If you are interested in Mexican food, you may have come across the name “fajita” and “tortilla.” The way they get served is somewhat similar, but are they actually the same?
In fact, tortillas and fajitas are significantly different from each other in various aspects.
This article will provide some valuable knowledge and insights regarding the distinction between fajita vs tortilla, which can help you make better restaurant menu choices or wow your Mexican friends.
A tortilla is a thin, flat, circular unleavened flatbread made traditionally from maize hominy meal, but today also from wheat flour. The most popular variations of the tortilla are corn tortilla and wheat tortilla.
The corn tortilla is the oldest kind. Corn tortillas have been discovered throughout Mesoamerica since 500 BC. Originating in Mexico, they are now famous throughout the Americas.
Wheat tortillas have only come about since the European introduction of wheat to the American continent. Now, the wheat tortilla has become a staple in Mexican cuisine. Wheat tortillas are typically made with fats like oil or lard, salt, and leavening agents like baking powder.
Today, flour tortillas are the essential wrapping for burritos, tacos, and fajitas.
In Tex-Mex cuisine (the fusion between Mexican and southern American dishes), a fajita is any stripped grilled meat served on a flour or corn tortilla with stripped peppers and onions.
The Spanish word “faja” means the midsection/waist part of any animal (belt, sash, or even girdle). When used in Mexican cuisine, the term originally referred to a grilled beef cut, usually hanger or skirt steak, that comes from the cow’s “plate” region. Hence, the term initially referred to the cut of meat used in the dish.
Correspondingly, the meat used in this recipe is commonly skirt steak. Nonetheless, the possibilities are endless and not restricted to only skirt steak. Chicken and various cuts of beef, even vegetables in place of meat if you choose the vegetarian option, are frequently used.
Meat is often sautéed with onions and bell peppers before being topped with shredded lettuce, guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, and chopped tomato.
Fajitas are the perfect filling for tacos and tortillas. Yet, the main thing to remember is that fajita is simply a method of cooking meat.
The Difference Between Fajita And Tortilla
Origin & history
Tortillas have been known as tlaxcalli by the Aztecs and other Nahuatl people since ancient times. Tortillas are a staple of Mesoamerican cuisine, which was invented by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica long before colonization.
Meanwhile, the first culinary evidence of fajitas dates back to the 1930s on the ranchlands of South and West Texas, including the cut of beef used and the technique of cooking (directly over a campfire or on a grill).
For a long time, the dish was restricted to a specific geographical area. It wasn’t until 1969 that a meat market manager launched the first fajita taco stand, bringing this method of cooking meat to a broader audience.
Fajita and tortilla can seem similar because fajita is usually served with tortilla. Yet, if the overview above has not been clear enough, here is the crucial difference between tortilla and fajita.
Tortilla is but a thin wrapper to make tacos, enchiladas, and burritos.
Meanwhile, fajitas are grilled meats or vegetables that are typically served with grilled onions, bell peppers, guacamole, sour cream, and jalapenos. They also come with a side of wheat flour tortillas, which can be used to make tacos.
With the essential difference out of the way, let’s learn how to make both tortilla and fajita so that you can enjoy both at home.
How To Make Fajitas?
The tricky part of making fajita is getting the seasoning right. After this, you can add this seasoning to any strips of meat and cook them on a grill or a pan. Store-bought fajita seasoning is readily available. Yet, making your own allows you to customize the ingredients and amounts to your preferences.
Homemade seasoning combinations, such as chili powder and taco seasoning, which are only slightly different from fajita seasoning, are also a lot cheaper. Hence, follow our recipe below if you are looking for a foolproof way to make the fajita seasoning and the best fajita.
Things to prepare
- You will need chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder, sugar, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt for the seasoning.
- You will need the meat of your choice, bell pepper, and onions for the main dish.
- Start cooking: Follow this step-by-step guide.
- Mix the seasoning: Add them to a bowl and whisk them well together. Afterward, you can store them in a container but make sure that your container is airtight. Otherwise, you can use this mix immediately for your fajita.
- Marinate: Use this mix to marinate your meat (it can be chicken, beef, or pork). Add some lime juice and let everything sit for 30 minutes in the fridge.
- Cook: In your pan, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat and get ready to cook. Cook until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into strips.
- Saute vegetables: Add bell peppers and onion to the pan and cook until they get tender. Toss in the meat until everything is well blended. Serve with tortillas on the side.
With this simple recipe, you can enjoy fajita anytime you want. Here is the additional chicken fajita recipe if you’re going to try out the chicken variation and explore all possibilities in your kitchen:
How To Make Tortillas?
Although this item is widely available, you may want to make it yourself because homemade tortillas are always better than store-bought ones. Here is a recipe you need to make your own tortilla.
Things to prepare for 6 servings
- 2 cups of flour
- Half a teaspoon of salt
- ¾ cup of water
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Mix and knead: Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Combine the water and the oil in a mixing bowl. Knead 10-12 times on a floured surface, adding a little flour or water as needed to make a smooth dough. Allow for a 10-minute rest period.
- Roll out the batter: Divide the dough into eight equal parts. Roll each half into a 7-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.
- Cook: Cook tortillas in a greased cast-iron or other heavy skillets over medium heat until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Warm the dish before serving. Note that tortillas that are excessively thick or cooked at a low temperature may not puff up. Cook over medium heat, rolling out thin, even rounds into a 7-inch circle.
If you want a visual guide, you can watch this useful and entertaining video:
With this recipe, your tortilla will become so tender and chewy that you will never go back to store-bought tortilla again. Many recipes call for flour tortillas, such as bean and cheese quesadillas or fold-over tortilla bakes. Don’t forget about traditional tacos cooked with seasoned taco meat!
The difference between fajita vs tortilla is clear now. Remember that tortilla is a wrapping while fajita is a way of cooking meat. Hope that after reading our detailed guide, you should manage to apply our recipes for the best homemade fajita and tortilla, bring these Mexican dishes to your kitchen and enjoy them with your family.
Mariana Rouco is the editor-in-chief of Elpasony.com. She loves traveling and writing about foods and cooking in general. She has a degree from the New England Culinary Institute and enjoys Mexican, Italian, and Chinese cuisines the most.