What are flautas?
Flautas are a type of Mexican appetizer or snack made from corn or wheat tortillas that are filled with ingredients like chicken, beef, cheese, beans, or potatoes, then tightly rolled up and deep fried. The tortilla is usually thinner than a burrito or taco shell and can be made from either corn or flour. Flautas are sometimes also called taquitos or tacos dorados (golden tacos). They make for a crispy, savory finger food.
Are flautas fried?
Yes, traditional flautas are deep fried. The filled tortilla tubes are submerged in hot oil until the exterior becomes crispy and golden brown. This frying process gives flautas their distinctive crunchy texture. However, some restaurants or home cooks will bake flautas in the oven as a lower-fat alternative. While baked flautas are less greasy, the texture is not quite as crispy as deep-fried.
What are the typical ingredients in flautas?
There are many potential fillings for flautas, both traditional and inventive:
– Shredded chicken – One of the most common flautas fillings. Chicken is usually seasoned and shredded or chopped.
– Shredded beef – Also a very popular option, typically slow-cooked beef like machaca, barbacoa, or brisket.
– Refried beans – Black or pinto beans mashed with lard and spices. Makes for a good vegetarian option.
– Cheese – Oaxaca, queso fresco, cheddar, etc. Cheese-only or mixed with other ingredients.
– Potatoes – Mashed or diced potatoes for a hearty filling.
– Zucchini, mushrooms, etc. – Flautas can also be filled with sauteed veggies.
– Chili con carne – Spicy beef and bean chili.
– Chicken tinga – Chipotle-tomato chicken stew.
– Cactus – Sauteed nopales (cactus paddles).
– Turkey – Shredded roasted turkey works nicely.
– Fish – Fried fish flautas are also found in coastal regions.
The fillings are seasoned with spices like garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, etc. The options are very flexible based on preference and availability of ingredients.
What type of oil is used to fry flautas?
Flautas are most commonly fried in vegetable oil, like canola, sunflower, corn, or peanut oil. Solid fats like lard or shortening can also be used. The oil needs to withstand high frying temperatures – around 350-375°F.
Using monounsaturated vegetable oils may be a healthier choice compared to saturated animal fats when deep frying. Canola is a popular, versatile, and neutral-tasting oil for frying. Olive oil is not well-suited for deep frying because of its low smoke point.
No matter what oil is used, consuming large quantities of deep fried foods can increase calories, fat, and negative health effects. Baking flautas is one way to reduce the oil amounts compared to frying.
Are flautas high in calories?
Yes, flautas are generally high in calories due to being deep fried. The calorie content comes mainly from the oil absorbed during frying.
For example, two medium beef flautas (around 135g total) can contain 300-400 calories. However, the calorie count varies depending on factors like:
– Frying oil type – Using lard, shortening, or coconut oil results in more calories absorbed than lighter vegetable oils.
– Frying time – The longer flautas fry, the more oil is absorbed and calories increase. Color and texture are indicators of doneness.
– Fillings – Ingredients like cheese, fatty meats, and refried beans increase calories versus fillings like chicken or veggies.
– Serving size – The more flautas consumed, the greater the calorie intake.
– Sides/toppings – Flautas topped with sour cream, guacamole, etc. pile on even more calories.
– Restaurant vs homemade – Restaurant or fast food flautas tend to be higher in calories than ones cooked at home.
So flautas should be enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet. Homemade baked flautas can be a lower calorie substitute.
Do flautas contain trans fat?
Traditionally fried flautas can contain small amounts of trans fats from the oil used. However, many restaurants and brands have eliminated or greatly reduced trans fats from their flautas due to health concerns.
Trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are a type of unsaturated fat associated with increased bad cholesterol levels and higher risk of heart disease. During the deep frying process, some naturally occurring unsaturated fats in the oil can be converted into trans fats. The longer and hotter the oil is heated, the more trans fats are generated.
