The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flour Tortillas

gothicgirl's picture

Flour Tortillas

When I was growing up in South Texas we had this neighbor who would, on Saturday afternoons, make her tortillas for the week.  Believe me, I made friends with her children so I could make myself available for tortilla day.  I think she enjoyed my enthusiasm and always had a few extra tortillas for me to take home. 

They were sublime!  My family would fight over them, and no matter how many she sent home with me they were always gone before dinner.  My mom asked for the recipe, yet no matter how my mother pleaded, or bartered with her own secret recipes, she refused to give up her recipe.

Eventually we moved to North Texas and that ended my weekly tortilla gorge.  It seemed I was destined to eat rubbery store-bought substitutes for the rest of my life.  I survived on them until a few years ago when I was reminded, quite by accident at a local Tex-Mex place, of our neighbor and her delicious tortillas.   I watched as the woman behind the counter rolled and cooked beautiful tortillas and I thought, why couldn't I do that too?

I had quite a bit of culinary know-how, and I had the internet which would surely hold the key to delicious tortillas, right?

You would be surprised!

I tested a number of recipes for tortillas with all manner of ingredients.  Some had vegetable oil, others butter, and some had vegetable shortening.  They used a variety of flours from regular all-purpose to bread flour to even cake flour.  Some used milk, others water.  None of them turned out the way I wanted. 

I discovered pretty early that all-purpose was the flour to use.  It developed a moderate amount of gluten so the tortillas were chewy but not tough.  The liquid I had the most success with was milk.  Water works fine, but the cooked tortillas are not as soft as when you use milk.  As for fat, that was more tricky.  Butter burned too easily and the vegetable oil gave the tortillas an odd texture.  Vegetable shortening left the tortillas with an almost fishy smell, which happens when the shortening gets too hot.

I despaired that I would never find what I was looking for when, while looking at the shortening shelf at the grocery store, I remembered one thing from the Saturday's at my neighbors.  Manteca!!  That is lard to be specific.  So, with my tub of lard in hand, I went back to the kitchen and tried one of the more successful recipes with the lard and ... EUREKA!  I had it.

Now, this is the point where I am supposed to be sorry that I like lard, that I know it is supposed to be evil, and gross, and made from animals.  I'm not.  No, I am PROUD to say I cook with lard.  Using lard I can make tortillas that make people beg.   Some have offered me cash to make them a batch.  I'm not kidding.  Lard adds a depth of flavor with out any funky aftertaste.  It has a high smoke point so it does not scorch, and it lasts for a really long time in the pantry.  It is also versatile.   I use it combined with butter in my pie crusts.  But that is an entry for another day.   

Flour Tortillas   Makes 12

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup lard, or vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup warm milk, or water

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer.

Add the lard and mix until it is well combined and the mixture looks grainy.

Add the warm milk and mix until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll the pieces into balls. 

Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

Once rested, roll the balls of dough into 6″ to 7″ tortillas. 

Cook on a griddle, or in a heavy pan, over medium heat until golden brown and puffy.

Transfer to a plate and cover with a towel while the rest cook.

Enjoy!  Or, allow them to cool and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge.  They last for five days ... if you can keep from eating them hot off the griddle.

Posted on - 2/18/2009


fancypantalons's picture

Actually, lard is demonized far more than it should be.  Vegetable shortening is plain and simply hydrogenated, saturated fat, which equates to transfats, and as such, is really not good for you.  Meanwhile, lard gives far better results across the board (for example, pastry chefs swear by lard and say it produces a far better crust than vegetable shortening).

So, I will stand up with you and say, yay for lard!  If you're going to use a fat, anyway, the least you can do is use the best one for the job.

Meanwhile, I'll repost this link from this discussion.  Lard.  It's really not that bad!

gothicgirl's picture

I'm so pleased to see I am not the only lard devotee!  ;) 

I use lard and butter in my pie and pastry crusts and the result is always tender and delicate with a wonderful, well-rounded floavor.

Thanks for the link!

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

I realize this is an old thread, but I've been to a few stores today trying to find lard that is not hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.  Does such a thing exist, outside of rendering my own? I'm willing to give this a try, but not if it is hydrogenated. Also, does lard need to be refrigerated?

