The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


maggiem's picture


I am wondering if anyone else has experience with making tortillas. I have been making them for years using a flour, baking powder, water (sometimes milk), salt and oil recipe. I tried the recipe in Crust and Crumb a while back and had poor results. I re-visited the recipe today adding some baking powder  and had great results. Is there an error in the recipe or does it work for some without? I use the skillet method for baking, tried the oven/stone and it did not work for me. Just wondering if others have had different results.

Thanks, Maggie

Crider's picture

It uses a large amount of boiling water and, of course, lard or bacon drippings. I haven't made it yet so I can't vouch for it except to say I've made several other recipes listed on that website.

GloriouslyHomemade's picture

I grew up in Latin America and, as a US resident, I have been searching for years for the right recipe - one that tasted like I remember. I have a super sensitive palate and could always taste the baking powder, baking soda, etc. in the recipes. They were all a disappointment. What I wanted was to taste the tortillas!

This week I made the sourdough tortillas found at the link below and I finally found the taste, texture and look I remember. I will never have a need for another recipe again.



Sam49's picture

Experimentation and innovation are important parts of cooking.  But certain dishes, breads, etc., have an essence and you can't change them too much without having abandoned that essence.

For example, there are many variations in how to make a French baguette, but you can't put butter and sugar in it, or use baking powder, etc.  It might still be a baguette due to its shape, but it won't be a French bread baguette.

A tortilla, whether made from corn masa - a true tortilla, or wheat flour, a post Conquest hybrid tortilla, contains no leavening, not baking powder or soda, nor yeast, either commercial or in the form of "sourdough."

If someone or a company puts leavening in a recipe, they have stepped outside the boundaries of the essence of a tortilla and have made some other flatbread.

I have a collection of the best / most authentic Mexican cookbooks, and not one of them uses any leavening in the tortilla recipe.  Only one even includes a recipe for wheat tortillas which are almost exclusively found in northern Mexico and the US.

I am a Caucasian U.S. native with a 30-50 word Spanish vocabulary - a Norte Americano.

I frequent many Mexican and Central American restaurants where I am often the only non-Spanish speaking person.  If I am by myself, sometimes I'll get offered flour tortillas and invariably the waitperson smiles when I say I want corn.  My GF, who is fluent in Spanish due to her mother's Costa Rican family history, but fair and blonde due to the Caucasian father and grandfather.   When with her, we almost never get offered flour tortillas after she converses with them in Spanish, because they assume we want the real thing.

We've never had a leavened tortilla.  I've never seen one in a store.  Far in the past, I had many with other ingredients - particularly perservatives - that impact the taste.  I know where to get proper tortillas now and how to make them if I choose to do so.

A flatbread with sourdough or other leavening is not a tortilla - regardless of what a recipe calls it.

FWIW, I have leavened my breads with nothing but natural leavening for the past 4-5 months.

I buy my corn tortillas from a Mexican market in my town which makes them daily.  They don't make or sell flour tortillas.

They do sell leavened Mexican breads and pastries made from wheat flour.  Most are made on the premises by bakers who come in several mornings a week.


maggiem's picture

I live in northern New Mexico where we can easily buy locally made tortillas (we do like flour ones even if they may not be authentic). I have been making our own because I find that all of the store ones (even local) have ingredients I am not interested in eating or feeding to my family.

So, my original post was basically asking how other peoples flour tortillas have turned out NOT using any leavening. I had tried the Crust and Crumb recipe as written with poor results. After adding a bit of baking powder they were good.

I am not interested in the authenticity of the tortilla, but I am interested in taste and texture.

I appreciate your input Sam and understand what a real tortilla may be. Maybe I should be more specific and say I want a New Mexican tortilla! If there is such a thing. OR,if you can point me in the direction of a good non-leavened recipe I would appreciate it.

Meanwhile I may try the sourdough version .




Sam49's picture

Here, perhaps is a recipe for an authentic New Mexican flour tortilla.

I got the source book a few months ago from a neighbor who works at an adjacent county's public

library. They had taken this book out of the collection and she thought I might be interested. I

looked it over, it seemed to be good for what it is, but as I am more interested in the traditional

food of Mexico and to me that means the southern parts of Mexico, where the vast majority most

of the people have always lived, I didn't use it.

But I remembered it after the first few days of posts in this thread. Then I had to find it as it wasn't

on the shelf with the cook books I use regularly.

The book was published in 1985 and the author states he has studied quite a list of classic SW

cookbooks. His overview of the history of successive groups who have lived in the region, the

domination of the indigenous peoples by the Spanish and subsequent inhabitants, and the

merging of culinary styles is reasonably accurate.

So, this book is likely to be a reasonable source for a SW / New Mexico style flour tortilla.


The Feast of Santa Fe: Cooking of the American Southwest
by Huntley Dent

For 6 tortillas:

1 cup unbleached white flour
.5 t baking powder
.5 t salt
2 - 3 T lard or vegetable shortening
4 - 6 T water

Start w 4 T water and add more as necessary to get dough that will form in a soft dough.

