The Magic of Tortillas

Recipe Tabs

Tortillas are to Mexico what potatoes are to Ireland, the staple of our daily diet. Mexico consumes an average of six hundred and thirty million Tortillas a day! Breakfast, dinner and supper may include a few of them, so when I moved to Ireland ten years ago, the first cultural shock for me (after the weather that is) was the lack of Tortillas in my diet. I felt the traditional Irish dinner of 'meat and two veg' was unsatisfying... lacking in a strange way; I used to get Tortillas sent from home, but this was expensive and impractical. Fresh, real corn Tortillas do not have any preservatives. They are bought baked on the day from a Tortilleria (sort of a bakery for Tortillas) before meal times or early on the same day. The increasingly popular brands sold in supermarkets have tried a pinch of preservative in them, but they would still only last up to a week in the fridge. After much searching here, I realised if I was to eat Tortillas again, I would have to learn to make them!
Making my own Tortillas in Ireland should not faced me, I am, after all, a third generation of Tortilla bakers. My father had a Tortilleria, all his brothers and sisters were in the business too, they had all learned the trade from my grandfather, who built a good brand from scratch "La Unica". As a child and through my teens I worked in the family business and learned the trade well and I was able to operate the machines and make Tortillas like a pro! I witnessed the transition from traditional methods which used nixtamal (corn kernels) cooked in the premises and grounded in semi-mechanical milling stones to make the maize dough, to the use of Maseca, a processed version of the maize dough which came as flour in twenty kilo bags introduced in the late forties and early fifties. Maseca simplified the production and reduced costs greatly and it now dominates the market as the main raw material for Tortilla production, but I still remember the days when grandpa Pedro resisted its introduction saying it sacrificed flavour.  So, making my own Tortillas  should be a piece of cake!
The first time I attempted to make Tortillas by hand was a disaster! I  had everything I needed, including a Tortilla press I ordered online and yet, I ended up with an awful dough. It stuck to everything at the beginning and towards the end of my trial it was too dry. So much for a pro! I was very discouraged and it took a few weeks before I gathered the courage to try it again. Mam told me to forget about the instructions on the pack of the flour and go by the old family recipe. She said it was all about practice and perseverance: she was right, within a few months, I was turning my own corn Tortillas in minutes! All my Irish family loved them and I even converted a couple of Irish friends!  The wonderful thing about corn Tortillas is that they are Coeliac friendly, delicious, healthy and different! They are so versatile you can make loads of different things with them! Forget about those awful wheat wraps you buy on the stores! Go manual and make your own. You'll never look back!


Heat the pan / skillet to a medium to high temperature. No need for oil as tortillas are cooked dry


Put the flour in a big mixing bowl, add the salt and mix well.


Pour the hot water over the dry ingredients and mix using a fork to prevent burning your fingers. The dough should be wet without being too sticky. If it is the first time you make them, cover the bowl with a wet tea towel to retain moisture while you figure out the process. If the dough goes dry, wet your hands slightly when handling the dough as this will add extra moisture and the tortillas will be smooth and easier to handle. Dried dough makes tortillas brittle and cracked around the edges.


Take enough dough to form a small ball in your hands, about the size of a golf ball.


Open the tortilla press and line it with one of the plastic sheets. Place the dough ball in the middle of the lined press and cover the ball with the second plastic sheet. Close the press and push down firmly a couple of times to shape the tortilla; it should be thin, without being paper thin.

Using a Tortilla Press Part 1


Peel the top plastic sheet from the tortilla. Then carefully peel the tortilla off from the bottom plastic sheet. Trust me, it should be easier than it sounds!

Using a Tortilla Press - Part 2


Place the toritlla in the pan / skillet and cook it for 10 seconds on that side. You will notice the tortilla skids in the pan; flip it with an egg lifter and cook it for 50 seconds on that side, then flip it again and watch it rise and fill with steam. Less than a minute should do it. This 3 side cooking must be observed if you want good quality tortillas.


If you are using your tortillas right away, place them them in the tea towel and cover them immediately to keep them warm. If you stack them, they'll keep the heat well. Remember that tortillas have a soft and hard side, always place the soft side, the one which rises with steam, facing up, this will prevent them from sticking.

If you are making them in advance, cool them well before stacking them. Wrap them in a clean, dry tea towel and put them in a plastic bag well sealed. They can go on the fridge now and should last up to a week, providing no condensation or too much air gets into them. To reheat them, just place them in a hot dry pan and heat them in both sides for a few seconds. Depending on the size of your tortillas and how big the pan, you can heat 2 or 3 at one time. They should go soft and fluffy again. You can also reheat them in a microwave wrapped in a tea towel for 1 to 2 minutes.