If you like Mexican and Latin American food, you are familiar with tortillas. Whether you like to make burritos, tacos, or quesadillas, tortillas are a must-have household item. Do you prefer flour tortillas or corn tortillas?
Stay tuned to see what the differences between flour and corn tortillas are! You will never mistake them again.
What Is A Flour Tortilla?
A flour tortilla is also called a wheat tortilla. It is a soft and thin piece of circular flatbread made from very finely ground wheat flour. Traditional corn tortillas inspired this type of tortilla.
While most say that flour tortillas originated in Northern Mexico, others say they came to be as part of Tex-Mex foods. Most people associate flour tortillas with the California region of the United States, although they are popular in many Mexican American restaurants. These days, wheat tortillas are also popular in Mexican places, like Sonora, Sinaloa, and Chihuahua.
The only ingredients used for these tortillas are water, wheat flour, butter, and salt. The size varies depending on the purpose and production process. Sometimes, tortillas are up to 30cm or as little as 5 cm. Industrially produced tortillas contain more chemicals to improve texture and color and extend shelf life.
Because flour tortillas contain wheat flour, they are enriched with B vitamins, such as folic acid, thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin. In most cases, these tortillas also have vegetable shortening, leavening, and sugar. Using whole wheat flour can help increase the fiber content and make them healthier.
Wheat tortillas are used primarily for burritos, especially in Mexico. However, you can also find them in quesadillas, tacos, fajitas, and flautas. If you hear the term tortilla, it most likely refers to the original corn and not the flour type.
Although you will likely see flour tortillas in Mexico and the United States, you can also find them in Central American cuisine. Most people associate the flour tortilla with Tex Mex, but they are also used widely in other cuisines. Unlike corn, wheat is denser and more filling.
One medium flour tortilla (45 g) has the following nutritional content (*):
- 138 calories
- 3.69 g protein
- 3.6 g fat
- 22.2 g carbohydrate
- 1.58 g fiber
- 1.67 g sugar
- 65.7 mg calcium
- 1.63 mg iron
- 9.9 mg magnesium
- 92.7 mg phosphorus
- 56.2 mg potassium
- 331 mg sodium
- 42.3 µg folate
- 0 mg cholesterol
Are Flour Tortillas Healthy?
For the most part, having flour tortillas as part of a healthy and consistent diet is normal. In some cases, consuming these tortillas in excess can cause weight gain and more. You can eat tortillas as you would bread, being careful about balance.
The first thing to note about flour tortillas is that mass-produced tortillas can be high in additives and preservatives. In some cases, your tortilla will have more sugars, colorings, or other additives that could harm your health. They also can make your tortilla lose certain nutrients.
On the other hand, flour tortillas can contain some nutrients that other carbohydrates do not have. Most wheat products are enriched with B vitamins, including thiamine and folic acid, essential for energy and neurological processes. Your wheat tortilla should also contain some fiber.
Another point to remember is that flour tortillas tend to be larger. Sometimes these tortillas can be extra-large, which might exceed the recommended portion size. Consuming a larger size will also mean more calories.
To make your meals and recipes healthier, you can try to pick a whole wheat tortilla. This means that you will obtain more of the grain in your tortilla, which means more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Ultimately, while the tortilla seems denser, it is also more nutritious.
We should note that you should be careful when picking whole wheat tortillas. Sometimes these include colorings and sugar instead of being whole grain. Check for the nutrient label to ensure that your tortilla is whole grain.
As with any wheat products, flour tortillas are not safe for everyone. If you have Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you will want to avoid this food. Instead, go with corn and check for cross-contamination.
Ultimately, to ensure your meal is the healthiest, you will want to make the tortilla at home. By doing this, you can ensure that you are controlling portion sizes and ingredients. Plus, you avoid hidden preservatives.
Finally, knowing whether tortillas are healthy or not, depends mostly on how you are eating them. For best results, pair them with lean proteins and vegetables. You should also limit other starches with your tortillas, like rice or potatoes.
What Is A Corn Tortilla?
Corn tortilla refers to an unleavened and thin round flatbread made from cornmeal. In most cases, the type of corn in this tortilla is hominy. This is corn that has been treated with alkali to improve the nutrient content in a process known as nixtamalization.
The original corn tortilla requires only ground and dried hominy, salt, and water. The mixture is then flattened into discs and cooked on a hot griddle called comal. That is the traditional way to prepare tortillas, but sometimes they are cooked on regular pans.
Since corn can come in many colors and sizes, corn tortillas do not always have to be white or yellow. Although the most common colors are yellow and white, you can sometimes find red, purple, or blue. In Mexico, you will find white maize, yellow maize, and blue maize.
The term tortilla comes from the Spanish word torta, which refers to the cake. The diminutive “illa” is part of the name to reference a little cake. Unlike the Latin American tortilla, in Spain, the term refers to a potato and egg omelet.
The first corn tortilla came around during prehistoric times in Mexico. It is now a staple across America, particularly in North and Central American cultures. Corn tortillas are much older than flour tortillas, a more recent invention.
