Are Tortillas Vegan? Everything You Need To Know

By definition, a tortilla is a flat, circular bread that is similar to a thin flatbread, usually made from maize (corn) or wheat flour. First confectioned by the indigenous people in Mesoamerica, tortillas are a fundamental part of many cuisines but are most commonly associated with Mexico.

Tortillas made from maize (corn) have always been vegan, but tortillas made from wheat flour used to be confectioned using lard, a semi-solid white fat obtained by rendering the fatty tissue of the pig.

However, wheat tortillas nowadays are less likely to contain lard as most companies opt for vegetable oil instead, making the majority of tortillas vegan. Still, I’d be prudent when visiting a traditional Mexican restaurant, as they may still use lard in their tortilla recipes, not only due to tradition but because many individuals claim that including lard makes the tortillas more delicious.

Thankfully, store-bought tortillas are typically vegan, but I would still be careful to check all labels to see if you can spot potential non-vegan ingredients such as Vitamin D3, enzymes, palm oil, mono and diglycerides, glycerin, and l-cysteine.

In this article, I’m going to dive a bit deeper into why I believe most tortillas are vegan, and I’ll also suggest some vegan tortilla brands, vegan tortilla recipes, and also determine whether or not the tortillas in some restaurant chains are vegan. If you’re interested, feel free to continue reading.

Ingredients in Most Tortillas

Fortunately, most tortillas contain vegan-friendly ingredients, including wheat flour (or cornflour), salt, water, and vegetable oil. These are basic ingredients that require no explanation, and that you will find in most tortillas, especially the ones available in stores.

tortilla ingredients
Tortillas out of my cupboard

However, you’ll also find that some tortillas contain what can be deemed as “questionable ingredients” and I’m sure that many vegans with stricter viewpoints might make an effort to avoid them.

I’m specifically referring to ingredients such as:

  • Vitamin D
  • Mono-and diglycerides
  • Palm oil
  • Enzymes
  • Glycerin
  • and L-cysteine.

The image I’ve inserted above only contains three of the aforementioned ingredients, which essentially means that it’s not the same for every brand, and thus why should always check the label.

Below I’m going to cover each ingredient and basically explain why they’re considered questionable and what are the odds of them not being vegan.

Vitamin D

To put it simply, vitamin D is available in two forms: Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3.

Vitamin D2 is always suitable for vegans since it’s produced by plants (namely, mushrooms exposed to UV light), but Vitamin D3 is usually derived from an animal source (like sheep’s wool), even though you can also find vegan alternatives such as lichen which are gaining demand over time.

Unfortunately, when it comes to food, it’s difficult to determine what type of Vitamin D is being used, since most product labels don’t unveil the source. In fact, most will just have it labeled as “Vitamin D”,  and not differentiate between D2 and D3.

This is a huge problem for anyone that wants to avoid animal ingredients at all costs but finds it difficult to determine whether a product is vegan or not. If you actually come across a tortilla brand that contains Vitamin D, my suggestion would be for you to contact the company directly to ensure the brand is 100% vegan.

Mono-and Diglycerides

Mono-and Diglycerides occur naturally in seed oils, but since their concentration is usually very low, their industrial production is generally achieved by the reaction between glycerol and triglycerides.

That’s where the waters get muddy because the raw materials making up those fats can be derived from either vegetable or animal fats.

However, most of the time, mono-and diglycerides (also referred to as E471) are usually made by partially hydrolyzing vegetable fats, such as soybean oil, and palm oil. Yes, some of the emulsifiers may be animal-derived, but for the sake of vegetarian and certain religious diets, I’d say that’s not usually the case.

That being said, you’re still free to question the company or manufacturer behind the product you’re purchasing to see if the mono-and diglycerides are plant-based.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is a sensitive subject because while it’s clearly a plant-based ingredient, many vegans argue that its production is associated with a tantamount of animal cruelty. They’re not wrong.

Unfortunately, palm oil is damaging the environment. Acres and Acres of rainforest are destroyed to make way for mono-crop plantations that produce palm oil, which leads to increased carbon and methane emissions as well as the destruction of animal habitats which consequently results in the extinction of certain animal species.

