While supermarket tortillas are undeniably convenient, they taste like cardboard compared to homemade versions. Luckily, making both corn and flour tortillas is far easier than you think. The ingredient lists are short, the doughs are forgiving, and you don’t even need a tortilla press.
Recipes typically call for dry ingredients and water to be kneaded together into a dough, which is then pressed into thin tortillas using a tortilla press. But the specialty equipment isn’t necessary. We also tested other variables, including whether to add salt (yes), how long to rest the dough before pressing the tortillas (not long), and how best to cook them (a cast-iron or nonstick skillet).
When making corn tortillas, there’s no substitute for the masa harina. This is large field (not sweet) corn that has been dried and then cooked with an alkaline solution in a process called nixtamalization, which turns it into hominy and unlocks big, toasty corn flavor. The hominy is ground into masa harina, a type of corn flour. We found that for shaping the soft dough for corn tortillas, a plastic zipper-lock bag cut down the seam on both sides will give your tortillas a better release than parchment paper will. Pressing the dough flat using a glass pie plate gives you control over the process.
While developing our recipe for flour tortillas, we learned that too little fat produces brittle tortillas, too little salt yields tasteless ones, and baking powder makes them doughy and thick. Lard is the traditional fat, and it lends the greatest tenderness, but the shelf-stable supermarket lard that’s most readily available gives tortillas a sour flavor, so we decided on shortening instead. Adding warm water to the dough melts the shortening, which then coats the flour and prevents it from absorbing excess moisture. This results in less gluten
development and yields more tender tortillas. A brief rest in the refrigerator firms up the shortening again so that the dough won’t be too sticky to roll. In fact, you can simply roll out individual tortillas with a rolling pin.
Layering or covering your just-cooked tortillas with dish towels will let the tortillas steam and finish cooking. By the time you’re ready to stuff them with fillings, they’ll be pliable and still warm and moist.
1 For corn tortillas, combine masa harina, oil, and salt in bowl. (For flourtortillas, combine flour, salt, and shortening, rubbing fat into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal.) Fold in water with rubber spatula until combined.
2 For corn tortillas, knead dough in bowl until dough is soft and tacky but notsticky. For flour tortillas, knead briefly on counter to form smooth, cohesive ball.
3 Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each into 1-inch ball betweenyour hands. Keep dough balls covered as you work.
4 For corn tortillas, place on 1 side of cut-open zipper-lock bag and fold otherside over top. Using pie plate, press dough into 6½-inch-wide tortilla (about
1/16 inch thick). For flour tortillas, roll into 6-inch circle on lightly floured counter.
5 Cook tortillas in hot skillet until spotty brown on both sides (corn tortillaswill puff up; flour tortillas will bubble).
Homemade Corn Tortillas
Makes twelve 6-inch tortillas
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Fresh corn tortillas have a lightly sweetflavor and soft, springy texture. We kneaded masa harina and water together with a little oil to form an easy-to-handle dough, then pressed each dough portion into thin rounds using a pie plate. When the tortillas puff in the cast-iron skillet after flipping, you know that you’ve done it right: That’s a sign that distinct, tender layers are forming.
2 cups (8 ounces) masa harina
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon table salt
1¼ cups warm tap water, plus extra as needed
1 Mix masa harina, oil, and salt together in medium bowl, then fold inwater with rubber spatula. Using your hands, knead mixture in bowl, adding extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed until dough is soft and tacky but not sticky and has texture of Play-Doh. Cover dough with damp dish towel and let sit for 5 minutes.
2 Cut sides of 1-quart zipper-lock bag, leaving bottom seam intact.Line large plate with 2 damp dish towels. Divide dough into 12 equal portions, about 2 tablespoons each; roll each into smooth ball between your hands and place between dish towels. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, place on 1 side of zipper-lock bag and fold other side over top. Press dough flat into 6-inch circle using pie plate; leave tortilla in plastic until skillet is hot.
3 Heat 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Remove plastic on top of tortilla, flip tortilla into your palm, then remove plastic on bottom and lay tortilla in skillet. Cook tortilla, without moving it, until it moves freely when skillet is shaken and has shrunk slightly in size, about 45 seconds.
