If you’ve ever purchased your own tortillas or ordered Mexican food you may have been faced with the difficult choice of whether to choose between corn or wheat tortillas, the two main types of tortillas consumed in Mexico. At Mexicana, we offer both types and often get asked what the difference is and whether one is better or more authentic than the other.
Thanks to this article, we invite you to discover more about Mexico’s staple food, the tortilla, as we answer these questions while also briefly covering each of their origins and health benefits.
The tortilla is the base of many popular and traditional Mexican dishes. Among these dishes are tacos, fajitas and burritos. However, there are many other recipes made from or with tortillas such as chilaquiles, enchiladas and quesadillas.
Tortillas in Mexico come in many different sizes, textures and colors. And while corn and wheat represent the two main types, there exists others such as those made from flax seed.
In Spain, there are also tortillas, but beware, this one has nothing in common with the Mexican tortillas. The Spanish tortilla is a thick potato omelette, often cooked with onions.
The Corn Tortilla – A Centuries-Old Staple Food
The corn tortilla, as the name suggests, is made from 100% corn. In Mexican and Central American cuisine, the corn tortilla has been a staple food since the dawn of time. In fact, this culinary tradition has been handed down from century to century, starting with the Aztecs.
As mentioned above, corn tortillas may come in different colors. This is simply because there are several corn varieties which come in different colors: red, purple or blue, among others.
During the production of the corn tortilla, corn goes through a process of nixtamalization. Nixtamal is the corn that is cooked in an alkaline solution of calcium hydroxide, also called lime water. Then the corn is ground to create a paste. In the last step the paste is flattened with a tortilla press. And that's it! A nice and good tortilla.
One might think that classic corn flour can be used to create a real tortilla. But dough created from classic corn flour will not be crumbly and the tortillas will be difficult to make. That's why, to reproduce the ideal real Mexican tortilla at home, you need nixtamalized corn flour.
If you want to know whether a corn tortilla is nixtamalized, just heat it on a pan and see if it puffs up slightly. If it does, then rest assured, you have a good quality tortilla in your hands.
Gluten-Free and A Good Source of Fiber and Magnesium
Corn tortilla are a great source of fiber and magnesium. Fiber is important for digestion while magnesium plays a vital role for the brain, heart and muscles. They are also considered whole grains and are low in carbohydrates, calories and fat.
If you are intolerant or allergic to gluten, then corn tortillas would pose no problem due to its 100% gluten-free composition.
"Corn tortillas provide a great source of fiber and magnesium"
The Wheat Tortilla – A Good Source of Iron, but Higher in Fat
The wheat tortilla was born thanks to the introduction of wheat by the Spanish in Mexico, particularly in the North where the land was too arid for corn to grow. This is why in the North of Mexico and in Tex-Mex cuisine, corn flour is replaced by wheat flour.
Wheat tortillas are sometimes lightly salted. They also contain more fat, due to lard and gluten. However, they provide more iron, which the body needs to properly supply the muscles and other tissues with oxygen.
Wheat tortillas tend to be much stronger than corn tortillas, and hence for heavier fillings, such as in the case of the burrito, you would be much better off choosing a wheat tortilla.
"The wheat tortilla provides more iron, which is needed by our body"
In conclusion, the corn and wheat tortillas are both original from Mexico. They are made from different ingredients and hence have different properties. From a health point of view, the corn tortilla takes precedence over the wheat tortilla.
At Mexicana we are pleased to offer both wheat and corn tortillas, bringing you an authentic culinary experience all the way from the North to the South of Mexico!