Tortillas are a staple food in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines, but with so many different types available, it can be difficult to know which tortilla is the best for different uses. In this comprehensive guide, we will examine the pros and cons of different tortilla varieties to help you determine what type of tortilla is best for enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and more.
What are the different types of tortillas?
There are four main types of tortillas:
- Flour tortillas – Made from wheat flour, water, and fat. Softer and more pliable.
- Corn tortillas – Made from masa flour, which is ground dried corn treated with lime. Thinner and have more corn flavor.
- Whole wheat tortillas – Made with whole wheat flour. Healthier with nutty, wheaty flavor.
- Spinach or herb tortillas – Flour or whole wheat tortillas with spinach or herbs added.
Tortillas also come in different sizes:
- Taco size – Roughly 6 inches across, perfect for tacos.
- Burrito size – Around 10 inches, good for burritos.
- Fajita or taco salad size – 12 inches or larger, great for fajitas or taco salads.
- Tostada size – 5 inches or smaller, good for tostadas.
The size you need depends on the dish you’re making. Now let’s dive deeper into the pros and cons of each tortilla variety.
Flour tortillas are made from wheat flour, salt, water, and fat (usually shortening or lard). They have a soft, pillowy texture and are quite versatile – great for burritos, quesadillas, tacos, and more. Here are the main pros and cons of flour tortillas:
- Very soft and pliable texture
- Hold together well for burritos and quesadillas
- Have a mild wheaty taste that won’t overwhelm other ingredients
- Easy to find in grocery stores
- Typically inexpensive
- Lack the true corn flavor of corn tortillas
- Higher in calories and carbohydrates than corn tortillas
- Can tear more easily than corn tortillas if over-stuffed
- May contain preservatives and additives like dough conditioners
So in summary, flour tortillas are great when you need a soft, pliable tortilla that won’t crack or fall apart. Their mild flavor suits them to a variety of fillings. Just watch out for unnecessary additives in some store-bought brands.
Corn tortillas are made from masa flour, which is dried corn treated with lime and ground into a fine flour. They have a delicious, authentic corn flavor and slightly grainy texture. Here are the pros and cons of corn tortillas:
- Delicious, true corn flavor
- Naturally gluten-free
- Lower in calories and carbs than flour tortillas
- Can be healthier when made fresh with minimal ingredients
- Traditional tortilla for dishes like tacos and enchiladas
- Thin and excellent for layering enchiladas
- Crack and break more easily than flour tortillas
- May fall apart if overstuffed
- Need to be heated before use or they can crack
- Fresh homemade corn tortillas take more time to make than flour
- Store-bought varieties may have preservatives
In summary, corn tortillas are ideal when you want an authentic corn flavor and naturally gluten-free option. Just take care when heating and filling them to prevent cracking. Homemade fresh corn tortillas have the best flavor and texture.
Whole Wheat Tortillas
Whole wheat tortillas are made with whole wheat flour instead of refined white flour. They are nuttier, denser, and healthier than regular white flour tortillas. Here are their main pros and cons:
- Higher fiber and more nutrients than white flour
- Heartier, nutty flavor
- Sturdy and hold together well when stuffed
- Often still soft and pliable
- Healthier option with whole grains
- Denser, drier texture
- Can be more fragile and prone to cracking
- Noticeably stronger whole wheat taste
- Less common and can be harder to find
- Usually more expensive than white flour tortillas
So whole wheat tortillas are great for anyone looking for a healthier tortilla option, but be prepared for a denser, drier texture and pronounced whole wheat flavor. Their sturdiness makes them ideal for overstuffed burritos though.
Spinach or Herb Tortillas
Some tortilla varieties have spinach, herbs, or other additions mixed into the dough. Popular options are spinach, tomato, pesto, sun-dried tomato, and jalapeño tortillas. Here are their main pros and cons:
- Extra flavor from herbs, spinach, etc.
- Often still soft and pliable
- Fun twist on a classic tortilla
- Colorful appearance
- Allows you to sneak in some veggies
- Spinach and herbs can make them more prone to tearing
- Added moisture content makes them spoil faster
- Herb and veggie bits can fall out of the tortilla
- Harder to find wide variety in stores
- Often more expensive than plain tortillas
The added flavors can be a tasty way to jazz up your meal, just keep in mind that they’re often more delicate and don’t work as well for heavy-duty uses like burritos. Check them frequently for spoilage too.
Which Tortilla is Best For…
Now that we’ve compared the pros and cons of different tortillas, let’s examine which tortilla variety works best for different dishes:
Best: Corn or taco size flour tortillas
Tacos need a tortilla that’s pliable enough to fold or wrap around the filling, without cracking. Corn tortillas or smaller taco-sized flour tortillas work best to cradle the filling without breaking. You want that delicious corn flavor too.
