Are Flour Tortillas Vegan?


Are Flour Tortillas Vegan?

Here we’re talking about wheat flour. This type of tortilla typically comes as white in restaurants, but is available in a wide variety of colors—i.e. brown (whole wheat) and green (spinach). I’d imagine most people reading this are referring to the white variety.

In any case, are they vegan? Yes, flour tortillas are generally considered vegan. They’re mostly made of flour, water, and various additives. While some extra prudent vegans prefer to avoid enzymes or preservatives common in bread products, the presence of such ingredients doesn’t render foods non-vegan by most standards.

What we’ll do here is go over the various reasons flour tortillas are generally considered vegan. Then we’ll list any tortillas on the market that are known to be 100% suitable for vegans.

Why Flour Tortillas Are Generally Considered Vegan

Wheat Flour Is Vegan

This holds true for white flour as well as whole grain. Ever since awareness was initially raised around the use of bone char in white sugar, white powdery substances, in general, started to be looked upon with suspicion.

According to the Vegan Society, there was a time when folks debated whether bone char was used in white flour, but the claim that it was used was quickly debunked.1

Bone char is used in sugar to remove impurities—raw, unprocessed sugar is brown. The brown component of flour is made up of fibrous components like the germ and bran—i.e. it’s not due to impurities. When the germ and bran are removed, it leaves behind the white, starchy endosperm. Thus, you get white flour.

To get it extra white, the manufacturers will often bleach the flour, but the process does not require animal products.

Flour Tortillas Typically Use Vegan-Friendly Additives

Apparently, this wasn’t always the case as some recipes have been known to call for lard. For those who don’t know, lard is another word for hog fat. Sometimes it’s listed on food panels as animal shortening.

In any case, it’s a source of saturated fat used in various applications, many of which include bread products.

However, you’re more likely to encounter lard in made-from-scratch tortillas—not commercial tortillas found in grocery stores.

I’ve yet to run across the stuff and I’ve scanned countless ingredient panels of tortillas and other flatbreads.

Like lard, milk is another animal product you’ll encounter in some tortilla recipes. But again, you’re much less likely to encounter it in commercially available tortillas.

Commercial Vegan Flour Tortillas

Old El Paso Flour Tortilla Shells

These contain:2

  • Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Water
  • Vegetable Shortening (Palm Oil, Canola, and/or Soybean Oil)
  • Glycerin*
  • Baking Powder (Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Baking Soda)
  • Mono and Diglycerides*
  • Salt
  • Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Propionate (Preservatives)
  • Fumaric Acid
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Soybean, Palm and/or Cottonseed)
  • Dough Conditioner (Salt, Wheat Starch, Enzymes)

*Glycerin comes up from time to time as being a potentially non-vegan ingredient. While the additive is often sourced from plants, it’s ultimately derived from the glycerol backbone of triglycerides (TGs) which can be derived from both plants (seeds, etc.) and animal tissue.3

In their list of animal ingredients, PETA does consider the compound and its derivatives (mono- and diglycerides, etc.) to potentially be of animal origin.4

But, the organization goes on to stress how vegans needn’t be overly concerned with such ingredients. They’re usually vegan-friendly and there’s really no way of knowing the origin of various precursors—short of reaching out to the manufacturer, that is.

Just know that the presence of glycerin doesn’t render food products non-vegan by most standards.

Old El Paso Burrito Tortillas

The ingredients for these include:5

  • Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Water
  • Vegetable Shortening (Palm Oil, Canola, and/or Soybean Oil)
  • Glycerin
  • Leaveners—Baking Powder (Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Baking Soda)
  • Mono- and Diglycerides
  • Salt
  • Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Propionate (Preservatives)
  • Fumaric Acid
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Soybean, Palm and/or Cottonseed)
  • Dough Conditioner (Salt, Wheat Starch, Enzymes*).

