Flour Tortillas

When I was growing up in South Texas we had this neighbor who would, on Saturday afternoons, make her tortillas for the week.  Believe me, I made friends with her children so I could make myself available for tortilla day.  I think she enjoyed my enthusiasm and always had a few extra tortillas for me to take home. 

They were sublime!  My family would fight over them, and no matter how many she sent home with me they were always gone before dinner.  My mom asked for the recipe, yet no matter how my mother pleaded, or bartered with her own secret recipes, she refused to give up her recipe.

Eventually we moved to North Texas and that ended my weekly tortilla gorge.  It seemed I was destined to eat rubbery store-bought substitutes for the rest of my life.  I survived on them until a few years ago when I was reminded, quite by accident at a local Tex-Mex place, of our neighbor and her delicious tortillas.   I watched as the woman behind the counter rolled and cooked beautiful tortillas and I thought, why couldn’t I do that too?

I had quite a bit of culinary know-how, and I had the internet which would surely hold the key to delicious tortillas, right?

You would be surprised!

I tested a number of recipes for tortillas with all manner of ingredients.  Some had vegetable oil, others butter, and some had vegetable shortening.  They used a variety of flours from regular all-purpose to bread flour to even cake flour.  Some used milk, others water.  None of them turned out the way I wanted. 

I discovered pretty early that all-purpose was the flour to use.  It developed a moderate amount of gluten so the tortillas were chewy but not tough.  The liquid I had the most success with was milk.  Water works fine, but the cooked tortillas are not as soft as when you use milk.  As for fat, that was more tricky.  Butter burned too easily and the vegetable oil gave the tortillas an odd texture.  Vegetable shortening left the tortillas with an almost fishy smell, which happens when the shortening gets too hot.

I despaired that I would never find what I was looking for when, while looking at the shortening shelf at the grocery store, I remembered one thing from the Saturday’s at my neighbors.  Manteca!!  That is lard to be specific.  So, with my tub of lard in hand, I went back to the kitchen and tried one of the more successful recipes with the lard and … EUREKA!  I had it.

Now, this is the point where I am supposed to be sorry that I like lard, that I know it is supposed to be evil, and gross, and made from animals.  I’m not.  No, I am PROUD to say I cook with lard.  Using lard I can make tortillas that make people beg.   Some have offered me cash to make them a batch.  I’m not kidding.  Lard adds a depth of flavor with out any funky aftertaste.  It has a high smoke point so it does not scorch, and it lasts for a really long time in the pantry.  It is also versatile.   I use it combined with butter in my pie crusts.  But that is an entry for another day.   

Flour Tortillas   Makes 12

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.

Flour Tortillas 

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.

© 2009, Evil Shenanigans. All rights reserved.

Author: Kelly

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  • Thanks for sharing your tortilla recipe.
    I’ve always wanted to make my own and now I can since you’ve done all the grunt work.
    And I have lard in my pantry!

  • Kelly

    No problem! I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

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  • Love the post, I have attempted to make flour tortillas in the past with little success. Your directions are perfectly detailed! I will be giving your a try sometime soon!

  • Kelly

    Jason – I hope they work for you!

  • These were wonderful. I made one batch with AP with warm milk and one with white whole wheat and warm water. Both were delicious. Next time I’ll add 1/4t additional salt. These dough was a dream to work with. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Eric

    I made these last night and they were delicious. Tell me how you arrive at such a perfect circle? After dividing the recipe into 12 44g balls I had a hard time getting them stretched into a large enough disk.

  • Pam

    I grew up in south Texas, now live in FL and the one food item I miss THE most is the “real” flour tortilla. I’m so happy to have found your recipe. What do you think of tortilla presses?

  • Laura

    Just a thought… because flour tortillas are similar to naan, I suspect someone who is vegetarian could readily use ghee – once clarified, it also has a very high smoke point.

    Lard is great, especially from pigs that were raised humanely, but I have a lot of veg friends who might enjoy making tortillas too! I wonder if refined coconut or palm oil might have a similar utility?



  • Corpus

    I cooked these, and they were really good, but it seems like they don’t have the same depth of flavor as the flour tortillas you can get at a great S. Texas Mexican restaurant. I’m suspecting it’s because in a restaurant they’re using rendered fats instead of lard. Any thoughts?

  • ryan

    im from the valley to moved to houston havent found a valley tortilia here. ive tried making them but i use water not milk. what does milk do that the water doesnt.

  • Ryan – the water makes the tortillas more tender,softer, and a little more chewy.

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  • Jessica

    You make tortillas the same way my Abuelo (grandfather) did and I live in South Texas, in Corpus Christi to be exact. I have lived in the Rio Grande Valley and even a two hour commute further South is a whole different Culinary Experience.

    Just wanted to say that I found a recipe that used Olive oil and milk instead of Lard and it was really easy and good to make.

    I think I am going to gain more weight now that I have two ways to make tortillas.

  • Anita

    Have you had luck with doubling this recipe?

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  • Lisa

    These were amazing! The dough was so easy to work with. I used water due to milk allergies in my family, and vegetable shortening because its what I had on hand. This will definitely be my go-to recipe! Thanks!

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