What is a flauta?
A flauta (Spanish for “flute”) is a type of Mexican rolled taco, made by filling a corn tortilla with ingredients like shredded chicken, beef, cheese, beans, or vegetables, then rolling it into a flute-like shape and frying it. Flautas are a popular dish in Mexican cuisine and are served as an appetizer or entree.
What are the main ingredients in flautas?
The main ingredients in traditional flautas are:
– Corn tortillas – Flautas are made by rolling filled corn tortillas into a flute shape. Corn tortillas are made from masa harina (corn flour).
– Shredded meat – Common meats used to fill flautas are shredded chicken, beef, pork, or chorizo. The meat is cooked and shredded or chopped before being added to the tortilla.
– Cheese – Oaxaca, cotija, queso fresco, or Monterey jack cheese is often mixed into the meat filling to add flavor and hold the ingredients together.
– Beans – Refried or whole pinto beans may be used as a vegetarian filling option.
– Vegetables – Onions, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado and shredded cabbage are examples of vegetables that may be used as fillings.
– Sauce – Flautas are typically served with Mexican crema, guacamole, salsa, queso, or mole sauce drizzled over the top or on the side for dipping.
How do you make flautas?
Here is a basic overview of how to make flautas:
1. Cook the meat and/or vegetable fillings – Prepare the fillings by cooking meats, sautéing onions/peppers, making beans, etc. Allow to cool slightly.
2. Assemble the flautas – Place desired fillings in the center of each tortilla. Top with cheese. Fold one end of tortilla over filling and roll tightly into a flute shape.
3. Secure flautas – To help flautas hold their shape, secure with toothpicks. You may also need to lightly moisten edges of tortilla with water.
4. Fry flautas – In batches, fry rolled flautas in hot oil until crispy and golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
5. Finish and serve – Remove toothpicks, if used. Top with desired sauces, cheeses, crema, guacamole, lettuce, etc. and serve warm.
What are some flauta filling options?
There are many delicious options for flauta fillings including:
– Shredded chicken – Chicken tinga with onion, garlic and chipotle is a classic
– Shredded beef – Ground beef or shredded beef brisket work well
– Pork carnitas – Crispy fried shredded pork is a popular choice
– Chorizo and potato – Mexican sausage paired with potato is nice
– Cheese – Oaxaca, cotija, Monterey jack, or Mexican cheese blend
– Beans – Refried or whole pinto beans make a good veggie option
– Vegetables – Potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, etc.
You can get creative and combine ingredients like chicken and cheese, chorizo and potato, or black beans and veggies. The fillings for flautas are very versatile.
What are some variations of flautas?
Some variations on traditional flautas include:
– Rolled tacos – Smaller corn tortillas rolled extra tight into cigar shapes.
– Taquitos – Rolled tacos that use corn or flour tortillas.
– Dorados – Flautas that use wheat flour tortillas instead of corn.
– Chimichangas – Larger flautas that are fried into more of an oval pillow shape.
– Flautadillas – Flautas that incorporate cheese into the tortilla itself like a quesadilla before rolling.
– Frituras – Flautas that are made with masa harina-based batter for a crispy coating.
– Baked flautas – Flautas that are baked instead of fried.
– Flauta cups – Rolled flauta shapes fried into edible tortilla cups.
While the variations change up the shape, frying method, or size – the filled rolled taco concept remains the core of all flauta dishes.
History and Origins
Flautas likely originated centuries ago in early Mexican cuisine. The exact origins are debated, but some key facts about the history of flautas include:
– Corn tortillas have been traced back over 7,000 years to early Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Maya and Aztec.
– Aztecs and Mayans had markets that sold tamales and tacos, which used early tortilla preparations.
– Rolling filled tortillas into tubes may have been an early food-on-the-go technique.
19th Century Origins
– Burritos, chimichangas, flautas, and taquitos likely evolved in the 1800s from northern Mexico’s wheat flour tortilla-based dishes.
– “Flauta” was used to describe rolled tacos resembling the shape of a flute by the late 1800s.
– Regional variations emerged based on preferences for corn or wheat tortillas.
20th Century Spread
– Tex-Mex restaurants brought flautas to Texas and throughout the American Southwest in the early 20th century.
– Flautas and taquitos were popularized on American appetizer menus and fast food menus by the 1970s and 80s.
– Flautas spread in popularity across the U.S. and worldwide as Mexican cuisine became more mainstream.
