I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the motto around our house is, “Everything tastes better in a tortilla.”
Truth: Halfway through a meal my better half will jump up and head to the stove to warm up a few. Scrambled eggs: in a tortilla, preferably with bacon. Roast chicken: in a tortilla with a few jalapenos. Steak slices: absolutely in a tortilla.
As for me, I’ll take a warm buttered tortilla for a snack any day of the week. And when I need an extra lift, a schmear of jam cures what ails me.
How can flour, salt, fat, and water – just four ingredients – bring so much joy? Because homemade tortillas hot off the griddle are fresh and made with love. It’s that simple. My mother-in-law made them often, joking that hers were shaped like a map of the United States. (She lied, they were round.) But really, you don’t have to be a perfectionist. You’re a home cook, not a tortilla factory!
BEST FLOUR FOR HOMEMADE TORTILLAS
All-purpose flour is the best flour to use and it’s almost always on hand. If you’re a whole grain fan, use half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour, or go the full monty with 100 percent whole wheat flour. If you do use whole wheat, you may need to add a little extra water to make a soft and supple dough.
THE BEST FAT FOR MAKING TORTILLAS
Traditional tortillas are made with lard, but it’s hard to find good quality lard, and many people just don’t want to use it.
Shortening, butter, and vegetable oil are all good substitutes. I have a weakness for tortillas made with butter, and the household aficionado highly approves of that move.
- Use vegetable shortening, oil, or coconut oil for vegan tortillas.
EQUIPMENT: NOTHING SPECIAL NEEDED!
All you need is a bowl, a rolling pin, and a skillet, and you’re in business! A cast-iron skillet retains heat and is therefore convenient to use for maintaining an even temperature. The same goes for a griddle, which gives you the additional advantage of cooking several at a time. That said, an ungreased non-stick skillet is perfectly fine, too.
HOW TO MAKE PERFECT TORTILLAS
- MIX: I’m lazy and I have a stand mixer, so I use it to mix and knead the dough for a minute or two with the paddle attachment. The next best thing is to mix the dough with one hand while you hold the bowl with the other. Turn it out onto the counter and knead it for a minute or two until soft and smooth.
- REST: After mixing, the gluten in the dough is activated and the dough will spring back when you try to roll it. It will be much easier to roll out if you shape it into flat disks and them rest for 30 minutes,
- ROLL: You can roll out the tortillas all at once then cook them or heat the pan and slap each tortilla on the pan as soon as you roll it. If you have an assistant, one person can roll while another cooks the tortillas.
I like to roll and cook each one immediately. When I have a tortilla in the pan, I start rolling another one, keeping my eye on the pan (or setting a timer.) Once you get the hang of rolling, you can roll a tortilla in about the same amount of time it takes for the previously rolled one to cook.
The Best Way to Cook Tortillas
Heat an ungreased skillet or a griddle over medium heat until hot but not blistering hot. It should be hot enough for spots or sections of the tortilla to become light brown on the bottom within about 30 seconds; if the heat is too high, the spots will blacken quickly, so adjust the heat accordingly.
Place a tortilla on the pan. After 20 to 30 seconds, air bubbles will appear on the surface and light brown spots will appear on the bottom. Turn over and cook for another 20 seconds on the other side. More air bubbles will form. You don’t have to do anything about them, but you could deflate them with the tip of a knife if you like.
Tip for the Softest Tortillas
Steaming is a final step keeps the tortillas pliable rather than dry and brittle.
- If you are planning to store them, place the hot stack of tortillas in a plastic bag and let them steam until cool.
- If you’re taking them straight to the table, wrap the stack in a napkin and let steam for a few minutes to soften.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN THE TORTILLAS ARE DONE?
- Cook the tortillas for a total of about 60 seconds. They should have mottled light brown spots on both sides, and as the dough turns from translucent to opaque, you may still see some slightly undercooked spots. They stay softer and more pliant at if cooked to the 60-second mark. This is how long I cook them if I’m making a batch to last me the week.
- If you plan to eat the tortillas right away, flip the tortilla for a third time and cook for an additional 10 or 12 seconds, or until the dough is puffed. They will still be soft and pliable, but they can get brittle if stored for too long. If that’s the case just make sure you reheat them either in a warm skillet or wrapped in a napkin in the microwave for about 10-20 seconds.
HOW TO STORE AND FREEZE TORTILLAS
To keep your tortillas fresh for as long as possible, place the stack in a sealed zip-top plastic bag and store in the refrigerator up to four days for optimal freshness. They are still edible after that. No need to separate them with parchment or waxed paper.
To freeze: Place them in a ziptop bag, remove as much air as you can, close the bag and freeze for up to two months for optimal freshness. No need to separate them with parchment or waxed paper.
THE BEST WAY TO REHEAT HOMEMADE TORTILLAS
Place a skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, place a tortilla in the pan. Cook for 15 to 20 seconds on each side or until hot. You can also microwave them for 15 to 20 seconds.
If heating several, stack them on a cloth napkin lined plate, and enclose them in the napkin to keep them warm.