These homemade flour tortillas are tender, fluffy, approximately a bajillion times better than store-bought, and worth every second of your time!
Have you heard the song about tortillas? Actually, it’s more of a wrap…
No! Wait! Come back and read this recipe! It’s worth it!
Tortillas seem like such a simple thing. Admittedly, a lot of the time they are merely the conveyance for tacos, fajitas, queso, and other Tex-Mex wonders. But when you get a really good tortilla, one that’s fresh and fluffy and hot off the griddle, it just makes the whole thing better. It’s like calling for an Uber to take you out to meet your friends, and having a Ferrari show up. Liz and I definitely use the quality of the tortillas as one of the benchmarks when evaluating Mexican restaurants. Of course, that evaluation can get rather biased based on the size and strength of the margaritas that generally accompany said tortillas… Nevertheless, you can absolutely taste the difference from store-bought, and with a little practice, handmade tortillas are pretty easy to make. Also, the recipe is so simple there’s a good chance you already have all the ingredients on hand already.
To start out with, you mix vegetable shortening, baking powder/soda, and flour together. For this, you can use a pastry blender, or you can use your fingers. You want to use use a rubbing motion between your thumb and index/middle fingers. I think TV chef Alton Brown explained it really well by describing it as if you were rubbing your dog’s ears. This motion helps spread the shortening out over the most flour so you get an even distribution. Next, you add your water. This part is kind of tricky, because the amount of water you need will be different based on things like your local weather and your flour’s water content. Start off with the prescribed amount, and knead the dough a bit. You want the dough to stick together, but just barely. If you gather it all together and push it into a ball, it should sit there in one piece, but some small cracks are okay. If it falls apart, sprinkle water a teaspoon at a time into the dough, and try again. The dough should not be any stickier than a post it note.
Once you’ve got your ball of dough, cover it with a dry tea towel, and leave it for 20 minutes. Go grate some cheese, or mix a margarita, or something. After 20 minutes, put a griddle or a skillet on medium heat, portion your dough out, and use a rolling pin (sprinkled with four to prevent sticking) to flatten out your tortillas. For this step, I like to use a cast iron griddle, because once it comes to temperature, I feel that it makes a more consistent product, but you can easily do this in just about any skillet. Lay the tortilla onto your cooking surface, taking care not to fold over the edges. Let it sit for about 30 seconds, and then using tongs, lift the edge to check your progress. It should be mostly white, with some golden brown areas and maybe a few spots of darker brown. If it’s darker, turn your heat down, or you may cook it past the point of being able to roll it. Flip it over and cook the other side for about 30 seconds.
Once you get a rhythm going, you can continue to roll out tortillas as their brethren cook on the stove. Stash completed ones on a plate in a 200 degree oven if you are making a bunch. Then load ‘em up with whatever you want and enjoy!
Pro tip: we’ll be loading ’em up like this, with a new recipe coming to the blog later this week:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2½ tablespoons shortening
- ½ cup warm water
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
- Using your fingers or a pasty blender, cut in the shortening until thoroughly combined.
- Add the water and work the dough until it sticks together in a single ball. If necessary, add water 1 teaspoon at a time until it comes together.
- Cover the dough with a tea towel and let rest for 15-20 minutes.
- Divide the dough: 12 portions for 8" tortillas, 8 portions for 10" tortillas. Roll each portion into a ball.
- On a floured work area, use a rolling pin sprinkled with flour to roll out the tortilla, rotating the dough so it's even.
- To cook, place on a medium skillet or griddle (no cooking spray required), and let sit for approximately 30 seconds. You should see some bubbles, and some spots starting to turn brown. Flip and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- If not using immediately, place in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.