Thanks for any help,




SylviaH's picture

Thank you for the lovely story,photos and recipe! My husband loves and eats a lot of tortillas!  He spent a lot of time in Mexico as a kid so he loves the food and has the nack to speak spanish like a native!  I remember when I was growing up there was always a little red box of lard in the frig!  Also I have been reading lately how if compared probably is better for you than butter!!  Thank you very much for your recipe..all that I have noticed in a recipe that I use that I didn't like seem to have been solved in your findings!  I can't wait to make these...Thanks Again, Sylvia 

gothicgirl's picture

I'm so glad you like the story and I hope you enjoy the tortillas.

scardanelli's picture

Thanks so much!  This post definitely brightened my day!  I grew up in San Antonio and I just recently moved to Oklahoma City where, needless to say, the tortillas are lacking.  You just don't get that fluffy floury texture in the store bought tortillas.  Most of them are waxy and horrible.  I've been trying to replicate all of the delicious breakfast tacos i ate while growing up, but without the tortilla, it's just not the same.  I'd kill for a good bean and cheese taco right now!  Definitely making these this weekend.

gothicgirl's picture

I hope you enjoy them! 

dsegel's picture

Fat free? 2%? Whole? It must make a difference...

gothicgirl's picture

It really doesn't.  I have used whole and skim with the same results.  I think the protein in the milk gives the tortillas their tender texture and the fat content does not matter as much.  This is not like a cake, for example, where the fat in the milk plays a larger role.

dsegel's picture

Thanks - I'm trying these as soon as I can.

PinkBlueRiver's picture

These look great.  Have you tried adapting this recipe to make tortillas with Whole Wheat flour?



gothicgirl's picture

I have not tried to make them with whole wheat flour, but it is a really good idea. 

kefoster's picture

Tried this out today and it rocked!  My wife and I were noming these up!  Thank you for sharing!


Go Lard!



plvannest's picture

Made these this weekend and sorta messed up.  The taste was spot on, but the texture was too flaky.  Definitely my fault, though.  The dough so reminded me of biscuit dough and, being the good southerner that I am, I just didn't handle it enough. 

Going to try again this weekend and plan on taking off the "biscuit hands" and getting rough with it. 

Other problem is I like them thin and husband likes them thick.  I do the dough, he does the cooking so he's got a very valid vote.  Sheesh....Husbands....what are you to do...?

timistheword's picture

I like using basic, real ingredients as well. Like lard. However, years ago when I was in the army and stationed in Germany, I was attending a local beer festival with some German friends. They brought me back a snack, it looked like mashed potatoes on rye bread. But it wasn't mashed potatoes, it was lard. The Germans use it as a butter-like spread. But sheesh, the stuff coats your mouth so horridly. A bit off-topic, but it's a funny memory for me.

Mako's picture

The stuff I always got was more like bacon drippings, it wasnt processed cleaned lard like you buy from the store, you could definately see all the little bits left over from whatever was cooked

Paddyscake's picture

as a kid, I saw a block of what I thought was cheddar cheese. I sliced off a nice hunk and bit into it..YUCK! hahaha


tenthrune's picture

This sounds incredible! I am dying to try this because I'm living in a dorm with a stove but no oven - I have a decent pan that I think would work for this, but I have a question: could this be mixed by hand? Because I also don't have a stand mixer. Well, I do back in the states but I want to make these here and now, and unfortunately I can't invest in too many small appliances (much as I'd like to). Great post, and beautiful pictures!

gothicgirl's picture

you can mix them by hand.  It takes a little longer, but yes, you can do it by hand.  Just knead the bread until it is smooth and supple.  Maybe ten minutes.

timistheword's picture

Consider that tortillas and other flat breads (as well as everything else ever eaten) used to be made before the stand mixer existed...before electricity existed. Use your hands.

gothicgirl's picture

Exactly what timistheword said!  :)

tenthrune's picture

Great, thanks everyone! I'll totally be doing this as soon as I scrape up enough money for some lard. Enough money for lard, that's just sad. Enough of this starving student business. :)

hullaf's picture

Gothicgirl, your recipe is going into my file of 'to-do-tortillas'. I've been saving tortilla recipes for a long time but . . . I really want some tricks on making corn tortillas. Anyone have any? I lived in Mexico for a while so I miss the real thing.   Anet

P.S. I grew up on either good 'ole lard or the real thing, butter . . . in Wisconsin, the dairy state! 

rcrabtree's picture

I tried the flour tortillas today; they were good and I only used shortening.  Cooking them on the range was a bit of a chore though (no big deal, but certainly not a quick n easy dinner) - I think I might try them in the oven where I can fit more at one time, on the baking tiles.

Hullaf - re: the corn tortillas - what do you mean, tricks?  Have you ever made them?  The basic formula is masa harina (widely available), salt, and water - the masa harina can usually be found in the hispanic section of the supermarket and the bag should have a recipe for the dough on the bag.  I've made them several times but not impressed with the flavor; I don't have access to very fresh masa.

hullaf's picture

'rcrabtree' - I have bought the masa harina (a bag of the local brand here is called Maseca) and made the tortillas but they're just so-so for taste, texture, etc.  I lived in Mexico 25-30 years ago and the tortillas were made from the local grocery store bag of 'masa harina'; I don't remember the brand name.   