Between 1995 and 2015, 100,000 orangutangs died due to the loss of animal habitat. Species such as elephants, rhinos, and tigers also seem to be at risk.

While I believe it’s a good idea to avoid consuming too much palm oil because of the aforementioned animal species, I don’t want to outright influence your decision to do so. You must do what ultimately feels right for you.

Enzymes

According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, enzymes are proteins added to foods as modifiers, and they can be animal, vegetable, bacterial, or fungal.

Enzymes found in cheese are animal-based, but those used in bread-making are often fungal.

Here are the different types of enzymes:

  • Lactase (fungal)
  • Lipase (animal, fungal)
  • Papain (vegetable)
  • Pectinase (fruit)
  • Protease (animal, vegetable, fungal, or bacterial)
  • Rennet (animal)
  • Trypsin (animal)
  • Amylase (bacterial, fungal, or animal)

The enzyme commonly found in bread-making is Amylase, which can be either bacterial, fungal, or animal-derived, but according to the Vegetarian Resource Group, it’s typically fungal (and vegan). 

Glycerin

Glycerin is a thick gelatinous and odorless liquid that is hydrosoluble and low in toxicity. It’s also hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water from the air, making it an important ingredient in many foods because it allows them to preserve some level of moisture.

However, glycerin can either be extracted from vegetable oils or animal fats, which makes it one of those questionable ingredients that some vegans decide to avoid.

While you may find contradictory information suggesting that glycerin isn’t vegan, a trustworthy 2010 report from the Vegetarian Resource Group suggests that glycerin used in food is vegetable-based.

L-Cysteine

L-Cysteine is a common dough conditioner, flavor enhancer, and precursor in many supplements, and you can certainly find it in some tortilla brands.

Unfortunately, most of the traditional sources of L-Cysteine are not vegetable-based. In fact, most of the time they come from human hairs and duck feathers. While synthetic options exist, credible resources like the Vegetarian Resource Group suggest that they’re not that common.

As such, if you’re purchasing a product with L-Cysteine, be sure to inquire the company about its source.

Vegan Tortilla Brands

Guerrero Tortillas

guerrero tortillas

Guerrero produces a wide variety of flour and corn tortillas, and according to information available on their website, they don’t use any animal products. Needless to say, their tortillas don’t contain lard.

However, while there are no flagrant animal ingredients, you can find mono-and diglycerides, one of the questionable ingredients we’ve mentioned above, even though t’s likely that they’re derived from vegetable oils, considering that the company claims to not be using animal ingredients.

Mission Tortillas

mission tortillas

Mission Foods products do not contain any ingredients coming from animal-based products, making them acceptable for vegetarian and vegan diets. This is information taken directly from their website.

Even though their tortillas contain enzymes and mono-and diglycerides, they’re derived from vegetable sources.

La Banderita Tortillas

La banderita tortillas

La Banderita tortillas are all vegan and are available in a wide variety of corn and flour tortillas, wraps, and tostadas. Their tortillas come in three different sizes,: the burrito having about 10 inches, the soft taco is 8 inches, and the fajita variety is 6 inches.

None of their varieties contain any lard or cholesterol, though you can find mono-and diglycerides which are fortunately vegetable-based. 

Old El Paso Tortillas

old el paso tortillas

Old El Paso is a brand that provides numerous Mexican products, including tortillas, taco kits, taco shells, tortilla pockets, and more.

Even though their simple flour tortillas contain glycerin and enzymes, they’re derived from vegan-friendly sources.

Food For Life Tortillas

food for life tortillas

Food For Life also provides consumers a good variety of tortillas, including brown rice tortillas, exotic black rice tortillas, sprouted whole grain tortillas, sprouted corn tortillas, and taco-sized whole grain tortillas.

All of their tortillas are vegan and non-GMO.

Siete Tortillas

siete tortillas

According to Siete Foods, their tortillas, tortilla chips, hot sauces, and dips are all vegan.

What’s more, you can find a nice variety of grain-free tortillas, including almond flour tortillas, cassava & chia tortillas, cassava & coconut tortillas, chickpea flour tortillas, cashew flour tortillas, and burrito-sized tortillas.

