We all know tortillas. They’re a fan favorite, found on almost every street, sold in carts and malls, and served at parties.
What’s great about tortillas is they’re easy to make, eat, and are wonderfully filling at a cheap price.
Tortilla fans may have wondered at least once: What goes into the making of a tortilla? If you run out of tortillas in the fridge or want a fresher, more authentic flavor, wouldn’t it be great to whip up your own?
Thankfully, it’s easy (and cheap!) to make your own tortillas. You don’t even need special ingredients or appliances to cook your own batch.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the history of this well-loved food and also provide you with straightforward recipes, so you can add another cooking talent to your repertoire!
- 1 The History of Tortillas
- 2 How to Make Tortillas
- 3 What to Eat with Tortillas
- 4 Tortillas, the Tasty Treat
The History of Tortillas
Tortillas are, technically, a flat pancake. They come in two varieties: corn tortillas and wheat tortillas, made with cornmeal or wheat flour, respectively.
Then you pack them with heavy filling, often ground beef or cheese – or both!
While it’s a treat that everyone knows of, tortillas can be traced back to ancient times. According to Mayan legends, the tortilla was created by a peasant and was served to his hungry king.
Historians have traced the first tortillas as far back as 10,000 BC.
Original cooks would first soak the maize in a solution of lime—not the fruit, but calcium hydroxide, found in limestone. This removed the skins from the maize and increased the niacin inside the maize.
The Aztecs would then grind maize into cornmeal, which they used to make the dough. This dough was then flattened and cooked on both sides on a griddle.
As a testament to how great this recipe is, you can still see this same process used in southern Mexico.
While there are people who prefer traditional routes, commercial tortillas are readily available for those who want their food quick and easy. However, nothing compares to wholesome, homemade tortillas, made with love and care.
With homemade varieties, you can also be sure there are no harmful additives or preservatives in your favorite meal. And while commercial tortillas can be bought for cheap, you can still save more money if you create your own tortillas at home.
Wheat Flour and Corn Tortillas
Overall, flour tortillas are much easier to develop than corn tortillas, as wheat flour is far more accessible than corn flour.
They also provide a larger yield, as flour tortillas can be stretched beyond their corn counterparts. That’s why if you compare corn and flour tortillas side by side, flour tortillas will always be larger – making them great for those hefty burritos.
However, when you go for quantity, you’re inevitably sacrificing quality. Corn tortillas tend to have better texture and flavor, and are generally healthier.
As a matter of fact, historians believed that the first tortillas were made out of cornmeal, and not wheat flour.
While corn tortillas do have all those benefits, there are some instances wherein you should pick a flour tortilla.
For example, burritos and fajitas can’t be made using corn tortillas, as corn varieties aren’t large enough to hold all the filling inside.
Additionally, you could also opt for a whole wheat flour tortilla if you want to enjoy the same health benefits that a corn tortilla offers.
How to Make Tortillas
Tortillas look easy to make, and they are easy to make. You need only a few ingredients in both varieties, and absolutely no special appliances.
Just be sure you have a griddle and a small surface where you can knead the dough – and you’re good to go.
How to Make Flour Tortillas
This recipe makes eight delicious tortillas as a whole.
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour.
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- 3/4 cup of water.
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (alternatively, olive oil, lard, or shortening).
- Combine flour and salt in a bowl, then stir in the water and oil.
- Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and knead about ten times. Let it rest for ten minutes. Perform a gluten test by stretching a bit of the dough over your finger; you will know that your dough is ready if it’s opaque enough for you to see through to your finger. If not, knead again a few more times, and let rest.
- Divide the dough into even portions and roll individually to the size of tennis balls. Make sure not to knead the dough too much. Then, flatten each ball with a rolling pin.
- On a skillet, cook the tortillas on each side. You will know that they are ready to flip once the surface has begun to bubble. It may take a bit of trial and error to gauge how long you will need, as it depends on your pan and griddle.
Alternatively, if you want to store dough inside your fridge to save for later, this batch keeps without issue for about a week.
You can also freeze the dough so that it keeps for several months—although chances are, you will eat through them in no more than a few weeks.
Nonetheless, this dough is a great staple to have as a quick snack or an emergency meal; just whip out a batch from the fridge and put it on the griddle.
On that note, cooked tortillas can always be reheated in the microwave, although it’s best to consume them fresh from the pan.
Here’s a video showing an example of how to make homemade tortillas.
How to Make Corn Tortillas
If you thought flour tortillas were easy, corn tortillas are even more simplistic. You only need three ingredients: cornmeal, water, and salt.
You can also add an oil (preferably lard) to the dough, so as to develop a more traditional flavor and quality. However, it can be hard to find lard in stores, and what’s available is often made with harmful additives.
Alternatives to lard are any type of oil; for corn tortillas, olive oil is preferred, just like this recipe below – based off the Corn Tortilla recipe from BBC Food Recipes.
