The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How do you get thin flour tortillas?

Janknitz's picture

How do you get thin flour tortillas?

 Any hints on rolling out thin flour tortillas?  I got some flour tortilla masa and I like the flavor, but I can't seem to get the tortillas thin enough.  I even bought a tortilla press, but they are still too thick. 

Is it a matter of resting the dough?  The directions say to knead the dough until smooth, let it rest, covered, for 5 minutes, form the balls and roll them out.  Would I have better luck allowing the balls of dough to rest--they do seem to be a bit "tight" gluten-wise when there is no rest.  If so, how long?

If you have any hints for handling very thin rounds of dough before getting them on the griddle, that would be appreciated as well.   I.e. how to stack them so they don't stick together and how to move them to the griddle without folding up on themselves. 

 My family asks "why make them when we can buy them so easily?" but I love the idea of making them for freshness and frugality (a bag of masa costs only as much as two commercial packages of tortillas and will make dozens more).  Besides, it's nice dough to work with ;o)

 I hope to have some always ready to go in the freezer so we don't have to plan ahead. My youngest would eat bean burrito's 3 meals a day if we let her, and it would be nice for her to be able to have tortillas and beans for impromptu weekend meals. 

Royall Clark's picture
Royall Clark

I've not made them but was told by one Mexican lady that if the tortillias are to thich, your starting with too big of dough ball. That being said I did buy some masa a couple of weeks ago and when I get a little extra time I'll give it a go too! Good question though!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Have you tried plastic wrap on your press?

KenK's picture

I use a one gallon zip loc bag that I cut the top and sides off.  Put the dough in the plastic and mash down as hard as I can with the bottom of a skillet and then work them down thinner with a rolling pin.

You peel the plastic off the tortilla, as opposed to peeling the tortilla off the plastic if that makes sense.

hullaf's picture

Look at gothicgirl on March 13, 2009 here in TFL under flour tortillas and you'll find some help. I too have trouble forming tortillas -- the thickness does make a difference! 

ehanner's picture


Well, I'm no expert on this but I know the basics enough to start you off.

First, there are flour tortillas and corn tortillas. The flour ones are what you are asking about. The  Masa is corn flour that has been treated with lyme. The corn tortilla is the one that is pressed to get a perfect circle.

The flour tortilla is made from a ball of dough, a little larger than a golf ball, say 1-1/2 inches. Here is the recipe.

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.

The corn tortilla made from Masa Harina or other treated corn flour is tastier in my opinion and the recipe is on the bag of flour. These are the only ones that get pressed. Start off cutting a 1 gallon freezer bag in half and making 2 circles out of the sides of the bag a little larger than the plates on the press. Lat one piece down then the dough ball slightly off center toward the hinge, then the top sheet of plastic and press gently. Remove the top plastic first and flop the lower sheet over on your hand and carefully peel the plastic sheet off. Then gently flop the pressed dough onto a hot griddle. The trick is in knowing how much water to add the flour. If you press the ball and the edges are rough around the edges, it needs a small amount of additional water. If the dough is hard to remove from the plastic sheet and tears when doing so, it is too wet, add a little flour. Hope this helps.


Janknitz's picture

Great explanations!

I stand corrected--it's not masa for flour tortillas, but  what I bought was "Harina Preparada para Tortillas"  Right now I'm trying flour tortillas  because my kids eat tons of them for burritos and rolling up with butter and cinnamon sugar ;o) 

I will  have branch into corn tortillas one of these days, too, though.  We make our own verde sauce with tomatillos for killer enchiladas verde.  They are not authentic, but muy delicioso!  (Forgive my high school Spanish--more than 30 years ago--and that's about my entire vocabulary!). 

It sounds like a longer rest is key, and careful rolling.  I'll give that a try. 

ehanner's picture

Yea that flour in the link is great for corn tortillas and I only use the recipe on the bag for those.

I use lard in the flour and only AP flour. If you don't rest them it does get to be a struggle and a small rolling pin is helpful.

I've been trying to teach myself to cook Mex lately but to say I know anything would be a laugh. The home made tortillas are so much better than store bought. I'm looking for a local source for fresh rendered pork lard. I have it on good advice it's way better tasting.


Janknitz's picture

and I'm not big on buying and storing shortening either, so I like that the Harina for Tortillas has the fat already incorporated (we won't discuss the fact that it's hydrogenated  etc.!). 

Our stuff is pure gringo fare--my kids won't tolerate any heat, and I don't like things fried and smothered in sauce and cheese,  but we have come up with recipes based on originals that our family likes. 

Thank you to everyone for your wonderful suggestions.  I'll try the bag trick, it sounds great!

alabubba's picture

We don't need no stinking bag-ses. There is a joke in there somewhere.

