Tortilla

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Wheat
  • )

May cause allergic reactions.

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a stack of corn tortillas for babies starting solids

When can babies eat tortillas?

Soft corn tortillas may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. However, we would recommend holding off on wheat tortillas until after a baby’s first birthday as they tend to get gummy and difficult to manage in the mouth. Reserve hard, crunchy tortillas and tortilla chips for older children, as chips are a common cause of choking in young children.

Where do tortillas come from?

Food historian Maricel Presilla has called tortilla “an ancient bread that is enormously complex”—a fair description. Tortilla is a staple food in the Americas, where the name applies to an unleavened flatbread traditionally made of corn, a sacred food. Tortilla is also known as chaw, gueta, hme, tlaxcalli, and waaj to people living in Mexico and Central America, whose ancestors learned how to turn corn into nourishing bread in ancient times. Spanish colonizers saw a resemblance between that flatbread and a simple “little cake” made of wheat and cooked over cinders in their homeland. They called the Indigenous bread by the same name, “tortilla,” and demanded it be made with wheat—still the grain preferred by some today.

Milo, 6 months, eats half a corn tortilla with mashed black beans spread on it.
Juliet Rose, 7 months, eats strips of corn tortilla with black beans.
Sebastián, 17 months, eats a corn tortilla.

Are tortillas healthy for babies?

Yes, as long as they are low in sodium, which most corn tortillas and some wheat tortillas are. Most tortillas offer a good amount of carbohydrates for quick energy and fiber to support the developing microbiome, with whole wheat tortillas being the highest in fiber.

Aside from these similarities, tortillas made with different ingredients and methods will have different nutritional benefits. Tortillas made with nixtamalized corn have resistant starch to feed friendly bacteria in the gut.1 Blue corn tortillas contain extra antioxidants, particularly the anthocyanins that give the tortilla its blue hue.2 Wheat tortillas (which are often enriched) can offer a good amount of zinc and various B-vitamins. That said, regulations differ from country to country on the enrichment of grains with added nutrients, so the nutritional content of tortillas can vary depending on their country of origin.

★Tip: Tortillas can be high in sodium, so look for low-sodium options for baby—ideally less than 100 milligrams per serving. Typically, corn tortillas are lower in sodium than wheat tortillas.

Are corn or wheat tortillas better for babies?

Before 12 months of age, babies will typically find corn tortillas easier to manipulate with their hands and an easier texture in the mouth. After 12 months, however, you should serve the tortillas that meet your family’s preference. Most corn- and wheat-based tortillas contain plenty of carbohydrates and fiber to nourish growing children, though there are some unique benefits to those made with corn using traditional methods. These tortillas are made by hand with a simple dough of water and corn that has been nixtamalized—a cooking method that uses an alkaline solution to break down the grains before making the dough.

Nixtamalizing corn increases the body’s ability to absorb key nutrients in the grain, including calcium, iron, and vitamin B3.3 That said, industrial corn tortillas offer benefits, too. For example, they are often more affordable and are sometimes fortified with key nutrients that are deficient in the diets of some pregnant women and babies.4

Bottom line: both corn and wheat tortillas are great foods, so choose the type that fits the child’s development, circumstances, and culture.

Can I serve grain-free tortillas to babies and toddlers?

Yes, after 12 months of age and as long as they are low in sodium. Grain-free tortillas can be made with flours including almond, cassava (yuca), cauliflower, chia seed, chickpea, coconut, flaxseed (linseed), or quinoa. Depending on the main ingredients, these grain-free tortillas can be quite gummy and sticky or very crumbly, so they are more appropriate for children older than 12 months of age. Keep in mind that the nutritional benefits will also vary depending on what ingredients are used to make the tortilla. Some may contain common allergens as well, so read labels carefully if food allergies are a concern.

Are tortillas a common choking hazard for babies?

No, tortillas are not a common choking hazard. However, soft tortillas can be chewy and can offer a difficult texture for new eaters, and some wheat tortillas can form a mass in the mouth that can stick to the tongue or roof of the mouth. Keep in mind that crispy or crunchy tortillas and tortilla chips are choking hazards and best reserved for older children.

