Are Tortillas Vegan?

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While the answer may appear obvious, have you ever asked yourself ‘are tortillas vegan?’ 

While they don’t appear to have any obvious animal derived ingredients, do you know what all those listed ingredients are? 

We take a look at what’s in a tortilla and which ingredients are and are not vegan. 

What’s In A Tortilla?

If you want to know exactly what ingredients are in your tortillas check out the packaging. 

There are two types of tortilla, a corn tortilla and a wheat tortilla. 

Corn Tortilla Ingredients

Corn tortillas are traditionally smaller than wheat flour tortillas because they are gluten free. The gluten in tortillas, and other baked goods, acts as a binding agent.

Because there is no gluten in corn tortillas they need to be small, so they don’t fall apart when filled. 

The typical ingredients in a store bought corn tortilla are;

  • Corn masa flour
  • Water
  • Cellulose gum 
  • Guar gum
  • Amylase
  • Propionic acid
  • Benzoic acid
  • Phosphoric acid

Flour Tortilla Ingredients

Flour tortillas are commonly used for larger dishes such as burritos and quesadillas.

As they are made from flour they contain gluten making them stronger than corn tortillas and able to hold more filling without breaking. 

The following ingredients are found in most store bought wheat flour tortillas:

  • Wheat flour
  • Water
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Baking soda
  • Sodium acid pyrophosphate 
  • Distilled monoglycerides 
  • Enzymes 
  • Fumaric acid
  • Calcium propionate 
  • Sorbic acid

All of these ingredients are vegan. But different tortilla manufacturers often add other ingredients such as added vitamin D or glycerin. 

Vitamin D that is added to food often comes from fish so is not suitable for a vegan diet. There are two types of glycerin, one is made from animal fats and the other is made from plant sources. 

Which Tortilla Ingredients Are Vegan?

Of the ingredients in tortillas most will be vegan and contain no animal products. But which ingredients are vegan? 

Corn Tortillas

In corn tortillas the flour is corn masa flour which is 100% vegan and plant based.

It is made from nixtamalized corn which means the corn has been soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, washed and then hulled. The corn is then ground and made into flour. 

There are no animal products involved in this process and the alkaline solution is usually made from slaked lime. 

Cellulose gum comes from plant cell walls and guar gum is derived from legumes called guar beans. Both are vegan ingredients in corn tortillas. 

Amylase is an enzyme that is used in tortillas to extend their shelf life and can be derived from bacterial or fungal sources.

Propionic acid is a short chain fatty acid, benzoic acid is used as a preservative and phosphoric acid is a food for yeast and aids leavening. 

All of these ingredients are vegan friendly. 

Flour Tortillas

Flour tortillas are made from wheat flour which is completely vegan. Vegetable shortening is often derived from hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as corn, or soybean. 

Salt is free of animal products, but sugar is difficult to definitively define as vegan. This is because most cane sugar uses bone char filtration.

Baking soda is naturally vegan as it is simply sodium bicarbonate. 

Sodium acid pyrophosphate is a leavening agent, enzymes break down starches and proteins and fumaric acid is an organic compound. Calcium propionate is a calcium salt and sorbic acid is used to inhibit mold growth.

All of these ingredients are vegan friendly. 

What Non-Vegan Ingredients Are In A Tortilla?

Occasionally, and depending on the brand of the tortilla, there can be non-vegan ingredients included.

This could be lard, butter or whey all of which are not suitable for vegans as they are all obviously derived from animal products 

However an ingredient in flour tortillas, distilled monoglycerides can be derived from plant or animal fats, so it is difficult to discern just from the name ‘distilled monoglycerides’.

If these are present in tortillas it is not usually specified if they are animal or plant based. 

For this reason it is safer to choose a brand of tortilla that is labeled as vegan. 

Vegan Tortilla Brands

There are some of the vegan tortilla brands that you can be confident are free of animal products:

  • Old El Paso 
  • Amaizin Organic 
  • Whole Foods 365 Brand 
  • Rudi’s Gluten-Free 
  • Food For Life Sprouted Corn 
  • Mission 
  • Taco Bell 
  • Chipotle 

Final Thoughts

To be confident and sure that you are eating vegan tortillas check the packaging and that it is labeled as vegan friendly. 

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