It’s the 4-year anniversary of me making my own homemade tortillas.
We’re going out on the town for Mexican food since we love salsa, beans and rice, and smoky mexican soup…just kidding. We’re actually doing a little recipe re-post, sharing the updated version of the original homemade whole wheat tortillas with all the tips I’ve picked up over the years.
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.
Why Make Your Own Tortillas?
Some people just don’t think homemade tortillas are worth it. I agreed 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 (especially no trans fat, which is really, really common in tortillas), 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 is unfamiliar to you, here’s info on soaking grains to catch you up.
Are Homemade Tortillas Tasty?
Some folks seem to think that homemade tortillas would be dry, stiff, tasteless or otherwise not as good as storebought. 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.
- Cut fat into flour with a pastry blender or two knives.
- Add water and whey a bit at a time.
- Toss with a fork to make 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 salt 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.
* 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 ¼ 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 – best option coming soon in video form!
- 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.
How About Corn Tortillas?
Although I made a pseudo-corn tortilla in the original version of the recipe, real corn torts 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, and you can find many more real food versions in the KS group at Plan to Eat.
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 soup last night (and the soup recipe is coming – Steak Fajita Soup!).
Soaked 100% Whole Grain Homemade Tortillas
HealthiEST Upgrade to Tortillas
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 GNOWFGLINS recipe from the sourdough eCourse).
Include a Tbs. whey or lemon juice or yogurt in the water, mix with flour(s) and leave out at room temperature overnight. You can also use whey entirely in place of the water (you may need up to 1/4 cup extra), if you happen to have too much whey on your hands. (UPDATE: Where do you get whey? See here – how to make yogurt cheese and whey.)
Start with: 2 cups white whole wheat flour
Cut in: 1/4 cup lard or coconut oil or butter
Fork in: 1/2 cup water w/1 Tbs whey or just 1/2 cup whey
After a 12-24 hour soak at room temperature, sprinkle the 1 tsp salt on and knead into dough. Do not refrigerate at all, unless you need to hold the dough until a later time.
Divide dough into 8-11 balls, depending on how big you want your tortillas. Roll as thin as possible on a lightly floured surface. Serve immediately or refrigerate (or freeze) in airtight container. Heat an ungreased electric griddle or cast iron skillet very hot (400 degrees) and drop tortillas on it. Cook about 20 seconds, until lightly flecked with brown on one side, then flip until brown spots appear on the other side.
- It takes about 10 minutes to make the dough and between 10-15 minutes to roll it out and cook the tortillas, once you get your rhythm down. Not too bad to save $3-5.
- 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 tort on griddle, roll out, flip tort no. 1 and add tort no. 2, roll some more, remove tort no. 1 and flip tort no. 2…and so on.
- I tried this recipe exactly 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.
- Get caught up with a handy list of all the soaking grains information.
Homemade with Whole Grain Tortillas
Half whole grain flour is better than all white flour, I figure. If you only have traditional whole wheat flour, the tortillas are going to be more dense than you’re used to in the store, and they’re not all that easy to roll out.
1 c. white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour or cornmeal
1 t. salt
(good results with 1 c. whole wheat, 1/2 c. cornmeal and 1/2 c. white flour; half whole wheat/half corn is OK but crumbly; do NOT try even 3/4 cornmeal — way too difficult to maneuver, lots of frustration and a late dinner will result!)
Cut in with pastry blender or two knives:
¼ c. coconut oil or butter or lard (slightly softened)
When it looks like crumbs, add gradually:
½ c. room temperature water
Follow directions above to roll out and finish.
A Few Homemade Tortilla FAQs:
- What’s the best fat to use? My answer here.
- Is it normal for the soaked dough to look like it’s “risen”? Yes.
- Is it okay to have little chunks of coconut oil that don’t seem to blend in? You bet.
- 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. (I really need to make myself one of these; my kitchen is so small!)
- 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! 😉
- A tip from Laurie at Common Sense Homesteading: “If you put your tortillas 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.”
- I have 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.
- My new goal is to try sourdough tortillas, but I’m afraid we won’t like them as much. I’m teaching and taking this online sourdough eCourse.
Other Yummy Parts of the Mexican Meal:
- Homemade Refried Beans
- Katie’s Fresh Salsa
- Restaurant-Style Canned Salsa
- Mexican Beans and Rice
- Easy Guacamole
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