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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Frugal Meal Solution: Homemade tortillas

Flour tortillas are nice for a variety of meals and snacks. Filled with refried beans, rice, salsa, onions and tomato, they make one of my favorite Cheap & Cheerful Suppers. Roll up with lunchmeat, cream cheese, lettuce and green onions, then slice, and you have roller sandwiches. Spread with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and roll up for a tasty snack. Cut into strips and deep fry, then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar for a crispy treat.

Many years ago I taught myself how to make flour tortillas. If you have the time and wish to learn how to make them, here are my instructions, based on a recipe from an old edition of Laurel's Kitchen.

And just to ease your mind, we taught our two daughters how to make these when they were about 8 years old -- they're that easy and forgiving.

for 6 tortillas (the photos here are for a double recipe-12 tortillas):

3/4 cup flour (I use half white, half whole wheat flour)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. oil
scant 1/4 cup water

Use a heavy bottomed skillet or griddle. I've made them on our cast iron griddle, but I prefer to use a stainless steel, Farberware skillet. They don't dry out as much on the stainless steel.

You want your skillet or griddle to be good and hot, so preheat it over Med-Hi heat while you mix and roll the dough.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Stir in the oil, then the water.  It'll make a not-quite sticky dough. Your dough should be softer than for yeast bread dough, as you want to be able to roll it very thin. Turn out onto a floured surface and give it a few kneads.

Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball, then flatten and shape into a circle about 3 inches in diameter. Dip each circle into flour, then pile back into the bowl.

One at a time, roll each circle out. To do this, dredge each circle in flour, then roll with a rolling pin once, turn over and drag through any flour on counter, roll again, flip over, drag through flour, roll again. Add flour to the counter, as needed. Keep flipping, dragging through flour and giving a good roll until your circle is about 6-7 inches in diameter and almost paper thin.

As each tortilla is cooking, you should be rolling the next one. If your skillet/griddle is hot enough, you should just barely be able to keep up with the rolling. Cooking each side should just take 1-2 minutes. If it's taking longer, turn the heat up. Don't cook for too long -- this dries them out, then they become stiff when cooled.

Flip each one after the under side is cooked (medium brown bubbles on surface). Cook 1-2 more minutes, and the other side should also have medium brown bubbles. Turn out onto a plate, and keep the stack of cooked tortillas covered with a damp towel or plastic bag. I find flipping the whole stack from time to time keeps them evenly pliable.

You will notice that mine are not perfectly round.  My brother-in-law says that is part of their charm.

If, when filling the tortillas for burritos, they are too stiff to roll up, place filling on tortilla, then microwave unrolled for 15 seconds. They should be soft enough to roll now. By the way, if they are too stiff, this is a sign your skillet was not hot enough and they took too long to cook. Next time, try your stove one setting hotter.

I've been making my own tortillas for about 22 years now. So,  I've gotten pretty fast (I can do 12 in about 25 minutes). But it wasn't always that way.  It takes time to master any new skill.

Two things I really like about these homemade tortillas. One, their chewy texture and two, they cost only about 25-30 cents a dozen.



  1. Just discovered your blog through The Frugal Girl and love it! I have NO skills so I really love how you give thorough directions and lots of support (It takes time to learn a new skill, etc.) -- that is so helpful. And very inspiring to see how you juggle everything. Thanks!

    1. Thank you, Priskill. So nice of you. If ever there is something that I haven't made clear, please let me know. I'll be able to not only clarify things for you, but for someone else at the same time.
      As for feeling like you have no skills in some areas, I started baking things like tortillas 22-23 years ago, having no clue what I was doing. I've found that most things are easier to learn than we think. Afterall, practically everything we buy was once made in someone's garage, basement or kitchen, right? My thinking, if they can do it, so can I. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I have been wanting to do this! Thank you! I am going to try making these this weekend. :) Quesedillas and burritos are my go-to meals for using up leftovers wisely.

    1. Hi Pamela,
      It's true, isn't it? Tortillas can turn any odd bits and pieces from the fridge into a "something". And they're really pretty easy to make. Enjoy! Thanks for the comment.


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