Ham and cheese pinwheels or Mexican tortilla roll-ups are the ultimate appetizer to serve at your next family gathering, formal dinner party or game day. These pinwheel sandwiches are made with cream cheese, ham and arugula lettuce wrapped in a flour tortilla and cut into delicious bite-sized pieces. Great to make ahead and refrigerate until your guests are about to arrive.

staple of ham and cheese pinwheel roll-ups with tortilla and a candle in the background

tortilla pinwheel sandwiches

Tortilla pinwheel sandwiches or tortilla roll-ups are super versatile bite-sized appetizers that are unbelievably easy and simple to make. Using flour tortilla instead of pastry makes these roll up sandwiches a great and easy alternative to any pastry roll-ups which you still need to bake. This tortilla pinwheel recipe comes together in no time, just combine the right ingredients for the best flavor combination, roll up, refrigerate, cut and serve.

As they are so easy to make, delicious to eat, good looking on the buffet and you can combine different flavors and ingredients, they will surely be a hit for everyone at your next dinner, family or Christmas party. In the end, everyone loves bite-sized fingerfood. And the best about these ham and cheese pinwheels is that you can customize according to your taste.

tortilla pinwheel roll-ups with ham and cream cheese on a long white plate

Pinwheel sandwich ingredients

  • Flour tortillas: Large flour tortillas work best for this recipe. Using 8-10 inch (or 20-25cm) tortillas are easier to fill and roll than smaller ones. Use a good quality thick flour tortilla otherwise they will get soggy if making it ahead.
  • Cream cheese: Use either plain cream cheese or cream cheese with garlic and herbs for extra taste. Set the cream cheese out to soften it up, making it easier to spread. Use either full fat, low-fat or fat-free cream cheese.
  • Ham: This recipe calls for Italian prosciutto, Spanish Serrano or deli-style ham. Or use any good quality thin-sliced ham you like.
  • Arugula: A handful of arugula or rocket lettuce leaves for a tangy and peppery taste to balance with the salty ham and creamy cheese flavor.
  • Seasoning: Salt and pepper to taste. Dried basil, oregano or parsley can also be added for extra flavor.
close up of pinwheel sandwiches with ham and cheese pinwheels with arugula and 2 burning candles in the back

Ingredient substitutions

  • Tortillas: Instead of flour tortillas, you can vary with whole grain, gluten free (with chickpea flour) or vegetable tortillas like tortillas made with spinach or carrots. Or make a real pinwheel sandwich by using flattened sandwich bread.
  • Ham: Substitute the ham with thinly sliced turkey, chicken or roast beef.
  • Arugula: Any lettuce leaves or baby spinach will work in this pinwheel recipe as an alternative.
  • Seasoning: Spice things up with various seasonings by adding dried Italian herbs like basil, oregano or parsley. Or use a packet of ranch seasoning mix to the cream cheese for a lovely savory flavor.

How to make pinwheels – step by step

This pinwheel sandwich recipe comes together really fast. No chopping, no baking, no cooking. Just gather the ingredients, layer and roll. Here are the steps to follow to make the best ham and cheese pinwheel sandwiches.

step by step explanation how to make ham and cream cheese pinwheels from mexican tortilla
  • Spread the cheese: Make sure the cream cheese is softened before using by taking it out of the fridge a bit beforehand. Spread a layer of cream cheese over the whole tortilla. Don’t spread too thin or you won’t taste it, but also not too thick as it will ooze out of the edges. This is a problem if your guests are not eating over a plate or serviette.
  • Layer the ham: Place the prosciutto ham on top of the cream cheese covering the whole tortilla. Use thinly sliced ham as it will make the rolling easier.
  • Add the arugula: Divide the arugula or rocket lettuce leaves over one half of the tortilla.
  • Roll the pinwheels: Start rolling the wrap at the side where the lettuce leaves are. Roll up tightly and firm.
  • Wrap and refrigerate: Wrap the rolled tortilla firmly with plastic wrap, close the edges and place in the fridge.
  • Cut and serve: Take the wraps out of the fridge just before serving. Undo and remove the plastic wrap and use a sharp knife to cut off a small portion on each end where there is no filling and discard it (or eat it yourself). Then slice the rest into 1-inch (or 2.5 cm) thick pieces.

Useful tips and tricks

Do I need to refrigerate the tortilla pinwheels?

You don’t have to, but refrigerating them will allow the cream cheese to set again while also making the rolls more firm for easier cutting in slices and serving.


Can I make these ham pinwheels with cream cheese in advance?

Yes you can. In fact, they are perfectly designed to make ahead of time, so when your guests arrive all you need to do is slice and serve. After rolling, make sure to wrap them in plastic to keep fresh and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.


Will these pinwheels go soggy when making them in advance?

No, as long as you’re using the right quality of tortilla, but also for this particular recipe you are not using wet ingredients. However, if you use tomatoes, then yes, they may go soggy.

plate with mexican tortilla roll-ups or ham and cheese pinwheels with rucola or arugula lettuce

How to store

Make sure to wrap them in plastic before refrigerating for up to 2 days. Keep in mind that eating them the same day as when they are made they will taste that much more fresh. So you can prepare the rolls in the morning and use them in the evening.

I would not freeze these pinwheels as the arugula doesn’t freeze well. You could omit the lettuce leaves but as they are so easy to make I would just freeze the flour tortillas and make the pinwheels as you need them.

How to serve tortilla pinwheels

These cream cheese pinwheels with ham are a great appetizer to serve at a regular dinner party or any festive occasion like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year or a birthday celebration. They are also great just as a snack during game day, for a picnic or when going camping.

Serve them with other finger food appetizers like, marinated mozzarella balls, fig and ricotta tartlets, crispy chickpeas, feta stuffed Padrón peppers or Spanish chorizo in red wine.

Don’t forget to serve it with dips like:

close up of pinwheel sandwiches with ham and cheese pinwheels with arugula and 2 burning candles in the back
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5 from 20 votes

Ham and cheese pinwheels (tortilla roll-ups)

Ham and cheese pinwheels or Mexican tortilla roll-ups are the ultimate appetizer to serve at your next family gathering, formal dinner party or game day. These pinwheel sandwiches are made with cream cheese, ham and arugula lettuce wrapped in a flour tortilla and cut into delicious bite-sized pieces. Great to make ahead and refrigerate until your guests are about to arrive.
Prep Time10 minutes
Refrigerate1 hour
Total Time10 minutes
Course: Appetizers
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: Sabine

Ingredients

  • 2 large flour tortillas
  • 3 ounces (85 grams) cream cheese softened
  • 8 slices prosciutto ham thin slices
  • 1 cup (20 grams) arugula or rocket leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Spread the cream cheese over the tortillas, making sure the whole tortilla is evenly covered.
  • Place the slices of ham on top of the cream cheese, covering the whole tortilla. On top of the ham divide the arugula leaves, but only over 1 half of the tortilla. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Roll up the tortilla very tight, but carefully, starting with the side where the arugula is. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Repeat for the other tortillas.
  • To serve, undo the plastic, trim off both edges and slice each tortilla into about 1-inch thick pieces (2.5 cm).

Notes

  • Store: Make these pinwheels ahead and store in the fridge from 1 hour up to 2 days. Wrap them in plastic before refrigerating. Freezing them is not a good idea.
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