, yellow, or blue corn, have a sweeter taste and the chew is a little more subtle, also gluten-free by nature. Due to the sweetness, corn tortillas are the preferred tortilla and have a higher consumption rate amongst restaurant diners- especially when paired with Tequila- Mexico’s darling.
❇️ Wheat Flour tortillas
Wheat flour tortillas have a distinctive taste of grain and nuts. Every bite gives off the feeling of chewing on warm, freshly baked bread. And speaking of the chew, wheat tortillas have a gummy chew, due in large part to the presence of gluten and other binding agents, which separates them slightly from their corn counterparts.
Another helpful fact is wheat flour tortillas have a much higher fiber count than corn tortillas- it’s true! Because insoluble fiber is naturally present in whole grains, you will find it lingering on the tortillas. Now, there are some corn tortillas on the market that can hold their own against wheat flour tortillas like the Sprouted Corn Tortillas for instance, which are organic corn tortillas made from whole kernel corn. This makes them perfect for individuals adhering to a healthier diet, but still want to enjoy the taste of MesoAmerican cuisine because the fiber helps balance out the high carb count and keep the blood sugars from getting too out of control.
This leads to a question that a lot of people ask- are tortillas vegan?
Are Tortillas Vegan?
The simple answer here is, it depends.
Traditional tortillas have three main ingredients: corn, vegetable oil, and water, with no traces of animal products or animal-derived chemicals. Even traditional wheat tortillas have three main ingredients.
Although the majority of tortillas do not contain animal products, but some may add lard or butter to improve the taste and add richness. Animal fat (lard or butter/shortening) is common ingredients in the classic recipes for wheat flour tortillas. A traditional tortilla prepared without lard may still be fried in lard, butter, or whey even if it does not contain lard.
Are Chipotle tortillas vegan?
As well as their vegan tortillas, Chipotle’s rice, beans, salsas, and so much more are also completely vegan, like this vegan signature dish Sofritas at Chipotle Mexican grill.
Are Store-Bought Tortillas Vegan?
Yes and no. Due to strong competition, there are many tortilla brands to pick and choose from. When buying my tortillas I stick with the rule of three: If it has more than 3 ingredients, pause. The additional added items such like artificial flavourings, ingredients with numbers, or ingredients you can’t even pronounce the names, can be a cause of concern as they may contain traces of animal products that would be undetectable without research.
However, reading the label will be crucial as many store brands, like Mission Flour Tortillas have added additives, chemicals, and flavorings to stand out from their competition. Popular vegan tortillas brands such as Food For Life and Maria and Ricardos have mastered the art of pitching vegan corn tortillas and gluten-free tortillas with other organic additions such as spelt and barley.
Being both an avid health-food shopper and snack food junkie, I’ve been to many bodegas, supermarkets, and stores and have found 3 ingredient tortillas with ease. It takes a bit of searching, and I recommend going in with your cellphone charged up in case you may need to do some research. To make all your favorite Mexican meals with vegan tortilla brands of corn or wheat tortillas!
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