Put dough into plastic bag and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Work if necessary

due to external moisture at end of rest.

I've looked through my other cookbooks more since my first email. I found two more flour tortilla

recipes in what I consider authentic & authoritative Mexican food cookbooks. Like the one I had

seen earlier, none of those Mexican tortilla recipes included baking powder or other leavening.

But, I think the recipe above is what you want.

The author emphasizes cooking the tortillas immediately after rolling as letting the rolled tortilla sit

for "any length of time" will seriously degrade the quality of the finished product.

The same book had a part whole wheat recipe that also had baking powder in it. The author noted

came from a 1950 cookbook by a transplanted New Englander who claimed to have lived with the

Pueblo Indians for a time. It used 2t baking soda That recipe, however, only used 1T of lard or

shortening for 2 cups of flour (50/50 white / WW). It used 2 t of baking powder - twice as much


Hope this helps,


P.S. - If this doesn't produce what you want, I can send you one or more of the slightly varying non-leavened Mexican flour tortilla recipes that I have found in my collection.

GloriouslyHomemade's picture

Hi Maggie,

I am getting ready to send some of my starter, along with a copy of the sourdough tortillas, to a childhood friend living in the US who is in search of flour tortillas with the taste we remember as children when we lived in Central America. She too has tried a variety of recipes and cannot find the right one! I think she'll be pleased with the results of this one.

If you are interested in getting some dehydrated sourdough plus instructions on how to reconstitute it I'd be delighted to send some your way. Just PM me your mailing address!



Jolly's picture

Hello Maggie"


I haven't been on the TFL site for a while, because shortly after I joined the group I got real sick. Due to poor eating habits so I really had to clean up my diet.



Its taken me almost a year to get my health back in good working order. Now I'm into eating foods that will help build up my health. I had a lot of time to ponder over recipes because of being bedridden so much of the time. Meanwhile I gather scads of info...from this bread site and many other bread sites on the net pertaining to bread baking. It's really been a good learning experience for me


And tortillas happened to be one of the recipes I majored in during my covalescences. I too remembered my mother's good homemade tortillas and have been trying to duplicate her tortillas. But I also wanted to add more flavor and nutritional values to the tortillas and wanted to eliminate the baking powder and lard from her recipe.



I checked out Northwest Sourdough tortillas and read through Teresa's recipe while I was sick  its a very good recipe. (Excellent)



It's pretty close to my recipe. I added a few variations, such as adding 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds, or 1 tsp dried chopped red chili peppers, seeds removed, chopped dehydrated tomatoes, and ground Chia seeds. Adding vegetable stocks made from spinach or tomatoes and dehydrated veggies.



Mini-Mill---I run dehydrated veggies through my mill and add about 1 1/2 tsps to my dough. First I'll let the dehydrated veggies soak in hot water for 12-minutes then add soaking water and hydrated veggies to the dough.



You can add all kinds of additional ingredients to the tortilla dough. One time I added a rounded Tbsp peanut butter to the dough and the tortillas were awesome, especially when their spread with peanut butter and nutella hazelnut spread.



Now I'm making Sweet Italian sourdough tortillas, they are the best and the flavor delightful and delicious. When I was vsiting the northwest sourdough site I posted and contributed useful info...on the site pertaining to tortillas. I won a free sourdough starter contest for the best tortilla info...posted.



I asked Teresa to send me the starter she used for making her delicious tortillas, she was using a Sweet Italian starter. So I was super anxious to get hold of her starter. "Yes!...This particular starter made a big difference it brought back my mother's tortillas with an awesome flavor. The tortillas bake up light and fluffy.



Lard---switched over to organic vegetable oil to make my tortillas instead of lard. I have found that the vegtable oils make the tortillas more flexible.



Instead of using a a liquid sourdough starter---I started using a medium firm starter at 70% hydration. Which makes the tortillas very flexible and much easier to roll out. The medium firm starter is also made from (Gold Medal) all-purpose flour. When making tortillas do not use a high protein bread flour.



As I recall Teresa had a problem rolling out her tortillas. Right after mixing up the dough, just let the dough set on the counter covered for 1-hour to help hydrate and relax the dough. Then shape into balls, each one weighing 60 grams each. Again let the dough balls relax after shaping, for 15-minutes, covered. Now you can roll out the tortilla balls with ease, and the dough will be soft and silky, very easy to handle.



Flour---I use all-purpose flour in making my tortillas, and whole grains. My favorite is milling fresh milled corn flour and mixing it into all-purpose flour. The tortillas are golden yellow, flecked with red chili peppers and dehydrated veggies which consist of green and red bell peppers, onions, and carrots . I call these tortillas Sweet Calico Corn Tortillas their absolutely beautiful to look at and delicious.