To minimize the risk, serve soft corn tortillas until a child is at least 12 months old and cut the tortillas into age-appropriate sizes. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Are tortillas a common allergen?

It depends. While many tortillas are commonly made from corn, it is becoming increasingly common for tortillas to be made from wheat and blends of wheat, and wheat is a common allergen. Gluten-free or grain-free tortilla varieties may also contain additional top allergens including milk, soy, and tree nuts. If your child has a food allergy, be sure to read the label on tortillas thoroughly.

Wheat is one of the most common food allergens in children.5 Fortunately, two-thirds of children outgrow the allergy by their 12th birthday.6 Individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to wheat, particularly those who are allergic to birch and grass pollen.7 While rare, some individuals have a condition known as wheat-dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which can result in a severe allergic reaction if the person exercises within a few hours after eating wheat. These patients should avoid eating wheat in the four hours before strenuous activity.8

It is important to note that wheat allergy is not the same as celiac disease. While a wheat allergy may be outgrown, celiac disease requires a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet and lifestyle.9 A gluten “allergy” is typically a misnomer, often in reference to celiac disease.10

Corn tortillas are made from corn, which is not a common allergen, although reactions to corn are not unheard of.11 However, corn and corn products have been identified as a trigger of food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, also known as FPIES.12 FPIES is a rare and delayed allergy to food protein which causes the sudden onset of repetitive vomiting and diarrhea to begin a few hours after ingestion of the food trigger. Left untreated, the reaction can result in significant dehydration.13 14 Fortunately, most cases resolve completely during childhood. To learn more about FPIES, read our post on Food Allergens and Babies. Individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to corn, particularly those who are allergic to grass or plane pollen.15 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, burning, or tingling in the mouth, but abdominal pain has also been reported with some cereal grains. It is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.16

If you suspect your baby is allergic to wheat, talk to a pediatric health care provider before introducing wheat tortillas at home. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings and watch closely for any signs of an allergic reaction. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount over future servings.

Can tortillas help babies poop?

While tortillas vary considerably in terms of ingredients, preparation and fortification, corn tortillas made from nixtamalized corn flour specifically have been shown to be a good source of insoluble and soluble fiber which helps promote bowel regularity.17 18 19 20 Note that pooping patterns can vary significantly from baby to baby. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about your baby’s pooping and digestive function.

How do you prepare tortillas for babies with baby-led weaning?

an infographic with the header "how to cut tortilla for babies": in half or long strips for 6 months+, bite-sized pieces for 9 months+, no modifications for 12 months+

6 to 9 months old: Offer baby a soft corn tortilla cut in half or into long strips about the size of two adult fingers held together. When the tortilla is fresh and soft, serve it on its own, passing the piece in the air for baby to grab from you and munch on. If it is more dry and brittle, try steaming or soaking the tortilla in broth to soften it for baby. Either way, the chewy texture of a tortilla likely means that baby won’t consume much, however, holding and munching can help build baby’s chewing skills. Alternatively, mix shredded tortilla into soft, scoopable foods, such as bean chili or huevos rancheros. The softer texture is easier for baby to consume. Hold off on serving grain-free tortillas, crunchy tortillas, tortilla chips, and wheat tortillas (which can get very gummy in the mouth).

9 to 12 months old: At this age, babies develop their pincer grasp (where the thumb and forefinger meet), which enables them to pick up smaller pieces of food. When you see signs of this development, try moving down in size to bite-sized pieces of low-sodium soft corn tortilla. Serve the pieces on their own for baby to practice picking up or mix them into other foods. This is also a great age to serve tortilla with a broth, salsa, or stew and offer some pieces plain, some pieces that have been dipped in the food.

12 to 24 months old: As a toddler advances their chewing and spitting skills, wheat tortillas can be introduced. Try using soft corn, wheat (white or whole grain), or grain-free tortillas to make enchiladas, quesadillas, huevo encamisado and other dishes. If you like, encourage utensil use by offering an age-appropriate fork alongside tortilla cut into bite-sized pieces or a spoon alongside a stew thickened with tortilla. Keep in mind that using utensils can be exhausting for new eaters, and many children toggle back and forth between feeding themselves with fingers and utensils. Don’t worry if the child rejects a utensil; consistent and accurate utensil use will come in due time, probably between 18 and 24 months of age.

