Roti vs Tortilla - Flatbread Wars

Roti vs Tortilla - Flatbread Wars

When we talk about flatbreads, we think about earthy accompaniments to various dishes. They may function as the base or as the main carbohydrate of your meal, but with them, food often seems complete.

Today, on bread wars, let’s talk about two flatbreads that are staples to some cuisines. On corner one, we have the roti from Southeast Asia. On the other hand, we have a worthy contender, the tortilla from Central America.

On the face of it, they both are unleavened flatbreads that are an integral part of most meals in the associated culture. However, the main difference between roti and tortilla is that roti comes from India, with possible origins in Persia or East Africa, and tortilla originated in Mesoamerica right from the time of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations and is an essential part of Mexican of Mexican cuisine. These different cultural and historical origins play a huge role in diversifying the two very similar breads.


In this article, we will be talking about chapati and phulkas, or whole wheat rotis, in comparison with corn and wheat tortillas, as it is the most common form of roti found in India.

What is a Roti?

Roti in a wooden basket

A roti is a round, unleavened flatbread that is an essential part of Indian and South-Asian cooking. Rotis come in a variety of shapes and forms, and depending on their ingredients, preparation methods, place of origin, etc., they can be classified into a number of different breads, all united under the umbrella term that is ‘roti.’ Rotis can be paired with many curries, gravies, dry vegetable preparations, chutneys, pickles, etc.

Rotis can be of various types and are often made with different flours like bajra roti, jawar roti, ragi roti, makki roti (made from maize flour), akki roti (made from rice flour), etc. Rotis also vary depending on their method of preparation and whether or not they have stuffing inside them, like in the case of naans, parathas, tandoori rotis, etc.

The most typical type of roti is the whole-wheat flour roti, also known as chapati or phulka – these are most commonly found in all Indian households. They are made from whole-wheat ground flour, also known as atta, salt, and water.

For more detailed information about roti, check out our blog - What is Roti?

What is a Tortilla?

Tortilla in a plate with rice and paneer in a bowl

A tortilla is an unleavened flatbread that is a staple in Mexican and Central American cuisines. It is usually made either from corn or from refined wheat flour. Just like the phulka or chapati, which are more commonly found in Indian cuisine, corn tortillas, and flour-based tortillas are used in Mexico and North America. Tortillas are used as a base for various famous Mexican delicacies like fajitas, tacos, quesadillas, etc.

Corn tortillas can be made of ground-up corn that is dried into round disks. They can be either made by roasting or frying on a hot pan or griddle. Corn tortillas impart a sweet, nutty texture to their accompaniments and have been used historically by ancient civilizations like the Mayans or the Aztecs.

Flour tortillas were a result of a lack of corn in some regions of Northern Mexico and have taken the world by storm, starting from American and modern-day Mexican cuisine. They are more commonly used in dishes like burritos, quesadillas, etc. Flour tortillas are made up of refined wheat flour, lard or vegetable oil, water, and salt. They are larger and thinner, hence easier to use in wraps.

To know more about flour tortillas, check out our blog - How to Make Flour Tortillas?

What is the Difference Between Roti/Chapati and Tortillas?

  1. Dough Preparation

    Roti: Traditionally, chapati or phulka is made using whole-wheat flour (atta), water, and a bit of salt. It is high in fiber and nutrients as the bran and wheat germ are present in the atta. Water is slowly added to the flour mixture and kneaded thoroughly to form a soft dough, which is then laid to rest for some time. Following this, the dough is portioned into small dough balls, which are rolled out into disks and roasted and cooked.

    Tortillas: Corn tortillas are made from masa harina, a type of corn flour. The process of making corn tortillas involves nixtamalization, in which dried corn is soaked and cooked in a solution such as lime water. This process enhances the flavor and also improves the nutritional value. Wheat tortillas are made from wheat flour, water, and a bit of fat, such as vegetable oil or lard. They have a soft texture and are easy to work with. They are widely used in Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Southwestern American cuisines.

  2. Cooking Process

    Roti: Roti is usually cooked on top of a flat tawa or griddle till golden-brown spots appear. If you are making chapatis, then some amount of oil or ghee is added to make them soft. In the case of phulka, no oil is added, and it's roasted on a tawa, and then right on a direct flame to get the phulkas to puff up with air. To know more about this process, you can always check out our blog on How to Make Perfect Rotis.

    Tortillas: Corn tortillas are traditionally cooked on a flat griddle known as a comal to get a smoky flavor. Flour tortillas, on the other hand, are mostly cooked on a griddle or skillet with fat, which gives them a golden-brown color and toasted appearance. To know more about this, you can check out our blog, How to Make Flour Tortilla.

