Paper thin soft chewy, Sonoran-style flour tortilla
For a couple years now, I’ve been taking jabs at creating the perfect flour tortillas.
Now, any conversation evoking the word “perfect” ought to be subject to a clearer definition, doesn’t it? So here is mine. The perfect flour tortilla, in my view, should be unleavened (otherwise it’s just a thin pita), translucent, thin but elastic, flavorful enough to be a standalone enjoyment, and above all else, embodying a soft chewiness that you could feel in between bites.
It’s safe to say that the recipes I used over the years didn’t stray far from the typical ones floating around the internet, more or less, kneading flour, warm water (often ambiguous on the exact temperature), some sort of animal fat all together which is rolled out and toasted on a skillet. Simple, yes, and those aren’t horrible either. Anything containing that amount of lard just can’t be. But in the end… lifeless, doughy, and without flare.
Well that ends today.
You see, there is a place in Mexico called Sonora. Legend has it, that as far as flour tortilla goes, they’ve got the best. Large in diameter, tailored for burritos, their flour tortilla is stretched paper thin by hands and toasted only for a few moments on an inverted hot iron wok, resulting in delicate, see-through tortillas that had famed this region. People swear by it. And if there were a better flour tortilla in Mexico, it hasn’t been discovered. Perfect? As close as it’s gonna get.
So, It gave me ideas.
I took a couple weeks to really sift through the steps of what makes an optimal flour tortilla dough, with enough gluten in strength to be so thin yet chewy, carrying enough flavors that it runs the risk of being snacked away before anything can be wrapped with. Then for those of us who has not mastered the art of stretching a dough out to the extent of paper-thinness by hands, I have an ingenious solution – a classic technique of making Peking duck crepes.
Instead of rolling a single dough out as thinly as humanly capable, I stacked two on top of each other, separated by fat/oil, then roll them out as thinly as humanly capable. What happens is that when they cook, they puff and separate from each other, and what you get is two tortillas that are only 1/2 the thickness of what you normally could pull off!
Can you blame me for feeling clever? As you are peeling these translucently thin and elastic tortillas away from each other and marveling at their supple chewiness and savory aroma, and go on to ecstatically wrap them with everything in sight, well, you’d thank me.
- 2 cups (260 grams) bread flour with 12~14% protein
- 1 tsp (4 grams) light brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp (4 grams) fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup (180 grams) hot water at 140~150F/60~65C
- 4 tbsp (56 grams) lard or goose/chicken fat or unsalted butter, not melted
- 2 tsp all-purpose flour
- In microwave or on stove, heat water to 140~150F/60~65C. In a stand-mixer with dough-hook, mix bread flour, sugar, sea salt and hot water on low speed until it comes into a cohesive dough. Increase the speed to medium-high and knead for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough is elastic and smooth. It should pull away cleanly from the sides and bottom of the bowl, but sticks right back when the machine stops. If it's too dry, add a teaspoon more water, and if too wet, add a teaspoon more flour. Knead for an extra 5 minutes for each addition. Add 2 tbsp of lard (or other types of fat you're using) into the bowl, and knead on medium-high speed for another 10 minutes, until the dough again pulls away cleanly from the side and bottom of the bowl, but sticks back when the machine stops. Adding the fat later instead of in the beginning, gives the dough more chance to develop more gluten formation. Cover the bowl and let rest for at least one hour. You can also keep it in the fridge overnight.
- Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tbsp of fat in a small pot and whisk in 2 tsp of flour. Continue to cook on low heat until the flour is light brown in color, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
- (The following instruction is tailored to making 13-inches/33 cm tortillas. If you don't have a griddle or skillet that big, you'll need to adjust the numbers accordingly). Once the dough is rested, transfer it onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 8 equal portions (if you're making smaller tortillas, you'll need to divide into higher even numbers, like 10 portions for 12 inches skillet, or 12 portions for 10 inches skillet, so on so forth). Shape each portions into smooth balls and arrange them in the chronological orders they are handled (this allows each dough to have equal resting time between handling).
