Making Tortillas

Listen up, people. We’ve got some serious business to discuss. Very serious.

Today we’re talking about the art (and science) of homemade tortillas.

You see what I mean now, don’t you? This is pressing stuff (no more gross puns – I promise).

If you’ve ever had a warm, freshly made tortilla, you know how it can absolutely elevate a meal. If you haven’t, please take my word for it that it is well worth the manageable amount of effort to prepare your own.

Following are tips, techniques, and recipes for corn and flour tortillas. Let’s get down to business.

While both corn and flour tortillas are an amazing, simply prepared addition to any meal, my preference is absolutely corn over flour, which is why this post will focus mostly on the former.

Don’t fret if you’re a flour tortilla fan, though, as I have included a recipe and instructions for those at the end of this post as well.

Corn tortillas are made from masa harina, a cornmeal flour that is specially prepared by treating dried corn with slaked lime, which softens the corn. It is important to note that this treatment process is critical to the development of masa harina – simple cornmeal cannot be substituted.

Maseca is the brand of masa harina that I find most commonly in the baking goods section of my market.

With the simple addition of water to masa harina, a dough or masa is formed.

It’s really that simple.

The rest of your work will be dedicated to shaping, pressing and griddling your tortillas.

For the pressing part, I use a simple, metal tortilla press that I purchased from a nationally known kitchen supply store. A rolling pin will work just a nicely.

It is important to note that you will save yourself a lot, a lot, a lot of heartbreak and broken tortillas by lining the top and bottom of your press or pin with plastic wrap, parchment paper or baggies. Especially when working with the stickier dough for flour tortillas, any time saved by skipping this step is just not worth it.

See that? A perfect corn tortilla. And we’re almost done!

Now, as you begin pressing your tortillas, is an excellent time to begin warming your comal or griddle.

Once your cooking surface is hot, throw your first tortilla on and get ready for the goodness. I will tell you that the unique aroma of the corn masa and the cooking corn tortillas are just some of the reasons that I so prefer corn tortillas.

This is a stack of freshly griddled corn tortillas – the photograph at the top of the post shows a combination of flour and corn. Can you tell the difference?

I find that flour tortillas tend to be slightly thicker and just a bit paler in color.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind when preparing your homemade tortillas:

  • When preparing corn tortillas, always keep any unused masa covered with a damp cloth so that it doesn’t dry out and become unworkable.
  • Do not substitute butter or oil for shortening when preparing flour tortillas. Only lard will work as an alternative to vegetable shortening.
  • Always line your press or pin when preparing either corn or flour tortillas.
  • Never use any oil when cooking your tortillas – they should be dry-cooked on a hot comal or griddle.

That’s it. Now go get your tortilla on. And enjoy.

Corn Tortillas

2 c. masa harina
1 3/4 c. warm water

Place masa harina in a large bowl and slowly pour in warm water. Stir the mixture with a fork for several seconds and then switch to your hands as the dough begins to come together into a ball. Knead the solid, uniform dough several times and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

After the resting period, heat your comal or griddle over medium high heat.

Pinch off 8-10 small balls of dough and flatten your first dough ball using a lined press or pin. I find that, at this point, it is easiest to work in a production line starting with the separated pieces of dough. You can work on pressing one tortilla as another is cooking.

Grill your pressed tortilla for two minutes on one side, and then 2-3 minutes more on the reverse. Your tortillas will be done when they begin to show brown flecks on their surfaces. Remove cooked tortillas to a warmer or serve immediately.

YIELD:  8-10 5″ – 6″ corn tortillas

Flour Tortillas

3 + 3/4 c. all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 1/2 c. warm water
2 tsp. baking powder

Sift dry ingredients, excepting 3/4 cups of flour, together in a large bowl.

Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut shortening in to the dry ingredients.

Slowly pour in warm water and stir. At this point your dough will be wet, sticky and slightly soupy. Work in remaining flour with your hands, forming a solid, uniform ball of dough. The exterior of your dough ball with be slightly floury – this is ok as it makes the dough easier to handle.

