The tortilla is a staple part of Mexican cuisine and is used in tons of different recipes worldwide.
Most people know what they are and what they look like thanks to their versatility and massive popularity, but tortillas can be a bit of a mystery for those following a strict gluten-free diet.
There’s a lot of confusion out there over whether or not tortillas are gluten-free. This can be frustrating as there are so many great recipes and dishes to try that contain tortillas – but are they safe for you to eat if you follow a gluten-free diet?
Here, we are going to be conducting a deep dive into flour tortillas.
We will be looking at what they are, and what ingredients they are made from, and come to a conclusion on whether or not flour tortillas are safe for those following a gluten-free diet.
This way, you can learn everything you need to know about flour tortillas to stick to your strict diet!
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
What Are Flour Tortillas?
Let’s start out with a big yet simple question – what exactly are flour tortillas?
Tortilla is a type of soft and thin flatbread. Its name comes from the Spanish word for cake ‘torta’ and a diminutive – illa.
Together, tortilla literally translates to ‘little cake’. Despite this, tortillas are not actually cakes. Instead, they are a type of savory flatbread.
Historically, the first tortilla is the corn tortilla. The oldest found tortilla was dated as far back as 10,000 BC and was created from fried kernels of maize.
As a result, historians believe that corn tortillas were a main food in the diets of ancient Aztecs and numerous other Mesoamerican civilizations.
However, in later years when flour was invented, the flour tortilla was born.
Flour tortillas are used today in a ton of different Mexican and Mexican American dishes. Some examples include tamales, quesadillas, burritos, wraps, migas, and so much more!
Flour Tortilla Origins
Flour tortillas originated somewhere in northern Mexico. No one is sure in which exact state, but states such as Chihuahua, Sonora, Sinaloa, and Durango are all possible locations for the original flour tortillas.
This is because these Mexican states are better suited for wheat rather than corn – and wheat is a key ingredient in flour tortillas.
Flour tortillas are made from finely ground wheat flour instead of maize or corn, hence why flour tortillas are likely to have originated in these states where wheat is more abundant.
Over the years, flour tortillas have become more and more integral to Mexican American cuisine (or Tex-Mex cuisine, as it’s sometimes known).
This again is because wheat is easier to grow than corn or maize in the southern states of America like California or Texas. Today, flour tortillas are mass produced in areas of California.
However, there are some who believe that the origin of flour tortillas does not lie in Mexico, despite the flatbread’s prominence in Mexican and Mexican American cuisine.
Instead, they believe that flour tortillas were brought to the US by Jewish immigrants as flour tortillas.
Corn meal is not considered kosher by those of the Jewish faith and so, they made wheat-based tortillas instead – but many have also discredited this.
It is far more widely accepted that tortillas are a part of Northern Mexican culture and today are recognized as a type of Mexican flatbread.
What Are Flour Tortillas Made From?
Now you know the origins of flour tortilla and what exactly it is, it’s time to take a closer look at its main ingredients.
It’s important to realize that the ingredients in flour tortillas will vary from recipe to recipe.
For example, a major difference is that mass-produced flour tortillas usually contain chemical leaven ages (like baking powder) which are often not included in home recipes.
If you are making your own tortillas, then it’s much easier to have control over what nutrients are within.
Flour tortillas can be broken down into four basic ingredients: wheat flour, lard or fat, salt, and water. With these four ingredients, you can make your own flour tortillas with nothing else.
However, most of us will be looking to purchase our flour tortillas rather than make them. As a result, you will likely pick up tortillas made by the Mission Foods brand.
They are one of the largest producers of flour tortillas in the US and also have their own range of tortilla products like corn tortillas, tortilla chips, and more. Mission Foods lists a range of ingredients in its flour tortillas. These include:
- Bleached wheat flour (wheat flour, reduced iron, thiamine, mononitrate, folic acid, riboflavin, and niacin).
- Vegetable shortening (palm oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, interesterified soybean oil).
- Leavening (sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, calcium sulfate, sodium aluminum sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate).
- And more ingredients such as dough conditioner, enzymes, antioxidants, etc.
