Corn Tortilla vs. Flour Tortilla

When it comes to authentic Mexican cuisine, there are many options for making a perfect burrito or taco. One of the main staples is a tortilla. In the simplest form, a tortilla is a flatbread used for various dishes in America and Mexico. Tortillas are very versatile, allowing them to be used as a taco shell or even as a sturdy base for a burrito. However, there are two popular tortillas on the market that you may be wondering about. What exactly is the difference between corn and flour tortillas? Essentially, the primary ingredients are what set these two tortillas apart.

A flour tortilla uses two main ingredients, water and flour. Therefore, it is the easiest of the two to prepare at home. A corn tortilla, on the other hand, uses masa harina, a mixture of ground corn flour and lime. These ingredients can be hard to find, making it trickier to prepare this version of the tortilla at home. This post will explore the nutritional value, differences, and similarities of these two staples prevalent in Mexican cuisine. 

Are Corn Tortillas and Flour Tortillas the Same Thing?

Corn and flour tortillas are a form of flatbread used to hold a filling, such as meat and vegetables. Of course, there are other uses for tortillas. Some enjoy dipping them in soups and chilis and making quesadillas or flatbread sandwiches. On the surface, a corn tortilla and a flour tortilla are simply different variations of the same thing, a flatbread. Nevertheless, some primary differences set these two delicious flatbreads apart. We will explore those differences below. 

Mexican corn tortilla wrap with grilled chicken and fresh vegetables. Dietary healthy dish. Close-up female hand holding tortilla sandwich
Corn tortillas are made smaller and more compact because they tend to be more fragile than their flour tortillas counterparts.


Corn Tortillas vs. Flour Tortillas: What Is the Difference?

The main difference between corn and flour tortillas is the primary ingredients used to make the two. To create a small flatbread, a corn tortilla uses ground corn flour and lime, which isn't exactly the household lime you may be picturing. A flour tortilla uses flour, water, and salt to form the larger version of these flatbreads. The primary ingredients contribute to the apparent differences between the two as well. A corn tortilla is yellow, while a four tortilla is white. 

Corn tortillas are smaller in form because they typically are more fragile. The fragility means it is easier to make a sturdier corn tortilla when smaller. A flour tortilla holds up better than a corn tortilla, making it easier to make these versions larger. A larger flour tortilla may be better for making a burrito than a corn tortilla, which crumbles easier when stuffed full. 

When it comes to the nutritional value of these tortillas, a corn tortilla will beat a flour tortilla every time. Of course, healthier versions of a flour tortilla use wheat flour. However, corn tortillas are the healthier counterpart of the two. 

Nutritional Value of Corn Tortillas and Flour Tortillas

The clear winner of the nutritional battle between corn and flour tortillas will always be the corn tortilla. Corn tortillas are high in fiber and low in carbs, making them a better option if you want to eat a more nutritious meal. It's also important to pay attention to the nutritional value of the carbs you are taking in. Corn tortillas are made from whole grain, making them a better option for carb intake.

A whole-grain flour tortilla is always available if you enjoy the sturdier option. When using whole grains, fewer nutrients are lost during the processing. At the same time, a regular flour tortilla loses nutritional value during the processing. 

What Is a Corn Tortilla?

A corn tortilla is a small flatbread that is a staple across America and Mexico when it comes to Mexican cuisine. Corn tortillas may have been around for thousands of years. It is the oldest form of the tortilla, beating the flour tortilla out by hundreds or possibly thousands of years. 

A corn tortilla's staple ingredient is masa harina. Masa harina is a combination of corn flour and lime. Before heading to your grocery store to search for these ingredients, it is important to note that the lime here is not the fruit lime. It is actually calcium hydroxide. Masa harina is what you have when you mix calcium hydroxide with ground corn flour, and it is challenging to find in the grocery store. When you mix the two, the process is nixtamalization. When a tortilla undergoes this process, it becomes more nutritious, unleashing many vitamins.  

Corn tortillas tend to be more compact than flour tortillas. The small size is because the mixture is more delicate. The larger the corn tortilla, the more likely it will fall apart when stuffed with the ingredients. Therefore, they are smaller and firmer than a flour tortilla to ensure the tortilla holds. The corn tortilla may appear smaller and more breakable than its flour counterpart but do not discount it as the weaker of the two. On the contrary, the corn tortilla is a valuable contender with its rich history and healthier benefits. 

Corn Tortillas. Food made with nixtamalized corn, a staple food in several American countries, an essential element in many Latin American dishes.
Corn tortillas offer many health benefits, including essential vitamins and fiber.

©Sergio Hayashi/

What Is a Flour Tortilla?

A flour tortilla arrived on the scene long after the corn tortilla had made its debut. It is a simpler version of the corn tortilla, made from flour and water. You do not need much to make a flour tortilla: flour, water, salt, and a tortilla press. After mixing the flour and water, add a pinch of salt and pour into the flour press. The result is a simple and tasty homemade flour tortilla. 

A flour tortilla is larger than a corn tortilla, allowing it to hold more ingredients. Unfortunately, when it comes to nutritional value, a flour tortilla loses. However, if you are looking for a healthier alternative, a wheat flour tortilla will give you identical sturdiness as a flour tortilla while providing better nutrients. 

stack of homemade whole wheat flour tortillas on a wooden table
Flour tortillas may not be as healthy however they are easier to make and are sturdier than corn tortillas.


Can You Substitute a Corn Tortilla for Flour Tortilla or Vice Versa? 

Whether you use a corn or flour tortilla depends on what your taste buds enjoy. Both a corn tortilla and a flour tortilla are great substitutes for one another. However, if you decide to substitute one for the other, it is essential to remember the taste difference resulting from the primary ingredients used in each. There are also different health benefits between the two, and aside from appearance, the corn tortilla tends to be more fragile and only holds a small amount of meat and vegetables compared to the flour tortilla. Regardless, you can substitute one for the other and have similar results.

In Conclusion

A corn tortilla and a flour tortilla are staples in traditional Mexican cuisine. Corn tortillas are the way to go if you want a healthy option. They may be small and not as sturdy, but they offer a delicious taste and nutritional value that is hard to beat. On the other hand, a flour tortilla is still a great option and is easier to make at home. The ingredients to make a corn tortilla are more challenging to find; however, possible! Whether you want corn or flour tortilla with your next burrito depends entirely on your preference. However, regarding these two delicious flatbreads, either one will help your next meal come to life!

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