- Now go back to the first two balls, dusting with flour as needed, and roll each one out into 6 inches/15 cm wide disks. Generously brush the fat-flour mixture on one of the disk all the way to the edges, leaving zero margin, and place the other one on top. Set the stack on the side, and repeat with the rest of the dough balls, again arranging them in the chronological order they are handled. You'll have 4 stacks in total.
- Now go back to the first stack you made, dusting with flour as needed, and roll it out as thinly as you can, so thin that you can almost see a little of your countertop through it, which will be about 13 inches/33 cm (smaller if you're using smaller skillet and smaller portions of dough). It's very important that you keep flipping it back and forth so the the two stacked tortillas are rolled out evenly in thinness. As explained in the video, this technique allows you to create super thin tortillas without any special skills. Because you're rolling out two stacked tortillas together as thinly as possible, and when they cook and separate, you get two tortillas that are only 1/2 the thickness of what you can typically get.
- Brush the fat-flour mixture lightly on the surface of the griddle or skillet, which should be hot enough that it starts to smoke when the fat hits (if you're using cast-iron, it'll need to be preheated on medium-high heat for about 5~10 minutes). Gently place the tortilla on top. The griddle or skillet should be hot enough that it only takes about 10 seconds for the first side to take on tiny brown spots but not burning it. Flip it back and forth while pressing on it with a spatula, until the tortillas starts to puff up all around and have little blistered brown spots on both sides. Transfer onto a plate or basket and cover with a damp towel. Repeat with the rest.
- Once cool enough to handle, simply separate the two tortillas from each other, which should be very easy. This technique will leave one side of the tortilla un-blistered, which I think is fine because they are soft, chewy and flavorful as is. If you want char on the other side, too, I would strongly advice NOT to toast the other side on the griddle as this will dry it out. Instead, torch only the back side lightly with a blow-torch until there are tiny black dots here and there, which adds good charcoal flavor to it, too. This is a great way to re-heat the tortilla as well if you are making them a couple hours ahead of time. But I would not recommend making then longer than couple hours ahead. Fresh tortillas are still the best.
HarkiratMay 13, 2021 at 6:22 PM
Really enjoyed this recipe Mandy, and the ingenious technique which you have used to achieve such a result.
I have 2 questions:
– I know how you say fresh tortillas are the best, but at times it’s good to have them quick at hand for an easy dinner. So, is there an option of being able to freeze the tortillas at any stage – either after having been cooked fully, or maybe once rolled out but still uncooked.
– Also, do you think ghee/clarified butter will work an alternative source of fat?
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 13, 2021 at 7:45 PM
Hi Harkirat, I haven’t tried freezing these yet, but I wouldn’t freeze them rolled out uncooked because I’m pretty certain they will dry out and crack. Instead you could try freezing the cooked ones (vacuum packed if possible because they are so thin they lose moisture fast), and perhaps lightly steam it or microwave wrapped up in DAMP towel. But again, I’m speculating.
Any flavorful fat works! Ghee would be great, too!
Eduardo AragonMay 26, 2021 at 12:50 AM
Hi Harkirat! I’m from Northern Mexico, not Sonora, but another region to the East, we also make flour tortillas, well I don’t, but my mom does, and when she comes to visit me to the States, she makes a lot of flour tortillas (wheat, smaller and thicker) and she freezes them AFTER she cooks them. For one kilo of made tortillas, first she lets them all cool off, then she wraps in paper towel, and then finally a plastic bag, then to the freezer they go! I reheat them on a hot pan or the microwave –play with the right time in the MW. Some of them even get fluffy again! (signs of moisture trapped inside). I hope that helps! @crazylalo
CharlieMay 13, 2021 at 10:25 PM
These sound awesome! I don’t like thicker ones. I have TMJ and they really make my jaws sore. These I will try.
Thank you for going outside the box and for sharing.