What this means is that most flour tortillas are made from flour that is created from finely ground and milled wheat.
Even tortillas that use bleached flour or all-purpose flour contain wheat in some shape or form.
Are Flour Tortillas Gluten-Free?
Gluten is a type of protein that is commonly found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. As flour tortillas are mainly made using wheat-based flour, this means that flour tortillas are not gluten-free.
They contain wheat which in turn contains gluten – and thus, cannot be classed as gluten-free.
There are certain types of gluten-free tortillas out there that you can purchase and eat if you are following a gluten-free diet.
However, regular flour tortillas are not gluten-free and you need to specifically look for tortillas that state that they are gluten-free.
For example, Mission Food also has a range of gluten-free tortillas so you don’t have to miss out on classic Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine due to your dietary restrictions – all you need to do is pick up a specific range of gluten-free tortillas.
Note: tortilla chips are basically deep-fried tortillas but tortilla chips are made using a different kind of flour compared to wheat flour tortillas. This means that while most flour tortillas are not gluten-free, most tortilla chips are.
However, it’s important that you always check the bag before you purchase your tortilla chips. Some brands combine both wheat flour and corn flour to make their tortilla chips which makes their specific range unsafe for a gluten-free diet (for more gluten-free chips, read our guide to gluten-free Cheetos).
Gluten-Free Alternatives To Flour Tortillas
So, flour tortillas are not gluten-free and you need to look elsewhere for a gluten-free alternative. Brands like Mission Food do offer a gluten-free tortilla range, but here are some alternatives you may want to consider trying:
Corn tortillas are thin flatbreads made in the exact same way as flour tortillas but made using corn flour rather than wheat flour. As corn and maize are gluten-free, this makes corn tortillas an easy alternative to wheat flour tortillas.
In most areas of Mexico, corn tortillas are more widely consumed because maize is a staple food in Mexico for thousands of years.
The oldest known tortillas were made using corn and so, corn tortillas are present in many well-known dishes such as tamales.
Corn tortillas are also present in a wide range of Latin American dishes such as enchiladas, tostadas, tacos, quesadillas, pan de cazon, and more.
In some places, they are deep-fried and turned into corn tortilla chips which can be eaten with salsas or guacamole, becoming a key ingredient in many nacho dishes.
In terms of taste, corn tortillas are very similar to flour tortillas although they can be slightly thicker and less flexible.
This is why flour tortillas are more commonly used for dishes like burritos, as well as the fact that burritos are a Mexican American dish and flour tortillas are more commonly used in these areas.
You can still use corn tortillas for burritos but you may find it slightly more difficult to wrap your burrito.
Brown Rice Tortillas
Another alternative ingredient to wheat is rice. Rice is gluten-free and so many gluten dishes swap out their ingredients for rice to make it gluten-free.
This is also the case with tortillas. Instead of white flour, some tortillas are made using brown rice flour instead.
Brown rice tortillas are often advertised as ‘Kosher’ friendly, which means that it’s suitable for those of the Jewish faith to consume.
Five types of grains are prohibited in the Jewish faith with wheat being one of them.
As a result, brown rice tortillas are often produced and advertised as the answer for those of the Jewish faith looking for an alternative to wheat flour tortillas.
As brown rice is also gluten-free, it’s one of the most popular ingredients used to make gluten-free, Kosher-friendly tortillas.
They’re very easy to source at local grocery stores, and to make yourself by swapping out wheat flour for brown rice flour.
Brown rice tortillas taste very similar to wheat flour tortillas but are generally considered to be healthier. This is because brown rice tortillas contain more fiber than wheat flour tortillas, and this can help with your digestion system.
Cassava Flour Tortillas
Cassava flour is another popular alternative to wheat flour and is used to make a wide range of gluten-free foods and dishes.
This list also includes tortillas but cassava flour tortillas are less commonly eaten than brown rice flour tortillas.
This is because cassava flour tortillas are slightly different in taste and texture from wheat flour tortillas. They are a lot softer and slightly chewy, and thus not the best alternative to wheat flour tortillas.
