What is Tortillas?

Tortillas originated in the time of the Aztecs when the recipe was simply corn plus water. Now, tortillas come in dozens of flavors, sizes, and forms.


Tortillas are America’s favorite flatbread- versatile, affordable, and delicious, whether in a crisp taco or wrapped around a grilled veggie sandwich. Corn tortillas are corn treated with lime (calcium hydroxide, not the fruit). This unique process produces niacin, which is missing from untreated corn. Flour tortillas, more common here than in Mexica, are thinner and more accessible to wrap. Which is healthier? Flour tortillas are usually larger, higher in calories and fat, and often contain additives but have more protein. Both corn and flour have their place in your kitchen unless you are gluten-sensitive, in which case, corn tortillas are your only option.

Selection and storage

Freshness is essential in tortillas, as with any bread, and shelf-life varies greatly depending on the type of tortilla and its ingredients. If you live in an area with a large Mexican population, look for locally produced corn tortillas, which are often an absolute bargain and fresher than national brands. Check the ingredient lists, especially when purchasing flour tortillas. They may contain saturated fat, artificial colors, or flavors and are sometimes high in sodium.


All tortillas should be heated to make them soft and pliable and bring out their flavor. Several methods work, and all require keeping the tortillas moist so they don’t dry out. In the microwave, stack tortillas separated by damp paper towels and microwave for about 30 seconds. In an oven preheated to 250F, place a stack of tortillas wrapped in a wet kitchen towel in a covered dish. Warm for 20 min. Tortillas can also be heated on a grill. Once heated, keep them hot by transferring them to a tortilla ramer or a warmed plate covered with a warm, damp kitchen towel.

Recipe and suggestions

Burritos, tacos, and enchiladas are just the beginning—stack tortillas in a casserole with a mushroom tomato or other filling in between and bake until bubbly. Or brush with oil, sprinkle with spices, and bake in a hot oven for homemade tortilla chips. Tortilla chips add crunch to salads, so don’t forget tortilla soup!

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