Food Guts - Ingredient Information

Ingredient Lookup

Corn Tortillas

Nutritional Information

1 enchilada, corn tortillas

  • Calories 41
  • Calories from Fat 4.86
  • Amount%DV
  • Total Fat 0.54g1%
  • Saturated Fat 0.086g0%
  • Monounsaturated Fat 0.131g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 0.27g
  • Cholestreol 0mg0%
  • Sodium 9mg0%
  • Potassium 35mg1%
  • Total Carbohydrate 8.48g3%
  • Dietary Fiber 1.2g5%
  • Sugars 0.17g
  • Protein 1.08g2%
  • Calcium 2mg0%
  • Iron 1mg6%
  • Vitamin A 0%
  • Vitamin C 0%

Corn Tortillas on Wikipedia:

For Spanish tortilla de patatas, see Tortilla de patatas. For Mexican flour tortilla, see Flour tortilla. For South American tortilla, see Sopaipilla.

In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize (often called ``corn`` in the United States). In Mexico, there are three colors of maize dough for making tortillas: white maize, yellow maize and blue maize.

A similar bread from South America is called arepa (though arepas are typically much thicker than tortillas). This form of bread predates the arrival of Europeans to America, and was called ``tortilla`` by the Spanish from its resemblance to the traditional Spanish round unleavened cakes and omelettes (originally made without potatoes which are native to South America). The Aztecs and other Nahuatl-speakers called their tortillas by the name ``tlaxcalli``; these have become the prototypical tortillas.

Maize kernels naturally occur in many colors, depending on the cultivar: from pale white, to yellow, to red and bluish purple. Likewise, corn meal and the tortillas made from it may be similarly colored. White and yellow tortillas are by far the most common, however.



Tortilla, from Spanish Torta, cake, plus the diminutive -illa, literally means ``Little cake``.


The corn tortilla, with many variants, has been a staple food in North American and Mesoamerican cultures since pre-Columbian times. It predates the alternative wheat flour version of the tortilla (tortilla de harina, or tortilla de trigo) in all such cultures, as wheat was not grown in the Americas prior to European contact.

Analogous staple foods in New World cultures, made from nixtamal and serving a similar nutritional function, include the sope, the totopo, the gordita, and the tlacoyo of Mexico, the pupusa of Central America, and the arepa of northern South America.

The tamal (or tamale) of Mexico, Central America and northern South America is also made from nixtamal, but is much thicker and is a dish unto itself, usually including other ingredients and flavors, rather than a staple food used in other dishes.


Main article: Nixtamalization

The preparation of maize in an alkaline solution of mineral lime or calcium hydroxide, used in the production of flour for corn tortillas, significantly enriches the nutritional value of maize as a source of vitamins, dietary minerals and protein. The lime water used in the process adds its own bioavailable calcium, while it also renders the B vitamins and amino acids in maize far more easily absorbable by the human digestive system.[1]

The process, called nixtamalization, was developed indigenously by pre-Columbian cultures and predates European contact by many centuries, if not millennia.

Tortilla making

The traditional tortilla has been made of maize corn since Pre-Columbian times. It is made by curing maize in lime water in a process known as nixtamalization which causes the skin of the corn kernels to peel off (the waste material is typically fed to poultry), then grinding and pre-cooking it, kneading it into a dough called masa nixtamalera, pressing it flat into thin patties, and cooking it on a very hot comal (originally a flat terracotta griddle, now usually made of light sheet-metal instead).

Soaking the maize in lime water is important because it liberates the vitamin niacin and the amino acid tryptophan. When maize was brought to Europe, Africa and Asia from the New World, people left out this crucial step. People whose diet consisted mostly of corn meal often became sick â€” because of the lack of niacin and tryptophan â€” with the disease pellagra, which was common in Spain, Northern Italy, and the southern United States.