Common dishes made with corn tortillas include tacos, chilaquiles, enchiladas, gorditas, sopes, tostadas, and tortilla soup. These tortillas are also used to make tortilla chips, commonly served with guacamole or salsa. For the most part, corn tortillas have mostly carbohydrates, but they might be enriched with B vitamins.
One medium flour tortilla (28 g) has the following nutritional content (*):
- 61 calories
- 1.6 g protein
- 0.798 g fat
- 12.5 g carbohydrate
- 1.76 g fiber
- 0.246 g sugar
- 22.7 mg calcium
- 0.344 mg iron
- 20.2 mg magnesium
- 87.9 mg phosphorus
- 52.1 mg potassium
- 12.6 mg sodium
- 1.4 µg folate
- 0 mg cholesterol
Are Corn Tortillas Healthy?
As you can see above, corn tortillas are actually low in calories and fat. They can be a healthy choice when it comes to meals and snacks. In order to stay on track, the best way to eat corn tortillas is portion control.
For the most part, corn tortillas contain some fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, they are usually small in size and do not contribute much to your diet. This fact can make them a healthy carbohydrate choice to pair with your meal.
You should remember that corn tortillas vary in their nutrition content depending on the type of corn used. Some types of corn are higher in starch, while others contain more vitamins and minerals. Blue corn seems to be more nutritious as well because it contains beta-carotene, a strong antioxidant.
The main issue with corn tortillas is that many individuals forget that they still count as carbohydrates. For the most part, many individuals have more than three or four in one sitting. In fact, they might also pair them with other carbohydrates, like rice.
Since corn tortillas are smaller, it is logical that they are also lower in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. Although this is true, it can be drive individuals to use more tortillas, which counteracts all the health benefits. Be sure to stay mindful of your portions and use only two or three tortillas at most.
Like flour tortillas, corn tortillas might contain vitamins and minerals. In this case, they are fortified with folic acid and niacin, among other B vitamins. This is because many individuals consuming corn tortillas are at risk for deficiencies, particularly during pregnancy.
Be wary of some commercial corn tortillas, as they might have added preservatives and colorings. Like their flour counterparts, corn tortillas can be modified to last longer and be more flavorful. These added compounds might not be harmful, but if you want a completely natural tortilla, you should make these tortillas at home.
Finally, while corn products do not have gluten, there are cases when you should be careful. Some corn tortillas are produced in facilities that produce or process wheat and gluten products. To be sure, always check the label for any allergen warnings.
What Are The Key Differences Between Flour And Corn Tortillas?
The first difference to note is that these products are not made from the same ingredients. The main ingredient for flour tortillas is flour, which already contains wheat. When it comes to corn tortillas, as the name suggests, the main start is corn.
The next thing to note is the nutrition profile of these two foods. Flour tortillas tend to be higher in calories, carbohydrates, and fat. Corn tortillas have fewer calories, carbohydrates, and fat, but also fewer micronutrients too.
As you might know by now, the tortillas are not the same size. Flour tortillas tend to be large, sometimes up to 12 inches. Corn tortillas are much smaller, only about seven inches or less.
Since the tortillas are different, they also serve various purposes. Wheat tortillas are mostly used for burritos, quesadillas, or fajitas. Corn tortillas instead are used for tacos, tortilla chips, nachos, and more.
Because they contain other ingredients, these two tortillas do not feel or taste the same. Flour tortillas are softer, fluffier, and have a neutral taste. Corn tortillas are lighter and a bit crumblier, and taste much more like corn.
For some individuals, flour tortillas are not safe. Unlike corn, flour tortillas contain wheat, which is 100% gluten. Corn tortillas are gluten-free, but they might have been processed in the same facility, leading to cross-contamination.
Finally, these two tortillas did not originate in the same place or cuisine. Flour tortillas are believed to be a North American invention, particularly for Tex-Mex food. Corn tortillas have been around for centuries and have origins in Meso-American cultures, especially in Mexico and Central America.
|Main Differences||Flour Tortilla||Corn Tortilla|
|Origin||The United States and Northern Mexico||Mexico and Central America|
|Uses||Quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, tortilla chips, and fajitas||Tacos, sopa de tortilla, sopes, enchiladas, nachos, tortilla chips, and as a side dish|
|Size||12 to 24 inches||8 to 10 inches|
|Main ingredient||Flour||Maize or cornmeal|
|Calories per medium tortilla||138 calories||61 calories|
Are Flour or Corn Tortillas Better?
For the most part, both tortillas can be somewhat healthy. However, corn tortillas tend to be superior for various reasons. Keep in mind that some of it is because corn tortillas are smaller.
On one hand, corn tortillas are whole grain and contain several vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fiber but lower in calories, carbohydrates, and fat. Most corn tortillas also contain very few ingredients and preservatives.
In some cases, you might want to choose flour tortillas instead of corn. If that is the case, be sure to check your portion size and that your tortillas do not have added sugars. If not, going with corn might be the best option.
Never mistake flour and corn tortillas ever again. These two foods serve different purposes and have different characteristics. Choose the right food next time you are preparing food.
*Photo by bhofack2/depositphotos
*Photo by jirkaejc/depositphotos