Types of Tortillas

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The best tortillas are formed by hand.
The best tortillas are formed by hand. (Image: making tortillas image by Efrain Diaz from Fotolia.com)

When you think about a tortilla, the first image that's likely to come to mind is the flat flour round used to wrap the filling of a taco, burrito or fajita. A number of different flavored flour tortillas have started to appear on supermarket shelves. Corn tortillas, however, are also common in Mexican cuisine. Finally, there is the Spanish tortilla, which has very little in common with the other types.

Flour Tortillas

At their most basic, flour tortillas contain all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt, water and fat. Most traditional Mexican recipes use lard, but modern variations substitute shortening or vegetable oil. The puffier Tex-Mex variety of flour tortilla includes baking powder. Tumaro's was the first company to market flavored flour tortillas with spinach, chipotle, jalapeno and honey wheat variations. Technically, all flour tortillas are also wheat tortillas since all-purpose flour comes from wheat; the tortillas marketed as whole wheat substitute whole-wheat flour for all purpose flour.

The addition of whole wheat flour gives tortillas a rustic look.
The addition of whole wheat flour gives tortillas a rustic look. (Image: cheese on tortilla image by Kathy Burns from Fotolia.com)

Corn Tortillas

"Masa harina," the Spanish word for dough flour, provides the basis for corn tortillas. To make "masa harina," corn kernels are dried, boiled in lime (calcium oxide) water and ground into a paste. This is allowed to dry and is then mixed with water to form the "masa," or dough. The "masa" is hand formed into tortillas and cooked on a griddle.

Corn kernels are dried in the sun or by fire to make "masa harina."
Corn kernels are dried in the sun or by fire to make "masa harina." (Image: corn seed image by Manika from Fotolia.com)

Spanish Tortilla

A round shape is all that the Spanish tortilla shares with its Mexican cousins. This is much more like an open-faced omelet, as potatoes and egg are cooked over moderate heat in olive oil to create a delicious dish that is appropriate as a snack, appetizer or an entire meal.

Eggs are the base for a Spanish tortilla.
Eggs are the base for a Spanish tortilla. (Image: eggs image by Allyson Ricketts from Fotolia.com)

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