La Tortilla Factory Tortillas

la tortilla factory

La Tortilla Factory provides tortillas for all taste buds and dietary strategies, including low carb tortillas, whole wheat protein tortillas, hand made style tortillas, light tortillas, organic tortillas, gluten-free tortillas, grain-free tortillas, non-GMO traditional tortillas, wraps, traditional flour & corn tortillas, and Sonoma all-natural & organic tortillas & wraps. All tortillas are vegan.

Rudi’s Tortillas

rudi's tortillas

Rudi’s tortillas are both vegan and gluten-free, and you can find them available in three varieties: spelt tortillas, spinach tortillas, and plain tortillas. They’re also Nut-Free.

Whole Foods Tortillas

whole foods tortillas

Whole Foods has been around for a while and it’s the place for health-conscious people to visit. It’s also a place where you can find vegan tortillas made up of organic whole grains. There you’ll find the following tortillas: flour tortillas, multi-grain tortillas, corn tortillas, and wheat tortillas.

Pas Nisht Tortillas

pas nisht tortillas

Among the few tortilla brands with a vegan certificate on the packaging, Pas Nisht provides tortillas that are individually baked in a wood-fired oven. Additionally, they’re gluten and soy-free, as well as non-GMO.

Bfree Tortillas

bfree tortillas

The BFree tortillas are gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, Non-GMO, as well as vegan and kosher certified. You’ll find three varieties of BFree tortillas, including sweet potato tortillas, multigrain tortillas, and quinoa wraps.

Vegan Tortilla Recipes to Make At Home

1 – The Best Homemade Flour Tortillas

best homemade tortillas

If you’re someone that ultimately prefers to make your own vegan tortillas, I’ve found you a recipe that only requires three ingredients: flour, olive oil, and water. This recipe by Dave, the individual behind the recipe website “Hurry The Food Up”, has come up with a relatively easy tortilla recipe to make at home.

2 – Vegan Burrito with Vegan Tortilla Filling

vegan burrito recipe

Once you have your homemade wraps ready (or not), you can check out Lazy Cat Kitchen’s recipe where she creates a vegan burrito filling, as well as homemade tortillas.

3 – Healthy Homemade Spinach Tortillas

vegan spinach tortillas

This recipe Lacey, the person behind a Sweet Pea Chef is delicious but incredibly easy to make. It only requires four ingredients: spelt flour, sea salt, water, and baby spinach. Feel free to try it out as it’s a wonderful way to diversify from the all too common flour or corn tortillas.

Related Questions

Are Tortilla Chips Usually Vegan?

For the most part, plain tortilla chips are vegan.

Akin to regular tortillas, tortilla chips can be boiled down a combination of flour, water, salt, and oil, making them accidentally vegan. However, it’s also a fact that certain tortilla chips are flavored with cheese or chicken, which is essentially what happens with some Doritos flavors.

This is not to say that you can’t find vegan flavored tortilla chips, but you need to pay special attention to the ingredients on the label. Speaking of Doritos— their Blaze and Spicy Sweet Chili flavors are vegan.

Are El Pollo Loco Tortillas Vegan?

El Pollo Loco has a surprising amount of vegan goodies and their Mexican staples are not any different. There you’ll find that their tortillas, rice, beans, salsa, and guacamole are 100% vegan.

In fact, if you’re interested in knowing more information on how to eat vegan at El Pollo Loco, feel free to read this blog post where we go over their vegan options.

Are On The Border Tortillas Vegan?

Fortunately, On The Border’s homemade flour tortillas are vegan-friendly, and you’re also able to find a decent array of vegan-friendly options to fill up your plate, including:

  • Chips & Salsa
  • Live Guacamole & Regular Guacamole
  • Black Beans
  • Cilantro Lime Rice (depending on how it’s made)
  • Sautéed Vegetables
  • French Fries
  • Pico de Gallo

I’ve also written a blog post about the vegan options at On The Border, so if you’re interested, feel free to read about it here.

Are Chili’s Tortillas Vegan?

