Tortillas are the foundation of Mexican cuisine. Burritos and tacos get a lot of love, but let’s not forget the incredible range of dishes that these humble flat breads support. Everything from crispy taquitos and tostadas to tender scrambled migas and cozy tortilla soup needs a tall stack of this perennial staple to take shape.
There are entire aisles dedicated to tortillas in some grocery stores, shelves overflowing with options in every shape, size, and color. It can be an overwhelming experience when you just want to know one thing: Are tortillas vegan?
Defined as simply a thin round of unleavened bread made from cornmeal or wheat flour bread, which can be eaten hot or cold, tortillas were first made by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica as early as 500 BCE. They’re often used to wrap up or sandwich savory fillings but can also be used for desserts, or fried and eaten solo as chips.
Most tortillas are sold at room temperature and can be kept at home in the same way but will last longer if refrigerated or frozen for long term storage. Even stale tortillas are still useful in many recipes though!
There are two categories that all tortillas fall under: Corn or flour. Those are umbrella terms that contain a multitude of variations on those themes.
Corn is the original base for the earliest tortillas. The process starts with whole dried corn, which is boiled with calcium hydroxide, softening the kernels and makes their nutrients more bioavailable (AKA, easier to absorb.) This is known as nixtamalization.
Then, the corn is finely ground to create a soft dough called masa, which is an essential building block for many other Mexican dishes. In this case, the masa is rolled into small balls and pressed flat before being cooked briefly on a hot griddle.
The most common types of corn tortillas are:
Thicker and more resilient wheat flour tortillas tend to be favored by Spaniards and Texans in particular. This opens the door to a bold new world of flavors and flours, too. Here’s what you can expect to find in stores:
Get the best of the worlds by combining equal parts flavorful, toasted corn with sturdy yet flexible wheat. Just as you might imagine, these tortillas are made with half cornmeal and half wheat flour.
The best vegan tortillas should have a short list of ingredients to read through. However, it’s becoming increasingly complicated with modern manufacturing introducing additives meant to improve textures and extend shelf life. These are the primary problem ingredients to avoid to ensure your meals are 100% plant-based:
Most mainstream tortilla brands currently on the market are either explicitly or “accidentally” vegan. Formulations can change at any time, so always check the labels to confirm. Here are your best bets for the best plant-based tortillas:
Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite vegan tortilla brand!
Now that we know which tortillas are vegan-friendly, it’s time to cook up something delicious! Here are some incredible ways to serve up those vegan tortillas:
This vegan tortilla guide was written with support from Hannah Kaminsky and edited by Rachel Lessenden.