Traditional tortilla making. The mother is grinding the maize with a stone mano and metate as the elder daughter pats the dough into tortillas. (El Salvador, c. 1900)

In Mexico, particularly in the towns and cities, corn tortillas are often made nowadays by machine and are very thin and uniform, but in many places in the country they are still made by hand, even when the nixtamal is ground into masa by machine. In Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras they are still often made by hand and are thicker. Corn tortillas are customarily served and eaten warm; when cool, they often acquire a rubbery texture. The largest tortilla producer in the world is a Mexican company called Gruma, headquartered in Monterrey.

Traditionally throughout Mesoamerica from Pre-Columbian times into the mid 20th century, the masa was prepared by women using a mano (a cylinder shaped stone like a rolling pin) and metate (a stone base with a slightly concave top for holding the corn). This method is still used in some places in Mexico.

The wheat flour tortilla was an innovation after wheat was brought to the New World from Spain while this region was the colony of New Spain. It is made with an unleavened, water based dough, pressed and cooked like corn tortillas. These tortillas are very similar to the unleavened bread popular in Arab, eastern Mediterranean and southern Asian countries, though thinner and smaller in diameter. In China, there is the laobing (烙餅), a pizza-shaped thick ``pancake`` that is similar to the tortilla. The Indian Roti, which is made essentially from wheat flour is another example.

Tortillas being made in Old Town San Diego.

Tortillas vary in size from about 6 to over 30 cm (2.4 to over 12 in), depending on the region of the country and the dish for which it is intended.

Among tortilla variants (without being, strictly speaking, tortillas) there are pupusas, ``pishtones, gorditas, sopes, and tlacoyos. These filled snacks can be found in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. They are smaller, thicker versions to which beans, chicharrón, nopales or other ingredients have been added. They are customarily cooked on a greased pan.

In Nicaragua, a type of tortillas called Güirilas are also consumed. They are made from young white corn. Güirilas are thick, sweet and filling. They are enjoyed as a snack by itself, with crumbled cheese, or accompanying a dish.

In Argentina, Bolivia and southern Chile, the size of the tortillas is smaller. They are generally saltier, made from wheat or corn flour, and roasted in the ashes of a traditional adobe oven. This kind of tortilla is called Sopaipilla (not to be confused with a puffy fry bread of the same name common in New Mexico, United States). In Chile and Argentina it may also be sweetened after being cooked by boiling in sugar water.

Automatic tortilla machine (explanation)

In commercial production and even in some larger restaurants, automatic machines make tortillas from dough.


Corn tortillas are the basis of many traditional Mexican dishes such as tacos, tostadas,enchiladas, flautas, quesadillas, chilaquiles, and tortilla soup (sopa de tortilla). Warmed corn tortillas are also often served as an accompaniment to stews, soups, grilled meats and other dishes, as bread might be served in other cuisines.

By contrast, wheat flour tortillas are often used for burritos andquesadillas, particularly in the United States.

Corn tortillas may also be deep fried to make crisp tortilla chips. These are often salted, and can be eaten alone or accompanied with various salsas and dips like guacamole. Tortilla chips are a key ingredient in nachos.

See also

Mexico portal North America portal Wikibooks Cookbook has a recipe/module on Tortilla Tortilla de patatas Tortilla art Tortilla chip Mexican cuisine Burrito Chilaquiles Chimichanga Enchilada Gordita Quesadilla Taco Tostada Honduran cuisine Blintz Crêpe Pancake Pita Roti Low-carb tortilla


^ [1], Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Maize in human nutrition, 1998 Growing Corn in Mexico, Pan-American Adventure: Tepotzotlán, Mexico, by Don Lotter, August 3, 2004. The real taste of Mexico, by Jesse Fanciulli, Greeley Tribune, November 24, 2002. Hernam Cortes: From Second Letter to Charles V, 1520, From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. V: 9th to 16th Centuries, pp. 317-326. Bernardino de Sahagún, by James Mooney, Transcribed by Joseph E. O'Connor, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. General History of the Things of New Spain (Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espana), by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagun (1450-1590)

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Maize tortillas Tortilla making in the Tezoatlán Mixtec culture, with a video showing the process