Griddle---I bake my tortillas on a lodge pole cast iron griddle on the stove top. Cast iron griddles are the best for tortillas. While visiting my daughter all she had was a cast iron skillet, and found it much to easy to burn your fingers when flipping the tortillas over. I prefer a good cast iron griddle over a skillet anytime.



Sweetened Sourdough Italian Tortilla Cinnamon Strips---Instead of making tortillas you can divide the recipe in half and roll the dough into two large rectangle as thin as you can roll them out. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and cut into strips and bake. "Wow! Are these awesome.  When I was a little girl my mother would fry them in lard. Now that I'm more aware of health issues I bake them. To fortify the recipe I'll increase the whole grains when making my Italian Tortilla Cinnamon Strips. They're great for school lunches and traveling.



Try Teresa's Italian tortilla recipe at northwestsourdough. Just remember to let the dough rest for 1-hour before shaping into balls of dough and let rest for 15 minutes after shaping into balls. Then start rolling out the tortillas like a pro.



Once you master her recipe then try using a medium firm sourdough starter to make tortillas, the tortillas will be even better.



If you need any help I'll be happy to help you out. Just send me a email.














pdiff's picture

Hi Maggie,

  A former NM'n here, born and raised, but somehow living in the NW now :-)  I too mostly use a recipe similar to what you initially describe with B. powder.  It was handed down to me by my "second" mother, a Silver City native.  On occassion, I have used unleavined - just flour, water and oil.  I think it helps to have a very soft, high hydration dough, roll thin (with a chunk of old broom stick) and a red hot pan or stone.  Both help generate the steam you need and which will be the only leavining you get.  I also pop them in a plastic bag right off the pan and let them "sweat a bit" to soften.


Damn!  Now you've got me thinking about good NM food!  Try finding that in N. Idaho! :-)

Have you used Comida Sabrosa (book) before?  It is the most "authentic" (as in what I was taught)  NM cookbook I've come across.  Mine is "dogged eared" to the point of falling apart........


maggiem's picture

Thanks Pdiff!

I will try a higher hydration and see how it goes. I also like having them "sweat" while still hot, it seems to make a better texture.

I will enjoy some local NM food for you! Hope you can grow some Hatch chilis up there!

Thanks for the cookbook info, I have not seen it , but am eager to check it out.


pdiff's picture

Well, enjoy, enjoy!  I'll make do as I can.  Chilis can be grown, but they turn out very mild.  There are a few places in the Yakima Valley of central Washington that grow some, but they didn't live up to my expectations.  Certainly not Hatch quality.  It really takes the dry heat to kick them up.  I do have my sources down that way, however, who keep me supplied ;-)  Man, I miss that roasting smell in the fall, though ...


Keep in mind that, while the unleavined will work, it probably will never match the baking powder version.  The sourdough option is an interesting one.  I might like to try that on a sopapilla recipe...



Amori's picture

Hi Maggie,

My family is french but had a wonderful family helper from Sonora for 21 years.

I think I might know a thing or two regarding tortillas, she used to make them every single Friday! Tortillas can be all different depending of the region ie Pepita's, hers used to be huge probably a meter in diameter, all water/salt/flour baked outdoors called 'tortillas de agua'. Over the years she tried smaller [indoor] version using many flours/fats and sometimes baking powder.  My family today has a favorite: AP flour/salt/water/milk/butter/and little baking powder if the can is full, not that you need it....but I can't stand trashing things, lol.


mahina's picture

i'm a former nm resident, now in hawaii, and have no source for fresh tortillas (anybody who's eaten from the sanitary tortilla factory in albuquerque can't eat the plasticky packaged kind). i spent years hanging around the kitchens of my friends' aunties, watching and tasting and asking dumb gringa questions. i think the key to rising tortillas is a very hot comal, the heavy iron griddle they're baked on.


i make blue corn tortillas this way:

boil 1.5 cups water

stir 1.5 cups blue corn meal into it, quickly--it starts to set right up

cover and let rest until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes

place comal or griddle on medium high flame to start heating

make your salad, shred cheese or whatever else you want with them (your beans and chile are done, right?)--when the tortillas are ready you don't want to wait to eat!

turn dough out on board lightly floured with whole wheat flour ( i think the grit helps with stickiness) and give it a few light kneads

divide into 8 balls, lightly formed, keeping them covered on a lightly floured surface while you work

pat a ball out on your floured palms, flipping back and forth and turning to keep the dough from sticking, until about 4" wide

place on floured board and roll lightly into a shaggy circle (i don't worry too much about the perfect circle form, though my nm aunties sure do take pride in that master's touch)

place on hot griddle (watch it puff!) and start another ball--when it's about ready to roll, the one on the griddle is probably about ready to be turned

the done side will have very dark spots, even char, but it's not crisp--this is the point when you decide if your griddle is hot enough, too hot, or...just right

roll ball #2, place on griddle as you remove baked tortilla from griddle to a plate lined with a napkin, flipping half the napkin over the done tortilla

continue this way till done, keeping the tortillas under the napkin to serve

aloha nui