4 Flip tortilla over and cook until edges curl and bottom is spottybrown, about 1 minute. Flip tortilla back over and continue to cook until first side is spotty brown and puffs up slightly in center, 30 to 60 seconds. Lay toasted tortilla between damp dish towels. Repeat with remaining dough. Serve. (Cooled tortillas can be layered between sheets of parchment paper, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated for up to 5 days.)
Homemade Taco-Size Flour Tortillas
Makes twelve 6-inch tortillas
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS These chewy yet supple tortillas putflavorless store-bought versions to shame. A simple mixture of flour, salt, water, and fat and a brief rest was all it took to create a tender, easy-to-roll dough.
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons table salt
5 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into ½-inch chunks
⅔ cup warm tap water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 Combine flour and salt in large bowl. Using your fingers, rubshortening into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal. Fold in warm water with rubber spatula.
2 Turn out dough onto counter and knead briefly to form smooth,cohesive ball. Divide dough into 12 equal portions, about 2 tablespoons each; roll each into smooth ball between your hands. Transfer dough balls to plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until dough is firm, at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
3 Cut twelve 6-inch squares of parchment paper. Roll 1 dough ballinto 6-inch circle on lightly floured counter. Transfer to parchment square and set aside. Repeat with remaining dough balls, stacking rolled tortillas on top of each other with parchment squares between.
4 Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat untilshimmering. Wipe out skillet with paper towels, leaving thin film of oil on bottom. Place 1 tortilla in skillet and cook until surface begins to bubble and bottom is spotty brown, about 1 minute. (If not browned after 1 minute, turn up heat slightly. If browning too quickly, reduce heat.) Flip and cook until spotty brown on second side, 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer to plate and cover with clean dish towel. Repeat with remaining tortillas. (Cooled tortillas can be layered between sheets of parchment paper, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS To show off homemade corn tortillasand take them to the next level, fry them! To build these Mexican-style tacos, we brushed our homemade corn tortillas with oil, warmed them to make them pliable, and stuffed them with a seasoned beef and cheese filling. We then folded them in half and pan-fried them in a skillet until supercrispy and golden; arranging the tacos so they faced the same direction in the skillet made them easy to fit and flip. To finish, we opened the tacos like books to load them up with toppings. To ensure crispy tacos, cook the tortillas until they are deeply browned. Our favorite toppings for these tacos are shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sour cream, pickled jalapeño slices, and hot sauce.
1 tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces 90 percent lean ground beef
7 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 onion, chopped fine
1½ tablespoons chili powder 1½ tablespoons paprika
1½ teaspoons ground cumin 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (½ cup), plus extra for serving
12 Homemade Corn Tortillas
1 Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.Combine water and baking soda in large bowl. Add beef and mix until thoroughly combined.
2 Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heatuntil shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook until paste is rust-colored, 1to 2 minutes. Add beef mixture and cook, using wooden spoon to break meat into pieces no larger than ¼ inch, until beef is no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer beef mixture to bowl; stir in cheddar until cheese has melted and mixture is homogeneous. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
3 Thoroughly brush both sides of tortillas with 2 tablespoons oil.Arrange tortillas, overlapping, on rimmed baking sheet in 2 rows (6 tortillas each). Bake until tortillas are warm and pliable, about 5 minutes. Remove tortillas from oven and reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees.
4 Place 2 tablespoons filling on 1 side of 1 tortilla. Fold and press toclose tortilla (edges will be open, but tortilla will remain folded). Repeat with remaining tortillas and remaining filling. (At this point, filled tortillas can be covered and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.)
5 Set wire rack in second rimmed baking sheet and line rack withdouble layer of paper towels. Heat remaining ¼ cup oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Arrange 6 tacos in skillet with open sides facing away from you. Cook, adjusting heat so oil actively sizzles and bubbles appear around edges of tacos, until
tacos are crispy and deeply browned on 1 side, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs and thin spatula, carefully flip tacos. Cook until deeply browned on second side, 2 to 3 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary.
6 Remove skillet from heat and transfer tacos to prepared wire rack. Blot tops of tacos with double layer of paper towels. Place sheet with fried tacos in oven to keep warm. Return skillet to medium-high heat and cook remaining tacos. Serve tacos immediately, passing extra cheddar separately.