How To Make the BEST Soft & Buttery Homemade Tortillas
Soft, warm homemade tortillas are one of the best things in the whole wide world. Combine that with how easy they are to make and flour tortillas from scratch becomes one of the few life decisions for which there can be no regrets.
Unless you eat them all yourself. Even then. Probably worth it.
This all butter recipe is so easy and delicious, you may never buy tortillas again.
After 20 years of making what I thought were the absolute best homemade tortillas, this all-butter recipe made me realize that sometimes good things can get even better.
In March of 2017, I published the homemade tortilla recipe I’d been making for at least 20 years. It called for using corn oil and it was super duper good. The first time I ever made them I couldn’t believe how much better they were than the store bought variety. Like night and day.
But then I brought home a copy of Nopalito, a fabulous Mexican food cookbook from Gonzalo Guzman, head chef at the San Francisco restaurant of the same name. Gonzalo makes his homemade flour tortillas with butter.
I had never seen a recipe for flour tortillas that calls for butter. Nearly every recipe for homemade tortillas you’ll find uses either lard, vegetable shortening or some kind of oil – corn, vegetable, olive, or even coconut oil.
I’d been using corn oil for decades because a sweet little Mexican grandmother told me to. She wasn’t wrong. Flour tortillas made with corn oil are delicious because ALL homemade tortillas are delicious. But, using butter makes them even better. Not just a little bit better. A LOT better. Markedly so. Noticeably so.
My family, who for better or worse, is used to homemade tortillas said, “Ohmygod, these are really good today. What did you do? These are SO. GOOD.”
So. This simple pleasure – soft, warm, homemade flour tortillas – that was already one of the best things in the whole wide world just got even better. Life is good. 😊
Let’s talk about how easy Homemade Tortillas are
I’m a big proponent of slow food. I strive to eat more whole food and less processed. Of course, this idea, like pretty much everything else in life, is relative.
Food cooked “from scratch” takes time, and the time has to be worth it. There are certain things for which the finished product is simply NOT worth the time and effort required to make it from scratch. We all must prioritize.
Soapbox warning: 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. With the fire of a thousands suns. Because, most of the time, my list of “top priorities” is really, really long.
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 had really better be worth the time effort. I know I’m not alone in this.
Having said all that, I feel very strongly that…
Making tortillas from scratch is 1000% worth it
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 SO MUCH BETTER than what’s available in 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 butter 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 few minutes. It’s not hard, and still totally worth it.
Tips for making the Best Homemade Flour Tortillas:
#1. 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 still stick 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. No big deal. Tortilla dough is very forgiving.
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.
#2. Allow the tortilla dough a little bit of time to rest
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 tortillas.
#3. Cook tortillas over very high heat
Cook tortillas on high heat in a dry frying pan. There’s enough fat 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.
Frequently Asked Questions about making homemade tortillas:
Q: What is the difference between using butter vs. lard?
A: The main difference is simply flavor. Lard works great, as does vegetable shortening and oil. I’ve used several different kinds of fat, and the tortillas always turn out about the same except for the flavor. Butter, in my opinion, contributes the most flavor.
Q: I found that the tortillas shrink a bit as soon as they hit the pan. Is this typical or is it a function of gluten in the flour? I also wonder if they are too dry and more moisture would help?
A: Yes – the gluten in the flour does cause them to shrink up a bit when they hit the hot pan. As far as I know, there’s really nothing you can do about that. I have had other readers tell me that they’ve added more butter to the recipe, which might help. Fat interferes with gluten development so it’s possible you’ll get less shrinkage with a bit more butter. In terms of them being too dry – the dough should be slightly sticky. If it ever seems too dry, just add a few more drops of water until it’s soft and smooth and a bit tacky. If you’re using a stand mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom a bit.
Q: How do you keep these warm and soft? I have made homemade tortillas many times yet often find they are stiff when they cool off.
A: If I want to keep the tortillas warm for a while after baking, I usually stack them as I cook them and then wrap them in aluminum foil. They’ll stay warm for a while on their own if they are wrapped in foil, but you can also put them in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes to re-warm them. However, they shouldn’t get very stiff after cooling… they won’t ever be as soft and warm as when they are freshly made, but even a day or two later, they should still be soft.
If they are stiff after cooling, my guess is that they were overcooked. It’s important that the pan you cook them in be very hot – hot enough to cook them in about 30 seconds or less. If the pan isn’t hot enough, the dough will dry out too much as they cook.
I also received a great tip from a reader about keeping tortillas in a cloth warmer: “I have a cloth type tortilla warmer and after cooking them they went straight into this holder to keep warm and moist for an hour. This is the ONLY warmer that keeps tortillas warm and not hard, stiff nor dried out. You can even use it in the microwave oven to rewarm the next day.”
Q: Can you freeze these tortillas?
A: Yes – you can freeze these homemade tortillas. Make sure they are completely cool, wrap no more than 5 together tightly in plastic wrap and then either wrap again in aluminum foil or put in a ziplock bag. They should last in the freezer for at least 3 months.
Q: Can you freeze the tortilla dough?
A: Yes! Divide the dough into balls (step #3 in the recipe) and set them on a baking sheet or plate. Cover with plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. After a few hours they should be frozen enough to pile in a zip top bag or other container without sticking together. Let the dough thaw in the refrigerator overnight then roll out and cook as usual. You can also roll out the tortillas and stack them in between pieces of parchment or wax paper to freeze them.
Q: Can this recipe be doubled?
A: Absolutely. I have made tortillas for a crowd on many occasions and can tell you that it’s just as easy to make one batch of tortillas as it is to make two. Beyond that, it’s best to make successive batches because the amount of dough is just difficult to deal with.
- 4 cups (600g) all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 tsp (10.5g) salt
- 1 1/2 tsp (6g) baking powder
- 8 tbsp (113.4g) butter, softened or melted
- 1 1/3 cup (316ml) warm water
- 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 softened butter and water and mix on medium-low speed 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. (See note.)
- Dump the dough out onto a work surface and divide it into 20 balls of dough. Cover the balls of dough with plastic wrap and let rest on the counter for 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
- Heat a large non-stick or seasoned cast iron frying pan over 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.) *Click here for a short video demonstration showing how I shape and cook tortillas.*
- 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.
- Tortilla dough should be soft and sticky, but not wet. If you're using a standing mixer, you want the dough to clean the sides of the bowl, but stick 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.
- If kneading the dough by hand, follow the instructions below using your hands to bring all the ingredients together inside a large bowl. Dump onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 2-5 minutes until you have a smooth, soft dough.
- Adjust the heat of the pan as necessary if the tortillas start to cook too quickly and burn spots appear instead of the lovely brown spots.
- I received a great tip from a reader about keeping tortillas in a cloth warmer: "I have a cloth type tortilla warmer and after cooking them they went straight into this holder to keep warm and moist for an hour. This is the ONLY warmer that keeps tortillas warm and not hard, stiff nor dried out. You can even use it in the microwave oven to rewarm the next day."
- I recently heard from a reader who cooked these in a cast iron skillet on his stovetop and said that each tortilla took about 2 minutes to cook. He said they were still soft and delicious, puffing up as they cooked just like they should. I just wanted to add a note about is experience for anyone else who is experiencing longer cooking times and isn't sure why. The key is to cook them at high heat. If the tortillas cook at low heat, they will dry out. If you are cooking them in a hot skillet at high heat, they should turn out perfectly whether they take 30 seconds to cook or 2 minutes.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1 tortilla
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 132Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 242mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 3g
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