I asked for "tricks" -- meaning specific recipe methods or ingredients to making the CORN tortillas like 'gothicgirl' has written above for the flour ones. I know it's probably similar and the rolling out is important -- I had a tortilla maker once but it's long gone. I might try your way of using the (pizza) stone in the oven, similar to how it works well for making pitas. And real manteca/lard too. It gets me curious just talking about it so I might try it soon.  I miss the real corn tortilla - and the nice memories of Mexico.   Anet

charbono's picture




Corn tortillas made with masa harina won't have the taste or texture of those made from fresh masa, but they're still pretty good.  Traditional corn tortillas are not made with salt or lard and are cooked on the stovetop, not the oven.  There aren't any tricks.  If you really want lard, make tamales.



hullaf's picture

'charbono', my brain was mixed up -- I knew corn tortillas didn't use manteca but my brain wasn't following the conversation. Duh, some days . . . but, I still wanted "tricks", meaning little baker ideas, substitutes, and methods from people who have found ways that have worked for them, that make the going go easier. (We're using different definitions maybe?)

I did google corn tortillas and found a bunch of ideas. So, I am going to experiment on my own and get it down pat for my ingredients and peculiarities; you know how different heat and equipment changes the result, for breads or whatever.   Anet

dunno's picture

I just registered an account just to say thank you.  As soon as I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it.  I don't have a stand mixer but figured these things have been made by hand for hundreds of years.  I didn't let them rest as you suggested and to be honest I don't know that they could've turned out better.  Thank you so much for this delicious recipe - and damn you for increasing my lard intake :P.

gothicgirl's picture

Glad you liked them ... lard intake aside.  ;)

bmoo's picture

But, I just made them (with butter, that's what I had in the house) and they are indeed very, very, very good.   I just wanted to add my thanks to others in this thread for this great recipe!

I'd tried various other recipes that used olive oil before and the result was too cardboard-like.  These were very supple and much easier to roll thin.  I guess I'm going to have to break down and get some lard for the next batch:-)

Oh, and I made them by hand.  I let the dough sit for a bit maybe 5 or 10 minutes after mixing and before kneading them.  I only had to knead for a couple of minutes to get a good dough (slap and fold method).  Very easy.



lestolet's picture

SouthCentral TX here.  Thanks for posting this recipe.  I am also guilty of experimenting with oil (BTW, yuck!) in an attempt to make my flour tortillas...well, not healthy, just LESS unhealthy.  I guess manteca is the logical next step towards extreme tortillas, as the shortening tends to produce pretty good ones.   I've never noticed the fishy smell, but maybe I'm just used to it!  

But I have to admit that the milk threw me for a loop.  I have never tried milk in my tortillas, but I am so motivated to do so by your photos.  Beautiful tortillas.  Unbelievable.  So I'm in.  I'll be knocking a few dozen of these out tomorrow!

audra36274's picture

   My family is very happy with them. They were easy and very yummy as you can tell!



ehanner's picture

Audra, is that a left over on the plate??? A perfect looking taco!


audra36274's picture

that big! You should post yours or is the family eating them as fast as you can turn them out! Oh and how is the new tortilla smusher working out? My hats off to gothicgirl, this doesn't roll as easily for me as pie crust. Hers are so perfect. Sigh...


buildingbastions's picture

Could butter be substituted for lard or vegetable shortening?

ppalumbo's picture

Very good post.  I like this recipe.  I made it the other night and it came out really good.  What I like about it is you can make these up just before dinner and it takes no time at all.  The batch I made took including letting the dough rest for 30 minutes about 45 minutes.  Not bad.  And Oh by the way, Lard rocks.  Fat is where the flavor is.  Just saying.



nmazze72's picture

Tried this recipe tonight for dinner , and I must say very yummy! just didn't get mine as round as yours in the picture but didn't matter their taste made up for it! Thank you very much for sharing this great and easy recipe!



TNBentRyder's picture

just yesterday I was thinkin' I need to find a tortilla recipe so I don't have to buy a whole package of the dry yucky ones at the market. So this morning I thought it would be nice to have fresh tortilla for a breakfast wrap with scrambled eggs, fresh spinach, smoked Canadian bacon and smoked cheddar. You made the search easy since this was the first place I came and there it was with the recent posts.

Only for mixing I put everything in the food processor except for the milk and buzzed until all mixed well. Then I streamed the warmed milk with the processor running just until the dough began to come together. Removed, rolled into a ball to rest. They turned out great. Now I'm thinkin' maybe a tortilla press would make the project just a bit simpler, tho' the rolling was no problem.