While flautas are found all over Mexico and Latin America, some regions have their own twists on the classic rolled taco:
Northern Mexico Flautas
Northern Mexico has an influence from early Spanish and Native American culinary traditions. Here flautas may include:
– Wheat flour tortillas – Introduced by Spanish colonists in place of corn tortillas
– Meat fillings – Beef, lamb, goat which were introduced by the Spanish
– Fried in lard – Crispier texture
– Salsas – Red salsa typical of the North
The southern state of Oaxaca has an indigenous Zapotecan influence on cuisine. Flautas here may feature:
– Corn tortillas only – Purple corn or yellow corn
– Chicken, pork fillings – Reflecting local meats
– Oaxacan cheese – Regional queso Oaxaca used
– Mole sauce – Rich, chocolately mole negro or rojo on the side
The Yucatan Peninsula brings Mayan and Caribbean influence to its cuisine. Flautas here include:
– Corn tortillas only
-Turkey, fish fillings – Reflecting local ingredients
– Habanero salsa – Fruity, fiery salsas
– Pickled onions, cabbage – Yucatecan condiments
Mexican immigrants brought flautas to the United States, which fused with American cuisine into unique local styles:
– Flour or corn tortillas
– Tex-Mex fillings – Beef, cheddar
– Crispy from deep frying
– Yellow cheese, lettuce toppings
– Served with salsa, guacamole, Mexican rice, and beans
Beyond just being a popular dish, flautas hold cultural significance in Mexican cuisine and traditions:
– Flautas started as an easy street food or snack.
– They remain a staple Mexican street food found everywhere from local food carts to fairs.
– In Mexico, flautas are considered a fun finger food for celebrations like birthdays, holidays, weddings, and festivals.
– Making and enjoying flautas is a social activity that brings family and friends together.
– Different regions of Mexico have pride in their own local style of flautas.
– Flautas represent the creativity and diversity of Mexican cuisine to the world.
Flautas Around the World
As Mexican food has spread worldwide, flautas can now be found internationally:
Flautas are very popular in the U.S., especially in:
– Tex-Mex cuisine of Texas and the Southwest. Flour tortilla flautas with crispy fried shells.
– California Mexican cuisine highlights both traditional and fusion-style flautas
– Food trucks nationwide – easy to eat flautas are perfect mobile food.
– Countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica all have adopted flautas into local cuisine. More authentic to Mexican flautas.
– Argentina has flautas rolled in empanada dough for a unique fusion take.
– Flautas popularity has spread to Europe along with Mexican restaurants in cities like London, Madrid, Paris and beyond.
– Flautas can even be found in some Asian metropolitan cities where international cuisine is embraced such as Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai.
Making Flautas at Home
Making delicious flautas at home is totally achievable with some simple guidelines:
– Choose fresh, good quality ingredients for best flavor.
– Get corn tortillas, shredded meat, cheese, beans, shredded cabbage, salsa, crema.
– Marinate meats in chili, garlic, cumin for extra flavor.
– Lightly pan fry tortillas before rolling for flexibility.
– Drain and dry bean fillings well or they can make flautas mushy.
– Place fillings slightly off-center on bottom half of tortilla.
– Fold sides of tortilla in first, then tightly roll up from bottom.
– For extra hold, secure with toothpick piercing seam.
– Use 1/2 inch depth oil in skillet or Dutch oven. Heat to 350°F.
– Fry flautas in batches 2-3 minutes per side until golden and crisp.
– Set fried flautas on paper towels to drain excess grease.
– Garnish with shredded lettuce, cabbage, avocado, crema.
– Serve with favorite salsa(s), guacamole, beans, rice, on the side.
– Add queso fresco, cotija or shredded Mexican cheese blend.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Flautas can be part of healthy diet in moderation when made with wholesome ingredients:
– Corn tortillas – Contain fiber, antioxidants, and are gluten-free.
– Beans – Provide protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
– Vegetables – Add vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like vitamin C.
– Lean protein – Chicken, fish, or grass-fed beef offer protein, B12.
Relatively Low Calorie
– One medium flauta is typically under 300 calories depending on fillings.
– Flautas can be a lighter option compared to burritos, enchiladas, tacos.
– Substitute vegetables instead of meat for vegetarian flautas.
– Use whole grain corn tortillas.
– Choose lower fat fillings like chicken or shrimp versus higher fat beef.
Watch the Fat
– Deep frying adds a lot of fat, so enjoy flautas in moderation.
– Opt for baking instead of frying when possible.
– Order small appetizer portions versus huge entree sized flautas.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about flautas:
Are flautas fried?
Traditionally, flautas are fried. Frying gives them a crispy, crunchy exterior. However, they can also be oven baked for a healthier version.
What dipping sauces go with flautas?
Popular dipping sauces for flautas include salsa, guacamole, queso, Mexican crema, and mole sauce.
How do you eat a flauta?
Flautas are often handheld. You can pick them up and eat them like a rolled taco or taquito. Be careful of fillings spilling out the sides as you bite into them.
Are flautas spicy?
Flautas themselves are not necessarily spicy on their own. However, they are often served with spicy salsas, guacamoles, or Mexican crema for dipping to add spice as desired.
Can you make flautas ahead of time?
Yes, flautas roll and freeze well, so you can make them 1-2 days ahead. Assemble and roll flautas, then place in a single layer in the freezer until solid. Transfer to a freezer bag. When ready to eat, fry frozen flautas without thawing first.