DIY Kitchen: Tortillas in No Time

A staple in Mexican cuisine, tortillas are easy to create and require just a few ingredients — usually wheat or corn flour with the addition of salt, water and sometimes oil, butter or lard. Not only do fresh tortillas taste better than store-bought versions, but the process of making them is a great way to get the whole family into the kitchen.

The beauty of the tortilla is its simplicity. It’s a basic flatbread that does not require yeast or other leaveners, making it an uncomplicated option for home cooks. Tortillas also can be formulated to fit different tastes and preferences. Nearly any vegetable can be pureed and added to flour tortilla dough for a unique spin on tradition. Amp up the nutrients by adding pureed spinach or roasted red pepper, or consider adding kale or basil pesto or puréed roasted garlic.

Tortillas serve as a vessel for everything from tacos to enchiladas, but they can be used for more than Mexican fare. Spread hummus on them and top with sliced red onion, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, lettuce and feta cheese for a Mediterranean-inspired meal. Whip some goat cheese with fresh herbs to spread on tortillas and top with grilled chicken, thinly sliced bell peppers and baby lettuce. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and you have a main dish for your next picnic or potluck.

Tortillas even freeze well; allow them to cool and then separate with parchment or wax paper before bagging them up and storing in the freezer. With a few ingredients, simple kitchen equipment and beginner-level cooking skills, you’ve got the recipe to create artisanal homemade tortillas: a flavorful, healthful and easy way to elevate your favorite dishes.

View a step-by-step guide for making your own tortillas at home!


Basic Flour Tortillas

Ingredients
1 cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup warm water
Extra flour for kneading and rolling

Directions

  1. Combine the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt in a mixing bowl and stir together with a whisk or fork.
  2. Add the oil and stream in water, a little at a time, until water is absorbed and dough begins to form into a ball.
  3. Remove dough from the bowl and knead on floured work surface until it comes together and becomes smooth, about 1 minute. Return dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and shape into eight balls.
  4. Dust the work surface and a rolling pin with flour and roll balls out into 6-inch circles.
  5. Set a cast-iron pan or other non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add a tortilla and cook 1 minute (tortilla will turn light brown in spots). Flip and cook the other side an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the pan and place in a kitchen towel to keep warm.
  6. Repeat this process with the remaining tortillas, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent burning.

Cooking Variations

  • Spinach Tortillas
    Puree ½ cup thawed, frozen spinach with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add additional water as necessary to make ½ cup. Substitute pureed spinach mixture in place of water in basic recipe.
  • Roasted Red Repper Tortillas
    Pureé ½ cup roasted red bell peppers. Once pureed, add enough warm water to measure ½ cup. Replace pureed pepper mixture with water in recipe.

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1.5 ounces
Serves 8

Calories: 109; Total fat: 4g; Saturated fat: 0.5g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 121mg; Carbohydrates: 17g; Fiber: 2g; Sugars 0g; Protein 3g; Potassium: 63mg; Phosphorus: 62mg


Corn Tortillas

Ingredients
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon masa harina
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup water
1 lime, zested (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine the masa and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk together. Stir in the water and lime zest, and knead until dough forms. The dough will be soft, but not crumbly. If dough is too crumbly and won’t stick together, add a little more water. If dough is too wet, add a little more masa. Shape dough into eight balls.
  2. Lay two sheets of parchment or wax paper on a work surface. Place a ball of tortilla dough between the two sheets. Then, using the lid from a plastic container or other flat, circular kitchen object (such as the bottom of a small cake pan), gently press down on top of the covered ball to flatten into a tortilla, about 4-5 inches in diameter. Repeat the process with the remaining balls of dough.
  3. Heat a cast-iron pan, griddle or other non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add two or three tortillas and cook about 30 seconds (tortilla will turn light brown in spots). Flip and cook an additional 15-30 seconds. Remove from the pan and place in a kitchen towel to keep warm.
  4. Repeat this process with the remaining tortillas, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent burning.

Cooking Note

  • Masa harina is a corn flour used to make tortillas and can be found in the ethnic aisle of the grocery store, in certain specialty food markets or Mexican grocery stores.

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1.5 ounces
Serves 8

Calories: 53; Total fat: 0.5g; Saturated fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 146mg; Carbohydrates: 11g; Fiber: 1g; Sugars 0g; Protein 2g; Potassium: n/a; Phosphorus: n/a

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Sara Haas, RDN, LDN
Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, is a Chicago-based consultant dietitian, chef, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson and the voice of The Eating Right Minute (a public service announcement of the Academy). Read her blog, The Cooking RD, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.