When I was in Taiwan, my mom and I loved to try out many different types of Mexican Foods. We would practice speaking Spanish while we enjoyed the foods. There was not a week that passed by that we did not have a serving or two of our favorite dishes!
But now since we both lead a vegan lifestyle, there are some certain stuff that we need to let go. However, we can’t help but wonder if tortillas are something that we can still enjoy?
In order to know whether it’s a “si” or a “no”, I decided to do some little digging! I discovered that some tortillas are vegan and some are not. Read on and find which tortilla types and brands are vegan and which are not!
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What Are Tortillas?
Long before the Spaniards conquered Mexico, the Aztecs lived off on one of their staple foods – an unleavened flatbread that they called tlaxcalli and it was made of corn.
It is believed that tlaxcalli can be traced back to 10,000 years BC. In the 16th century, when the Spanish came and discovered the ancient Aztec civilization on the Mexican highlands, they were so fascinated by what they found including the main food of the people there.
When the conquistadors chanced upon the bread, they referred to it as “torta” which means round cake. This then evolved to “tortilla” which means small cake.
Since then, the unleavened bread loved by the Aztecs has become one of the scrumptious Mexican cuisines. It has become part of people’s everyday diet. It’s also one of the most popular Mexican foods that’s known to the public.
When we hear the word tortilla, we often think that it is only made of corn. While that is true, tortillas are not only limited to corn. Another type of tortilla out there is made of flour.
1. Are Corn Tortillas Vegan?
If they are made from 100% corn flour and water then Yes!
While there are other kinds of tortillas out there, let’s focus first on the corn tortilla. As you may or may not know, corn or maize was the primary food source of the Mesoamerican civilizations including the Aztec.
Corn was considered to be one of their main sources of energy. It also provided them with protein and some fat. The Aztecs used to store the corn dry, grounded it, and turned it into cornmeal. The cornmeal was then turned into “masa” or corn dough.
As their civilization progressed, they learned that they can actually soak the corn kernels in a lime solution which made it faster for the skin to fall off. This process made it easier for them to make dough out of the corn.
To give you an idea of how tortilla was made the traditional way, it involves grinding the soaked kernels using a stone slab until it turns into “masa”. The masa can be any color. The color actually depends on the color of the raw corn used.
While the ingredients in making tortilla may appear simple, the most important thing to remember in making it is its consistency. The temperature and the amount of the water that you will be using to mix the dough are very important.
If you mess up on either of these factors, this could affect the whole consistency of your corn tortilla. Once the right consistency is achieved, it’s time to roll the dough into small circles.
Before you attempt to flatten the dough to make it as thin as a pancake, you have to make sure your hands are wet. Once you have managed to flatten the masa (around 6 to 8 inches), it’s time to put it on a hot griddle or what the Mexicans call as “comal”.
2. Are Flour Tortillas Vegan?
Another variety of tortilla out there is made of flour. If you stick with the ingredients below, then Yes!
Flour tortillas are actually pretty simple to make! All you need are the following:
- All-purpose flour
- Baking Soda
There are some flour tortillas out there that may contain lard. And since lard comes from pigs, this is something that is definitely not okay for vegans at all.
Before eating flour tortillas, make sure you check if there is any lard content. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
3. Are Wheat Tortillas Vegan?
Another tortilla variety that has been around for centuries is the Wheat Tortilla. If you stick to these ingredients, then Yes, your wheat tortillas will be vegan:
- Whole wheat flour
It is believed that this type of tortilla was developed when wheat was brought by the Spaniards to the Mexico around the 1520s.
The wheat tortillas have become the fastest growing product both in the tortilla and the entire grain product industry.
Rise Of The Tortilla
From its humble ancient beginnings, the tortilla has certainly come a long way! Today the tortilla industry is worth billions of dollars!
In 2023, it is expected that the global tortilla market will grow $48.51 billion. It is forecasted that by 2022, North America will hold over 59% of the tortilla market. This will be followed by the Latin American market.
With these astonishing figures, you might be wondering how this could possibly happen!
Well, there are some factors that we could possibly consider that contributed to the rise in tortilla consumption particularly in the United States. Let’s take a look at the following:
In the United States alone, there is a growing Hispanic population. According to the United States Census Bureau, there are over 57 million Hispanics in the US.
With this increasing number, it is only natural that food consumption would rise as well.
- Interest in Mexican Food
Mexican food is one of the most popular cuisines in the US. And in the case of tortillas, there are so many dishes you can come up.
If you don’t believe the hype surrounding the popularity of tortilla in the US, here’s a fun fact: According to the site – nationaltacoday.com, Americans ate over 4.5 billion tacos! Now that’s roughly equivalent to the “weight of two Empire State Buildings!”
- Healthy Option
Apart from the many tortilla centered dishes that we know, perhaps one of the reasons why tortilla consumption has increased is that it has become a healthier alternative in people’s diets.