- ¾ cup of maize tortilla flour (masa, harina, or maseca flour).
- A pinch of salt.
- ½ cup of cold water.
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Then, add water and oil until you reach a smooth consistency. You may need to add more flour or salt to reach the right thickness, as your dough should be moldable.
- Knead the dough and let it rest for ten minutes. Just like with the flour tortilla recipe, perform a gluten test.
- Divide the dough into 24 balls, similar in size to tennis balls, and flatten.
- Cook the tortillas on a lightly oiled pan, darkening it on both sides. You will know that they are ready to flip once the surface begins to bubble.
Tortillas, by themselves, are almost always vegan. The only exception would be if you used lard in your recipe.
Thankfully, lard can be easily replaced with a host of other ingredients, like vegetable oil or shortening. Just remember to put less oil if you’re using heavier kinds, like coconut, and to account for any strong flavors your oil may have.
There are a host of fillings that you can put in your tortillas to keep them vegan. You can choose to add veggies, herbs, hummus, avocado dip, or salsa in order to create a flavorful blend.
Here is a recipe for a Vegan Burrito with Vegan Tortilla Filling from Lazy Cat Kitchen, which can hopefully inspire you to come up with more fillings to suit your tortilla cravings.
How to Make Hard Tortilla Shells
Now, as much as we love soft tortillas – some dishes simply must have hard shells. After all, it’s easy to add some greens, ground beef, and cheese, and call it a snack.
However, like with most store-bought foods, hard tortilla shells can have plenty of additives. Thankfully, you can always make your own healthier version without too much hassle.
To make classic hard tortilla shells, all you need is to pop your uncooked tortillas in the microwave for about a minute.
Then, lay the flattened dough over the ring of a grill, so they achieve that curved shell shape. After, put them in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 5 minutes.
You’ll have the perfect tortilla shell in a pinch!
This video shows how to make a salad bowl out of tortilla shells.
What to Eat with Tortillas
The fun thing about tortillas is you can get excellent mileage out of them. They can be prepared in so many ways, and there’s a perfect tortilla recipe for almost any occasion.
Here are a few methods for you to prepare tortillas to suit any type of dish.
If you want a healthier alternative to store-bought pizza crusts, or if you really like thin-crust pizzas, then this one’s for you.
Tortillas provide a delightful crunch, which is perfect for thin-crust pizza enthusiasts, or people who just really want a quick snack.
What’s great about using tortillas as pizza crusts is that you can vary it almost endlessly. You can even tailor personal pizzas for the whole family!
To use tortillas like a pizza crust, simply place your desired toppings as you would while making a usual pizza.
You could go with the typical cheese, pepperoni, and tomato sauce, or add in your own favorite toppings (pineapple, anyone?) and sauces. Then, pop it in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for four to five minutes.
Chips and Dip
It’s rather easy to transform tortilla wraps into chips.
Even better, their mild taste ensures they’re suited to nearly any dip imaginable. You can go with the classic nacho cheese, the traditional salsa, or a funky avocado dip – or all of the above!
To make tortilla chips, first, brush both sides of the tortilla wraps with olive oil and salt. Then put your wraps in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for five minutes.
You may want to break them into chip-sized pieces depending on your needs. But, if you’re in a major snacking mood, you could eat them as one large chip!
For a healthy alternative, why not make a tortilla salad? This food is a great way to add greens to your meal. Even better, they can be made quickly and easily, using ingredients you already have in your kitchen.
Like the previous recipes mentioned, they’re also very simple to customize, so you can vary the ingredients to suit your tastes.
This recipe for Bean, Corn, and Tortilla Salad from Martha Stewart is a great recipe to base future salads off of. Alternatively, if you’re on a budget and would still like to host a party, they’re a cost-effective way to supply a brunch or a Super Bowl Party.
To make this Martha Stewart recipe, you’ll only need to warm scallions, avocado, and tomatoes in a microwave. Then, toss the lettuce and tortilla chips together, topping it with a bean mixture and cheese.
Besides the recipes discussed here, tortillas can be eaten and prepared in a dozen more ways. Here is a list of 24 different ways to eat tortillas, from snack to main dishes to desserts.
Of course, because tortillas are so versatile, the possibilities are endless; creative chefs will come up with their own new uses, but this list is a great way to fire up those creative juices.
Tortillas, the Tasty Treat
Tortillas are a wonderful, hearty staple that can elicit feelings of warmth. They can be easily whipped into a filling meal with nothing but a few kitchen staples lying around, and filled with goodness that pretty much everyone can enjoy.
They can even be kept for long periods of time, making them an ideal snack to serve at a party, whether it’s a casual get-together, a more formal family event, or even just a night alone at home.
Whatever the occasion, tortillas will always be there for us whenever we need a quick, hearty, and filling meal.
Have you tried making homemade tortillas?