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What are recipe ideas for cooking with tortillas?

Enchiladas, papadzules, quesadillas, tacos, tlacoyos—there are so many dishes to try! Tortilla can be stuffed with almost any food, and if you need inspiration, look to the diverse cuisines of Mexico and Central America, where tortilla is served not just with proteins like beans, chicken, egg, fish, or pork, but with hearty vegetable combinations, such as grilled onions and nopales, roasted mushrooms and pepper, or stewed potato with squash blossoms. Use toppings to add taste, texture, and nutrients, such as queso blanco, pumpkin seed, or chapulines.

★Tip: Want to serve tortilla with cheese to baby? For babies under 12 months of age, aim for pasteurized low-sodium cheeses, such as fresh goat cheese, queso blanco, or queso fresco. These fresh cheeses won’t melt and ooze, but they can be crumbled onto baby’s food or mixed with soft, scoopable fillings for tortilla.

Recipe: Baby's First Taco

two tortillas spread with black bean puree, cheese, and avocado next to a square bowl with avocado and mashed black beans inside it

Yield: 2 tacos
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 2 corn tortillas
  • ½ cup (86 grams) cooked black beans
  • 1 lime
  • salt to taste for adults and older children (optional: 12 months+)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) pasteurized queso fresco (optional)

This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (queso fresco). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced. Always check for potential allergens on the labels of store-bought processed foods, such as corn tortilla. Added ingredients may include common allergens, such as wheat.

Directions

  1. Assess the freshness of the tortillas: if they are soft and pliable, proceed to Step 2. If they are dry and brittle, wrap the tortillas in a damp towel, then steam them until soft, about 1 minute in the microwave or hot oven. Unwrap the tortillas and place them on a cutting board to cool.
  2. Rinse the black beans to remove excess sodium, then lightly mash them. A little texture is okay.
  3. Mix the juice of half the lime into the mashed beans. Store the other half for another use.
  4. Spread a thin layer of mashed beans on a tortilla for baby, then add a scoop or two into baby’s bowl. Scoop the rest of mashed beans into the other tortilla for yourself and add salt to taste.
  5. Peel and cut some avocado into age-appropriate sizes for baby. Mash one slice and spread it on the tortilla with the beans, and put some of the cut avocado into baby’s bowl. Exact serving size varies. Let a child decide how much to eat. Pile the rest of the avocado on top of the beans on your tortilla.
  6. If using, crumble the queso fresco, then sprinkle a pinch or two on top of the black beans on baby’s food. Sprinkle the rest on yours.
  7. Decide how to serve the taco to baby. For younger babies, try cutting the tortilla into strips about the size of two adult fingers pressed together. For toddlers with skills in taking bites, consider folding the tortilla in half, bean sides together.
  8. Offer baby the tortilla with beans and avocado spread on it alongside the bowl with the rest of the avocado and black beans and let the child try to self-feed. If baby struggles to pick up the tortilla, pass a piece in the air for baby to grab from you. Eat your taco alongside baby to model how it’s done!

To Store: Leftover corn tortilla, cooked black beans, cut lime, and cut avocado keep in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Flavor Pairings

Tortillas pair well with avocado, jackfruit, lime, pumpkin, queso fresco, and tomato.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS. Nutritionist.

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian & Nutritionist.

K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist.

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist.

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

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  15. Kashyap, R. R., & Kashyap, R. S. (2015). Oral Allergy Syndrome: An Update for Stomatologists. Journal of allergy, 2015, 543928. DOI:10.1155/2015/543928. Retrieved February 17, 2021
  16. Kashyap, R. R., & Kashyap, R. S. (2015). Oral Allergy Syndrome: An Update for Stomatologists. Journal of allergy, 2015, 543928. DOI:10.1155/2015/543928. Retrieved February 17, 2021
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