Depending on the type of tortilla you have chosen and its size, it can be a source of:
- And B-vitamins
From the traditional corn, flour, and wheat tortilla options, we now have seen tortilla producers expand their product line to cater to those who are looking for healthier options.
If you go to the grocery store, you will probably come across the following choices:
With the increasing demand for tortillas not only in the US and around the world, there has been a growth in the non-traditional way of making tortillas. While there are still establishments that hand make their tortillas and practice the traditional way of making them, commercial tortilla production has made use of machines to speed up the process.
In the United States alone, it is reported that that are 450 tortilla makers nationwide.
Vegan Tortilla Brands Vegans Need To Know
As I have mentioned, tortilla producers have diversified their product line including tortillas that are vegan-friendly. This is great news for vegans out there who are looking to incorporate tortillas in their diets.
To help my fellow vegans out there, I did my due diligence and looked into tortilla brands that we can safely consume. Here are some vegan-friendly tortilla brands that you should consider:
- 365 brand Whole Wheat Tortillas – You can get these tortillas from Whole Foods. These tortillas are not only organic and natural but also vegan! These tortillas are made of the high-quality whole grains. Apart from this brand being vegan, it also won’t burn a hole in your pocket!
- Food For Life Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Tortillas – The sprouted grain tortillas sold by Food For Life Ezekiel is another great vegan option! The product is made of all natural ingredients such as barley, lentils, wheat, beans, spelt and millet.
- Rudis Gluten Free Fiesta Tortillas – This particular brand of tortillas comes in different sizes and is guaranteed to be vegan! It is made of onion, garlic, jalapeño, and red bell peppers.
- Engine 2 Sprouted Grain Wraps – This is another brand that you should consider when searching for vegan tortillas. The tortillas are made of four sprouted ancient grains – spelt, millet, quinoa, and emmer. It is low in sodium and high in fiber and there are no added oils.
- Raw Wraps Vegan Spinach Wraps – Handmade and made in the USA, this brand of wraps certified vegan. Produced in a vegan facility, it is made of onion, spinach, apple, psyllium husk (fiber) and quinoa. it is high in Antioxidants (Vitamins A and C) and low in sodium. Apart from it being vegan, it is also soy free, raw, gluten and Paleo.
- WrawP Original Wraps – Perfect for all occasions, this brand is made of the freshest organic vegetables and fruits. It is guaranteed to not only be vegan but also gluten-free, low carb and non-GMO.
These are just some of the tortilla brands I found that we vegans can try. They are perfect for making snacks, wraps, sandwiches and any other dish you can think of!
The great thing about tortillas is that it can be used not only in Mexican dishes but also in so many different ways! What you want to do with it is entirely up to you!
Are These Popular Tortilla Brands Vegan?
Apart from the tortilla brands that I have mentioned above, there are some pretty big and popular brands of tortillas out there that you would most likely come across in your favorite local supermarket.
As these are commonly found in most stores, it would certainly help make it easier for you to decide whether you can buy them or not.
Here we look at three very popular tortilla brands and find out if they are vegan-friendly:
1. Are Mission Tortillas Vegan?
Mission is perhaps one of the most popular brands of tortillas out there. It has a wide range of tortillas including ones made of wheat, corn, and flour. It also has special varieties like Gluten-free, Better-For-You and Artisan Style.
To answer the question if Mission Tortillas are vegan, we looked through its website FAQ to find out. According to Mission, their products are not manufactured with animal-derived ingredients. And list the following products as vegan friendly:
- Flour Tortillas
- Corn Tortillas
- Pre-fried Tortilla Chips and Strips
- Un-fried Tortilla Chips and Strips
- Taco Shells
While the company claims its products are free of animal-derived products, some vegans are not too pleased with the use of enzymes.
When you first see the ingredient list of Mission’s tortilla, you would think it’s safe for vegans to eat. However, this may not be the case. Be wary of the ones that have “enzymes” as one of the ingredients.
Some enzymes are derived from animals and this is something that does not sit well with some vegans, most especially the ones who do not consume enzymes.
There might not be a definitive answer to the question of “Are Mission Tortillas vegan?”. Well if you based it on the company’s word, they actually are!
But if the idea that Mission Tortillas contains enzymes is not something that you are comfortable with, you can opt for other vegan tortilla alternatives in the market!
2. Are Guerrero Tortillas Vegan?
Another popular tortilla brand that you might come across quite frequently when you drop by the supermarket is Guerrero.
Guerrero Tortillas come in wheat, corn and flour variants. When you take a look at the list of ingredients just like this one for the Corn Tortillas, you would probably say that Guerrero Tortillas are vegan.
- Ground corn treated with lime
- Benzoic Acid (to Preserve Freshness)
- Propionic Acid (to Preserve Freshness)
- Phosphoric Acid (Preservative), Gum
Upon checking the list, your attention might be drawn to Amylase. For some vegans, seeing that in the list might sound an alarm.