Chili’s flour and corn tortillas are 100% vegan, but you’re also able to find all sorts of vegan-friendly options (or options that you can convert to vegan) such as:

  • Black Beans
  • Margarita Fresh Mex Bowl (Exclude Meat)
  • Bottomless Tostada with Chips and Salsa
  • Caribbean Salad (Exclude Meat)
  • Santa Fe Salad (Exclude Meat)
  • House Salad
  • Sweet Corn on the Cob
  • Fresh Pineapple
  • Fries
  • Mandarin Oranges
  • Garlic Dill Pickles
  • Asparagus and Garlic Roasted Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Mexican Rice
  • Pico de Gallo

Read more about the vegan options at Chili’s in this blog post.

Are El Torito Tortillas Vegan?

While not a vegan-friendly restaurant like its other popular counterparts, El Torito does have a couple of vegetarian (and non-vegan) options that can be made vegan. Their tortillas are also vegan.

Are Taco Bell Tortillas Vegan?

The tortillas, beans, guacamole, and rice are all animal-free, which means you can pretty much have a vegan meal at Taco Bell. As part of its “Taco with a Side of Purpose”, we’re now seeing the introduction of a vegan-friendly menu with exciting options, making Taco Bell a vegan-friendly restaurant.

Are Chipotle Tortillas Vegan?

According to the information on Chipotle’s allergens and special diet page, their tortillas, vegetables, rice, beans, salsa, chips, and guacamole are vegan and vegetarian.

They also mention that if you’re vegetarian (not vegan), their shredded Monterey Jack cheese and queso are made with a vegetable-based rennet, and their sour cream is 100% cultured cream.

Are Baja Fresh Tortillas Vegan?

Not all tortillas at Baja Fresh are vegan, except for the following: tortilla strips, corn tortilla, crispy tortilla chips, regular and whole wheat tortilla.

Additionally, you can also find other vegan options such as avocados, guacamole, pinto beans, black beans, salsa, and many other ingredients that you can creatively add to your tortilla-based dish.

Are Qdoba’s Tortillas Vegan?

The vegan options at Qdoba’s are plentiful, and that includes tortillas. What’s more, Qdoba’s is home to Impossible Foods, which means you’re able to find vegan meat on the menu.

Here are a few quick things you can order:

  • Impossible Fajita Bowl
  • Impossible Fajita Burrito
  • Chips and Guacamole or Chips and Salsa

Besides, you can find a whole array of original vegan-friendly options such as rice, black beans, pinto beans, corn tortilla chips and strips, potatoes, shredded lettuce, pickled jalapenos, and way more!

Are Del Taco’s Tortillas Vegan?

Del Taco has a whole array of vegan options, including the Beyond Avocado Taco, Avocado Veggie Bowl, and Crinkle-Cut Fries. Other vegan options include tortillas, beans, rice, buns, and many other condiments.

Are Chuy’s Tortillas Vegan?

Chuy has four types of tortillas available: Corn, Blue Corn, Flour, and Whole Wheat tortillas. Every single one of them is vegan.

However, other than beans and a couple of signature sauces, Chuy doesn’t have that many vegan options.

Bottom Line: Most Tortillas Are Vegan

Fortunately, most of the tortillas you’ll find in restaurants and stores are vegan as they’re free from lard, an animal-based fat that was traditionally used in tortillas.

With that being said, for some vegans, certain ingredients within (some) tortillas may be deemed as questionable because they may be derived from animal sources.

Those ingredients are the following:

  • Vitamin D (can be animal-based)
  • Mono-and diglycerides (can be animal-based but mostly comes from plants)
  • Palm oil
  • Enzymes (most enzymes used in bread-making are fungal, not animal-based)
  • Glycerin (most glycerin used in foods is vegetable-based)
  • and L-cysteine. (can be animal-based)

L-cysteine is the only ingredient that truly bothers me because the chances of L-cysteine being derived from duck feathers is quite high. Other than that, I’m perfectly comfortable with ingredients like enzymes, glycerin, and mono-and diglycerides, which are often derived from plants.

Another issue I take with most of these ingredients is that it’s difficult to pinpoint the actual source.

This is info that should be clearly displayed on the label, especially when they can be animal-based and we have an entire community of vegans and vegetarians, as well as people with dietary restrictions stemming from religion that choose to avoid animal ingredients.

Anyway, if you’re bothered by these ingredients and happen to find any of them on a tortilla you purchase, you should contact the company or manufacturer to learn about their source.

Thank you for reading and I hope this blog post has served you well.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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