Are tortillas vegan? Vegans and vegetarians who are keen to enjoy this staple food of Mexican cuisine want to know! So, before you dig into that burrito, let's do a deep dive into what tortillas are made of, and how to know if they're suitable for your vegan diet.
What Are Tortillas?
Tortillas are a circular unleavened Mexican flat bread that have been made as far back as 10,000 BC. The word "tortilla" translates to "little cake" in Spanish. Typically, you'll find three kinds:
- Corn tortillas
- Wheat Flour Tortillas
- Whole Wheat Tortillas
In Mexico, tortillas are most commonly made by hand at home. They're either made on a hot griddle or by using a tortilla press.
Are Corn Tortillas Vegan?
Corn tortillas are a staple of Mexican cuisine. They're made with three simple ingredients which all vegan:
Masa harina is simply ground hominy, which is corn that has been treated with lime. The process for treating hominy with lime is called nixtamalization.
To make hominy, hard corn kernels are dried and soaked in a lime solution to soften them. The kernels are then washed to remove any residual bitter flavor. This process kills the seed and prevents the corn from sprouting. In addition, the lime provides a source of calcium. Hominy is then ground to produce a fine corn flour, which is the main ingredient in corn tortillas.
So, are corn tortillas vegan? The answer is yes! So go ahead and dig into your favorite burrito or enchilada with no worries!
Are Flour Tortillas Vegan?
Flour tortillas are a distant relative to corn tortillas. While not as popular in Mexican cuisine as flour tortillas, they feature heavily in Mexican American dishes.
Flour tortillas are made using wheat instead of the masa harina used in corn tortillas. Here's the ingredients listed on a packet of Mission soft flour tortillas:
✅Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
✅Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and/or Palm Oil)
✅2% or less of: Salt, Sugar, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Corn Starch
So, are flour tortillas vegan? The answer is that almost all commercially prepared flour tortillas are vegan, but there are still a few ingredients that vegans should look out for:
❌ Lard: Most commercially prepared tortillas are now made with vegetable oil. In the past, lard was a common ingredient, but due to health concerns, it's almost never used these days. However, to be 100% certain, it's best to check the ingredients on the packet to make sure that the oil that is used is not derived from animal products. Common oils found in tortillas are soybean oil or palm oil, both which are derived from plants.
❌Sugar: If you are amongst the subset of vegans that avoids sugar, you'll want to check the packet to make sure that sugar is not included in the ingredients. Sugar is sometimes processed with bone char. Peta states "The most helpful thing that we can do for animals is to make compassionate choices every time that we spend our money. Eating vegan isn’t about “perfection” or a quest for personal purity—it’s about achieving real change for animals suffering in the food industry. There’s no better way to do that than by always choosing plant-based foods when shopping or heading out to dinner and by leaving animal-derived ingredients off your plate." However, including sugar in your vegan diet is a personal choice, so please be aware that some commercially prepared tortillas do include sugar.
Are Tortilla Chips Vegan?
Tortilla chips are simply corn tortillas that are cut into triangles and fried in vegetable oil. Generally, commercially produced plain tortilla chips are almost always vegan friendly.
An exception might be tortilla chips that made fresh in restaurants, where they might be fried in animal fat. When ordering tortilla chips in a restaurant, always ask if they are fried in animal fat.
Tortilla chips that are flavored, like Doritos, may not be vegan. In fact, many Doritos do contain dairy products, meaning that they are not suitable for a plant based diet. For instance, vegans should obviously avoid Nacho Cheese flavor and Sour Cream And Chives. However, mild and hot salsa are completely vegan friendly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, all of the corn and flour tortillas at Chipotle are vegan.
Yes, Mission tortillas are vegan. Some Mission tortillas are made with a small amount sugar. If you are amongst the subset of vegans that avoids sugar that might possibly be processed with bone char, this might be an issue for you.