If you are not familiar with Amylase, it is described as an “enzyme that breaks down starch into a simpler form. It can be derived from bacterial, fungal, or animal (pig-derived) sources” by The Vegetarian Resource Group.
Before you go up in arms, I have good news for you! While Guerrero Tortillas contain Amylase, the ones that they use are created from fungal micro-organism and are plant-based!
To add, when you see the ingredients list for Guerrero Flour Tortillas, you might see mono and diglycerides as part of the ingredients. Just like the amylase they are using, the emulsifiers they are using are also plant-based.
To give you a peace of mind and to answer the question, Guerrero Tortillas are safe for vegans!
Are Fast Food Tortillas Vegan?
With the popularity of Mexican cuisines in the US, it certainly did not come as a surprise when restaurants and fast food chains started including tortillas in their menu.
Perhaps two of the most popular chains serving Mexican inspired food is Chipotle and Taco Bell. As they focus on serving Mexican themed dishes, I can’t help but wonder if the tortillas they are using are vegan.
To clear the air, allow me to look into these two chains and find out whether their tortillas are vegan-friendly or not!
1. Are Chipotle Tortillas Vegan?
If you check the Chipotle’s website, it says that their tortillas are indeed vegan. And it also says that the following food items that are usually paired with tortillas are also vegan:
One of the interesting things about eating at Chipotle is that they have a vegan meat substitute called Sofritas. Sofritas is Chipotle’s vegan filling that they launched back in 2014.
2. Are Taco Bell Tortillas Vegan?
According to PETA, the tortillas along with rice, beans, potatoes, and guacamole from Taco Bell are animal free.
However, before we answer “yes” to the question, let’s take some factors into consideration. While the tortilla is vegan and the restaurant can customize recipes according to our dietary needs and limitations, Taco Bell can’t guarantee that it won’t come in cross contact with the meat products that they have.
In some locations, the same frying oil may be used in preparing both meat and non-meat orders.
If this is something that you as a vegan is not comfortable with, there are plenty of alternatives available on the market. So in the case of Taco Bell, the tortillas are vegan, but the way the foods are prepared in some locations may not be vegan-friendly!
Remember this information the next time you drop by a Taco Bell restaurant (or Chipotle for that matter)!
How Can I Make My Own Vegan Tortillas?
If you are our own “Masterchef”, you most certainly can! Given the dietary needs that you have as a vegan, there are foods out there that no longer fit your lifestyle. Don’t worry. Tortillas are not one of them!
Tortilla is one of the most diverse foods out there! It’s so versatile and easy to handle that you can practically make a full course meal from it alone! Believe me when I say you can make main courses and desserts out of our tortillas!
As a vegan, I believe that tortillas are also a great staple addition to your diet! And while tortilla makers have certainly expanded their product line, perhaps there is no better feeling than being able to make your own vegan tortillas!
If you doubt your abilities and skills in the kitchen, believe in yourself! At first try, you might not perfect your own vegan tortillas. But over time, with practice and the right technique, you’ll be making the best vegan tortillas ever!
For starters, I have here a very simple tortilla recipe that you can easily follow. As I have mentioned before, you won’t necessarily master tortilla making the first time but you can give it all you’ve got!
So without further ado, here’s a simple homemade vegan tortilla recipe!
To start, make sure you have the following ingredients:
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 Cups flour
- 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 6 tablespoons oil (preferably canola) – or omit to save some calories if you are trying to lose some pounds
- 1 1/2 cups water
Then follow these instructions:
- Prepare and mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl. You can then add water and oil.
- Using your hands, mix the dough together quickly until the mixture becomes stiff. If there is a need, add a little more water to the mix.
- Knead your dough until it is smooth and elastic. Once done, set it aside for about 5 to 10 minutes. To make it easier to roll, you can set the mix aside inside a bowl (greased) and cover it with a damp cloth or you can wrap it in saran wrap.
- After setting it aside for a couple of minutes, divide your dough equally into 12 parts. Once divided, make a ball out of each piece.
- Using your rolling pin, take one piece and roll it until it is very thin.
- To fry, prepare a non-stick pan and put it over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, take one of the pieces you have rolled thinly and cook it – about 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Once the tortilla piece turns white, that means it’s cooked!
On paper, the recipe might look very easy. But of course, there might be a kitchen mishap or two the first time around! While it does get easier over time, don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t turn out well during your first vegan tortilla DIY challenge.
If there’s one take away I learned from me finding out all these information, it’s the fact that you can do a lot of things with a tortilla!
To answer the burning question, most tortillas are vegan but note that not all of them are. Remember to take a look at the label at all times and check if any non-vegan or suspicious ingredient is included. If you’re unsure, contact the brand to confirm!
And lastly, whether you opt to buy from a brand you trust or like, or make your own tortillas at home, the important thing is it adheres to your vegan lifestyle and diet!
To those who have made their own vegan tortillas, let us know your secrets in the comments section below!
Or if you want to help spread the word about the versatility of tortillas and how perfect it is for vegans, share this on your social media accounts!