How To Know If You Should Use Corn Or Flour Tortillas

Tortillas are the backbone of most Mexican cooking, and they also present us with one of the most difficult questions a taco-lover can face: Flour or corn. Of course, both of these choices can be delicious, especially when they are freshly made, and like most things it comes down to personal preference. But there is also a certain unavoidable judgment when we make our choices, where we can't help but feel like we're doing it wrong. Some of this is pretty baseless, like the idea that corn tortillas are "more authentic" than flour, but some of these ideas come from concerns over utility, flavor, and the regional customs behind certain dishes. But if you can get a good grasp on those subjects, you can make your tortilla choices with confidence.

The biggest distinction to help you choose flour or corn tortillas is regional. Both styles are integral to Mexican cooking, but where they are popular is determined largely by geography. Despite the fact that corn tortillas predate flour, corn is more suited to the wetter central and southern regions of the country, while wheat grows well in the arid north. Those northern Mexican traditions are what influenced Tex-Mex and the American Southwest. So that's your first hint. If you are eating something associated with northern Mexico or Tex-Mex, sizzling steak fajitas for example, flour is usually the way to go.

Corn and flour tortilla use is determined by region and filling

The biggest practical difference between flour or corn tortillas is their strength at holding together. Because flour tortillas are more pliable and sturdy, they are better suited to heavier dishes. Burritos are pretty much always made with flour tortillas because they are flexible enough to roll, while being tough enough to not break and spill the fillings. Flour tortillas are also preferred with heavy saucy fillings like chili con carne or for densely filled, eggy breakfast tacos. Corn tortillas have the advantage when it comes to frying. Flour tortillas will crisp up nicely and make good chips if you prefer the flavor, but corn tortillas get extra sturdy, which makes them perfect for pinto bean tostadas or nachos.

Then there are the dishes that use both flour or corn, where the choice will come down to flavor. Street tacos usually use corn, as it adds a nice additional layer of flavor to the simple fillings, but flour tacos are delicious too, especially with Tex-Mex dishes. In enchiladas, corn tortillas are usually preferred for the taste they bring to the dish, and because they are traditionally fried before construction they get less soggy than flour, but flour tortillas are perfectly viable if you like the taste. Finally, quesadillas get made with both, depending on the region, so don't let anyone tell you which one is "right" there.