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Ask the Rabbi: Are Tortillas Kosher for Passover?

By March 9, 2010

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TortillasIn this "Ask the Rabbi" post, Orthodox Rabbi Ari Enkin answers a question about whether tortillas are kosher for Passover (Pesach). Please feel free to respectfully share your thoughts in the comments section.

Q. Dear Rabbi Enkin - My boyfriend and me are having a debate about Passover food that we're hoping you can resolve for us. It has to do with what is kosher, specifically: are corn or flour tortillas kosher for Passover? I know that traditionally they are not because they are not matzah, which is made in a specific way under the supervision of a rabbi. But if the key is that matzah is unleavened bread which the Israelites made quickly before leaving Egypt, why don't tortillas fit the bill?  Especially in the case of flour tortillas, they are essentially flour and water that is quickly baked and does not rise - same as matzah. Besides, the Israelites didn't have time to inspect the matzah before fleeing Egypt - I don't even think there were rabbis at that point right? So please explain to us rabbi. Are tortillas kosher for passover and if not, why not?

A. First of all, one can never judge food products by the ingredients alone. All food must have a hechsher - kosher supervision. This is especially true on Pesach. A company is not even required to declare all the ingredients on their label.

The issue with corn tortillas on Pesach is that of "Kitniot". Kitniot is a category of food which is not technically chametz, though Ashkenazi custom is to not to eat such products. This is because kitniot products either look like chametz or are used in the same manner as chametz. Due to the fear that kitniot might become confused with actual chametz, Ashkenazi rabbis decided to ban kitniot several hundred yers ago.

Therefore, if you are Ashkenazi, you would not be permitted to eat corn tortillas (or corn flour, or rice, or beans, etc) even if you would be able to find such a product with a kosher-for-passover label. Sefardic Jews never accepted upon themselves the ban on kitniot and as such, they are permitted to eat such products during Pesach.

Nevertheless, to my knowledge, there does not exist kosher-for-passover corn tortillas of any form, so the question is only academic. The same holds true for flour tortillas.

I hope this helps!
Rabbi Ari Enkin

The reader who submitted this question also had a follow up query, as to whether flour tortillas could be consider kosher for Passover if they were made from scratch at home. Rabbi Enkin's answer is below:

Any combination of flour and water can be deemed matza if the entire process from the mixing of the flour and water until it is placed in the oven is no more than 18 minutes. Call it matza, tortillas, or bagels --- it's matza. But for reasons beyond the scope of this posting - it really is not possible, at least not practical, to make these tortillas on Pesach.

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March 15, 2010 at 2:01 pm
(1) Cindy says:

Someone REALLY likes tortillas!

March 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm
(2) Molly Schwartz says:

I believe this is a valid question and I have often thought, “Why not flour tortillas?” I make them from scratch and I do them under 10 minutes. I would like to know why it is not ‘possible or practical’ to do so on Passover?

March 19, 2010 at 4:24 am
(3) judaism says:

Molly – My impression from Rabbi Enkin’s answer is that if you are able to make flour tortillas quickly then you can eat them during Passover. I’m not sure why he said it would be impractical to make them during Pesach.

March 15, 2010 at 9:28 pm
(4) Sue says:

Similary, since many people suffer from Celiac disease, an inherited, autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten and other proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats – should they skip the matzvah during the seder or is there an appropriate subsitute? – and what would that be for ashkenazi tradition and separately for sefardic?

March 16, 2010 at 5:55 am
(5) Seamus MacNemi says:

Are tortillas Kosher for Pessach? Generally NO because very often Chametz is mixed in with the flower rendering the tortillas unfit. If pure corn flower tortillas could be found I believe they could be acceptable in some instances. However one must be careful because often these same tortillas are made in a place where they are also making Chametz and there could be a danger of mixing. If the tortillas could be determined to be Rabbinicly Kosher then I believe they could probably pass but to date I know of no such facility.

August 3, 2010 at 1:40 am
(6) Jenny says:

Corn tortillas are the ones made of out of simply corn and water and don’t rise.

If done correctly in the typical Mexican fashion flour tortillas do rise when you cook them because baking powder etc are added and when they rise you know they are cooked inside. That’s what I’ve seen from 22 years of seeing my Mother make them from scratch AND it takes her approximately 1 hour to make 20.

April 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm
(7) ariel elisha says:

The Sefardic-Ashkenazi issue doesn’t have bearing here.

Knowing a bit about tortillas, they take a minute or two to cook on a pan.

the actual law is that from the moment water touches the flour, you have less than 18 minutes to take them out of the oven. they must be cooked completely so that no part off them is uncooked, left to soak up water more than 18 minutes.

Tortillas are fried, not baked. the baking ensures the matzot are singed, super heated and totally cooked.

Flour used for Matzot is called “SHMURAH.” it is SHOMER/GUARDED from touching water from the moment it is harvested until it arrives, ground, ready for action to make matzot.

I would like to hear a halachic responsa to this question:IF YOU:

take kosher flour in a kosher kitchen
make the batter fast using a machine that quarantines the water from the flour, so the instant they touch they are almost totally mixed,
fry the tortilla on each side hot, one min per side
toss it in the oven to assure they are totally cooked…

if this is all done in less than 18 minutes, is it kosher lepesach, with regular flour.

the kitniyot corn tortillas, are they kosher for sefardim?
he says ‘some sefardim’ but to my knowledge all sefardim eat kitniyot.

April 12, 2012 at 12:04 pm
(8) JJ says:

Where does the 18 minutes come from?

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