An employee works on packaging and placing tortillas on a rack at Tortillas de Don Juan, 1924 S. Fourth Ave. on July 20, 2021.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on July 21, 2021. We're resharing the story on July 30, 2022. Initially, this story was created by #ThisIsTucson and underwritten by Visit Tucson, spotlighting Tucson's unique flavors and hot deals on cool staycations. Thank you for supporting the local organizations that support us!


Flour tortillas are synonymous with Tucson. "It’s the most iconic marker of northern Mexican or Southwestern culture — it’s how you know where you’re from," said Dr. Maribel Alvarez, an associate research professor in the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology who founded the Southwest Folklife Alliance. "In some southern, southeastern parts of Mexico, asking for flour tortillas with a taco would run you out of town. It would be sacrilege."

After moving to Tucson as a teen, the first place I really felt like I was part of the city was in the lobby of St. Mary’s Mexican Food, waiting patiently alongside what seemed to be a perfect cross section of the city to get our daily bread. (My order is the cheese enchilada combo with a birria taco — I take the meat out of the corn shell and put it in the sauce.)

Whenever I have lived elsewhere, my parents have shipped tortillas out from Tucson in care packages. I’m not alone — this is a robust tradition for many who have spent time away.

“There are legendary stories of Northern Mexicans going to New York or London or Canada for opportunities, for university, and their parents sending them flour tortillas in the mail, because there’s such an attachment to the flavor,” said Alvarez.

Flour tortillas cool on a conveyor belt at Tortillas de Don Juan, 1924 S. Fourth Ave. on July 20, 2021.

“Flour tortillas are unique to Tucson because they are unique to Sonora, in a relationship that supersedes the border,” she said. When Spanish colonizers came to the region 500 years ago, they introduced wheat to Indigenous groups, who at the time had lacked a winter crop. The Sonoran wheat had an unusually high elasticity in its protein, making a perfectly stretchy tortilla.

“[Sonorense, Tucsonense] call it a burro because it’s an object of cargo. You would put on a donkey lots of things you need to transport. A burro, a burrito, becomes a sort of holding, where you can pile up a real hearty meal,” Alvarez said.

Although the heritage Sonoran wheat fell out of favor with the industrialization of agriculture, home cooks and tortillerías across Tucson have been maintaining a special texture in their dough that mimics the Sonoran wheat’s unmatched stretchiness.

“When Tucson Meet Yourself started in the '70s, it was a novelty to have a home cook demonstrating how she made a tortilla. It’s about the feel of the dough — she’d touch it and say, it needs a little more water,” Alvarez said. “You could Google any recipe, but ultimately it’s more of an art than a science.”

While Tucsonans love La Estrella Bakery and Alejandro’s Tortilla Factory tortillas, I wanted to experience the fullest range of tortillerías de harina across town. I was especially delighted by Mendez Bakery’s tender layers, which recall the richness of laminated pastry dough, and the sturdiness of Tortillería de Don Juan’s tortillas, which can contain the prodigious juices of their marinated bistec de ranchera.

Toward the end of our interview, Alvarez remarked: “We haven’t spoken enough about how delicious flour tortillas are.” She paused, a smile ringing in her tone. “Especially with butter.”

Tortillerías in Tucson, in alphabetical order 

Note: Prices for a dozen tortillas occurred in a tight range. Small tortillas typically cost between $1.50 and $3; medium tortillas cost $2 to $4; large tortillas $3 to $5.

Alejandro’s Tortilla Factory

Location: 5330 S. 12th Ave.

For more information, visit their website.

Anita Street Market

Location: 849 N. Anita Ave.

Specialties: Their red chile burrito is famous. Their breakfast burrito was former #ThisIsTucson food writer Andi Berlin's pick for best in Tucson. During a vegetarian kick, I once ordered their calabacitas burrito when everyone else went with meat filling. Please don't repeat my mistake.

For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Tortillas Bryan

Location: 2013 S. Fourth Ave.

For more information, visit their Instagram page.

A customer gets in their car after shopping at Tortillas de Don Juan, 1924 S. Fourth Ave. on July 20, 2021.

