Homemade Flour Tortillas
March 02, 2020 | Updated January 22, 2021
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Homemade flour tortillas are one of life’s greatest little pleasures. And they are surprisingly tricky to make. But, after much trial and error, I have come across a way to make perfect homemade flour tortillas.
I can’t tell you how happy I am to have nailed this recipe. I started with homemade corn tortillas, which are, actually, easier to make, believe it or not. Especially if you have really good masa harina, either from a place like Masienda or if you make homemade masa harina.
But homemade flour tortillas were another matter. My first attempts were basically Italian piadine, a very similar flatbread that, while tasty, is not a tortilla. Another attempt effectively made pita bread. Still not right.
One attempt added too much fat, and I made tortilla shortbreads. Another attempt seemed to be right, but broke when folded. Yet another puffed up so much they turned into balls.
And in every case, my homemade flour tortillas were ugly, misshapen, and most definitely not round. I watched countless YouTube videos on how to roll out flour tortillas, and I came to the conclusion that hand rolling a perfectly round flour tortilla is actually harder even than making handmade tortellini.
At a loss both mechanically and even for a recipe — there are many recipes for flour tortillas on the internet, and I’ve tried most. None were right — I turned to Spanish. Duh, right? But I am still not fluent in Spanish, so my reading comprehension isn’t perfect. But I started to slog through a series of books in Spanish that had recipes for tortillas de harina, or tortillas de trigo.
I also had an ace in the hole: My friend Patricio Wise, who runs the Mexican restaurant Nixtaco. Patricio is from Monterrey, where flour tortillas are a thing. His recipe, also developed from much trial and error, helped me a lot.
Incidentally, let me pause here for a moment to say that flour tortillas are every bit as Mexican as corn tortillas. OK? They’ve been made in that country for close to 500 years, not long after Cortes showed up from Spain in 1521. Flour has been part of the fabric of northern Mexico ever since.
In my opinion, the best flour tortillas are from Sonora, south of Arizona. They’re just my favorite, and you might prefer the slight variations you will see in Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and yes, Texas. It’s all good. These here are Sonoran-style homemade flour tortillas.
What makes them Sonoran? A couple things. First and foremost, no baking powder. It simply isn’t needed. Make these tortillas correctly and they will puff up all by themselves.
Second, I use Sonoran flour, as well as a secret ingredient I’ll get to. First, Sonoran flour is different from regular all-purpose flour — although you can absolutely use regular AP if that’s all you have. (Here’s a cool little article on Sonoran flour tortillas.) It is softer than typical AP flour, which means that some of the soft wheat flours you get in the South, like White Lily, will also work.
Finally, here are my idiosyncratic additions: Smoked lard and a bit of roasted flour from the San Xavier Co-op south of Tucson. The wheat berries are roasted before they’re ground, which gives the flour an amazing aroma. It’s a whole wheat flour, so it darkens the tortilla. It’s basically impossible to find outside of Tucson, so skip it if you’re not a local there.
All homemade flour tortillas have fat. What fat is up to you. You can never go wrong with fresh lard, which is what I always use. It’s amazing stuff. Furthermore, I will smoke pork and then render the fat into lard, which, along with the smokiness of the roasted flour, makes the tortillas even more interesting. Bacon fat would be your easy substitute.
I’ve eaten flour tortillas cut with beef tallow, chicken schmaltz, vegetable shortening, butter and yes, vegetable oil. My recipe requires a solid fat, so lard or bacon fat should be your first two choices. They are also amazing with duck fat!
You need a scale to make this recipe correctly, as it largely hinges on weight. Your kitchen should have one, and if not, you can buy this nice one online.
Also, unless you are already an expert at rolling flour tortillas by hand, you need a tortilla press.
What?! You can’t make flour tortillas with a press! Yes you can. And here’s how.
Make the dough, then squeeze off the individual balls for the tortillas (more on that in a minute), then let them rest in a plastic bag for at least 1 hour, and as many as 6 hours. This long rest is vital. It allows the gluten in the tortillas to relax so you can squash them with the press without the tortilla springing back on itself.
I learned this method myself, through trial and error, but I knew I couldn’t be the only one who does it. And I was right. After I first posted this recipe some years ago, I heard from several people from Northern Mexico who do this, too. Great minds, eh?
A couple more tips: You don’t want your comal or flattop to be as hot as it needs to be with corn tortillas: 400°F to 450°F is fine. You flip homemade flour tortillas the same number of times as with corn, but flour tortillas cook faster.
I like tortillas about 30 to 35 grams per ball. That’s a nice size, more or less 6 inches across. Good for a taco, but go to about 40 to 45 grams for a quesadilla.
(Flour tortillas are a must for Sonoran arrachera tacos, made with skirt steak.)
Flour tortillas also keep better. Once made, these will keep for a couple days in the fridge, and will get supple again with only a short kiss of the comal.
I am so happy to share this recipe with you — it’s the product of many hours of work, and they taste amazing. Hope you like them!
Variations on Homemade Flour Tortillas
If you want to, you can substitute the roasted or whole-wheat flour portion of the dough with many other things to add interest or flavor. Some good, authentic choices would be acorn flour or mesquite flour. Any other sort of flour would also work here, too. And you will sometimes see maybe 1 or 2 tablespoons of small or ground seeds thrown in, too. The seeds of the barrel cactus or chia are sometimes used this way.
If you use a gluten-free flour like mesquite or acorn or whatever, don’t go much more than one-fifth by weight, so in the recipe below, 50 grams max in a batch of 250 grams’ worth of flour.
