The Biggest Mistake You're Making With Homemade Tortillas

Few things are as delectable as homemade tortillas. While you can easily get your hands on both corn and flour tortillas at the grocery store, the freshness of tortillas made from scratch easily blows store-bought varieties out of the water. The only two ingredients required to make tortillas are masa flour and water, but even the smallest misstep during the cooking process can leave you with a mess. In fact, the major problem that leads to unusable tortillas in the kitchen lies in adding too much or too little water to your masa mix.

When making tortillas, you'll want to aim for a dough texture that resembles soft modeling clay, as that will allow you to shape and flip each round without a hassle. Excess water in tortilla dough results in a gooey paste that will be difficult to shape into flat pucks — while dehydrated masa has the tendency to crumble, creating an unruly tortilla that likely won't puff up. Luckily, more masa or water can be easily incorporated into masa to fix these issues.

Don't pre-roll your masa balls to keep them from drying out

Moisture plays a critical role when making a large batch of tortillas. Because masa flour takes much longer to absorb water, it can be incredibly easy to make a dough that will slowly dry out as you cook it. This becomes especially troublesome for the inexperienced tortilla cook, who will generally take longer to shape and flip each puck into perfection. To avoid any trouble, don't try to save time by pre-rolling portions of masa in advance. If these dough balls turn dry, you'll waste minutes trying to rehydrate each individual piece.

One trick that helps mitigate this dehydration issue lies in letting your kneaded masa rest for a few minutes before checking its feel. This will allow the flour to absorb some of the water, giving you a more accurate reading of whether your dough has enough or too much water. You can also cover your masa with a clean, moist rag or plastic wrap in order to minimize evaporation from occurring.

Remember to line your tortilla press with plastic or parchment paper

Shaping tortillas by hand should be considered an art. Not only does this method take extensive practice, but just the wrong move can leave you with an uneven or torn tortilla. If you're a beginner tortilla maker or don't want to learn how to shape masa by hand, using a tortilla press can save you from a few headaches. If you're using a manual press to make these Mesoamerican treats, you'll want to line each side with a piece of plastic or a nonstick paper such as parchment or wax. This will ensure your tortilla will not attach to your appliance as you press it down.

If you don't have a press and don't want to try shaping tortillas by hand, you can also line your counter and the bottom of a plate or pan, then press down on the dough ball until you reach your desired thickness. Tortillas vary in both size and depth across Latin America, so feel free to try out the variant that speaks to you.