How are tortillas made? Mexico's signature food

Directions for preparing tortillas, which are an indispensable ingredient in Mexican meals, and are basic to most favorite Mexican dishes.

How are tortillas made? Mexico's signature food
Tortillas can be made not only with nixtamalized corn but also with corn flour, wheat flour, whole wheat flour, and violet corn flour. Photo by Erik Dungan / Unsplash

Like most of the world's great inventions, tortillas arose out of necessity. The ancient Mexicans, blessed with abundant corn and in need of an easily transportable food product, created masa, dough made from ground corn kernels soaked in lime (this helps loosen the husk from the kernel); it was then shaped into thin discs and cooked for a bit. The result? Tasty tortillas.

The tortilla, Mexico's signature food, can be layered, rolled, folded, split, cut, or eaten plain. It is delicious soft or fried, roasted or baked. It is preserved and can be prepared in advance and reheated. The proof of its good taste and versatility is its long history: for centuries, it has been one of the staple foods of the Mexican people.

Today, tortillas are made by hand, the traditional way, and by machine. While both methods provide excellent results, the quality of a freshly handmade tortilla does not compare to commercial tortillas.

For home use, the options are to buy packages of corn tortillas (excellent quality tortillas are sold in the United States) or dehydrated masa flour (corn flour for tortillas) to prepare them at home. Flour tortillas, a specialty of northern Mexico, are also easy to find and easy to make by hand.

Buying and storing tortillas

Look for packages of tortillas in the special section of the supermarket - you'll also find frozen tortillas and folded corn tortillas (quesadillas) labeled as "taco shells". Size varies, for example, flour tortillas are 6 to 8 inches (15 a 20 cm ) in diameter, and corn tortillas are usually about 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter.

To check that unfrozen tortillas are pliable and soft, make sure they can be folded and that the edges are not dry or cracked.

Tortillas can be kept for several months in the freezer - however, they will lose flavor and moisture after several days in the refrigerator. When you open the package, wrap the remaining tortillas tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. To thaw, separate the tortillas slowly, shake off the frost and let thaw on a flat surface at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Heating and serving tortillas

Corn and flour tortillas have different functions in recipes. However, tortillas are also delicious on their own, served as a snack or to accompany food. While fresh tortillas are soft when purchased, they become even softer when heated. Or they can be fried until crisp and served as an accompaniment to soups and salads. Follow these simple principles for heating and serving tortillas. Do not heat tortillas any hotter than necessary or they will become hard and brittle.

To heat or reheat, remove tortillas from the package (thaw, if frozen). If the tortillas are dry and a little hard, soak your hands in water and lightly rub the tortillas. Overlap them, wrap them with aluminum foil, and heat them in the oven at 175 C, until they are warm (about 15 min.). You can also place tortillas, one at a time, in an ungreased frying pan or griddle over high heat, turning frequently with tongs until soft (about 30 sec. per tortilla).

In the microwave, wrap overlapping tortillas in cloth linen (or make empty perforations in the plastic package) and heat in the microwave oven at a high temperature (100 %) for about 7 sec. per tortilla.

To grill, place tortillas on a 7.5 or 10 cm grill rack over unlit coals, on an oil-free skillet, or griddle over high heat. Heat, turning once or twice, until hot and a thin layer rises from one side or the other (about 1 min. per tortilla).

For frying, in a frying pan pour 1 2 mm oil and heat to 175 C. Fry the tortillas, one at a time,- with tongs turn once, fry until crisp and golden brown (about 1 min.). Drain on paper towels.

To serve the tortillas warm, wrap them in a napkin and carry them to the table in a basket or container with a lid. If desired, spread them with butter or margarine before serving, then fold or roll them up to keep the melted butter inside.

To store the tortillas warm for several hours, wrap them warm in aluminum foil, then in a cloth and several layers of paper.

Making tortillas

It is not difficult to make tortillas and enjoy their great taste and texture if you follow a simple recipe. To make corn tortillas, buy dehydrated masa flour (corn flour for tortillas) at a Mexican grocery store or specialty food store (you will also find it in many supermarkets). Do not substitute it for corn flour. Since dehydrated masa flour is also used to prepare tamales and other dishes, you should buy it in bulk. Store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Corn and flour tortillas can be shaped by hand, but you will get better results if you learn the technique from a Mexican cook. You can also use a rolling pin. For excellent results with corn tortillas, buy a tortilla maker at a kitchen supply store.

The tortilla is one of the great inventions of world cuisine. Not only can it be used to make countless recipes, but it can also be shaped into bowls, baskets, and cones. These are filled and eaten. Warm tortillas can also be used as flexible lids, both for keeping food warm and for wrapping it. Nowadays there are several types with different flavors and textures.

