When you first transition to a vegan lifestyle, it can be a relief to discover just how many of your favorite staple foods are naturally vegan. It’s a major change and inevitably creates a certain amount of upheaval so finding tasty items that you can carry on eating makes life a little bit easier. Flour tortillas have always been one of my go-to as — they’re so convenient and versatile, a basis for countless quick and healthy recipes. Whether you’re baking them into chips or using them to make a satisfying wrap for lunch, tortillas are a great plant-based store cupboard staple.
Are flour tortillas vegan? Yes, flour tortillas are naturally vegan. They’re made from wheat flour, water, oil, and seasoning. There may also be a leavening agent (typically sodium bicarbonate) Avoid tortillas made with lard (animal fat). Some tortillas contain sugar, which may not be vegan. There may also be other ambiguous ingredients.
You’ve arrived here on this page because you have questions. Maybe you’re still new to the vegan lifestyle and some elements are confusing for you. Alternatively, you may be a longtime vegan looking for new items to add to your pantry.
- Are flour tortillas vegan?
- Why or why not?
- What ingredients should you look out for?
- Are flour tortillas healthy or unhealthy?
- How can you use flour tortillas in your vegan cooking?
- Are there gluten-free alternatives to flour tortillas?
Fortunately, we have all the answers that you’re looking for. Just read on to find out more.
Are flour tortillas vegan?
The main constituents of a flour tortilla are wheat flour, water, some kind of oil or fat, seasonings such as salt, and maybe a pinch or two of sugar. Flour and water are certainly vegan, as are the most common seasonings. Usually, the seasonings only consist of a pinch of salt. Flour tortillas are usually baked rather than fried, although they may sometimes be cooked on a griddle. Store-bought flour tortillas are usually baked.
The fat component can be an issue, but most commercial flour tortillas are made with vegetable oil, such as sunflower, canola or another common plant-based oil. That said, you can occasionally find tortillas that have been made with lard. Lard is an animal product: specifically, it’s the fat from the abdomen of a pig. Lard is often clarified through heating to remove water and other impurities; it can easily be mistaken for hydrogenated vegetable oil, except that the consistency is harder and the rank smell is a giveaway.
You’re unlikely to find tortillas with lard in the supermarket but if you buy small batches from a local store, or get a salad wrap from a food truck, you might stumble across some. Clearly, you don’t want pig fat in your food — clarified or not, it’s still a meat byproduct. For this reason, you should avoid eating tortillas (or anything else) if you don’t know what the ingredients are. Make sure that your flour tortillas are made with plant-based oil.
Another problematic ingredient is the sugar used in some flour tortillas. Some cane sugar is refined using bone char, a material produced by heating animal bones to a very high temperature. While not all vegans regard sugar refined in this way as non-vegan, most do. You will need to ensure that any flour tortillas you buy are either made without sugar, made with beet sugar or made with cane sugar that’s not refined using bone-char.
Commercially produced tortillas may also include ambiguous ingredients. These may be vaguely described as “dough conditioners” or “enzymes”. Some are absolutely fine but others are either produced using animal ingredients or are not cruelty-free.
The above pitfalls aside, however, flour tortillas are frequently vegan and it’s easy to find varieties that don’t contain anything that’s incompatible with your lifestyle. You can also find plenty of alternatives to wheat flour tortillas if you can’t eat wheat.
Are flour tortillas healthy?
One of the big advantages of a vegan lifestyle is the health boost you get from giving up animal products. You don’t want to compromise that by eating unhealthy food. Unfortunately, it can be all too easy to reach for processed foods as a solution when you’re knocked back by the hectic pace of everyday life. It’s useful to look for foods that are both convenient enough to fit into a busy day but not so tricky to prepare that they encourage you to reach for junk food instead.
I really like to keep flour tortillas around because they’re so convenient and lend themselves to so many healthy snacks and simple meals. They’re inexpensive and very easy to make at home if you prefer to do your own baking. You can easily whip up a stack of flour tortillas and keep them in the fridge or freezer until you need them.