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  3. Texture & Taste

    Roti/Chapati: Chapatis have a soft, slightly chewy texture with the right amount of bite. They taste warm and earthy, with a slight hint of nuttiness from the whole wheat flour. If cooked in a tandoor, a roti gets a hint of char and smokiness. Phulkas, on the other hand, are soft and thin and have a slightly smoky, roasted aroma. Rotis, made with other kinds of flour, like all-purpose flour, can have different tastes and textures. An example is how naan, a flatbread made from all-purpose flour with different ingredients such as dairy, fat, etc., has a unique flavor profile because it is cooked in a tandoor. To know more about this, you can even check out Roti vs. Naan – What Sets Them Apart?

    Tortillas: Corn tortillas taste slightly sweet and smoky, due to the constituent corn flour, and the fact that tortillas are roasted and cooked on a griddle. They are also thicker, smaller in size, and chewier. Flour tortillas, on the other hand, are thinner and larger and don’t have any particular taste but are characteristic of their softness and can be slightly crispy and toasted when fried in a skillet. You can always add spices and other flavoring agents to flour tortillas to give them a specific color or taste.

  4. Cuisines & Culinary Uses

    Roti: Rotis can be served as an accompaniment to various curries, lentil dishes or dals, dry vegetable dishes, chutneys, pickles, as snacks, etc. Rotis, in the larger sense of the umbrella term, are used all over South-Asian cooking. It’s usually a side dish served with entrée and can be utilized to scoop up meat or dunked into gravies. They can be used as a wrap as well, like in kathi rolls, frankies, etc. Chapatis and phulkas serve as carriers for food in the Indian Subcontinent, in particular. In South-Asian cultures, it is often customary to eat with your hands, and rotis essentially fill the gap of a spoon, so to speak.

    Tortillas: Tortillas can be served as a side with various Mexican dishes, like tostadas, etc. They can also be served as a wrap or a base in various rolls or tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos, etc. Tortillas act as a container or can be blanketed for various dishes, as the meat, vegetables, lentils, condiments, etc., are usually stuffed inside a tortilla. Corn tortillas are typically used in dishes like tacos due to them being smaller in size, and they pair well with fish, seafood, salads, etc. Flour tortillas, due to their larger and thinner nature, are more commonly found in burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, etc. Flour tortillas are also cut up and fried to create the famous tortilla chips.

Roti vs Tortilla – An Overview




Flour Tortilla

Corn Tortilla


120 kcal

It’s higher in calories due to whole wheat flour and use of oil/ghee during cooking.

55 kcal

Its calorie count is lower than chapati because of smaller portion size and dry roasting with no use of oil/ghee.

50 kcal

It’s lower in calories because it is gluten-free.

90 kcal

It’s slightly lower in calories as compared to rotis due to whole-wheat flour not being used.

Fiber Content

3g (high in fiber)

1.9g (high in fiber)

2g (high in fiber)

1g (low in fiber)


Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin (aids in energy production and maintaining the nervous system)

phosphorus, selenium (aids in maintaining bone health and immune system)

Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, selenium

Iron (aids in oxygen transport in the body), magnesium

Magnesium, iron, calcium (helps in maintaining bone health)

Gluten Content

Contains gluten

Contains gluten

Doesn’t contain gluten

Contains gluten


Nutty, earthy

Slightly smoky, nutty, earthy

Largely flavorless unless external spices are added

Slightly sweet, smoky

Can You Substitute a Roti for a Tortilla?

Yes, you can! Rotis can be thicker than tortillas, but they would function just as well as a side accompaniment to meat, beans, etc. Given that there isn’t any major difference between flour tortillas and rotis, rotis can function as an excellent replacement. It all depends on your diet and taste preferences.

Which is Healthier: Roti or Tortilla?

While one portion of chapatis may be higher in calories and almost double the number of carbohydrates, they also have a higher percentage of protein and iron. A roti is considered to be very healthy as a part of a meal, as the whole wheat content leads to a higher concentration of vitamins and nutrients. However, one has to note that if you are trying weight management, which involves counting calorie or carbohydrate intake, there may be better options than chapatis. You can always try phulkas, which are lower in calories and have a low glycemic index (GI) but have the same ingredients and nutritional composition of a chapati, minus the fat.

Corn tortillas are an excellent gluten-free option that ranks low on the GI, making them an ideal accompaniment for people with diabetes. Flour tortillas may not be ideal as they contain fat and refined flour, which makes them less healthy than phulkas. Hence, both options are equally healthy and beneficial for your body, and you can consume the one that is ideal for your body’s needs.

Drum Roll Please…

All in all, both the rotis and the tortilla are staples of cuisines with deep cultural roots. Their significance in their respective regions may have been caused due to the easy access to the raw ingredients. Still, since their integration, they have shaped the cuisines and customs in such a way that a life without rotis or tortillas seems unimaginable.

For each culture, there are some recipes and food items that are deeply rooted in the traditions and ancestry of those regions. That being said, who’d have thought that in two separate corners of the world, in civilizations equally as ancient, something as simple as an unleavened flatbread would give these ancestors more in common than you would think?

The question remains: What is the difference between rotis and tortillas? If we have learned anything from the facts stated today, it is that they are more similar than they are different. Rather than being polar opposites, they are more like distant cousins that are often interchangeable!