Making homemade tortillas is a great idea for many reasons – except time.
As with anything from scratch, homemade tortillas take more time than opening a package, but as with almost anything from scratch, it’s worth it in so many ways that one simply must find the most efficient strategy and run with it.
It was almost three years ago that I decided to run these tests and had some data written down and videos made when we started the process of selling our house and moved away from gluten quite seriously. Whole wheat tortillas had to wait.
Today I’ll show you video of three different ways to cook the tortillas, my evaluation of the process, plus thoughts on three different fats in the recipe (product links go to Amazon; thank you for starting here to share commission with KS):
- manually with a rolling pin and on a cast iron griddle
- on an electric tortilla press (which I got as a barter item from the Tortilla Press Store)
- with a cast iron tortilla press and griddle (which I got as a Christmas present from a family member, who bought it at Bed Bath & Beyond)
Can you guess which is which? There are some marked differences among all three methods…
There are two separate videos because a certain preschooler came in the house and loudly announced that she had to go potty, which caused the presenter to engage in much eye rolling, sighing, and turning off the camera. But the videos really are meant to be one continuous demonstration.
Tortilla Press Race Videos
Watch the videos for both a demo of HOW to make homemade whole wheat tortillas these 3 different ways plus tips on making it work for you:
If you can’t view the video, click HERE to see it on YouTube.
If you can’t view the video, click HERE to see it on YouTube.
Timing Homemade Tortillas
I mentioned in the videos that I would time the "race" and see who won. Here are the results, plus pictures of each finished product:
- rolling pin :: two done at about 1 minute 30 secs, third one was already rolled; done at over two minutes (Since you’d actually just keep going, it’s realistic to think that you could have 16 tortillas, one full batch, finished completely in 8-10 minutes, which is accurate – you’re always rolling some while the others are cooking.)
- cast iron press :: 2 tortillas totally done in about 1 min 30 sec, third one done at 1:50 (Similarly, you’d be finished in around 10 minutes, but the tortillas would have to be smaller because of the nature of this press, which is really made for corn tortillas.)
- electric press :: takes about a minute for the first; two done in 1:35 and three done in 2:15 (This press takes longer to cook because you can only make one at a time, but the advantage is that you can do other things in the kitchen while you’re waiting since you’re not rolling tortillas out.)
The bottom line is that the cast iron press doesn’t save a lot of time over the rolling pin, so I would only purchase that for corn torts. The electric press, timewise, is a question of, "How well can you multitask?" It takes longer overall, but if you can handle chopping veggies or browning beef or something while switching out tortillas about every minute, then it ultimately makes you more efficient.
Although sometimes you get an exploding tortilla:
That one was in the video, too. Then again, a rolling pin can get you square tortillas which is equally aesthetically weird.
But How do They Taste?
Here is the clincher, because tortillas cooked on the electric press are a completely different culinary and gustatory experience than griddle-fried tortillas. Don’t read that "griddle-fried" term as meaning "added fat" – tortillas are fried on a dry griddle, so the nutritional information on both tortillas is exactly the same.
It’s the texture sensation that is markedly different, along with a missing flavor of "toasted," that taste of the little brown spots on the tortilla that’s similar to how the flavor of bread changes after toasting. Who knew the little brown spots are so good?
In comparison, the electric pressed tortillas taste too smooth, too dense, at least in my opinion. If you were going to use them in a casserole or smothered with sauce somehow, I doubt you’d notice the difference, and the sturdiness might even be advantageous. I don’t think you’ll have to fend off as many "tortilla thieves" as you do with a griddle though, because they’re just not as amazing to just eat by themselves.
My favorite way to make homemade tortillas? I was totally shocked to realize I’d rather just use a plain old rolling pin and bash them out the old-fashioned way.
What Fat is Best?
Yes Virginia, soaked grain dough does get a darker layer on top. It’s all good.
I also tried 3 different types of fat in these tests: palm shortening, home-rendered lard (from fat back), and refined coconut oil (nearly melted because it was warm in the house). I used to make tortillas with butter, too, but I haven’t in a really long time, so I didn’t test that way.
The dough was different right from the start:
Coconut oil really was mushy right away since it started out so soft
Lard, from the fridge, made the toughest dough. I was going to add water, but I persevered in kneading and suddenly all the flour incorporated. Lesson learned!
Palm shortening was pretty melty too, like the coconut oil, but it didn’t get as mushy so quickly. Needed some kneading to get all incorporated.
I soaked all 3 overnight on the counter, then cooked them all the same way.
Side note: My first lesson was that forgetting the salt after the soak makes them really boring. They still cook up just fine, so don’t freak out if you forget it sometime, but they’ll be best with something with a lot of flavor or sauce to compensate. As soon as you add salt, I could eat them plain all day long, and luckily, I caught my mistake before I had fried up very many.
The Results: Flavor
The coconut oil is probably my least favorite, while lard and palm shortening are both amazing. Really very, very little difference in flavor.
Both of our neighbors, who I dragged into testing when they had us for dinner the day I made the videos, agreed that the palm shortening version had a very different flavor and liked it best.
The Results: Ease of Rolling Out
Coconut oil makes the most pliable dough and rolls out the easiest. Bonus points! Lard is pretty stiff and unforgiving, as you can see in the first video with the rolling pin, but it’s not like it’s impossible to handle. Bonus points to lard for being the traditional fat for authentic tortillas though. Palm shortening might be my favorite to work with overall, since it’s always room temperature, easy to measure and incorporate into the dough, tastes great and rolls out quite easily.
In the end, you don’t really need any fancy gadgets to make your own tortillas (although a griddle is awfully nice). Maybe a rolling pin – this one is shaped like mine and is currently the least expensive on Amazon, but this one got better reviews. (Thanks for starting your Azon shopping using my affiliate links there – KS earns commission for anything you buy, even if it’s not a rolling pin, or a much more expensive electric tortilla press, ha hum.) A griddle speeds things up, but 2 pans would do just fine as well.
Did you learn anything from this demonstration? I hope so! Share, pin, and give it a try!
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon, Heavenly Homemakers and Tropical Traditions from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.