These homemade flour tortillas are perfectly soft and cost pennies to make. Plus, you can make a big batch and store them in the freezer for easy meal prep.
It used to take me forever to figure out which package of tortillas to buy at the grocery store. I would stare at all the options, trying to find one for a decent price that wasn’t packed with an absurd amount of salt. Has this happened to anyone else? Or am I the only crazy person who stands in the aisle for five minutes at a time, unable to make a decision, blocking the way for other shoppers and mumbling apologies? Just me? Okay.
The thing is, store-bought tortillas are not typically a great value. The raw ingredients are so. dang. cheap. and the cooking methods ridiculously simple, and yet they can cost two, three, even sometimes four dollars for a pack of ten or twelve.
Almost two years ago, I made it my mission to learn how to make tortillas myself. It took some trial and error, but I’ve finally found a recipe that makes delicious tortillas for pennies.
Trust me, you’ll never want to buy store-bought tortillas again.
Investing time to save money
Making homemade flour tortillas does require some time. But I like to think of it as an investment–putting in time on the front end saves me money in the future. I might spend an hour or two on a Saturday making a giant stack of tortillas, but they’ll last a couple months in the freezer and cost me almost nothing. That’s one less item I have to buy at the store and more money in my pocket. Cha-ching!
That’s not to say that I never run to the store for tortillas in a pinch. Occasions arise when saving time is worth the extra couple of bucks. But my husband and I are nerdy food people who think making tortillas is a fun and relaxing way to spend an afternoon, so most of the time, that’s what we do!
How to make homemade flour tortillas
Without further ado, let’s begin! Flour tortillas require five simple ingredients:
- Baking powder
… and five basic steps:
- Make the dough
- Form it into balls
- Let the dough balls rest
- Roll them out into thin circles
- Cook the tortillas in a cast iron skillet.
The perfect flour tortilla is supple and bends easily without tearing. Ideally, it’s also round, although this is less of a requirement in my book. Functionality first, beauty second.
Below, I explain some tips and tricks for achieving the right texture and shape for your tortillas. It’s taken me a lot of practice and research to learn these methods, so I’m hoping this guide will help YOU become a tortilla master in much less time.
How to make tortillas that bend easily
No one wants a tough tortilla (although I’ve made several batches in my day that resemble hockey pucks). There are three things you need to do to make sure your tortillas are flexible enough to fold:
- Start with a soft, stretchy dough. Be careful not to incorporate too much extra flour into the dough while kneading and rolling. The dough should be a little tacky–just as long as it’s not too sticky to work with. You’ll also need to allow the dough to rest before rolling it out into tortillas. This relaxes the gluten and makes the dough stretchy. If you find that the dough resists rolling and tries to spring back into shape, stop and give it more resting time.
- Keep your heat and cooking time low. Tortillas are very thin, so you must be gentle. I set the temperature dial on my stove to a three. They cook very quickly, so don’t leave them unattended. One minute on the first side and then thirty more seconds after flipping works perfectly for me.
- Use a tortilla warmer (or a makeshift one!). After cooking, the tortillas need to stay warm and moist to maintain their soft texture. In the past, I tried to cool my tortillas on a cooling rack–like you would with cookies–but this dried them out and made them tough. Don’t have a tortilla warmer? No worries. I don’t have one either. In the recipe below, I’ll explain how to make one out of a hand towel and a piece of foil.
How to make round tortillas
To get perfectly round tortillas, you’ll need a tortilla press (or wizard-like skills with a rolling pin). I have neither. My kitchen is small, so I try to avoid owning single-purpose appliances.
Through trial and error (and some time on YouTube), I’ve found a method for getting pretty round tortillas. I don’t know if this is the correct way per se (I would love for somebody’s abuela to teach me!), but it works well for me.
It all starts with a perfectly round dough ball. Folds or creases in the dough ball will create uneven edges when you roll them out.
Gently press the dough ball into a flat disc with the palm of your hand. Then use gradual movements to roll the dough ball into a flat circle. Always start with your rolling pin in the center of the tortilla and roll outward, rather than rocking back and forth. Sudden movements with the rolling pin can create little tails in your tortillas. See the recipe below for more specific instructions.
And friend, don’t fret if you end up with funny shaped tortillas. You’ll get better with practice. Plus, it won’t even matter once they’re filled with yummy taco fillings. Here are two unusual-looking tortillas from my last batch. Look at all those tails! And don’t mind the burnt spots on the bottom one. I’m only human.