Homemade Flour Tortillas
- Tortilla press
- Comal or flattop or heavy frying pan
- 225 grams Sonoran, or all-purpose flour
- 25 grams Roasted or whole wheat flour (optional, see note below)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 40 grams lard, bacon fat, duck fat, vegetable shortening or butter
- 7/8 cup hot water (see below)
- Mix the two flours and the salt in a bowl. Add the lard and, using your fingers, work it into the flour until you have a texture similar to a coarse meal.
- Meanwhile, heat some water on the stove to a simmer. When it's hot, measure out a scant cup of water, about 7/8 of a cup, and add most of it to the flours. Mix well with a fork at first because it will be too hot to work with your hands. You want to see everything incorporated into a very pliable dough that is just short of being sticky. Sometimes it takes only 3/4 of a cup, sometimes a bit more. Never more than 1 cup of water, though.
- When the dough is cool enough to handle, knead it vigorously for 5 minutes. It should be a soft, pliable dough that is not sticky.
- Now, using your thumb and forefinger, squeeze off a ball of dough about the size of a walnut. Typically this is about 40 to 45 grams. You will eventually get all your balls within a few grams of each other without effort, but it takes practice. Squeezing off the balls keeps the gluten structure intact and makes for a better tortilla. Give each ball a roll to make it a ball and set it in a plastic bag. Do this with all the flour, re-kneading if you must. Set the balls to rest in the bag for 2 hours.
- Heat a comal or flattop to about 450F. Get your tortilla press out. If you don't already have them, you need two thin sheets of plastic to line it. I cut them from produce bags. You don't want thick plastic here. Take a dough ball out of the bag and re-roll it into a ball. Set it in the center of the press, then set the other sheet of plastic on it. Gently press it into a disc, then lever the top of the press down hard. Remove the plastic and set the flattened dough on your hand while you carefully remove the second piece of plastic.
- Carefully lay the tortilla on the comal and let it sit there until you see lots of little bubbles, about 30 to 45 seconds. Flip the tortilla, using a spatula if needed. Let this cook another 30 to 45 seconds, then flip one more time. By now the tortilla should have ballooned up in places. Move each finished tortilla to a tortilla warmer lined with paper towels, or set them in a kitchen towel, covered to steam and stay warm.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Thank you Hank. I had all but given up on making decent flour tortillas. You recipe (and emphasis on a long rest) was just what I needed. I use homemade schmaltz, soft flour (White Lily), and the tortillas are Fonda San Miguel-worthy. Muchas gracias
I made these with smoked beef tallow and they are amazing!
Maybe I missed it but about how many tortillas will one batch of dough yield? Looking to make up some to go with goose breast tacos. Thanks.
I doubled the recipe and got 16 tortillas out of it
This recipe is beautiful and the directions are perfect, used AP flour & schmaltz – only ended up needing about 1/2 cup of water. Thanks for all of the protips, the extra roll and long rest made these legit.
Could you make your own roasted wheat by roasting wheat berries and the grinding them after they cool? Or does the San Javier Coop have some special way to roast their berries? Mesquite?
BTW, The best flour tortillas I’ve had are in Tucson from a tiny shop in one of the old barrios, Anita Street Market. They make a small 6″ flour tortilla they call a Gordita (they are not think or fat) that have cottage cheese blended into the dough. I asked them if it was Requeson, and they said no–cottage cheese! That was about all I could get out of them as the recipe is a family secret. I told Patricio Wise about it and he said he sometimes uses cheese whey instead of water in his flour tortillas. So now I freeze some of the whey from making mozzarella and use it when I make flour tortillas.
I’m looking forward to trying your flour tortillas. I’ve got the rolling and stretching down but I’ll try the tortilla press technique. I’ve got a a big wooden tortilla press I brought back from Oaxaca that works great.
Hank, I see from reading the older comments that I already shared a lot of the info I just posted over a year ago! 😉 Another senior moment!
But I’m still curious about roasting wheat berries…
Awesome! Best flour tortilla’s I’ve ever had
Is there any way you can give us the recipe in regular measurements (cups. etc.)?
I dont want to buy scales because it is only me and i dont want a lot of expense
Ps. Sorry it did not get posted in my reply!
I made these this past weekend; they were amazingly good and simple to make. I used a regular AP plus Jovial WW flour and a butter/veg shortening mix. No one in the house wants to eat store bought flour tortillas ever again. Thanks Hank!
As a native San Antonian, we are pretty adept at tortilla making. Both flour and corn. I have to tell you Hank, that these were spectacular. I ordered the Sonoran flour, used it and whole wheat flour, plus lard. I was really surprised at being able to use the tortilla press to make them. Never had been able to do that with flour tortillas before. We loved the flavor and the texture of these. So soft and pliable.
I made them last night and used them to make Axis tacos. I got 11 balls out of the recipe so I made the last 4 this morning to go with chilaquiles for breakfast. When I ordered Hayden’s Sonoran flour, I also ordered their stone ground cornmeal. Used that a week ago to make polenta for shrimp and grits. Honestly, that was the best polenta I ever made too. Thanks for what you do Hank, we appreciate it at our house.
I had to come back to say I made jalapeño, cheese, corn kernel, cornbread tonight with the Hayden stone ground cornmeal. It was fantastic. I don’t know what they do, but the grain products are out of this world.
Made these for Cinco de Mayo dinner tonight. They were great and we’ll be making them again soon.