Best: Large flour or whole wheat tortillas
For giant, overstuffed burritos, you need a flexible, sturdy tortilla. Large flour tortillas or whole wheat tortillas are ideal for holding generous burrito fillings. Softer flour binds ingredients together without tearing.
Best: Corn tortillas
For enchiladas, thin, small corn tortillas work best. You need to be able to roll or stack them without cracking. Heartier tortillas become too thick and doughy when layered or covered with sauce.
Quesadillas or Tortilla Pizzas
Best: Flour tortillas
When baking or grilling tortillas for quesadillas or mini pizzas, flour varieties hold their shape without drying out or becoming brittle. The soft flour tortillas meld together nicely too when filled with cheese or toppings.
Tostadas or Tortilla Chips
Best: Corn tortillas
For frying or baking tortillas into crispy tostada shells or chips, corn tortillas are best. They fry up light and crispy, while flour can become greasy and dense. The corn flavor comes through beautifully.
Salads or Wraps
Best: Large flour, spinach, or whole wheat tortillas
When using tortillas for wraps, salads or leftovers, you want a flexible tortilla that won’t crack but will hold abundant fillings. Large flour tortillas are ideal, as are whole wheat for extra nutrition. Fun flavored tortillas like spinach or tomato add interest too.
Key Considerations for Picking the Best Tortilla
Here are some key tips for picking the ideal tortilla variety for your needs:
- Consider the size you need for burritos vs tacos, enchiladas, etc.
- Factor in the dish’s cooking method – grilling, frying, baking, etc.
- Choose corn for authentic flavor or being gluten-free.
- Pick flour for softness and pliability.
- Use whole wheat for extra nutrition and sturdiness.
- Be aware of preservatives and additives in store-bought brands.
- Remember that homemade tastes best!
The tortilla that’s right for you depends heavily on the dish you’re making and what texture and flavor you prefer. Now that you know the distinct qualities of each type, you can confidently choose the ideal tortilla for your next Mexican feast!
|Tortilla Type||Best Uses||Pros||Cons|
|Flour||Burritos, quesadillas, wraps, salads||Soft, pliable, mild flavor||Higher in calories, can tear when overstuffed|
|Corn||Tacos, tostadas, enchiladas||Authentic corn flavor, gluten-free||Prone to cracking, takes more effort to make fresh|
|Whole Wheat||Burritos, wraps, quesadillas||More nutritious, sturdy||Drier, denser texture|
|Spinach/Herb||Wraps, salads, quesadillas||Added flavor||More delicate, higher cost|
Tips for Storing Tortillas
To maximize the freshness and shelf-life of your tortillas, follow these storage tips:
- Store unused tortillas in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator.
- Wrapping them in a damp paper towel keeps corn tortillas flexible.
- Flour tortillas will stay softer if stored in an airtight container.
- Let refrigerated tortillas come to room temperature before using.
- Freeze extra tortillas for longer storage. Thaw before use.
- Look for tortillas without preservatives for freshest flavor.
- When reheating, do so gently in a microwave or dry skillet to prevent cracking.
With proper storage methods, most tortillas will stay fresh for 5-7 days in the fridge or 2-3 months in the freezer. Consume refrigerated tortillas within a few days for best quality.
Should I Make Homemade Tortillas?
While buying tortillas from the store is certainly convenient, taking the extra time to make them at home comes with some nice perks:
Benefits of homemade tortillas:
- Full control over ingredients – no preservatives!
- Better freshness and taste
- Ability to customize sizes and flavors
- Satisfaction of making them yourself
- Warm, just-made tortillas whenever you want them
Downsides of homemade tortillas:
- More time and effort to make the dough and cook
- You need the right equipment – press, griddle, etc.
- Inconsistent shapes or thicknesses
- Don’t last as many days as store-bought packages
So homemade tortillas are a labor of love. The flavor payoff can be worth it for special occasions, but store-bought tortillas are still an excellent, convenient choice for busy weeknights. Use your favorite method when you have time to spare.
With so many tortilla varieties available, it may seem tricky to determine what type of tortilla is best for different dishes. But keeping the characteristics of each tortilla in mind helps simplify the decision.
Soft flour tortillas excel when you need to wrap and hold generous amounts of filling. Thin corn tortillas are perfect when you desire authentic corn flavor and need something that can be layered or fried crisp. And don’t forget about fun additions like whole wheat or spinach tortillas to switch things up.
Just match the tortilla variety to your cooking method, desired flavor, and required function. Whether making cheesy quesadillas, classic tacos, or a quick lunch wrap, you’re sure to find a tortilla that’s just right. With this guide’s tips in mind, you can confidently pick the best tortillas for whatever dish your heart desires.