[Editor's Note: Christina has a lot more pictures here]
Tortillas are a fun alternative to bread that have become a staple in my diet. They are inexpensive and they're the perfect vehicle for toppings, carrying everything from eggs to hummus to meats to sautéed vegetables into my mouth.
Sure, I could buy small corn tortillas from the grocery store or a Mexican restaurant. Depending on where I shop, I might pay anywhere from a nickel to a quarter apiece, but I’ve been much happier with the tortillas I make at home.
Best of all -- making homemade tortillas is incredibly simple. If you can combine a few ingredients in a mixing bowl, you're already halfway there.
The brand I buy helpfully includes a recipe printed right on the bag, which calls for masa harina mixed with water, rolled flat and fried. Simple!
However, a few minor tweaks can make the difference between good-enough tortillas and truly great ones. Here's my variation:
Makes 10-20 tortillas depending on size and thickness
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1 ¼ cups of water
- ¼ cup of oil or cooking fat
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp salt
About the changes
The addition of oil or leftover bacon grease will give the cooked product a nice toasted flavor and won’t stick to a non-stick pan.
Baking powder helps the mixture rise just enough to give the tortillas a bit of a pillowy texture.
That little bit of salt makes a big difference for taste.
Mix 1 and 7/8 cups of masa harina with all of the baking powder and salt, then stir in the water and oil (or cooking fat).
You’ll use the final 1/8 cup of masa harina to coat your cutting board and rolling pin.
Once smooth, form the mixture into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball -- or whatever size you desire -- and roll flat. If you insist upon perfectly round, Instagram-ready tortillas, just use an overturned bowl to cut away the excess edges. Obviously, a tortilla press would make this step even easier.
Cook in a non-stick pan until you start to see a bit of golden brown on either side, flipping every 30 seconds.
So is making your own tortillas actually *that* much cheaper than just buying them at the store?
At my grocery store, a bag of masa harina costs $2.99 and makes 173 tortillas. Add in the nearly negligible amounts of the other ingredients, and each tortilla costs around $0.02.
At the same grocer, the cheapest 32-count bag of tortillas is $1.49 or, $0.05 each.
Yes, three cents per is an actual difference, but the real reason I make tortillas at home is the higher-quality product.
For that little bit of effort, I’m rewarded with tasty tortillas that have a perfect texture and don’t fall apart with wet ingredients.
One shortcoming I’ve noticed with store-bought corn tortillas is that it’s easy to get them too stiff when I re-heat them and watch them break when I fold them into a taco, or worse, see them fall apart when paired with wetter foods. By contrast, when I make them at home, they have a soft, toothsome texture, fold well, and have slightly toasted edges, and the flavor is indisputably superior.
I also get the flexibility to make my corn tortillas tiny for adorable appetizers, big burrito size, or square-shaped.
More importantly, unlike store-bought tortillas which can be packed with preservatives, I get to control exactly what I put into them.
Christina Garofalo is co-author of the blog Adventures in Frugal, where she writes about travel, food, finance, and more. Her writing has also appeared in Paste, First We Feast, Robb Report, and Art & Hustle. In her free time, you'll find her writing poetry and eating her way through Brooklyn, New York.
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