Food for Thought

Taco Shells: Corn vs. Flour

September 1, 2015

With modern day ingenuity and ingenious, taco shells can be made six ways to Sunday.  I’ve seen tacos shells made of waffles and won tons! But for the purpose of this article, let’s take it back to tradition—and traditionally corn and flour tortillas are the most popular choices when it comes to making taco shells.


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 I ask, “how are they different?” Is it true that one can be interchanged for the other, or are there specific moments for each type of taco shell to be used? To me, it’s all about preference and freshness. Freshness, because the fresher either types of tortillas, the more pliable it is.  The more pliability, the more versatile.  Preference, because each does have a unique taste and texture. That’s a very important factor in picking the appropriate shell.

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Corn tortillas come in white or yellow.  In the states we tend to use yellow corn tortilla to make tacos, but traditional Mexican cuisine will often use white. Taste-wise, there’s not a very noticeable difference and you could use both interchangeably.  Corn tortillas in general have a toasted corn taste, which makes perfect sense as they’re made from finely ground “maize” (corn) and then quickly pressed and cooked.

Corn tortillas are customarily served and eaten warm, because they loose pliability the cooler they get. As the starches inside the corn tortillas cool, they begin to stiffen and become grainy.  This is why you would always use a warm (or very fresh) corn tortillas for a soft shell taco, otherwise you risk it falling apart.  If soft tacos aren’t your thing, then do as the masses do.  Bake or fry the corn tortillas.  This produces a hard, sturdy, and crunchy surface that is great for hard tacos, chips, taquitos, etc.


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Flour tortillas can also be fried, but the result is an airy and crunchy, yet slightly frail shell that will typically fall apart quite easily.  Not ideal for holding fillings or sauces. Most people use flour tortillas for soft tacos.  They have a slightly sweet, but subtle flavor and are perfect if you don’t want them overpowering any of the flavor components in the taco filling itself.

They are made in a very similar fashion to corn tortillas, only sub corn for flour, add a little baking powder, and some type of shortening.  The rest of process in nearly identical. Flatten, cook, serve.  The great thing about flour tortillas is the ability to retain softness and pliability even when cooled. They also have a finer texture than corn tortillas and do not get grainy as they lose their freshness.

Either way, the choice is yours. Hope you’re enjoying #TacoWeek!

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