*Enzymes are also mentioned in PETA’s list of animal ingredients.4

However, the enzymes used in bread products like tortillas tend to be limited to alpha-amylases, which organizations like the Vegan Resource Group (VRG) consider to be vegan.6

Granted, they can be derived from animal sources, but they tend to be manufactured microbially from bacteria and fungi.7

These enzymes are used in tortillas for, improving product quality, optimizing baking properties, and preventing staling.8

Mission Fajita Flour Tortillas

These contain:9

  • Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid)
  • Water
  • Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, and/or Palm Oil)
  • Salt and Sugar
  • Leavening Agents (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Cornstarch, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, and Calcium Sulfate)
  • Distilled Monoglycerides
  • Enzymes
  • Wheat Starch
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Antioxidants (Tocopherols*, Ascorbic Acid, and Citric Acid)
  • Cellulose Gum and Guar Gum**
  • Dough Conditioners (Fumaric Acid, Sodium Metabisulfite and/or Mono- and Diglycerides)
  • Calcium Propionate
  • Sorbic Acid

*Tocopherol is just another name for vitamin E, a completely plant-based vitamin. Unlike vitamin D, another fat-soluble vitamin, tocopherols are only found in plants or synthesized chemically so they’re always considered vegan.

**Guar gum and cellulose gum (aka carboxymethyl cellulose or CMC) are both plant-derived. The former is produced from the guar bean while the latter is a derivative of cellulose which is the insoluble/nonviscous fibrous substance naturally present in vegetables and other plants. Both are always considered vegan.

Guerrero Caseras Fajita Flour Tortillas

These contain:10

  • Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid)
  • Water
  • Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and/or Palm Oil)
  • Salt and Sugar
  • Leavening Agents (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Cornstarch, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, and Calcium Sulfate)
  • Distilled Monoglycerides
  • Enzymes
  • Wheat Starch
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Antioxidants (Tocopherols, Citric Acid, and Ascorbic Acid)
  • Cellulose and Guar Gums
  • Other Leavening Agents (Fumaric Acid, Sodium Metabisulfite and/or Mono- and Diglycerides)
  • Calcium Propionate and Sorbic Acid

No problems here.

Anyway, most (if not all) flour tortillas are going to qualify as vegan by most standards. But, hopefully, the above four examples will give you an idea of what’s out there.

Anyway, that’s it for the vegan status of flour tortillas. Thanks for reading.

You may also want to check out the following related articles:

References

  1. Sarah Cook cracks out her top tips and favourite recipes this National Baking Week. https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/blog/all-you-need-know-about-successful-vegan-baking
  2. (3 Pack) Old El Paso Flour Tortilla Shells, 10 Count, 8.2 oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/3-Pack-Old-El-Paso-Flour-Tortilla-Shells-10-Count-8-2-oz/348317296
  3. Glycerol Production. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycerol#Production
  4. Animal-derived Ingredients Resource: Living. https://www.peta.org/living/food/animal-ingredients-list/
  5. (3 Pack) Old El Paso Flour Tortilla Shells, 8 Ct, 11 oz Box. https://www.walmart.com/ip/3-Pack-Old-El-Paso-Flour-Tortilla-Shells-8-Ct-11-oz-Box/218015695
  6. Questions About Food Ingredients. https://www.vrg.org/nutshell/faqingredients.htm#amylase
  7. Amylase. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amylase#%CE%B1-Amylase
  8. Bakery Enzymes in Tortilla Applications (Effect of Enzymes on Tortillas). https://www.tortilla-info.com/downloads/Europe%2018/Agha%20-%20Bakery%20Enzymes%20in%20Tortilla%20Applications.pdf
  9. Mission Fajita Flour Tortillas, 20 Count (23 oz.). https://www.walmart.com/ip/Mission-Fajita-Flour-Tortillas-20-Count-23-oz/14123550
  10. Guerrero Caseras Fajita Flour Tortillas, 20 Count. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Guerrero-Caseras-Fajita-Flour-Tortillas-20-Count/20434347

Drew Davis

Hi! I'm Drew and this is the place where I nerd out about vegan and plant-based diets. I have a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Alabama and have taken dozens of classes in areas like organic and biochemistry, food science, medical nutrition therapy, nutritional genomics, and vegetarian diets. I'm still learning every day, and on this blog, I'll be sharing everything I discover about vegan diets as I go.

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