With that said, there are reasons that flour tortillas might not be the most healthy choice for everyone. To start with, they’re usually made from wheat flour — not always the healthiest option, especially if gluten is an issue for you. For another thing, most flour tortillas are made with white flour; while you can get whole grain flour tortillas, they’re by no means the default. You should also consider the fact that flour tortillas are largely composed of carbohydrates and fat. This means that they’re not terribly nutritious in and of themselves.
I would argue that although they’re not the healthiest items on their own, flour tortillas are an aid to a healthy diet because they serve as a vehicle for other healthy foods. As an example, let’s take sandwiches. Although they’re starchy and high in carbs, a wrap made with a 6-inch flour tortilla will have fewer carbs than a sandwich made with two slices of bread. I also find it much easier to stuff my wraps with plenty of healthy vegan fillings — particularly raw vegetables — than to try and contain the same amount of filling in a sandwich.
In the end, it’s a trade-off. While you wouldn’t want to eat anything but flour tortillas, they’re a good way to deliver healthy toppings and fillings. This means that they can make your diet healthier overall.
Do flour tortillas contain gluten?
As we’ve already discussed, flour tortillas are usually made with white wheat flour. The term “flour tortillas” is used to distinguish these products from tortillas made using other types of flour, most commonly cornflour (maize).
Corn tortillas have a stiffer texture than wheat tortillas. They can be a little tricky to wrap around your food in the same way as flour tortillas. They work best in situations where you have a plate handy to take care of any unplanned structural collapse that might occur.
In Mexican cooking, corn tortillas are often baked into a hard shell called a taco. These taco shells can be filled with delicious vegan foods like refried beans or slices of bell pepper.
Corn tortillas are tasty and filling. They generally don’t have gluten (although be careful here, as commercially made corn tortillas may be manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat. Some manufacturers also add a little wheat flour to their corn tortillas to make them more flexible and less likely to crack when wrapped around a filling.
Other types of flour may also be used to make tortillas. Rice flour is a popular gluten-free option. For higher-protein diets, gram flour (chickpea flour) and other legume flours can be used. It’s often helpful to use a gum such as a guar gum or vegan-safe xanthan gum when making tortillas out of non-wheat flours to replace the sticky, stretchy properties of gluten. The result won’t be exactly like a regular wheat flour tortilla but it’s still delicious.
I’ve even had tortillas made from cauliflower. This is a great option if you’re a vegan on a low-carb diet.
What can I make with vegan flour tortillas?
Personally, I mostly use mine to make wraps. Place the ingredients lengthwise on the tortilla, leaving one-third to a half at the bottom empty. Fold the lower part of the tortilla up over the filling and then wrap the sides around it.
My favorite fillings involve a lot of fresh, raw vegetables. I like sliced bell peppers best, accompanied by a little lettuce and finely sliced red onion, with a slice or two of vegan cheese. I often spread vegan paté or non-dairy yogurt on the inside of the tortilla first for some extra flavor. Other tasty ingredients are vegan faux meats, rice and beans, or roasted vegetables like aubergine. All your favorite sandwich ingredients can go in a wrap.
You can also turn vegan flour tortillas into tortilla chips. Cut up the tortillas into wedges and bake in the oven till they’re crispy or fry in your favorite vegetable oil till golden brown.
Flour tortillas are really easy to make yourself. This is healthier and gives you more control over what goes into your food.
Mix 120 g (1 cup) of flour with 60 ml (1/4 cup) of water 2 teaspoons of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Combine all the ingredients to form a soft dough. Divide your dough into four equal amounts and roll out into rounds, sprinkling with flour so they don’t stick. The trick is to keep on sprinkling flour as you roll and turning the tortilla around frequently. That way you’ll get a nice even circle and the tortilla will be thin enough to make into wraps.
When you have rolled out your first tortilla, take your heaviest frying pan and heat it up. You don’t need any oil for this step. Just place the tortilla in the dry pan and cook for about 30 seconds on each side. It should be turning brown but not burnt. Repeat until you’ve cooked all four tortillas. Enjoy!