Holly HegemanMay 13, 2021 at 11:28 PM
I’m going to try them using duck fat.
NicciMay 14, 2021 at 1:12 AM
Oh my…so inspired, gonna have to try these this weekend! Love your videos!
DulcistellaMay 14, 2021 at 2:48 AM
I think it’s funny how you pronounce tortilla!
I also think that you would have made SUCH a great lab technician. Or even researcher.
XanderbearMay 14, 2021 at 4:06 AM
OMG! I have been obsessing over this type of tortilla (sobaqueras) for weeks! I’ve been watching YT vids, writing down recipes and was going to start the trial and error of making them this weekend. Then boom, here you are! Completely floored and can’t wait to try out your recipe, you saved me so much time! Thank you thank you thank you!
paul angelucciMay 15, 2021 at 2:51 AM
Mandy, Haven’t visited you for quite a while. The last time I had tortillas like these was in Oxnard, California almost 50 years ago, and I’ve been hankering for them since then. Thank you so much for your recipe—can’t wait to try it. Your video is really well done. You’re looking very well; hopefully your past health issues are just that: past. I’ll be making some carnitas soon and will enjoy it wrapped in your beautiful tortillas along with thin wedges of red onion, nothing else. Thank you, Sweetheart (hope you don’t mind me calling you that). Appreciate you, Paul.
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 15, 2021 at 2:59 PM
Paul, yes the autoimmune condition has mainly subsided :). And I hope you have success w this recipe!
MickMay 15, 2021 at 1:55 PM
Outstanding recipe. I made these today with lard and they were amazing. I have a 30cm frying pan and started with 10 balls but found they were way too large for it once rolled paper thin. I split each ball in half and had the perfect size. I even bought a stand mixer to make them as I didn’t have one. Now I need a blowtorch. Thanks
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 15, 2021 at 2:59 PM
MattMay 19, 2021 at 11:33 PM
First of all this is genius!! I’ll be trying with duck fat tomorrow. If attempting to make vegan for a friend, any recommendations on the fat?? Coconut oil perhaps? Thanks!!!
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 20, 2021 at 1:22 AM
Matt, sure but the tortillas will taste very coconuty!
RoslynMay 20, 2021 at 4:29 AM
Wonderful recipe – will try this tonight. Question – how critical is the brown sugar to the recipe? In pinch, can regular granulated shite sugar be substituted? Thank you for all your contributions to the online community!
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 20, 2021 at 1:54 PM
Roslyn, I just like a touch of sugar in my tortillas. You can omit or use granulated, both fine :)
RoslynMay 21, 2021 at 2:11 PM
I made them! The tortillas were EXCELLENT and came out EXACTLY as the recipe and Mandy demonstrated!! Soft,chewy, translucent, extremely pliable, like a thin fabric. Don’t forget to flip and roll on both sides, that will make both tortillas very thin and see- through. I didn’t have a larger skillet and split into 10. Thank you for another stellar recipe and technique!!! Brilliant!
HeatherMay 25, 2021 at 12:48 AM
I make flour tortillas regularly and was quite intrigued over this style. These just didn’t work out for me – turned quite crispy and thus didn’t pull apart well. Tried different temperatures and cooking times as I moved my way through a double batch, but just ended up with similar results. Thoughts?
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 25, 2021 at 1:06 AM
Heather, without being there I have no idea what went wrong. Could be the flour type, knead time, gluten level, and/or overcooking. But many others have made this recipe with success so I hope someone can shine a light here in the comment :)
Andie SMay 27, 2021 at 5:12 AM
Thank you for sharing this recipe! It made me think of two Indian flatbreads: Dosti roti for technique, where two balls of dough are rolled together and cooked on the griddle, then separated out, and Roomali roti for appearance where large paper thin flatbreads are cooked on a an upside down wok.
I will try this out and share results soon!
