We’re going out on the town for Mexican food since we love home canned salsa, beans and rice, and smoky Mexican soup…just kidding. we’re actually sharing a recipe for the best ever homemade whole wheat tortillas with all the tips I’ve picked up over the years. Now my kids even know how to make them!
People are generally pretty impressed with an adult who makes homemade tortillas from scratch. And homemade 100% whole wheat tortillas are even another step up.
We know how to make great homemade gluten-free tortillas too, but what is most impressive is that my daughter is the one who has made our homemade tortillas the last few years… And she’s only 10 years old.
That’s the beauty of teaching kids to cook using our online eCourse! We use homemade tortillas to teach the fine art of rolling out the dough, and you can see a preview in the video below.
Why Make Your Own Homemade Tortillas? (Hint: They’re Healthy!)
Some people just don’t think homemade tortillas are worth it. I agree that compared to a bag of plain white flour tortillas, they’re not, but for health benefits far beyond any potential dollar savings, they’re a home run. Here’s what you can avoid:
- trans fat, usually plentiful in tortillas
- soybean oil and other industrial fats
- weird preservatives
- refined flour
- unsoaked whole grains
The more I look at ingredients on tortillas, the more I’m disheartened. Until you start getting into prices like a dollar per tortilla (yikes!), it’s almost impossible to find a brand with whole grains, healthy fats, and no weird preservatives. I’ve even seen parabens, which I avoid putting on my skin in personal products, listed on some otherwise “clean” corn tortillas!
So if you want healthy tortillas, it’s incredibly frugal to make your own instead of purchasing fancy ones, if you can even find a clean ingredients list in your local stores at all.
If your family likes Mexican food and you don’t want to rely on organic tortilla chips all the time (too much corn probably isn’t a good thing for any of us, anyway, non-GMO or not), it’s time to make your own tortillas.
If that last bullet about unsoaked whole grains is unfamiliar to you, here’s info to catch you up. Soaking the grains will make the tortillas more digestible and release bound-up minerals in the grains (although technically, sourdough tortillas, on my “to-learn list,” should be the ultimate healthiest. I’m going to try Traditional Cooking School‘s recipe from the sourdough textbook).
Rolling the Perfect Homemade Tortilla
If you can’t view the video above, click Teaching Kids to Roll Easy Homemade Tortillas to see it directly on YouTube.
You might also like to see some video of how I roll them out, three different ways: with a rolling pin, an electric tortilla press, and a cast-iron press, and discover out the best/fastest method.
Are Homemade Tortillas Tasty?
Some folks seem to think that homemade tortillas would be dry, stiff, tasteless, or otherwise not as good as store-bought. I beg to differ.
In fact, most of the time I start picking on a fresh tortilla while I’m making the rest and end up eating the whole thing! That’s not a great habit, but it’s also something I’d never even be tempted to do with commercially produced tortillas. Homemade tortillas are so very much better.Print
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- Cut the fat into the flour with a pastry blender or two knives.
- Add water and whey a bit at a time.
- Toss with a fork to make a stiff dough. Knead thoroughly until smooth and flecked with air bubbles. (Just about 5 minutes.)
- Allow to rest, covered, at room temperature 8-24 hours.
- When ready to cook, sprinkle the on top and knead thoroughly to combine, usually another 5 minutes.
- Divide dough into 8-11 balls, depending on how big you want your tortillas. (11 tortillas will be about 6-8″ in diameter.) Roll as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface.
- Heat an ungreased electric griddle or cast-iron skillet very hot (400F).
- Cook the tortillas about 20-30 seconds, until lightly flecked with brown on one side, then flip and cook until brown spots appear on the other side, about 20 seconds.
- The cooked tortillas will keep each other warm and soft on a plate while you finish the rest, especially if you cover them; keep them warm in a low temp oven if not serving right away.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two (will remain softer) or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The tortillas also freeze great and usually even come apart individually without having to do anything special.
- Reheat gently in a low-temperature oven/toaster oven or on a griddle or skillet surface. They make excellent quesadillas, mini pizzas, and any other recipe you would normally use a soft tortilla in.
