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.
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.
Maya, 6 months, eats a corn tortilla with mashed tepary bean.
Juliet Rose, 12 months, eats a corn tortilla.
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. Blue corn tortillas contain extra antioxidants, particularly the anthocyanins that give the tortilla its blue hue. 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.
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. 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.
Bottom line: both corn and wheat tortillas are great foods, so choose the type that fits the child’s development, circumstances, and culture.
If your child has developed mature eating skills (taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, not stuffing food in their mouth, and spitting out food when it is not well chewed) they may be ready to learn how to eat whole tortilla chips (as well as other crunchy chips and crackers). For some children, this could be as young as 18 months, but others closer to age 2 or 3. When you see these signs of readiness, start by modelling. Explain to your child: "I am going to eat this chip. It's a tough one, and I need to crunch it up with my strong side teeth." Take a small bite and exaggerate chewing it. Bring attention to the crunching sounds and show your child how it is chewed up before you swallow it. Then give your child a small piece to practice with (big enough that they can hold it and bite a piece off).
Tortilla chips are considered a choking hazard until 4 years of age. Although we have not been able to identify any data to support this, we assume it is due to the sharp edges of the tortilla chip and the fact that they are slightly more challenging to chew than other foods. Swallowing part of an unchewed tortilla chip can certainly be uncomfortable, but is most likely not harmful for the pharynx and esophagus. It is also not a high risk for choking (blocking the airway), as it is not small, round, or slippery.
That said, a child being mobile and unsupervised while eating significantly increases choking risk with all foods, and tortilla chips are a common snack item at parties, where children are often on the move. It can be easy for a toddler to grab a chip from a bowl without being noticed by a caregiver. This is why it is important to practice eating chips and crackers with children when they are seated and supervised.
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.
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.
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. Fortunately, two-thirds of children outgrow the allergy by their 12th birthday. 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. 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.
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. A gluten “allergy” is typically a misnomer, often in reference to celiac disease.
Corn tortillas are made from corn, which is not a common allergen, although reactions to corn are not unheard of. However, corn and corn products have been identified as a trigger of food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, also known as FPIES. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
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).
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.
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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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.
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.
Rinse the black beans to remove excess sodium, then lightly mash them. A little texture is okay.
Mix the juice of half the lime into the mashed beans. Store the other half for another use.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Registered dietitian and public health/clinical nutritionist
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