Crisp baskets, bowls, and molded tortilla cones are useful for serving guacamole, baked or stewed beans, casseroles or you can top a small chorizo cheese bowl with a warm tortilla shell.

Homemade corn tortillas recipe

Preparation time is about 30 minutes.
Cooking time is about 2 minutes per tortilla.
Per tortilla, about 68 calories, 2 g of protein. 14 g carbohydrates, 1 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, and / mg sodium.

Use this method to make 15 cm diameter tortillas for recipes or small 10 cm tortillas for snacks.


2 cups dehydrated masa flour (corn flour for tortillas)
1 1/4 cups warm water


In a bowl, mix the masa flour with enough warm water to incorporate the dough. Form a uniform ball. To make 15 cm diameter tortillas, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces or to make 10 cm tortillas into 24 equal pieces, and form one into a ball. Cover with a damp paper towel.

To shape with a tortilla press, cover the bottom of the press with waxed paper and place a ball of dough on the paper, slightly off-center, toward the hinged end of the press. Place another piece of waxed paper over the dough, close the press, and press. Open the press and peel the paper off the top. Repeat the procedure with the remaining dough, overlapping the tortillas between pieces of waxed paper.

To shape with a rolling pin, place a ball of dough between two pieces of waxed paper; press a little with your hands. Gently roll the rolling pin over the dough several times. Turn the dough between the papers and roll out to form a circle 10 to 15 cm in diameter. Carefully peel the paper off the top and repeat the procedure with the remaining dough, overlapping the tortillas between pieces of waxed paper.

To make a circular tortilla, use a knife to trim the edges or cut the dough into a circle.

To cook tortillas, place a thick, uncovered 25 to 30 cm diameter skillet or griddle over high heat. When the pan is hot, lift a tortilla, hold it with the paper and place it in the pan; remove the paper at the same time. Cook the tortilla until the bottom has brown spots (about 30 sec.). With a wide spatula, flip the tortilla and cook for 1 minute more, remove from the pan and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat the procedure with the remaining tortillas. Serve immediately.

If you make the tortillas ahead of time, let them cool, wrap tightly and refrigerate or freeze. If desired, wrap tortillas in foil and reheat (thaw, if frozen) in the oven at 175 C for 15 minutes or so. To reheat in the microwave oven, wrap in plastic wrap and heat on high (100%) for about 7 seconds per tortilla. Yields one dozen 15 cm diameter tortillas or two 10 cm diameter tortillas.

Homemade flour tortillas recipe

Preparation time is about 30 minutes.
Cooking time is about 2 minutes per tortilla.

Per tortilla, about 114 calories, 3 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 0.31 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, and 209 mg sodium.

In the 16th century, the Spanish brought wheat flour to Mexico and Mexicans used it to make tortillas. However, these tortillas have never displaced corn tortillas. They are consumed mainly in northern Mexico, where they originated.


3 cups wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
About 1 cup of warm water


Mix flour with baking powder and salt. Gradually incorporate enough warm water to form a lumpy dough; knead with hands until a ball is formed. Pour onto a flat surface and knead until smooth. Divide into 12 equal pieces and form into 12 balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

To shape the tortillas, press a ball into a disk 10 or 12 cm in diameter. Roll out to a circle about 22 cm in diameter, from the center to the edges. Frequently turn the tortilla over and stretch the dough as it comes away from the surface.

As you shape the tortillas, place them in a heavy uncovered skillet or griddle over high heat. Almost immediately, tiny bubbles should begin to appear. Turn the tortilla over, and with a wide spatula, gently press the entire top.

As you do so, blisters will form over much of the surface. Turn the tortilla over again and press until the blisters turn golden brown, the tortilla should remain soft. If it sticks or burns, turn down the flame.

As it cooks, stack the tortillas on a folded napkin placed in a plastic bag - close the bag and let the tortillas steam. Serve as soon as they soften. If prepared ahead of time, let cool, remove from bag and wrap tightly; refrigerate or freeze. Reheat as above. Makes 1 dozen 22 cm diameter tortillas.

Tortillas as lids

Stack as many 17.5 to 22.5 cm diameter flour tortillas as you need and wrap them in aluminum foil. Heat in oven at 175 C for 15 minutes or wrap in plastic wrap and heat in a microwave oven at high temperature (100%) for 6 to 7 seconds per tortilla.

Place tortillas on top of bowls of meat with chili or thick beans. You can also prepare individual casseroles of chorizo and cheese. For each serving, in a small casserole dish place 1/4 cup of cooked crumbled Chorizo or commercial chorizo and 1/2 cup of shredded melting cheese. Bake at 200 C until cheese is melted (about 8 min.). Cover the casserole with a warm tortilla. Serve chorizo mixture on tortilla and roll-up.