- You can also freeze the balls of dough, then thaw in the fridge or on the counter, and they roll out and cook just great.
* No time to soak overnight? Just add the salt with the dry ingredients and give the dough at least an hour to rest at room temperature.
* How to make yogurt cheese to get whey.
* Dairy-free? Sub water kefir, lemon juice, or vinegar for the whey.
* White whole wheat flour is made from the whole grain, just like regular (red) whole wheat flour, but it works immeasurably better in tortillas. You can find it in larger grocery stores, often under the King Arthur brand (and others). If you can’t find white whole wheat, do not use traditional (red) whole wheat 100%. You can use half-and-half red whole wheat and all-purpose white flour, but 100% red whole wheat tortillas are very hard to roll out and too dry.
* Readers have used spelt and other flours very successfully in this recipe too! (see comments)
* You can also use whey entirely in place of the water (you may need up to 1/4 cup extra flour).
* Use your judgment on the amount of water – like homemade bread recipes, the ratio of flour:water really depends on how freshly ground the flour is, the humidity in the air, and how much whey you’re using. If the dough seems crumbly, by all means, add a bit more water!
* On lard: please don’t ever use the hydrogenated lard sold in grocery stores. Ick. Look for real lard, no hydrogenation or preservatives, preferably from pastured animals. I’ve never bought it but only render my own.
* You can also use a food processor to incorporate the dough.
* A rolling pin, cast iron tortilla press, and electric tortilla press (found on Amazon) all work fine with this recipe.
* Sometimes soaked grain recipes look a bit dark on top after the soak. That’s totally normal.
* If you have troubles with the tortillas getting too stiff while they wait for the whole batch to be done, place the warm tortillas in a covered container while you cook the rest. The trapped steam will keep everything very supple. Also, make sure you are not cooking them too long.
* If you don’t have an electric griddle, you can still make them one at a time in a frying pan.
* Do roll as thin as possible. The tortillas are still tasty if they’re not really thin, but they start to remind you of pitas!
* Roll a few out to begin with, and then start putting them one by one on the griddle. (YES to using plenty of flour to prevent sticking!) I’ve found that when I get moving quickly, I can roll out one tortilla in the time it takes to brown one side, so my rhythm is like this: Put a tortilla on griddle, roll out tortilla no. 2, flip tortilla no. 1 and add tortilla no. 2, roll some more, remove tortilla no. 1 and flip tortilla no. 2…and so on.
* I tried this recipe with sprouted wheat flour, and it worked great! If you forgot your overnight soak and do have sprouted wheat on hand, it’s definitely the way to go.
* My mom tried half white whole wheat, half corn flour with good success! If you cook them crispy, they’re almost like tortilla chips or hard taco shells. My dad liked them, and he’s not a Mexican food fan.
* If you don’t have white whole wheat flour on hand just use half all-purpose flour and half regular whole wheat flour or cornmeal.
* This exact method works with my homemade gluten-free flour blend as well. Link to that. You just need to be willing to put up with fussy dough. It is quite crumbly and sticky although not unmanageable. Be sure to use lots of extra gluten-free flour to roll out, and you must have a very thin metal spatula to transfer each rolled out round of dough to your cooking surface. The finished tortillas have a great flavor, are flexible when warm, and don’t even crack in half right away, which, if you work with gluten-free bread products, you know that’s a victory!
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How About Corn Tortillas?
Although I made a pseudo-corn tortilla in the original version of the recipe, real corn tortillas are a totally different beast than wheat tortillas. They should be made with masa flour which is nixtamalized to release more minerals in the corn. Here is an example of the directions for corn tortillas.
A tortilla press is a big help, but if you put the balls of dough between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap (or silicone mats, etc.) you can use a cast iron pan to just smash them flat, then cook on a griddle.
I’m not very good at corn tortillas; mine always get a little crispy (but my husband, bless his heart, doesn’t complain). Even though we try to avoid most gluten, I can’t avoid this recipe for too long – it’s just too good! In fact, we just finished off my freezer stash on quesadillas and Steak Fajita Soup last night!
