Make homemade flour tortillas with just four simple ingredients! I’ll show you the perfect ratio of flour, fat, and water to achieve a soft, but sturdy wrap. In a few minutes, you’ll be ready to load up on your favorite taco fillings.
Once you learn how to make flour tortillas from scratch, you’ll quickly ditch the store-bought versions. Mastering this recipe is easy. The ingredients are common pantry items that transform into thin and flavorful flatbreads. All you need is wheat flour, vegetable shortening, warm water, and a sprinkle of salt, that’s it!
The process is similar to making biscuits. You break the fat into small pieces to coat the flour and combine with warm water to make a thick dough. Roll them into rounds to create flat discs, then they’re ready to fry. I like a few dark charred spots on my wraps for extra flavor. Grab your favorite fillings and make things like ground beef tacos, cheese quesadillas, or shrimp fajitas.
You can use various types of flour for the base. All-purpose flour is the gold standard, it has a moderate protein level so the texture stays soft and flexible. However, if you want to add in whole grains, whole wheat flour is a great option. If desired, it’s easy to make it gluten-free by using cassava flour or 1:1 gluten-free baking flour blends.
Choose your fat
Solid vegetable shortening gives an authentic taste similar to lard, however, the flavor is much more neutral and clean. It’s higher melting point compared to butter makes the dough pliable, easy to roll, and creates pockets of fat that make the tortilla light and bubbly when fried.
What really makes this flour tortilla recipe extremely versatile is that you can really use any kind of cooking oil or fat. I’ve experimented with butter, lard, coconut oil, and olive oil. They all give slightly different textures and flavors.
Making the dough
The secret to a soft tortilla is how you incorporate the fat into the flour. Use big chunks of lard and mix until the flour starts to look like wet sand or cornmeal. By coating a majority of the wheat proteins with fat reduces gluten formation and gives a tenderness to each bite.
Adding in warm water further melts the fat and helps to provide an extra coating of the proteins. Mix and knead it into a pliable ball, but you don’t want to overwork the dough or the texture will become tough. Divide the dough and roll them into ping pong sized balls.
Rest before rolling
Letting the dough rest and chill for 30 minutes gives the flour time to absorb the water to create a sturdy structure. This also allows the gluten to relax so it’s easier to roll. A bonus is that the tiny pieces of fat in the dough firm up, and when cooked create puffy air pockets. You can see them rise in the pan as the moisture turns to steam. This lightens the tortilla texture.
Rolling the tortillas
After the dough balls have rested, work one piece at a time on a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to flatten the pieces of dough into a thin disc. I find it more efficient to flatten the remaining dough in between cooking each piece to move things along faster.
The perfect pan for cooking
A cast iron skillet is my top pick for cooking the raw dough. The thick walls retain heat very effectively so that it’s easy to keep a consistent temperature in between frying up batches. Right before cooking, use a paper towel to spread a thin film of vegetable oil on the pan to prevent sticking.
Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and cook each side until lightly browned. You should see some bubbles lift up sections of the dough then fall back down. Wrap the cooked tortilla in a kitchen towel, stacking each piece to keep them warm and flexible.
Making a more thick and bready tortilla
Baking powder can be added to this homemade tortilla recipe to make the texture slightly thicker and more bread-like, but still soft and foldable. This chemical leavening agent makes the dough rise and bubble more than just fat alone. Add 1 teaspoon baking powder to the flour mixture.
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Homemade Flour Tortillas
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
- 3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- Vegetable oil, as needed for cooking
- Add water to a small saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Heat until warm, between 110 to 120ºF (43 to 49ºC).
- In a medium bowl whisk together flour and salt. Add the shortening and use fingers to rub the fat into the flour until it looks like coarse cornmeal, make sure no large pieces are visible.
- Add the warm water to the flour mixture, use a fork to combine.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Briefly knead just until the dough forms a cohesive ball, about 10 times. Add a little bit more flour if the dough feels sticky. Do not overwork the dough or it will become tough once cooked.
- Divide the dough into 16 even pieces, about 2 ½ tablespoons (1 ½-inches wide). Roll the dough pieces into a ball. Transfer to a plate and tightly cover with plastic wrap. Chill the dough for 30 minutes. The refrigerated dough can also be stored for up to 3 days.
- On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to work one piece at a time, roll the ball into a 6-inch wide circle. Make sure to keep the other pieces covered to prevent them from drying out.
- Heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat as needed as the pan may get hotter over time.
- Add ½ teaspoon of oil to the skillet, use a paper towel to spread and lightly coat the pan. If using a nonstick pan, skip this step. Oil the pan as needed to prevent sticking.
- Cook each tortilla on the hot skillet until a few brown spots appear on the surface, about 30 to 45 seconds per side.
- Wrap the tortillas in a cloth to keep warm and pliable. Repeat the rolling and cooking process for the remaining tortillas. Serve warm with desired fillings.
- Storing dough balls: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days before rolling.
- Storing leftover tortillas: Cool completely then place in a large resealable plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Reheating: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until warm and soft, about 15 to 30 seconds per side.
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