However, their softness makes them easily foldable and a great type of tortilla to use if you want to make gluten-free burritos or quesadillas.
Although cassava flour tortillas may be difficult to source and purchase, you can easily make your own with some cassava flour. Cassava flour tortillas are also paleo friendly for those who follow a paleo diet.
Other Gluten-Free Flour Options
Corn flour, cassava flour, and brown rice flour are the most popular alternative ingredients used to make gluten-free tortillas. However, there are still other options available out there but they are a lot less widely used.
These options include almond flour, oat flour, buckwheat flour (don’t be fooled by the inclusion of ‘wheat’ in the name), chickpea flour, and coconut flour.
These all bring their own particular taste and texture to tortilla wraps, which is why they are less commonly used.
However, tortillas which use these types of flour are all safe for a gluten-free diet.
Brands Of Gluten-Free Tortillas
If you are looking to purchase some gluten-free tortillas, then here are some brands you should check out and the gluten-free ranges they have to offer.
These can be found in most grocery stores or online, so take a look and keep the brands in mind during your next grocery shop.
As one of the largest manufacturers of tortillas and tortilla products, it’s no surprise that Mission Foods also has its own range of gluten-free tortillas.
While you can choose to purchase their Gluten-Free Original Tortilla Wraps (or the flavored Gluten-Free Spinach and Herb Tortilla Wraps), you also have the option of Almond Flour Tortillas or Cauliflower Tortillas.
There is also a grain-free option with tortilla wraps made using tapioca flour (made from cassava root) instead.
So, there’s a wide choice of gluten-free tortillas available with Mission Foods.
Mikey’s is a manufacturer of gluten-free and dairy-free frozen and baked goods.
They are a popular brand with coeliacs, lactose intolerant individuals, and those following a gluten-free or lactose-free diet as they make a wide range of foods using both gluten-free and lactose-free ingredients.
To make their gluten-free tortillas, Mikey’s uses cassava flour. Their tortillas also come with a range of additional ingredients for extra flavor and spice.
These include Chili Lime Tortillas, Golden Turmeric Tortillas, and Sweet and Beets Tortillas.
So, if you want gluten-free yet flavored tortillas, Mikey’s is the best brand to check out.
Another well-known brand for gluten-free tortillas is Siete Tortillas. Manufactured by the Siete Foods group, Siete Tortillas offers a wide range of gluten-free tortilla options for all kinds of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes.
This includes their grain-free Burrito Size Tortillas. Regular-sized tortillas are infamous for being too large for lunch-sized burritos, so Siete Tortillas’ Burrito Size Tortillas are an ideal choice for when you want to make your own burritos.
Most of Siete Tortillas’ gluten-free tortillas use cassava flour (like in their Cassava and Coconut Tortillas, or Cassava and Chia Tortillas).
However, there are other flour options available including Almond Flour Tortillas and Chickpea Flour Tortillas.
Other Gluten-Free Tortilla Brands
Some other tortilla brands offer their own limited choices when it comes to gluten-free tortillas. These brands include
- Rudi’s, with a limited gluten-free plain and spinach tortilla range.
- La Tortilla Factory uses cassava flour for its two gluten-free tortilla options.
- BFree, which only has one plain gluten-free tortilla wrap option.
- Food For Life, uses brown and exotic black rice for their gluten-free tortillas.
These brands clearly do not have the same extensive range of choices and flavors compared to the other previously mentioned tortilla manufacturers.
However, they still offer some great gluten-free tortillas which will work in your dishes.
So, most flour tortillas are made using wheat flour. This means that most flour tortillas are not gluten-free as they contain wheat which, in turn, contains gluten.
Luckily there are a ton of gluten-free tortilla options available out there. You can purchase gluten-free tortillas made using different types of flour including corn tortillas, cassava tortillas, brown rice tortillas, and more.
We have included an extensive list of brands and tortilla manufacturers which offer gluten-free options – or you can just make your very own gluten-free tortillas at home! It’s super easy!
We hope that the above information has helped you work out what your best tortilla options are for your future cooking. Good luck and enjoy!
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