Fer AMay 27, 2021 at 9:22 AM
I think that’s the thinnest flour tortilla I’ve seen. Which is kinda sad because I live in northern Mexico (Not Sonora, though, that place is crazy hot). I will make this, thanks
MartinaMay 28, 2021 at 10:13 PM
Hi! I tried making these last night and had real difficulty with the rolling. For some reason when they were rolled together they were ripping and wouldn’t separate after cooking. I think i might have reseted them a little too long before rolling? I figured out a workaround in case anyone else has similar trouble. I rolled each ball individually, paper thin, on a sheet of parchment, allowing it to stick to the paper. I then flipped the whole paper, tortilla side down obvs, onto the hot pan. It’s very easy to pull the parchment off as soon as the tortilla is blistered. They came out awesome. I used bacon fat for the recipe, really really delicious, thank you!
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 29, 2021 at 2:36 AM
Martina, really dunno what went wrong there, but glad you found a solution!
BunJune 9, 2021 at 6:27 AM
Hello, Mandy! Thank you for the ingenious recipe, can’t wait to try these! I don’t have a stand mixer, however, so I’ll have to knead by hand – do you have any recommendations re: kneading time, or any other tips? How essential is using a mixer for these to turn out right? Thank you! <3
mandy@ladyandpupsJune 9, 2021 at 1:49 PM
Bun, hand kneading will be hard to develop that gluten. You may have to go at it hard for 30 min or so :)
jon wiersmaJune 15, 2021 at 12:01 AM
I, too, thought of roti like Indian flatbreads and that makes me want to make a batch and stuff them with a very spicy curry! Very nice presentation by Mandy and as always brilliantly executed.
Allen SweattJune 15, 2021 at 10:33 PM
Thanks a lot for the recipe, I’m sure I’ll cook it today! Have you read the book Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway? This is my favorite book, and today I found a website where there are a bunch of free essays https://supremestudy.com/hills-like-white-elephants about my favorite book, to be honest, I could not think that I did not know so much. I think that everyone can find there something that interests him, a very useful resource, I recommend it!
sarkepo.comJuly 12, 2021 at 7:18 PM
wowww that is very good. thanks for your information
Aaron SquierAugust 17, 2021 at 5:53 AM
Any tips for rolling these out round? I found I was ending up with more oblong-abstract shapes by the time it was evenly thin all around. I was using a french rolling pin…next time I’ll try with an evenly cylindrical pin.
Regardless, these tortillas were delicious and still impossibly thin, if very misshapen (especially after separating). I love the method!
gigiAugust 23, 2021 at 4:29 AM
i just made these. hmm… the first pair came out super thin. but the rest retracted. and i was rolling them out again right before i put them on the flat top but they still retracted upon hitting the flat top. so they were mostly between 9-10″ :/
okshoutAugust 27, 2021 at 2:09 PM
I just want to say that I just discovered your blog and absolutely love it! These peanut buttery black sesame profiteroles are genius – i’ve had this bag of black sesame seeds in my cupboard for months, now I finally know what to do with it, thank you! If you have some time would appreciate it if you could check out my blog as well – https://okshout.blogspot.com/ :) thank you
ValVerdiOctober 12, 2021 at 12:06 PM
My husband and I (plus our friends) THANK YOU with all our hearts!!! My husband grew up in California and turned me on to Tito’s burritos. I’m a former chef (total foodie) and lost my mind over those burritos (previously I couldn’t care less about burritos). We had people shipping them cross country for us. I’m convinced that the MAGIC is the tortilla, thin, stretchy, and chewy. Just Like Yours!!!!
ValverdiOctober 12, 2021 at 12:15 PM
I’ve frozen tortilla like these AFTER they were wrapped into burritos. They froze, travelled, and reheated beautifully! We wrapped tight in cling film first (once fully cooled), then tight in foil. We reheated in microwave with damp paper towel.
