Do Wheat-Enriched Corn Tortillas Bring Us the Best of Both Worlds?

Taste Tests

We taste the leading brands to find the distinct differences and rate them with tasting scores.

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[Photos: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Here's the deal with tortillas.

Corn tortillas are packed with nutty, sweet corn flavor, but they have a very short window of freshness and can be a little difficult to work with. Without gluten, they have a weak structure that tends to break or get brittle unless you are very careful about the way you reheat them.

Flour tortillas, on the other hand, have plenty of stretchy, resilient structure, but they often lack flavor. Most supermarket brands are pretty abysmal when it comes to toasty wheat flavor. The best I've had are the cook-and-serve flour tortillas from TortillaLand (and of course you can get great flavor if you make your own lard-packed versions at home), but for the most part, a flour tortilla from the store is not what you want cradling your carnitas or your al pastor.

Enter flour and corn hybrid tortillas. They're tortillas that look like really great corn tortillas (charred leopard spots and all!), but contain some amount of flour or wheat gluten with the idea of adding stretchy structure to a typically brittle corn tortilla.

So how do these guys stack, er, fold up?

Quite well, actually. The first brand I saw was the Sonoma label from La Tortilla Factory (they also have one that is simply labeled "Hand Made Style" that seems to be pretty much identical). The first time I tasted one I did a holy crap, is this really from a package double-taste. Those charred spots really add a lot of homemade flavor, even if the tortillas are still made in a factory.

I've been using them regularly since discovering them at my local Whole Foods. As far as texture goes, they're a dream to work with. They are sturdy enough to support even the moistest taco or creamiest enchilada filling without breaking or cracking. They can even be folded and bent straight out of the fridge, something which you can't do with a standard corn tortilla.

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When all I've got is a couple packs of these corn and wheat tortillas at home (Mission, surprisingly, also has a very tasty entry in the category), I use them happily with abandon. It was only recently when I hosted a taco party at my house that I tasted them side-by-side with fresh corn tortillas from the local tortillas factory down the street. When a good corn tortilla is fresh, it beats the pants off of these corn and wheat tortillas, at least in terms of deep corn flavor.

But I'm still happy to keep a package or two around at all times for those nights when I known I'm not going to make it out to the tortilla factory and back before dinner time midnight snack time rolls around.