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Colorful Tortillas Reflect Mexico’s Lively Cuisine Choices

The natural ingredients modify the tortillas’ flavor and broaden the taste of the food they complement. 

The corn tortilla is Mexican cuisine’s perfect side dish. It is also part of the pre-Colombian heritage that has survived to this day. It serves as the icon that represents Mexico in all corners of the world.

Although versatile, abundant and easily recognizable, the yellow corn tortilla is not the only one. The tortilla color may change, depending on the nixtamalization process, in which corn is cooked with lime. If people add ingredients other than corn, it may give a fantastic range of colors.

“There are black and blue tortillas, although those are more common in small towns and traditional restaurants,” said Martín Zamudio, a chef who graduated from the Universidad Mexicana. “Nowadays, chain restaurants like El Portón or Vips serve red, green, or even orange tortilla chips as an appetizer.”

Corn may naturally sprout in different shades of color. (Markus Winkler/Unsplash)

Despite their outlandish color, these tortillas do not have any chemical coloring added to them. For example, blue tortillas have white corn and blue corn, a type of corn that grows in the valleys of the Mexican states of Puebla, Tlaxcala, Mexico, and Hidalgo.

Other colors result from the adding of different plants to the dough.

“Each color results in the ingredients added to the dough, not from colorants. For example, red tortillas are due to ground beets added to the dough. For green tortillas, add cilantro and epazote to the dough,” said the chef.

Further, the natural ingredients also modify the tortillas’ flavor and broaden the palate of the food they accompany.

Blue tortillas have both white and blue corn. (Christian Valera Rebolledo/Café Words)

“Black tortilla comes from ground beans and salt. The orange ones, from ground guajillo pepper, while those that are even more yellow than normal have ground squash blossom in them,” said Zamudio. “There exists a variation to the color tortillas. If someone attaches an epazote leaf or a squash blossom to the white dough and then cooks it, it would result in a tortilla with different shapes imprinted in its body.”

Mexicans strive to exalt flavors and colors using multiple ingredients.

“Colorful tortillas are just one reflection of what being a Mexican means. They reflect Mexico’s idiosyncrasy,” said Horacio Barradas, a sociologist from the Universidad Veracruzana. “A Mexican’s happiness is reflected in their food. And the quintessential Mexican food item is tortillas. They are part of our culture.”

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez; edited by Fern Siegel)