I make tortillas frequently, What you need it a good rolling pin and a large counter top.

Just dust with a bit of flour and roll. Keep flipping them over and dusting with flour to keep them from sticking. There really is no trick. If you want them thinner, roll them thinner. It takes practice to get them round but you will get the hang of it.

As for moving them to the griddle, use the bottom of a large upturned bowl, Or drape over your fist.

P.S. Lard is the way to go here.

asicign's picture

I use a pasta machine to shape my tortillas.  Works quite well, although getting a perfect circle is a challenge.

Maeve's picture

I always make flour tortillas.  I don't have my recipe on this computer, but I mix King Arthur bread flour and home milled white whole wheat, some salt and baking powder and warm milk and olive oil.  It's not an authentic recipe, but it tastes pretty good.

I think the key to rolling them out is to use a piece of dowel about an inch thick and about 18 inches long.  Roll them, then flip them over and give it a half turn, roll them again, keep doing that until they are thin and round-ish.  I cook them about 30 seconds on each side in a hot cast iron skillet.

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

Softer dough rolls out thinner, but you need to heavily flour your surface and turn the rounds over as you roll out, and keep your rolling surfaces on both sides of the dough well-floured.  I use this technique when rolling out thin Asian pancakes and wonton wrappers, etc. 

Another method, which you won't need if you start with the soft sticky dough, is to double the rounds.  I use this when making very thin wrappers for "mushu pork":  Make your dough balls and roll them out til they are fairly thin.  Then brush one side  of half the rounds with oil and place a second rolled out round on top.  Now roll the doubled-up rounds out as thin as the single rounds (which should halve the thickness of each pancake.  When you place them on the hot skillet, they will puff up and the rounds will easily separate, and you can fry them separately.  I would only do this if you are using a fairly stiff dough and rolling them out very thin.  This results in a very thin bread, probably thinner than you want for tortillas, but it works.

milwaukeecooking's picture

I don't use lard because the idea if it weirds me out.  I use shortening.  Which should also make me feel uncomfortable.  The recipe that Eric posted is good.  However, I use hot water, around 130 degrees.  The hot water helps to soften the shortening.  Also, here is the real hint, flatten your golf-ball sized ball out with the palm of your hand first.  After it has been flattening as much as it can go before snapping back, let it rest under saran wrap for 5-10 min.  This allows the gluten to relax.  Once you have let it sit you should be able to use a rolling pin and roll it paper thinness.  I have been making my own tortillas for a while now and I refuse to buy store bought ones.

thegrindre's picture

This works for me Perfectly...

The rolling process isn't shown all that well but, as mentioned above, keep the board floured and keep flipping the tortilla over and turning it, too.


alabubba's picture

For what its worth. Tortillas made without baking powder are the Northern Mexican/Southern Arizona style. This is how I roll. (at least a dozen a week).

Sonoran cooks have turned tortilla making practically into an art form. Their tortillas are large (some are pizza-sized), thin and delicate.

Sonoran Flour Tortillas     


* 2 cups bread flour    

* 1 teaspoon salt    

* 3 tablespoons lard 

* 3/4 cup warm water  

Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the shortening using a fork, a pastry blender or your fingertips. Gradually add the water, working it in until you have a sticky dough. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 2 or 3 minutes.  Allow the dough to rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Then divide it into 6 or 8 balls of equal size, cover, and allow to rest for an hour.  Roll each ball of dough. Cook in a hot, dry skillet or griddle. Cook for 10 seconds, turn it, and cook for 10 more seconds, then turn again for 10 more seconds per side. Remove the tortilla, place it in a napkin-lined basket and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat for the remaining tortillas. While they are still slightly warm, put them into a plastic storage bag, this will make them extra soft and supple.

Store in the fridge and warm before serving.


here is a video of an artist at work. Can you believe how big she gets it... (That sounds bad)

thegrindre's picture
Velma's picture

Omit the baking powder.  Directions:  Thin and semi-translucent thanks to plenty to shortning, these flour tortillas are light and tender, with a mild yet delicious flavor. 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup cold shortning
  • 3/4 cups cold 
  1. 1.

    Place flour and salt in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse to combine. Add lard and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add water and process until a cohesive dough forms.

  2. 2.

    Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough into 10 equal pieces; roll each piece of dough into a ball. Cover dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rest an additional 15 minutes.

  3. 3.

    Heat cast iron skillet, griddle, or comal over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, place one ball of dough on tortilla press between 2 pieces of plastic ( cut from large ziplock bag)  Place dough in skillet and cook until bubbles form on top side and bottom side has light browned spots, 15-30 seconds. Flip tortilla and cook until second side develops light browned spots, 15-30 seconds longer. Transfer tortilla to a plate and cover with dish cloth. Repeat with remaining balls of dough. Serve immediately while still warm.