Navigate the tortillas and wraps aisle with ease! This is everything you need to look for in a package of tortillas.
Whether you’re craving Mexican tacos, quesadillas, and enchiladas, or Tex-Mex fajitas, burritos, and chimichangas, tortillas are the one ingredient that, try all you want, you just can’t do without.
And, as much as cookbook authors and food bloggers try to get you to make your own tortillas from scratch, you and I both know that most of the time, you will get your tortilla supply from the supermarket.
Ain’t nothing wrong with that! We have a lot to do in a day and—between carpooling the kids, getting to the office, staring at slides on the screen all day, making it back home, and ticking off house chores from a to-do list—we’ve earned a treat without having to make dough and work a press for it.
Of course, there’s a catch: good tortillas are hard to come by in the store, especially if you’re not sure what exactly to look for. So let’s talk about how to choose tortillas, so that you always reach for the good stuff, leaving those bland, stiff wraps to gather dust on the shelves as they should.
It goes without saying that it’s easier to find good tortillas in the Mexican market or grocery store that it is in the Costcos, Trader Joes, and Walmarts of this world. Also, if you happen to be a regular at the taqueria round the corner, and you need your fix of tortilla wraps for the day, I’m sure you and the guy behind the counter can figure something out.
Still, the Mexican market isn’t always an option. And convincing the guy at the taco truck to sell you tortilla wraps may not be your favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
When that’s the case, the supermarket is your savior!
When buying tortillas at the grocery store, you are usually confronted with the following choice: you can choose between corn tortillas, flour tortillas, and whole-wheat flour tortillas. As you can tell by the names, the main difference between the three is the flour used.
Corn tortillas are made from masa, a traditional Mexican flour made from nixtamalized corn (basically, that’s corn soaked in unslaked lime, a.k.a. calcium oxide). Wheat tortillas are made from bleached flour, whereas whole-wheat tortillas are made from a mix of bleached flour and whole-wheat flour.
Which type to go for depends on the recipe, your preferences, and what’s available at the store. Generally speaking, corn tortillas are the most flavorful, flour tortillas are the more malleable, and whole-wheat tortillas tend to contain the most fiber.
Personally, I stick to corn tortillas for Mexican recipes because the result tastes limey and authentic, and flour tortillas for Tex-Mex recipes because they’re sturdy and hold hearty fillings easily.
Look for a brand and variety of tortillas with the fewest ingredients. In its simplest form, a tortilla is made of unleavened flour, salt, and water. However, it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to add grain or vegetable oil, gum, baking powder, and, while they’re at it, a ton of flavor enhancers and preservatives.
Seriously, you can’t read the label carefully enough. Some brands print the part of the ingredient list that they want to highlight—flour, water and salt—in large type and list the remainder of the ingredients in small print. Others will do all they can to distract you from it.
For starters, take a good close look at the packaging date. A date that’s closer to the day you buy the package means, you’ll never guess, fresher tortillas. If you can’t find the packaging date or the manufacturer hasn’t disclosed it, check the best-by date. The further away the best-by date, the fresher the tortilla wraps.
When in doubt, pick up the packaged stack of tortillas with both hands, then twist them and bend them a few times to determine how pliable the wraps are. Fresh tortillas are bendy and pliable; stale tortillas are crunchy and stiff.
Last but not least, the brand. As a rule of thumb, choose a reputable brand that makes good tortillas of the right size, thickness, and consistency that don’t vary from batch to batch, and offers them at a fair price.
My favorites are Maria and Ricardo’s, Tortillas Fresca, and La Tortilla Factory. Other household names you will find on the shelves at the store are Mission, Old El Paso, Hola Nola, and Don Panchos.
Wrapping It Up
When buying tortilla wraps, try the Mexican market or grocery store before going to the supermarket or dollar store. Depending on the recipe, look for corn, flour, or whole-wheat flour tortillas made by a reputable brand with a recent packaging date.