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Instantly Make Tortillas for Pennies

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[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.

Tortilla Mix

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 recipe

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.

Tortilla Flat

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.

Tortilla Yum

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.

Buen provecho!

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.

Posted on November 10, 2015.

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3 Responses to “Instantly Make Tortillas for Pennies”

  1. Mario says:

    These look so much fluffier and chewy than the store bought stuff. I sorta wish I hadn’t eaten dinner yet…

  2. This is fantastic! I will definitely try this recipe out.

  3. Lev says:

    When comparing costs I think it’s important to include labor. How much time did it take to make the tortillas at home? How much time did it take to put a bag of tortillas in your shopping cart at the store? Walking/driving to the store should not be counted since I doubt you often go there just for tortillas.
    Multiply the cooking time by how much you value your time and divide by number of tortillas. I don’t think you’ll end up below $0.05.
    Of course, the quality of home-made tortillas, your enjoyment of the cooking process and other factors may still make home cooking the preferred choice but the decision is not as obvious if you consider labor costs.

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