Using highly processed, partially hydrogenated oils high in trans fats like shortening or margarine can significantly increase the amount of trans fats in fried foods. Luckily, consumer awareness and regulations have led many food manufacturers, restaurants, and chains to switch to trans fat-free oils for frying.
When cooking flautas at home, choose naturally trans fat-free liquid oils like canola or sunflower oil and avoid hydrogenated oils. Baking instead of frying also eliminates any small amounts of trans fats. Reading nutrition labels can help identify if any store-bought flautas still contain trans fats. Overall, flautas should not be a major source of trans fats in one’s diet.
How do flautas impact cholesterol levels?
Fried flautas can negatively impact cholesterol levels due to a few factors:
– Saturated Fat – Flautas cooked in saturated animal fats like lard contain high amounts of saturated fat, which raises bad LDL cholesterol and risks of heart disease.
– Trans Fats – Any trans fats from the frying oil can also increase bad cholesterol.
– Cheese Fillings – Flautas filled with cheese are higher in saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol.
However, flautas made with healthier modifications can reduce the cholesterol impact:
– Using oils low in saturated fat like canola or sunflower oil instead of lard or shortening.
– Opting for flautas filled with lower-fat ingredients like chicken, fish, or veggies rather than high-fat cheese or beef.
– Baking instead of frying eliminates absorbed oil, lowering saturated and trans fats.
– Pairing flautas with fresh side dishes like salad and avoiding sour cream or guacamole toppings.
– Limiting portion sizes to 2-3 flautas and avoiding frequent indulgence.
Overall, enjoying flautas in moderation as part of a diet low in saturated fat is a better approach than completely restricting them to keep cholesterol in check.
What are the healthiest flauta fillings?
Some healthier flauta fillings that provide nutrients and less fat include:
– Shredded chicken or turkey breast – Excellent lean protein options.
– Sauteed vegetables – Onions, bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach provide vitamins and minerals.
– Refried beans or black beans – Packed with fiber, plant-based protein, and antioxidants.
– Brown rice – Contains filling fiber and energizing carbs with less fat than white rice.
– Cactus or nopales – Nutrient-rich and low in calories.
– Diced avocado – Provides “good” monounsaturated fats and vitamins.
– Shredded fish – Lean protein, healthy omega-3s.
– Sweet potato or butternut squash – More nutrients than white potatoes with some healthy fats.
– Corn – Imparts natural sweetness with antioxidants.
Choosing flautas made with a combo of sautéed veggies, beans, and lean protein is a balanced, lower-fat option. Healthier fillings mean less guilt when indulging in deep-fried flautas!
Do flautas have carbs?
Yes, flautas contain a moderate amount of carbohydrates. The carbs in flautas come from:
– Tortilla – The outer wrapper made from corn or flour (wheat) contains around 15-20g of carbohydrate per medium-sized tortilla. Corn tortillas are slightly lower in carbs than flour.
– Fillings – Ingredients like rice, beans, corn, potatoes, and cheese add more carbs. Meats and non-starchy veggies provide less carbs.
– Frying oil – Some absorption of sugars and starches from the oil occur during frying.
– Toppings/sides – Items like guacamole, rice, chips, and tortillas served with flautas pile on more carbs.
A serving of 2-3 average flautas including fillings may contain around 30-60g of net carbs. While not extremely high carb, flautas do count as a starchy side dish rather than low-carb.
Those watching their carb intake can request corn over flour tortillas, limit toppings, and fill flautas with non-starchy vegetables or meat rather than beans, rice, etc. People on very low-carb or keto diets may want to skip flautas or only have a bite or two.
Do flautas have fiber?
Flautas can provide a decent amount of fiber, especially when filled with fiber-rich ingredients. Sources of fiber in flautas include:
– Whole grain tortillas – Corn or whole wheat flour tortillas contain around 2-4g fiber per tortilla. Refined white flour has less.
– Beans – Black, pinto, refried beans supply about 7-10g per 1/2 cup filling.
