How To Make Homemade Tortillas.
Soft homemade tortillas are simple to make at home and infinitely better than store bought flour tortillas.
The first time I ever made flour tortillas I couldn’t believe how much better they were than the ones I’d been buying at the grocery store. If you’ve spent any time here, you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of slow food. It’s a rare day that you’ll find anything in a box or a bag in my kitchen.
I make most things from scratch for two reasons: 1.) I really, genuinely love to cook, and 2.) I’m kind of a control freak about what’s in my food. Ok. Three reasons. 3.) In general, homemade tastes better and I want my food to taste good.
Of course, this idea, like pretty much everything else in life, is relative. Homemade takes time and the time spent has to be worth it. There are certain things for which the finished product simply isn’t worth the time and effort required to make it from scratch. We are all dealing with a limited amount of time and must prioritize.
This is a constant struggle for me.
You know those people who will say things like, “If _____ was a priority for you, you’d make time for it.” I hate those people. Because, most of the time, the list of things that are a priority is really, really long.
Exercise. Continued education. Spending time with my family. Spending time with friends. Preparing healthy meals. Meditating. Sleeping. Going the extra mile at work. Volunteering. Reading. Learning. Growing.
Not to mention the basics of daily life like paying the bills, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, running errands, and taking the kids to the 10,000 places they need to go that day. UGG.
How do you prioritize when everything on your list is a #1 priority???
Every day I let a large handful of “#1 priorities” drop to the floor only to pick them up the next day and try again. This is why the end result of anything I make from scratch better be worth the time effort. I know I’m not alone in this.
For example, homemade bread is a staple in our house. I make a couple of loaves every week because I feel that the quality and flavor of homemade bread is so superior to what’s available at my local grocery store that it’s easy to justify the bit of time and effort it takes to make it at home.
On the other hand, I made puff pastry from scratch one time and will never do that again. Homemade puff pastry is a lot of work, and the finished product tastes pretty much exactly like the frozen variety in the grocery store freezer. I don’t care what anyone says. It’s just not worth it.
We all love shrimp in this house and fresh is so much better than frozen. Yet, I detest the time it takes to peel and devein shrimp and so we pretty much never eat it. Same with fresh roasted chilis. Every summer the local farmer’s markets are overrun with freshly roasted chilis. They are amazing and delicious, and storing several bags in the freezer would be a godsend when I want to make green chili in January. And yet, I can’t quite bring myself to spend several hours peeling and freezing them.
How we spend every minute of every hour of every day is a tradeoff. If you’ve never made homemade tortillas, I don’t know if it’s a worthwhile one for you. I can only tell you that…
The first time I made homemade tortillas, I knew I was probably never going to purchase them again.
Homemade tortillas are surprisingly simple to make and just SO much more delicious than what’s available in most grocery stores. Like, shockingly better. In my house, if we’re going to eat tortillas, they are going to be homemade. If I don’t have time to make them, we are simply not going to eat tortillas that day.
And anyway, homemade tortillas don’t actually take much time or effort – especially if you have a standing mixer. Standing mixers are great because they do all the kneading for you. Simply dump all the ingredients into your bowl and let the mixer do the work of transforming flour, water, and oil into dough.
Having said that, I made homemade flour tortillas for years before I owned a standing mixer. You really only have to knead the soft dough for a couple of minutes. Still, totally worth it.
Once the dough is ready, shape it into balls, let it rest on the counter for 20 minutes, then roll them out and fry them in a dry pan for about 20 seconds per side. Start to finish, you’ll be eating homemade tortillas in under 45 minutes from the moment you dump the ingredients into the bowl. AND, only about half of that time is hands-on.
So… 20 minutes of work for incredibly soft, tender, flavorful flour tortillas. Yeah. So worth it.
Homemade Flour Tortillas Recipe Notes:
Tortilla dough should be soft and slightly sticky, but not wet. If you’re using a standing mixer, you want the dough to clean the sides of the bowl, but stick slightly to the bottom. The amount of water you’ll need to achieve this consistency will vary based on climate, humidity, temperature and who knows what other factors.
Start with the amount in the recipe and then add more as the dough kneads, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you have a soft, smooth dough that clings to the bottom of the bowl while sweeping cleanly along the sides. If at any point you find that you’ve added too much water, just add a bit more flour.
This is a very forgiving dough. Add flour and water as needed to create a soft dough that will be easy to roll out. If you’re kneading the tortilla dough by hand, adjust the consistency of the dough as you knead with additional flour or water until you have a soft, smooth dough that clings slightly to the countertop but does not stick to your hands.
Its important to give the dough a rest and cook it over very high heat.
If you try to roll out tortilla dough immediately after kneading, you’ll discover that it’s nearly impossible to roll the dough flat. Kneading dough strengthens the gluten – those strands of protein that give bread structure and texture. Giving the dough time to rest allows the gluten to relax making it so much easier to roll out into thin tortillas.
Cook tortillas on high heat in a dry frying pan. There’s enough oil in tortilla dough to prevent the dough from sticking to the pan as long as your pan is very hot. You also want to cook tortillas over high enough heat that each side takes only about 10-20 seconds to cook. This is what ensures that deliciously soft interior. Cooking them over low heat simply dries out the dough.
Finally, this recipe is easily doubled if you’re making tortilla for a crowd. Honestly, even though there are only 4 people in my house, I usually double this recipe. The tortillas keep for a couple of days and making plenty allows me to make breakfast burritos the next morning with enough left over to satisfy every teenage craving for the next few days.
A couple of items I used to make these homemade tortillas:
- 4½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1¼ cup water
- ⅔ cup corn oil
- Add the flour, salt and baking powder to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, and stir to combine.
- Add the water and oil, and allow the mixer to knead the dough on low speed (speed level 2 if using a KitchenAid mixer) until all the ingredients come together into a dough. Let the mixer knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adjusting the flour or water as necessary to achieve a soft, smooth dough that clears the sides of the bowl but still sticks to the bottom.
- Dump the dough out onto a work surface and divide it into 15-20 balls of dough, depending on how large you want your tortillas to be. Cover the balls of dough with plastic wrap and let rest on the counter for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.
- Heat a large non-stick or seasoned cast iron frying pan over medium-high heat until very hot. If you sprinkle a drop of water into the pan the water should sizzle and "skip" across the surface of the pan, evaporating completely in a matter of seconds. (You can also use a griddle, turned to high heat.)
- Remove one ball of dough from beneath the plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll it into a thick disk, about 6 inches in diameter. Use your fingers to pat and stretch the dough into a thin tortilla. (You may or may not need to sprinkle your work surface with a bit of flour to prevent sticking depending not the work surface itself and how wet the dough is. If the dough is really sticking to your work surface, lightly flour the surface trying to incorporate as little flour as possible into each tortilla.)
- Lift the rolled out tortilla and place it in the center of the hot pan. Let the tortilla cook on one side until brown spots begin to form here and there on the surface of the tortilla that's touching the pan, about 20 seconds. Use a spatula to flip the tortilla to the other side and cook until a few brown spots appear on the other side, about 10-20 seconds. Use the spatula to remove the tortilla from the pan to cool on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.