Corn, Flour, or Whole Wheat: Which Type of Tortilla Is Healthier?

A CR nutritionist took a look at the nutritional pros and cons

Fish tacos with corn tortillas Photo: iStock

Soft tortillas are the traditional base for Mexican fajitas or burritos—but, depending on the type of flour or cornmeal used, these thin round flatbreads can vary widely in calories, sodium, and more. Amy Keating, RD, a CR nutritionist, checked out 40 tortillas from five big brands. The three examples below illustrate the nutritional differences among corn, flour, and whole-wheat tortillas. Plus, try our recipe for Chicken and Guacamole Tacos.

Corn Tortillas

Offering a firm, chewy texture, corn tortillas come out ahead in a side-by-side nutrition competition with other types. Corn is a good-for - you whole grain, Keating explains, and corn tortillas typically contain less fat and simpler ingredients, and are very low in sodium.

Mission Yellow Corn
(1 ounce)

  • Calories: 50
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Fiber: 1.5 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Sodium: 5 mg

Flour Tortillas

You may prefer flour tortillas for their mild flavor and pillowy-soft texture. But they’re the least healthy choice in the tortilla aisle: They are made from refined white flour, often con­tain additives, and can pack a lot of sodium—especially compared with corn tortillas.

Tia Rosa Flour Fajita
(1 ounce)

  • Calories: 100
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Fiber: <1 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Sodium: 240 mg

Whole-Wheat Tortillas

These tortillas have more fiber than white flour ones but have a similar mouthfeel. Still, they are similar to flour tortillas in sodium and processed ingredients. Choosing a smaller-sized whole-wheat (or flour) tortilla can keep sodium and calories in check.

La Banderita 100% Whole Wheat Fajita
(1 ounce)

  • Calories: 80
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Sodium: 150 mg

Chicken and Guacamole Tacos

Chicken Taco Recipe Shop Smart

James Worrell James Worrell

2 ripe avocados, pitted
1 lime, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
1⁄8 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup jarred salsa
1⁄4 cup water
1 rotisserie chicken*, meat removed (about 4 cups)
12 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed
2 cups cabbage, shredded
1 tomato, chopped (about 1 cup)
1⁄2 cup cilantro leaves

*Rotisserie chicken varies in sodium content. We used one that has 250 mg per 3-ounce serving to calculate the nutritional information for this recipe.

In a small bowl, mash the avocados with lime juice, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil and chili powder. Cook about 30 seconds. Then add salsa, water, and chicken. Heat until warmed, about 10 minutes.

3. Spread warm tortillas with the avocado mixture, then top with the chicken, cabbage, tomato, and cilantro.

Makes 6 servings

Nutrition information per 2 tacos: 450 calories, 19 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 42 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 8 g sugars (0 g added), 29 g protein, 475 mg sodium

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the May 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Trisha Calvo

I've covered health and nutrition my entire career, so I know how to separate science from hype. Whether it's about food labels, sunscreen, or food safety, my goal is to deliver information that makes following a healthy lifestyle easier. Healthy cooking is a favorite hobby, and friends think I'm crazy, but I can happily spend hours grocery shopping. Follow me on Twitter. (@TrishaCalvo)