– Vegetables – Onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, etc. add 2-4g per 1/2 cup filling.
– Whole grains – Brown rice, quinoa, whole corn provide more fiber than refined grains.
– Potatoes – Around 3-4g fiber in 1/2 cup diced potato filling.
– Cheese – Some cheeses like cheddar or Oaxaca contain around 0-1g per ounce.
Without fillings, a flauta may only contain around 3-5g of fiber. But flautas plumped up with fiber-filled beans, veggies, whole grains or potatoes can provide 10-15g of fiber per 2-3 pieces.
Getting extra fiber by choosing whole grain over processed flour tortillas, and bulked up fillings over cheese or meat only, makes flautas more digestive-friendly.
Do flautas contain protein?
Yes, flautas can be a good source of protein especially when filled with ingredients like:
– Chicken – Around 20g protein per 1/2 cup shredded chicken.
– Beef – About 25g per 1/2 cup shredded beef filling.
– Turkey, pork – Also around 20g protein for 1/2 cup meat.
– Cheese – 1-2 ounces cheese provides 6-12g protein.
– Beans – Approximately 7-10g protein per 1/2 cup beans.
– Fish – Salmon or other whitefish have 20g per 1/2 cup.
– Vegetables – Some protein from onions, mushrooms, spinach.
– Egg – Scrambled or hard-boiled eggs make a nice addition.
The tortilla only provides 2-3g protein. But flautas stuffed with lean beef, chicken, cheese, beans, etc. can supply 15-30g of satisfying protein per 2-3 pieces to help meet daily needs. Skipping the meat and choosing only bean or vegetable fillings will be lower protein.
Do flautas contain vitamins and minerals?
While not necessarily rich sources, flautas can provide a range of vitamins and minerals, especially from fillings like:
– Chicken – Good amounts of vitamin B3, B6, iron, selenium.
– Beef – Zinc, iron, vitamin B12, phosphorus.
– Beans – Folate, magnesium, potassium, iron.
– Cheese – Calcium, vitamin A.
– Vegetables – Vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, antioxidants.
– Avocado – Vitamin C, vitamin K, folate.
The components of flautas complement each other when it comes to vitamins and minerals. For example, the tortilla provides B vitamins, while beans offer folate. Cheese gives calcium, chicken provides vitamin A.
Choose flautas with a mixture of fillings like veggies, beans/rice, and meat rather than just meat or cheese alone for a wider range of nutrients. However, the deep frying process does degrade some heat-sensitive vitamins.
Can flautas be part of healthy diet?
Flautas can be incorporated into a healthy diet when prepared properly and consumed in moderation. Ways to make flautas healthier include:
– Use lean fills like chicken, fish, or veggies rather than fatty beef, pork, or cheese.
– Load up on fiber from whole grain tortillas, beans, vegetables, brown rice.
– Fry in healthy oils like canola or sunflower instead of lard or shortening.
– Bake instead of fry to reduce calories, fat, and cholesterol.
– Stick to reasonable portions of 2-3 pieces max, not the whole platter!
– Balance with fresh sides like salad, tomatoes, or avocado instead of rice, chips, or creamy dips.
– Enjoy flautas only occasionally as a treat rather than a regular indulgence.
Nutrient-dense fills and thoughtful preparation methods allow flautas to be integrated into an overall healthy regimen focused on moderation and variety. However, those with certain medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes may need to be more cautious with fried fare.
Flautas are a beloved Mexican appetizer thanks to their crispy texture and savory fillings. However, their deep fried preparation does make them high in calories and fat compared to other options. Those watching their weight or cholesterol levels may want to indulge conservatively. Still, flautas can be a tasty treat in moderation, especially when baking instead of frying and filling with nutritious ingredients like veggies and lean proteins. By carefully considering ingredients, cooking methods, and portion size, flautas can occasionally be part of a balanced diet. At the end of the day, being mindful matters more than rigid restriction when incorporating cultural favorites. In the words of Julia Child, “A little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing.”