For Pillowy Soft Tortillas, Brew Some Tomatillo Water

Making your own tortillas at home is one of those things that you might think takes a lot of effort but is actually totally worth it. They don't require much to make, just some water, salt, and masa harina, a dehydrated, powdered corn dough (not to be confused with cornmeal or corn flour, which are not replacements for masa harina).

While many will say that the biggest mistake you could make with homemade tortillas is using the wrong amount of water, it's the type of water you use that really makes the difference. A traditional hack for making the softest tortillas involves using water brewed with tomatillo husks, which contain an enzyme that helps keep the tortillas soft. Tomatillos, which are related to gooseberries, are highly acidic. This acidity paired with hot water to relax the gluten in your masa harina is the key to making strong but pliable corn tortillas.

How to use tomatillo husks

To make your tomatillo water, you first need to steep your tomatillo husks in hot water for about three minutes, then squeeze the remaining liquid out of the husks and discard them. Six tomatillo husks should be enough for a cup of water. Add your tomatillo water to your masa harina with a bit of salt and mix until combined. From there, you can section out your dough into individual balls and flatten each one in your tortilla press. Sandwiching your dough ball in plastic wrap or parchment paper will help to keep it from sticking to your press.

If you don't have a tortilla press, don't sweat it! You can roll out your tortillas with a rolling pin or even press them out by hand. Then, simply pop them onto a red hot comal (a traditional pan used for cooking tortillas) and cook them on both sides until they puff up and start to brown around the edges. You should be able to scrunch up the resulting tortillas without them cracking. Store the warm tortillas in a towel to keep them from drying out.

What to do with tomatillos

This great trick for making corn tortillas comes with an excellent byproduct: a bunch of fresh tomatillos just waiting to be put to good use. The tomatillo, whose name translates to "little tomato," is a popular Mexican fruit used in savory applications for its acidic, vegetal flavor. The most common way to use tomatillos is to make a delicious tomatillo salsa. Tomatillos are the main ingredient in salsa verde and are roasted with jalapenos, then blended with onion, cilantro, and lime juice to make a zingy, flavorful sauce that goes great on any kind of taco: chicken, fried fish, or even al pastor.

Alternatively, you can chop your tomatillos up and pickle them to make a tangy taco topping. They absorb brine quickly, like green tomatoes do, and can be used within a couple of days. Tomatillos can also be popped into soups, thinly sliced when raw for salads, or roasted.