How to Make Excellent Tortillas From Scratch

Written by miranda brumbaugh
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How to Make Excellent Tortillas From Scratch
Serve a Mexican food feast with ingredients stuffed in fresh corn and flour tortillas. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Start any authentic Latin American meal with homemade tortillas for a flavour unsurpassed by any commercial tortilla. While Latin American countries typically serve corn tortillas rather than the flour variety, flour tortillas have found their place in Americans' kitchens. However, different dishes call for the flavour or texture of a particular tortilla. For instance, you can take corn tortillas and deep-fry them into taco shells, tostada shells or tortilla chips. On the other hand, flour tortillas -- filled and folded -- are typically used for stuffed burritos, quesadillas and soft tacos.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • Medium bowl
  • 2 kitchen towels
  • Tortilla press
  • Cling film
  • Gallon-sized plastic bag
  • Comal or cast iron frying pan
  • Rolling pin
  • Tortilla warmer
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • Large bowl
  • 1/3 cup lard or vegetable shortening

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  1. 1

    Mix 2 cups of masa harina and 1/4 tsp of fine salt in a medium bowl with your hands. Pour in 1 1/4 cups of warm water and knead the ingredients.

  2. 2

    Form a ball of dough that is smooth and soft; it should not be sticky. Add more water, 1 tsp at a time, if the dough is too dry or additional masa harina by the teaspoon if the dough is too moist.

  3. 3

    Wet a kitchen towel with warm water and squeeze out the excess. Cover the bowl containing the ball of dough with the damp kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a draft-free spot, such as in the microwave or cool oven, and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes or up to two hours.

  4. 4

    Cover the flat surfaces of a tortilla press with cling film. Divide the ball of dough in two equal portions; divide the two portions in half; and divide the four pieces into four equal pieces so you have 16 equal size pieces of dough. Roll each piece of dough into a firm ball.

  5. 5

    Heat a comal on medium-high heat on a stove burner. Alternatively, use a cast iron frying pan if you do not have a comal.

  6. 6

    Press a ball of dough in the tortilla press. Alternatively, cut the zipper seal off a 1-gallon-size plastic bag. Place the ball inside the bag, and roll over it with a rolling pin until it is 1/8-inch in thickness.

  7. 7

    Transfer the flatten dough to the comal. Toast each side for 30 seconds or until the tortilla fluffs up. Place the cooked tortilla in a tortilla warmer. Alternatively, wrap the tortilla in a kitchen towel.

  8. 8

    Continue pressing and cooking the remaining corn tortillas. Serve while warm.

  1. 1

    Pour 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1/8 tsp of baking powder in a large bowl. Blend the ingredients with your hands.

  2. 2

    Add 1/3 cup of lard; replace the lard with vegetable shortening, if desired. Knead the mixture until you have a crumbly texture.

  3. 3

    Mix 1 tsp of salt into 1/3 cup of warm water so the salt dissolves. Pour the water into the dry ingredients. Mix the ingredients until they form a soft ball. Add water, 1 tbsp at a time if the dough does not form a ball, or add more flour, by the tablespoon, if the ball is too sticky until you achieve the desired consistency.

  4. 4

    Divide the ball into 12 to 16 equal size balls, depending on the size of your desired tortillas; 12 balls will make tortillas approximately 10 inches in diameter, while 16 balls make tortillas that are approximately 8 inches.

  5. 5

    Cover a tortilla press with cling film. Heat a comal over medium-high heat on the hob.

  6. 6

    Press each dough ball to form tortillas. Cook each tortilla on the comal for one to two minutes on each side; the final product should be puffy and lightly browned in spots.

  7. 7

    Store the warm tortillas in a tortilla warmer.

Tips and warnings

  • Masa harina is corn meal that is presoaked in lime and necessary for making authentic corn tortillas.
  • A tortilla press is made from metal or wood and is a lever contraption that flattens tortillas into a uniform thickness.
  • Comals are flat, smooth cast iron frying pans, often referred to as griddles, that are typically used for cooking in Latin American cuisine.
  • Tortilla warmers are short round baskets or containers that are just large enough to hold a single stack of tortillas; they are typically decorative and often come with lids.
  • Find mesa harina at most grocers or a Hispanic market; look for a tortilla press, comal and tortilla warmer at Hispanic markets.
  • You can place tortillas in freezer-safe bags and freeze for up to 1 month; refrigerate fresh tortillas for up to 1 week.
  • If the tortillas do not puff up while cooking, they are not thin enough and will be too hard once cooked.

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