Storing your homemade flour tortillas
I like to make two or three batches at a time and store them in the freezer. Make one big stack and put a piece of parchment paper in between each tortilla. That way, they won’t freeze together, and you can easily pull out just as many as you need. Before I learned this trick, I used to have to warm up the whole pile of tortillas in order to separate out the ones I needed. The repeated defrosting and refreezing would ruin the texture over time. When they’re all gone, save the parchment squares for next time to avoid the trouble of cutting them out again.
And there you have it, folks! If you try this recipe, let me know in the comments below. Happy tortilla making! I’m so happy for you 🙂
Homemade Flour Tortillas
- Large mixing bowl
- Rolling Pin
- Cast iron skillet
- Aluminum foil
- Hand towel
- 3 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for your work surface
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup hot water
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
Make the dough
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl.
- Dig a little well into the center of the flour mixture, and then pour in the hot water and oil. Whisk just until the liquid is incorporated, at which point it will become too sticky to whisk anymore.
- Switch to a spatula or wooden spoon and continue mixing the dough until it forms a sticky, shaggy ball.
Knead the dough
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, then knead it for 5 to 8 minutes or until the ball is smooth. Be careful not to add too much extra flour at this step. Try to keep the dough just sticky enough that if you let it sit on the work surface for more than a few seconds, it will get stuck. Avoid sticking by moving the dough ball quickly as you knead, picking it up and turning it frequently.
Form dough balls
- Pull the dough apart and roll it into 14 round balls (about the size of golf balls). Don't bother weighing each ball to make sure they're exactly the same size. Doing so will cause you to pull off and add little bits of dough to get the right weight. These additions and subtractions will create folds in the dough balls, and the tortillas will be irregularly shaped when you roll them out. If you don't end up with exactly 14 balls, that's okay.
Let the dough balls rest
- Dip the bottoms of the dough balls in a touch of flour, set them on a baking sheet, and cover them with a damp towel. Let them rest for 30 minutes. This will allow the gluten to relax, making the dough stretchy and easy to roll out.
Roll out the dough balls
- One at a time, place the dough balls onto a lightly floured work surface and flatten them into a disc. If the dough moves around a lot while you try to roll it out, you have too much flour. If it's difficult to peel the rolled-out tortilla from the work surface, you don't have enough flour.
- Roll out the dough into round circles a little less than 1/8-inch thick. When rolling out the dough, always start with your rolling pin in the center of the tortilla and move outward. The key is to make gradual movements in all directions to achieve a round shape. If you think of the tortilla like a compass, first start in the center and roll north. Then pick up the rolling pin, go back to the center, and roll south. Then roll east, then west, then northeast, then southwest, etc. If you start to get an oblong shape, roll a little more in the opposite direction. A sudden, strong movement in one direction can give your tortilla a tail. If your dough springs back when you try to roll it, let it rest for 10 more minutes.
Cook the tortillas
- Heat a cast iron skillet on the stove to medium heat. Allow several minutes for it to evenly heat up. If you flick a drop of water into the pan and it sizzles and beads up, then the pan is ready.
- While the skillet heats up, make a tortilla warmer by laying a piece of foil on the counter and then placing a hand towel on top of the foil. The foil should be roughly the same size as the hand towel.
- Cook the tortillas one at a time. Lay each tortilla in the skillet and let it cook for 1 minute or until bubbles form all over the surface. Then flip the tortilla with your fingers or tongs and cook it on the other side for about 30 seconds more. You want to see light brown spots and no translucent, doughy-looking parts. If you see dark brown or black spots, turn the heat down a tad.
Keep the tortillas warm and moist
- After removing each tortilla from the skillet, place it on the hand towel, and then fold the towel and foil in half to enclose the stack. Let the tortillas cool in there completely before refrigerating or freezing.
Store the tortillas
- Store the tortillas in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week. You can also freeze them for up to two months. Before freezing, cut small squares of parchment paper to stick between each tortilla. Then wrap the stack in plastic wrap and stick it in a ziploc bag. The parchment paper will prevent the tortillas from freezing together, allowing you to take only the number you need out of the freezer. Otherwise, you'll have to defrost the whole stack to separate them, and the tortillas that you stick back in the freezer will get a tough, gooey texture.