JohnnyBNovember 14, 2021 at 1:23 AM
This recipe is pure genius. Made mine using Wagyu beef tallow and they came out perfectly paper thin, stretchy, chewy and charred. They take some effort, but totally worth it. I cooked mine on my camp chef flat top outside. Went maybe 45 secs per side but honestly went more by feel. The two tortillas rolled together is pure genius. It was an easy technique and they pulled apart so easily. I was convinced they would stick. Didn’t lose a single tortilla to tears, remarkable considering how thin they are.
immersion blenderDecember 16, 2021 at 12:45 PM
Taco Tuesday is a great way to cut down your weekly grocery bill with a flavorful, easy-to-make meal. Whether you have a family to feed or you’re going solo, there is a taco for everyone’s taste buds. There are a lot of different types of tacos that you can make for your Taco Tuesday. In my opinion, the best taco filling is a good quality Mexican rice, seasoned ground beef, and fresh, ripe pico de gallo with a crispy corn tortilla. The most important part of the taco is a good tortilla.
RainyJanuary 17, 2022 at 5:52 AM
I like this recipe (apart from the food processor and dough hook requirements which are completely unnecessary – I have been making unleavened flat bread all my life without one, as have the majority of people for whom this type of food is staple).
Also, so much of the pita eaten in the Middle East IS unleavened. If you mean no yeast. However, yeast or not, if you leave it to “rest” it can’t then necessarily be called unleavened. Even plain four and water mixed to a dough will “rise” in a warm room and therefore isn’t unleavened. Why do you think some brands of pita and Matzo are not allowed in orthodox homes?
This aside, I do like this recipe and I also adore your blog on the whole, as it is refreshingly different from th same old same old re-re-plating do endless Jamie/Gordon/insert NE other celeb “chef” name here…..
Please continue to post your amazing food on here, as living in very rural Northumberland, on a farm therefore easy access to organic grass-fed meat, wild game, fresh home-grown seasonal heritage variety organic veg means I am constantly looking for new ways to serve up excellent food to wow my hard-working partner and various family/ friends.
Well done ?
Lars BullockFebruary 26, 2022 at 4:08 PM
Why do you use a roux mixture instead of fat/oil without flour to separate the tortillas?
mandy@ladyandpupsFebruary 27, 2022 at 1:38 AM
Lars, I felt that it separates the dough a little better but you could try without flour too :)
JaneMarch 8, 2022 at 1:11 AM
I just made these and they came out perfect! My largest pan is too small, so I turned my wok over and cooked them on the convex side after letting it heat up all over, and that worked really well for cooking the larger size. Thank you for the great recipe!
John KApril 6, 2022 at 8:07 PM
Rolled up in foil they keep well in the refrigerator! I’ve used them up to 5 days later and they’re good. Just pop them in the oven for a few minutes in the foil and then use them.
C. Tempest B.April 13, 2022 at 11:13 AM
I am starving, now, after watching this. These are the type of tortilla that I love. I am going to make these tomorrow. Oh my goodness! You have mastered these! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
RuApril 25, 2022 at 9:15 AM
Love, love, love yr blog for years now and got the book– yay! I tried the mochi cruffins first and managed to kill the yeast with hot tangzhong but will try again after these.
Two quick questions–more important, do you think it is possible to roll these out the night before, separate with saran, wrap tightly, and refrig or freeze no longer than overnight, and griddle in morning? I think they may retract significantly d/t gluten development and I wonder if quickly freezing them, maybe individually for each pair then stack wrapped tightly, would prevent this? Should be fast to defrost too.
Less important– this is sacrilegious and not to the spirit of your recipe at all, but have you tried using this griddle method with the frozen peking duck/ spring /mandarin pancakes/ chun bing/ 腊鸡 that are commercially available? There is no little to no fat in the base recipes I’ve seen and less flavorful oil for sticking them together (if they are griddled rather than steamed), but the method might work for folks with less time and smaller pans- maybe peeling them apart and brushing with animal fat then rolling slightly to stick them together then proceeding as written? I have also seen a suggestion to use dumpling skins rolled out more thinly for spring pancakes (like so: https://redhousespice.com/easy-chinese-tortilla/)…might work?
