Homemade tortillas

Culinary Spelunker's picture

Cinco de Mayo is coming up soon! To get ready for the holiday that celebrates all things Mexican here in America, why not make your own tortillas at home? It’s easy to do, especially for kids.

homemade tortillas

Admittedly, Cinco de Mayo is more of an American invention. You won’t find huge national celebrations in Mexico. Instead, the day is significant in the state of Puebla (just east of Mexico City) where on May 5, 1862 the French army was defeated by a much smaller Mexican army. But for our family, I’ll take any excuse I can find to make one of my favorite kinds of food: Mexican.

Homemade tortillas taste so much better than the store-bought variety. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a tortilleria nearby, do-it-yourself tortillas are softer and heartier. My husband, who spent two years in Monterrey, Mexico as a volunteer in college, made the comparison of homemade bread versus Wonderbread.

homemade tortillas

Intrigued? Here’s how to make tasty tortillas in your kitchen.

Here’s what you need:

Corn flour.

I used to try making homemade tortillas with masa (also called masa harina or hasa de harina). You may have seen the bags of masa in the Mexican food section of your grocery store. Maseca is a popular brand. I’ve found that the tortillas I made with masa turn out too hard and dry to really be a decent substitute for the fresh tortillas I can buy at our corner Mexican market.

But a friend of mine from Venezuela gave me another option — PAN. Made from cooked, dried white corn, instead of the lime-treated corn in masa, PAN has a much finer, softer texture. You’ll pay a bit more for PAN, but the results are worth it. Note: both flours have faster expiration dates than all-purpose flour so I find the smaller PAN bag is better for my family anyway; I never seem to make it through my entire bag of masa before it’s past its expiration date...and with masa you can tell in the flavor.

Tortilla press.

You can definitely get away with using two cutting boards instead of a tortilla press, but for really thin tortillas, I do recommend a press. They’re available from kitchen stores, but I’ve found them much cheaper when I buy them at a Mexican grocers. Still, if you’re not making tortillas all the time, stick with cutting boards.

Other items to have on hand:

Mixing bowl

Large spatula

Wooden spoon

Plastic wrap

Cast iron or non-stick skillet

Tortilla warmer (or a kitchen towel)

Eager kids

Now we’re ready to get started.

Place ¾ cup warm water in a mixing bowl. Add 1 cup PAN flour and stir with a wooden spoon. (This amount makes 12, 4-inch tortillas; but you can easily double this recipe for larger tortillas or more small ones.)

homemade tortillas

But to really work the water into the flour you need to use your hands. The dough reminds me of the consistency of foam-type Play-doh — it doesn’t seem very moist until you start pressing it together. You might be tempted to add more water to the dough, but you probably won’t need it. Just keep pressing (this is a great job for kids).

Make 1-inch balls with the dough.

Prepare the tortilla press (or cutting boards) by placing a piece of plastic wrap over them. The plastic wrap keeps the dough from sticking to the press’s surface and makes it easier to get a thin tortilla.

homemade tortillas

Press the dough ball until thin. For my tortillas, I use a 4-inch biscuit cutter to keep the size uniform. You can save the extra dough to form new balls. You can also keep the edges ragged too.

homemade tortillas

homemade tortillas

Preheat a dry cast iron or non-stick skillet to medium heat.

Place the tortilla onto the heated pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

homemade tortillas

Put the cooked tortillas into a tortilla warmer or into a folded, clean kitchen towel (this helps soften the cooked tortillas and keep them warm for serving).

Repeat the process with the remaining dough.

homemade tortillas

Now the next question: What to serve in your authentic tortillas?

I’d suggest keeping it simple. A quick option would be to use cut-up rotisserie chicken. I tend to use leftovers with fresh salsa, whether that’s roasted vegetables, cut up pork cutlets, shredded chicken, or beef. I reheat the sliced filling — veggies or meat - in the skillet and sprinkle with fresh lime juice and ground cumin.



Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering
. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at MyKidsEatSquid.com.




All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough



Comments (1)

  • Terri Weeks

    7 years 2 months ago

    Those look really good!  And they look fun for kids to make too.  I think I'll try that when the kids are on their summer break from school.

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