EvaB's picture

I have a book that has a snippet of info about lard and heart disease, it says that around 1915, a fellow was showing off his specil machine that he had imported from Germany to find blocked arteries, all the rest of the medical practitioners were telling him he was in the wrong branch of medicine, since heart attacks were very rare, well he proved them wrong in that heart attacks suddenly became much more prevalent, and its linked to the use of vegetable shortening and vegtable oil use, the more the populace used them in place of lard, the more they had clogged arteries resulting the the higher incidence of heart attack.

Personally I think my mother was right, margerine is poison, and so is most of the other stuff they keep telling us is good for us, I use only olive oil, and sometimes sunflower, or safflower oils for anything other than deep frying, I use peanut oil for that, and if you have a peanut allergy then don't eat anything in my kitchen. I use lard or butter for anything else and since I quit using Crisco oil (they started putting in canola and I absolutely hate canola) I feel much better.

So the wonders of marketing and science are not all they are cracked up to be, since they are finding now that the low/no fat diet is not as good for you as they thought. I just eat what I've always eaten and don't listen anymore to the dr who tells me low fat/low sodium etc, it hasn't worked in the past 30 years so why will it work now, I have lost more weight in the past 2 years than I managed in the past 30, and its simply eating smaller meals, doing more activities and eating good food, not diet crap!

madruby's picture

As an ex-American wannabe, I lived in the States for several years and discovered the flavors of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines (OK, I admit, a lot of it came from my experience with the On the Border chain).  I loved eating the freshly made tortillas that came to my table while still warm, fluffy, soft and puffy. 

Since my repatriation to my home land (ie Montreal, QC), I have longed to bite into those flour tortillas I once devoured so earnestly.  Alas, we French Canadians can do much but flour tortillas aren't it, even when I went to restaurants supposedly offering traditional Mexican food and owned/ran by Mexican people.  The tortillas always felt like the store bought ones (they probably were!) and nothing ever came close to the tortillas found at On the Border or at Tex Mex joints.

I found a recipe just last week that was very similar to this one.  It called for 2 tbsp of oil instead of the lard.  The tortillas were good; better than store bought but still not reminiscent of the soft, fluffy Tex Mex tortillas I had in the States.  This recipe, with the lard, is my Holy Grail!  I still cannot make is as puffy and soft as I remember them to be but that is more a function of my cooking them than the recipe itself.  Hubby and I were in Tex Mex fajita land. 

My hubby wants me to add that it saved our bite of these tortillas made him forget all the bad recipes I had him try.  Thank you for posting this!

sonia101's picture

Best tortillas I've ever eaten, awesome recipe and thanks for sharing :)

Cheers Sonia

ryaninoz's picture

Thanks for the recipe, I lived in Texas for 16 years (from Bama) before I moved to Australia 8 years ago...have been looking for a good Tortilla recipe, will try this soon....and regarding lard...studies and research demonstrate it's better for you than butter....I think it goes something like Olive Oil, Lard (or duck fat ;-)_, Butter......Julia Childs in one of her books (I can find it and tell you the one if anyone wants) documents this as well touting the benefits of Lard. It has more flavour and you can use less of it than butter in cooking and it smokes at a higher tempreature so breaks down less.

I make my own lard for Tamales and my own duck fat for potatoes. It's easier and cheaper than buying and easily done on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The smell isn't always the most pleasant as the fat renders out but if you have an exhaust it's takes care of it. Just buy fatback from your butcher (you may have to order it in from your butcher in the US) cut it up into 1/2 in to 1 in dice  put in a soup pot (It will spit a bit as it renders out and good to have high walls to prevent some minor splatering but more importantly to protect your arms/hands and over gently heat cook the fatback stiring occassionally (still you get a good layer at the bottom reneders out to prevent sticking and the every 15 min or so...takes about 45 min to an hour of slow rendering for 1 to 2 kg or pork fat back (2.2 to 4.4 lbs).

You get a beautiful white lovely lard that is free from anything, especially if you request organic and free range pork back fat...and the  BEST lard for pies is called leaf can get this in as well and render's the fat from around the kidneys of the pig and makes the best pastries.......

Thanks for the recipe...

Salvia's picture

Being vegetarian, I used shortening instead of lard and they turned out amazingly delicious! I can't believe I just made home made tortillas! COOL! My family loved them too. So what if they weren't perfect circles...they taste good no matter what shape they are. I will never buy ready made tortillas again after seeing just how easy and delicious home made tortillas are to make. Thank you so much for this fabulous new addition to our 'family favorites' folder!

sarakaun's picture

I love this site and all its deliciousness. Now, in addition to getting my tire fixed and a shopping trip to costco, I'm going on the hunt for lard. Hey, it's good for other things, too.

katyajini's picture

This is a very old (but very happy) happy thread.  If its still possible can someoe pease guide me whch kind or which AP flour I should use?  AP flours are so different from one another, depending on brand and they come bleached or unbleached.  And as for lard I sould get what is labeled 'Manteca' at the supermarket?