Tortillería Don Juan

Location: 1924 S. Fourth Ave.

Specialties: Don Juan's serves hand–sized burritos in Ziploc sandwich bags. Two will be of a meat of your choice (choose the bistec de ranchera, or whatever is coming hot off the grill). The third is a simple, palate-cleansing bean burrito. Their full-size burros are made with the same component parts, but offer much more meat at a larger price tag.

For more information, visit their Facebook page.

An employee flattens tortillas at Tortillas de Don Juan, 1924 S. Fourth Ave. on July 20, 2021.

Tortillería Doña Esperanza

Location: 2432 S. Fourth Ave.

Specialties: Doña Esperanza's offers cookie-like hand pies, filled with funky, sweet cajeta, if you're looking for a sweet bite.

For more information, visit their website.

La Estrella Bakery

Locations: 5266 S. 12th Ave. and 120 S. Avenida del Convento

Specialties: La Estrella's tortillas are good. Their donuts, however, are singular. Pair with a cochata from Seis Kitchen at MSA for a perfect afternoon treat.

For more information, visit their website.

The mural above the front door of Tortillas de Harinas Linda at 2115 S. Third Ave.

Tortillas de Harina Linda

Location: 2115 S. Third Ave.

For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Jalisco Restaurante

Location: 425 W. Irvington Road

Good to know: Because Jalisco is a restaurant foremost, they charge per tortilla.

For more information, visit their Facebook page.

La Mesa Tortillas

Location: 3684 W. Orange Grove Road; 7823 E. Broadway; 3923 E. Pima St.

Specialties: La Mesa serves red chile and green chile burritos and tamales as well as tortillas.

For more information, visit their website.

Mendez Bakery at 1219 S. Sixth Ave. on July 20, 2021.

Mendez Bakery

Location: 1219 S. Sixth Ave.

Specialties: In addition to their practically laminated tortillas, Mendez Bakery makes delicious pan dulce. Try the ones with fruit filling — my favorite is a dry shell with sticky pineapple-citrus goo in the middle. The moisture from the filling brings the crust to life. Better than pie. Bonus: This bakery is the former home of the original iconic LeCaves Bakery.

For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Corn tortillas and flour tortillas rest on a case with bakery items at Mendez Bakery, 1219 S. Sixth Ave. on July 20, 2021.

Mi Casita Tortilla

Location: 4439 S. Sixth Ave.

For more information, visit their Yelp page.

La Palma Tortilla Factory

Location: 3624 N. Oracle Road

For more information, visit their Facebook page.

The Quesadillas

Location: 2418 N. Craycroft Road

Specialties: With a name like The Quesadillas, their specialty may be self–evident. Try the mesquite-grilled carne asada.

For more information, visit their website.

St. Mary’s Mexican Food

Location: 1030 W. St. Marys Road

Specialties: Don't bother with anything that isn't made with their house tortilla, which must be made with lard from heaven. It has an extra punch of flavor I miss everywhere else. Like many St. Mary's devotees, I think my order is what's best: the cheese enchilada combo with sides of rice and beans. Mix everything in the sauce. Add the birria from their taco. Toss the shell; sip on your horchata. Life is good in Tucson.

For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Tania’s 33

Location: 614 N. Grande Ave.

Specialties: My vegetarian boyfriend swears by their cauliflower burrito. The cauliflower filling has mysteriously run out every time I've attempted to try it. What a coincidence!

For more information, visit their website.

Tania’s Flour Tortillas

Location: 2856 W. Drexel Road and 15980 S. Rancho Sahuarita Blvd.

For more information, visit their website.

Tortilla Factory

Location: 1755 W. Ajo Way

For more information, visit their Yelp page.

El Triunfo Bakery

Location: 6348 S. Nogales Hwy.

For more information, visit their Yelp page.


Tucson's unique flavors 

Find all the unique flavors of Tucson plus staycation deals, discounts on local attractions, things to do and local events, only at VisitTucson.org.


#ThisIsTucson is member-supported. Your contribution helps our team bring you stories that keep you connected to the community. Become a member today.