Ask Essie: GF Corn Tortillas? GF Diet for non Celiac Folks?

Lisa asks: are there GF alternatives to corn tortillas?

There are, but the taste is a little bit funky.  La Tortilla Factory makes a flour substitute tortilla that is supposed to be similar to giant wheat tortillas.  We’ve eaten them and find them to be exactly that: not flour.  They don’t make great quesadillas or burritos because the flavor is a little harsh.  They’re made with millet and teff, which are fine GF flours, but have a strong flavor and overpower the neutrality of what should be a background flavor of a tortilla.

But, we really are enjoying GF corn and masa sources these days and it is super easy to make your own corn tortillas.  You don’t even need a press.  Here is link to a couple of blog posts by my friend, Shauna  of Gluten Free Girl fame.  I especially enjoy the quote from Rick Bayless where he talks about corn tortillas – that Mexicans eat corn tortillas and not flour tortillas so much.  GFG includes her method for making them from scratch.  Find that here.  And here is a method for making corn chips from the tortillas, also from GFG.

Bob’s Red Mill, a great source of many GF flours and grains sells a GF Masa here. I am a big fan of most of Bob’s GF products and their commitment to growing that product line.

And one more thing about tortillas – corn has far more protein and fiber than plain wheat, so the corn tortillas are far better nutritionally.  The trick is to make sure your source is gluten free.  Store bought tortillas are often dusted with flour to keep them from sticking together.  They may not even list that in the ingredients – and unless the source says it is Certified Gluten Free, then even if it claims it is naturally gluten free, it might not be.   I won’t buy anything that lists it might be made in a facility that also manufactures wheat, rye or barley products.   I like to demonstrate my disfavor with my pocket book and buy from purveyors that take the care needed to produce safe GF products.

Recently I was sure I was unable to tolerate corn anymore and cut it out of my diet.  I did feel better, but after a month I added only certified GF corn products back into my diet and I am just fine.  Turns out all cornstarch is not created equally.  Get GF cornstarch.  Just because it is a corn product does not mean it is not contaminated, so choose carefully.

Hope that helps!

And Lorraine asks: is there is a benefit to eating gluten free even if you don’t have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant?

Great question.  For many reasons, GF is right up there with new fad diets and a host of products have begun to show up in ordinary grocery stores.  I’ve read reviews from people who buy GF cookbooks expecting to lose weight.  Eating GF is so not about losing weight and frankly you can gain weight eating all that fabulous food.

Taking on a gluten free diet is not an easy task, nor one to utilize unless you suspect that gluten is not your friend.  It is next to impossible to eat out and stay gluten free safe.  There are some great restaurants that actually pay attention and can make gluten free food, but most don’t understand how to do that and the diner gets contaminated food and becomes ill.

It is hard to shop and expensive to purchase GF items.  Good GF bread is usually twice the cost of other breads.  Flours are 2x or more in cost for a lot less in volume.  There are nutritional differences in the foods that make GF eating a challenge because we have to get those vitamins and minerals that are in wheat, barley and rye from somewhere else.  You can have some serious deficiencies on a GF diet unless you pay close attention to what you eat.

On the other hand, if you suffer from a host of unexplained maladies, that you’ve gotten every test under the sun, but the doctors say you are fine but you suffer anyway, then taking on a GF diet might help you discover if those issues are caused by gluten.  The list of maladies that are attributed to celiac disease and gluten intolerance (not allergy) is enormous.  Take a look here.

Unless you think you may have trouble with gluten after reviewing some of the literature, then taking on a gluten free diet is probably not in your best interest.  But if in doubt, cut it out (yeah, I made that up).  Leave out the wheat, barley and rye and eat only gluten free oats and other grains for at least a couple of months to see if you feel better.  If you stop bloating, your headaches or rashes disappear, you have more energy and your general health improves – that is a sign that perhaps eating gluten free might be useful.

Good luck!

Thanks for asking Essie and if you have a question, feel free to post it in the comments section.


7 responses to “Ask Essie: GF Corn Tortillas? GF Diet for non Celiac Folks?

  1. My fav tortilla alternative is the millet and flax lavash from Sammi’s Bakery which I buy frozen at our health food store. I don’t think it has corn in it either. It isn’t as flexible as a regular flour tortilla but it tastes really good – especially when you heat them up in a little bit of olive oil.

  2. Thank you for the excellent, detailed information. I’m encouraged to learn that corn tortillas CAN be tasty and healthy and that I can easily make them myself.

  3. Just want to let you know that I am not gluten intolerant, but I am wheat intolerant. I get horrible hives and crazy itchies when I eat too much wheat. So am am slowly gravitating to some blogs about being gluten free. Its the only way I can cook wheat free and have someone else to the trials! I told a doctor I was allergic to wheat and he looked at me like I was nuts. Better nuts that wheat, I say. Can’t wait to try some of your baked goods. My biggest issue with that is altitude. I am at 5800 or so.

    • baking at high altitudes is a challenge even with AP flour. I’d just keep in mind that you’ll have a double whammy issue – if baked goods tend to dry out and need more liquid at high altitudes and gluten free flours absorb lots of liquid, I might slightly increase the liquid, slightly decrease the flour and downsize the baking powder by a small pinch. I might add an extra egg white and err on the side of more liquor (yay) and flavoring by just a touch. If you do give it a try, let me know how it worked out for you. 5800ft sounds lovely.

  4. I like corn tortillas but not the greatest for make quesadillas. I have found French Meadow bakery makes a great alternative tortilla. It can be bought at Whole Foods or since I live near the French Meadow bakery restaurant.

    • Jealousing! I would love to live near French Meadow! Our Safeway is starting to carry FM- at least they have the signs up but no stock yet. Looking forward to that.

  5. I have to disagree about the La Tortilla Factory–I really love the teff wraps, the Sonoma brand……..I use them frequently as a wrap for just about everything–a favorite being a huge chopped salad of veggies with feta. I like their flavor a lot but the thing I like best is that they don’t fall apart in my hands as do the various wraps made with rice flour. Of course, the teff ones don’t work for south-of-the-border-type foods. For that I use corn tortillas.

    So, don’t write off the sonoma wraps for uses other than Mexican foods. I love it that there are so many product choices out there for those of us who don’t have the time to make our own everything!

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