In 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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