The torta and the cemita seem to be the most appealing option for anyone who craves Mexican sandwiches. With the complex layering of textures and flavors, these two versatile, take-out-friendly dishes have earned a significant spot in the Mexican sandwich category over the years.
However, although they resemble the shape of a sandwich, they differ in some aspects, including origins, the use of bread, and ingredients.
This article will clarify the differences between these two dishes so you won’t be baffled when choosing between them!
Tortas (traditional Mexican sandwiches)
- Origin: possibly during the French occupation of Mexico
- Bread: bolillo and telera
- Ingredients: various options
- Origin: Puebla, Mexico
- Bread: sesame seed buns
- Ingredients: chipotle peppers and the papalo herb
What are the torta and the cemita?
A torta is a traditional Mexican sandwich filled with meat, sauce, and a wide range of toppings, such as avocado, onion, lettuce, and tomatoes. It tastes similar to a taco, but its fillings add an exciting twist for anyone wanting to experience a refreshing Mexican flavor.
On the other hand, the cemita is a kind of torta — it’s known as Puebla’s version of a torta sandwich. It is a round, crusty bread roll topped with sesame seeds and layered inside with cutlets of meat and various toppings. Some typical ingredients include avocado slices, tomatoes, chipotle peppers, and the papalo herb.
Although both of these famous Mexican sandwiches are versatile and satisfying, they have some differences that make them unique.
How does the torta differ from the cemita?
Overall, there are 3 main factors to tell the torta and the cemita apart.
The torta has a pretty confusing history with many variations. Some report its origins are rooted in the French intervention in Mexico in the 1860s. At that time, some Mexican bakers took inspiration from the French baguette and created smaller loaves called bolillo and telera. Various toppings were then added to take the distinct flavors further.
The exact arrival of the torta is still shrouded in mystery, but by the mid-twentieth century, it had become an indispensable part of Mexican cuisine.
Meanwhile, the cemita’s origin is somewhat more apparent. Notably, it originated from Puebla, Mexico. It is also known as cemita poblana, which refers to the city of Puebla. Hence, it is beloved by its hometown of Puebla due to its unique regional flavor.
The most noticeable feature that differentiates the torta from the cemita is the bread.
The former is very versatile in bread options, depending on the region; however, bolillo and telera are the two most go-to choices.
The bolillo is a crusty bun with a soft interior. It is similar to a shorter baguette with an oval shape. Meanwhile, the telera has a slightly larger, flattened, round shape with two cuts dividing it into three parts. It is usually soft on the outside and dense in the middle.
On the other hand, the cemita makes use of a slightly sweet, sesame seed bun. Like a French brioche bun, the cemita is tender yet has enough texture to hold your favorite fillings.
Although torta and cemita utilize similar ingredients such as peppers, sliced avocado, tomato, onion, shredded cheese, and mayonnaise, they taste different due to a range of fantastic meats and toppings.
The torta tends to have more freedom when it comes to ingredients due to its several variations. It is usually prepared with a base of refried beans, pickled jalapeños, creamy avocado, and onion.
The options for the meat filler are delightfully varied — roast beef, ham, turkey, beef Milanese (breaded meat fillet), and chicken. Additionally, other Western versions of torta can vary from smoked salmon to ham to satisfy various palates.
It is noteworthy that although any fillings for tortas can be used for cemita, the significant differences between these two dishes are chipotle peppers and the papalo herb. Chipotle peppers refer to dried, smoked red jalapeño peppers, which offer a smoky, sweet, and spicy flavor.
Papalo is a unique herb in Mexico with a vibrant and robust taste. Hence, the combination of these ingredients creates a fantastic regional cemita.
How many types of torta are there?
Although several variations of the torta exist, some iconic tortas are ahogada, cemita, torta Cubana, torta de tamal, cochinita pibil, torta de la barda, tortas hamburguesas, and guacamaya. They’re typically identified by their fillings or unique associations with a particular city or region.
What are the different meanings of torta?
It may come as a surprise that the word torta can imply different things in various regions, including Latin America and elsewhere.
Specifically, the term not only refers to a Mexican sandwich, but it can also be used to describe cakes, pies, or flatbreads. Furthermore, in Spain or the Philippines, torta even denotes an egg fritter or an omelet.
Can you easily find cemitas and tortas in any major city in Mexico?
Yes, you can.
How many calories does a cemita have?
Depending on the fillings, the nutrition facts can vary. Simply put, each cemita contains up to 900 calories, 37 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 65 grams of protein, which means you’ll need 2 hours of cycling or 1.4 hours of running to burn off all these calories. I dare say it’s worth it!