Tortillas are a flavorful staple of Mexican cuisine. They're an integral part of so many delicious dishes, from tasty tacos to beefy burritos. You need tortillas for enchiladas, for tortilla chips, for fajitas, and for tortilla soup. The list could go on forever!
There are two main types of tortilla you can use in your Mexican recipes, corn or flour tortillas. There are some real differences between the two, and choosing between corn and flour could make or break your Mexican-inspired meal. We decided to look at the differences to see if we could decide which is better: corn vs flour tortilla?
Tortillas have been a part of Mexican culture for centuries. The concept is rather simple. Tortillas are thin, flatbreads, primarily made from corn or flour. Tortillas are incredibly practical when it comes to wrapping up food, and in Mexico, you're never going to be served a meal without them!
The main difference between corn and flour tortillas are the main ingredient. Corn tortillas are produced from corn, whereas flour tortillas are produced from wheat flour.
Corn tortillas are seen as more authentic, however, because corn has been a staple ingredient in Mexican cuisine for thousands of years. Wheat, on the other hand, has only been around since the Spanish arrived in the Americas and brought the crop with them from Europe.
Corn tortillas are found all over Mexico and much of Central America too. In contrast, flour tortillas are generally only found in the north of Mexico and the USA, where they became popular as part of Tex-Mex cuisine (any Mexican will tell you that Tex-Mex isn't Mexican cuisine!).
Corn tortillas are yellow in color and are usually smaller than flour tortillas, which are much whiter in color. Corn tortillas are most commonly used to hold together taco fillings, whereas the larger, sturdier flour tortillas are used to stop those packed burrito fillings bursting all over you when you're eating!
Aside from these obvious differences, there are a few more subtle differences between corn and flour tortillas, which we will take a look at.
You can make homemade flour tortillas easily in your kitchen, using just flour, water, and a tortilla press. The flour is made from finely ground wheat grains. You mix your flour with water, add a pinch of salt, and knead it into a dough. Take the dough then press it into thin, tortillas.
Corn tortilla ingredients, on the other hand, require Masa Harina, which might be a little more difficult to get hold of in some parts of the USA. Masa Harina is a mixture of finely ground corn flour (also known as maize), and lime (calcium hydroxide). This might seem like a weird thing to mix your corn with, but the lime enacts a process called Nixtamalization, which actually helps to make the corn tortillas much more nutritious, as it releases essential vitamins (including B vitamins).
Nixtamalization is a process that has been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years in the Americas, well before the Spanish made their appearance.
If you have the correct, nixtamalized Masa Harina, then homemade corn tortillas are just as easy to make in the kitchen as flour tortillas. You just mix up your Masa into a dough and press out the tortillas. If you don't have Masa Harina, though, you won't be able to make authentic homemade tortillas from corn.
Are corn tortillas better than flour tortillas? That's a difficult question to answer! Neither is really better than the other; they are just different.
They have different tastes and different textures. If you're eating tacos, you'll want corn tortillas, but if you are fixing up burritos, you need the larger flour tortillas.
If you've been brought up eating wheat flour your whole life, you might find the taste of corn tortillas to be unusual. On the other hand, tortilla nutritional facts can vary between corn and flour, and corn is often seen as much healthier than flour.
Are corn tortillas healthy? Yes, and they are considered healthier than their flour tortilla cousins. Corn tortilla calories are considered to be healthier than flour calories because corn tortillas have fewer carbs, less fat content, and much more fiber.
Corn tortillas are a whole-grain food, and they offer a much higher quantity of vitamins than wheat tortillas can. Increasingly, you can find whole wheat tortilla products on the shelves too, which are a good source of fiber and a good bridge between corn tortillas and white flour tortillas.
Corn tortillas are also totally gluten-free, and celiac-friendly, so if you're looking for healthy tortillas, corn is always going to be the best choice!
The number of carbs in corn tortillas is usually less than the number of carbs in flour tortillas, while the number of calories in tortilla products produced from corn, will be lower than the number of calories in flour tortillas because of this lower carb count too.
Corn tortilla carbs aren't as high in number as their flour counterparts, but are corn tortillas keto? A keto diet is a low carb diet, but unfortunately, corn tortillas are not considered low carb enough to be keto-friendly.
Low carb corn tortillas can be great for weight loss. They have fewer calories, so substituting flour for corn will help you to reduce the number of calories you are consuming in a meal.
Importantly, corn tortillas are usually much smaller than flour tortillas, which means you'll be consuming fewer calories overall by eating corn tortillas. The best way to visualize this is to think of the size comparison between a corn tortilla taco and a flour tortilla burrito. Tacos are much, much smaller!
It's all about balance, though. If you start eating ten corn tacos instead of one flour burrito, we don't think you will see much weight loss overall!
Corn tortillas are great for anyone with gluten intolerance. Corn tortillas are generally gluten-free. However, some Masa Harina does come mixed with wheat flour as well, so always double-check the packaging before you start making tortillas.
For anyone with special dietary requirements, corn tortillas, therefore, make a great alternative to flour or wheat tortillas (wheat tortillas are not gluten-free!).
So who wins? Corn or flour tortillas? While corn tortillas offer many more health benefits than flour tortillas, sometimes it all just comes down to which taste and style you like the most!
After reading this article you may have realized how easy it is to make your own tortillas, check out this blog post to learn more about the process and how to press them.