Just an idea!
PS- another branch of the riff I’m on: I highly recommend using commercially-produced puff pastry rolled thin and given the snail scallion-pancake style coil, roll, and pan-fry w/ flavored innards (chili crisp + parm, salted yolk + palm sugar + pandan extract, cardamom + sesame paste + honey, etc) to make an amazing flatbread.
Thanks and love your work!
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 5, 2022 at 2:22 PM
Ru, super sorry for the late reply!! You can certainly give the roll-then-chill method a try! I can’t say if the commercial chinese pancakes would work because I’ve never had them and don’t know what they taste like. But I love the sound of puff pastry snail :))
Miles HartleyJune 27, 2022 at 12:35 AM
This is such a nice recipe! Thanks a bunch! I’m just a collar writer for an essay writing company without any cooking skills. But with your help I manage make delicious dishes without a problem
Paterson LiersaSeptember 23, 2022 at 7:02 AM
Saam LinkinSeptember 23, 2022 at 7:04 AM
PralineOctober 1, 2022 at 9:19 PM
Perfect tortilla! Perfect recipe! Genius!
JeffOctober 29, 2022 at 2:14 AM
I have a few questions about the grams. A cup of bread flour is typically 120 grams, so 2 cups would be 240 grams, not 260. Due to this, I decided to use your measurements in grams, not cups, teaspoons or Tablespoons.
However, the salt measurement threw me off. Salt can be anywhere from 8 grams per Tablespoon (Kosher, Diamond Crystal) to 18 grams per Tablespoon (table salt). You’re asking for 1/4 tsp, which would range from 0.7 grams to 1.3 grams. 4 grams would be 3 to 6 times greater than 1/4 tsp.
mandy@ladyandpupsOctober 29, 2022 at 3:13 AM
Hi Jeff, if it helps I was using fine sea salt :). Not sure why there was such a huge difference though…
fenseryNovember 9, 2022 at 2:52 PM
The first time I come here with stumble guys online. I see amany useful and great things here.
FLAGLENovember 28, 2022 at 3:47 PM
Your variation of things along with original unique recipes is a breath of fresh air. I’m glad you decided to film your future recipes as well
drift bossDecember 2, 2022 at 11:27 AM
I have a few inquiries regarding grams. Since a cup of bread flour weighs about 120 grams, two cups would weigh 240 grams rather than 260. I chose to use your measurements in grams rather than cups, teaspoons, or tablespoons as a result.
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 2, 2022 at 12:49 PM
Hi, yes I would go with the grams for sure :). I usually use cups then measure it with a scale but cups can vary in sizes.
henry waterDecember 17, 2022 at 2:24 AM
Lisa PalmerDecember 25, 2022 at 6:12 PM
You made our Christmas special with tortillas like those we had back in Tucson. Can you double the recipe or do you have to make small batches to achieve the stretchy gluten? These go fast and two separate batches took forever to make with all the needing time. Thanks again for sharing this genius recipe!
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 25, 2022 at 10:09 PM
Lisa, you can of course double the recipe :)
Taylor PJanuary 1, 2023 at 2:38 PM
These might be the most beautiful collection of pictures of tortillas I’ve ever seen!
carolJanuary 10, 2023 at 7:34 PM
I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such a post and please keep it up.
storage unit clean outs west palm beach
Terry LewellenFebruary 26, 2023 at 8:16 AM
Best tortillas ever. Thank you so much for your hard work coming up with the recipe
JennyMarch 27, 2023 at 12:29 AM
There are truly incredible–thank you so much for all your work developing them and for sharing the recipe!
I grew up in Austin but haven’t lived nearby in many years, and tortillas are the one thing I really have not been able to replace. I’ve tried so many times to make them, and nothing came even close. I saw your video and knew these would be right. I got a little choked up when I tasted them. They are perfect.
My kids are eating them hot off the skillet with butter and salt right now. THANK YOU! This will be the recipe they grow up with.