Healthy Homemade Tortilla FAQs:
What’s the best fat to use for tortillas?
Palm shortening might be my favorite oil to work with when making tortillas since it’s always room temperature, easy to measure and incorporate into the dough, tastes great, and rolls out quite easily.
I have also used butter, coconut oil, and lard (the traditional fat used for tortillas) with varying results. You can check out my post where I test and review multiple types of fats for tortilla making.
Is it normal for the soaked dough to look like it’s “risen”?
Yes. As the flour absorbs the water, you may notice the dough change consistency a bit. This is due to the gluten structure changing and it helps the flour bind together for rolling out tortillas without breaking!
Is it okay to have little chunks of coconut oil that don’t seem to blend in?
You bet! If you use warm or room temp water, this probably won’t happen, but cold water will make coconut oil solidify and not mix well into the flour. During cooking, you may notice that the tortillas will sizzle slightly as the oil hits the pan, but this won’t affect the flavor.
What’s the best kind of rolling pin for tortillas?
I learned this from a darling Mexican grandmother who visited my classroom to make us tortillas – cut an old broom handle to make about an 8-inch rolling pin. It’s perfect for turning around the little tortillas without knocking down everything on your counter.
You could also head to your local hardware store and purchase wooden dowels and have them cut to size (just make sure the wood has not been treated in any way). Simply wash, dry, sand any rough edges, and oil the dowel once you get home!
How do you roll out the dough?
I smash the little ball flat with my hand, then go from the center to the outside a few times, then flip the whole tortilla over and repeat. I also use a cutting board to roll out so I can rotate the whole cutting board to get different angles. Center to outside, center to outside, turning as you go. I get a lot of square tortillas, so I shouldn’t go into any more detail! 😉
Extra Tips for Making Tortillas
- “If you put your tortilla balls in a closed container (I’ve got a big old Rubbermaid bowl with a lid) while you’re cooking up the rest of the batch, the steam will soften them up and make them easier to roll.” (from Laurie at Common Sense Homesteading)
- I have also tried freezing the tortilla dough in little balls, and it worked great! I thawed them overnight in the fridge and then let them come to room temperature throughout the afternoon on the counter. You can also freeze the cooked tortillas with good results.
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What to do with Your Homemade Tortillas
The best part about making your own tortillas is that YOU get to pick the size. If you’re making street tacos, roll them smaller. Making burritos? Make them twice as big to hold all of the fillings! They are so versatile you’ll love having them on hand.
While you’re at it, you can easily make a double batch and stick some in the freezer for later!
These homemade tortillas work in any recipe that calls for their store-bought counterpart. They work great with your basic ground beef taco, but here are some fun recipes to use them in a variety of ways.
- Breakfast Quesadilla with Broccoli and Cheese
- Tostadas for breakfast too!
- Mexican Breakfast Casserole
- Egg and Chorizo Tostada
- Breakfast Enchiladas
- Easy-peasy sandwich wraps – simply stuff with your favorite cold meats, cheese, and veggies.
- California Chicken Wrap
- Chicken Taco Cup Salad
- 5-Minute Buffalo Chicken Wrap
- Turkey Tzatz Wrap
- Avocado BLT Pinwheels
- Muffin Tin Mexican Bowls
- Veggie Bean Burritos
- Use them to scoop your Fajita Soup
- Instant Pot Tortilla Pie
- Copycat Crunchwrap Supreme
- Taco Meat (with extra veggies)
- Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
- Cinnamon Sugar Chips with Strawberry Salsa
- Baked Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Bowls (fill them with fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream!)
Recipes for the Rest of Your Mexican Meal:
Your homemade tortillas will be a hit come Taco Tuesday, but here are a few more recipes to round out any Mexican food feast!
- Homemade Refried Beans
- Katie’s Fresh Salsa
- Restaurant-Style Canned Salsa
- Mexican Beans and Rice
- Easy Guacamole