Heat your comal or griddle over medium high heat.

Working on one tortilla at a time, pinch off a small ball of dough and flatten it using a lined press or pin.

Grill your pressed tortilla for two minutes on one side, and then 2-3 minutes more on the reverse. Your tortillas will be done when they begin to show brown flecks on their surfaces. Remove cooked tortillas to a warmer or serve immediately.

YIELD:  12 5″ – 6″ flour tortillas

Comments

    • Meagan says

      Thanks so much for stopping by, CM! And for your thoughtful advice on preparing excellent flour tortillas! Homemade tortillas are ALWAYS the way to go, don’t you think?

  1. 27

    CM Roybal says

    I just discovered this blog–awesome! As I lifelong southwesterner, I take my tortillas very seriously. A few tips–A teaspoon of salt does wonders! I usually add some quantity of milk (up to about half a cup). This gives them a softer texture. Also, I allow them to sit for an hour after I add the liquid, also gives them a nice texture. Also, the only way to cook them is on a griddle over a gas flame!
    Happy rolling.

  2. 26

    says

    Hey Meagan, I love that I found this archived post of yours. I am from Canada and it is hard to get tortillas like this – it is either the soft flour ones or the taco bell kind that are hard and like a U. I got myself a press and some masa harina. I have made a batch but when I use the press the tortilla is thicker that what I would expect it to be. Are they supposed to be much thicker than a floured tortilla? My press has them come out about almost twice as thick.

    • Meagan says

      Hi, Steve! So sorry that it took me so long to respond to this comment! My corn tortillas are usually about the same thickness as my flour ones. The only thing I can think of is perhaps adding some more water to your masa as you work it so that the dough is much more pliable when you run it through the press. I hope this helps!

  3. 22

    Mary says

    I googled “scarlettabakes” and up popped Bake, Laugh, Eat, Repeat! What a great mantra. After a stressful day, I find visiting your site is great therapy! Thank you for wonderful dialogue and stories!

  4. 18

    says

    oh how I do love freshly made tortillas, It brings back memories of my childhood. My mother never learned to make corn tortillas, but as a treat she would make flour tortillas and a big pot of pinto beans…sigh
    I need to try my hand at these, although I don’t have a press.
    thanks so much for stirring those memories
    Dennis

  5. 15

    Mary Ellen says

    I live in Tijuana and been making my own tortillas for several months. A Mexican neighbor showed me that making circles out of plastic shopping bags and lining them on both sides of the press made everything much easier. I have even made blue tortillas as stores here in TJ sell the blue masa.

  6. 14

    says

    Your tortillas look perfect! I’ve never made flour tortillas before, but I make corn all the time! You have so many great tips in this post =)

  7. 12

    says

    This is great! I always prefer making anything homemade instead of buying from the store. I didn’t think it’d be this simple to make tortillas! Thanks for sharing.

    • Meagan says

      These corn tortillas are pliable when they are warm and just off of the comal. That said, they do stiffen as they cool so I would eat them warm if you are going for maximum foldability.

  8. 8

    says

    These look beyond amazing. I made flour tortillas once and my brother was so amazed that he said, “You can MAKE tortillas?”
    Apparently he thought they grew on trees. Or something.
    Anyway, that time I left them out too long and they got hard — so this time I will be sure to put them away. And I am definitely going to look for a tortilla press, stat!

    • Meagan says

      I would love to plant a tortilla tree in my backyard – could your brother send me some seeds please?

  9. 5

    says

    Making bread of any kind always intimidates me, but when I actually try to make a bread type product, it ends up being simpler than I thought. I will have to give tortillas a try!

  10. 1

    says

    Right, I’m off to buy me a tortilla press. I’ve been threatening to make my own for ages – shop-bought just aren’t up to scratch. Now. armed with your straightforward instructions, I have no excuse!

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