Large Corn Tortillas
September 7, 2010 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Why can't I find burrito-sized corn tortillas?

I'm not looking to make a burrito out of a corn tortilla but it occurred to me (while making enchiladas) that the process would be easier with some larger tortillas. I've hunted and searched online but have found nothing.

The simplest explanation seems to be that a large corn tortilla would break apart and be unstable. Is there something else to it? Has anyone tried to make their own large corn tortillas? Was it a disaster? Would you buy such tortillas if they existed?
posted by shew to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No, I don't think thee's anything else to it. Maybe also that corn tortillas have a stronger taste and so wouldn't be used for roll-em-up type food where the amount of corniness would overwhelm the ingredients.
posted by rhizome at 12:30 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would definitely buy them as I am trying to reduce how much gluten I eat.
posted by ShadePlant at 12:34 PM on September 7, 2010

I think corn tortillas are also weaker/less malleable than flour tortillas and don't stand up to the task of being wrapped/folded and holding that large volume of stuff.
posted by two lights above the sea at 12:35 PM on September 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think it's definitely the instability issue. Little corn tortillas are already pretty easy to tear or crumble up. I would imagine a large one would be kind of impossible. Delicious though.
posted by grapesaresour at 12:38 PM on September 7, 2010

Wheat makes a stretchy tortilla, and that's good for wrapping the goodies. Corn has virtually no gluten, so the tortilla will rip easily under pressure. But I agree, it would taste great!
posted by quarterframer at 12:39 PM on September 7, 2010

I feel like the largest corn tortillas I've ever seen at a store are maybe 8"--and made by a small local bakery. You might do better to look at a specialty or ethnic store for a somewhat wider selection, if you don't have a tortilla bakery in your area.

I like the slightly bigger ones for enchiladas myself, because they fill my pans without leaving gaps at the end. But I'm sure they don't make burrito-sized ones for the obvious reason you state, that corn tortillas simply wouldn't hold up.

(however, I believe Trader Joe's makes a corn/flour mixed tortilla that is about 10", though this may be one of those things that can only be found at certain locations).
posted by padraigin at 12:40 PM on September 7, 2010

I've tried to make larger ones. Corn tortillas just don't hold up very well to all that much manipulation. Even when you're doing things with small ones, you have to be careful how you handle them (e.g. warming them before attempting to roll them -- cold out of the fridge and they will just break). Of course, now I want to try again. A small bean and cheese burrito in a corn tortilla would be awesome. Also, there is a brand around here that makes a "corn" tortilla that actually has a lot of wheat flour as well (strangely tasty too). I imagine those would work better if made larger.
posted by R343L at 12:41 PM on September 7, 2010

If you're in the US, the primary purchasers of corn tortillas are the Hispanic community (Americans trend heavily to wheat). They are not particularly interested in the larger torillas --possibly for the reasons specified, and possibly because, if they want a larger tortilla, they are very easy to make. I suspect good old economics is determining what tortilla size you can find.

I don't know if the name changes regionally, but around here (Southeast US), the brand name for make-your-own tortilla mix is "Maseca." Comes in a bag that looks like a flour bag, generally found in quantity in the "latin foods" section of Walmart or any of a number of other grocery stores. It's basically a "just add water [and salt to taste]" proposition: Mix it up to a reasonably workable consistency (think playdough), then roll or squish it to an appropriate size and fry. (oil/butter/non-stick spray).
posted by Ys at 12:46 PM on September 7, 2010

I make burrito sized corn tortillas, because I can never find them in the store. In case you're feeling up to it, here is the recipe-

1 3/4 cups masa harina
1 cup plus 2 TBS warm water
pinch of salt

In clean dry bowl, mix together masa harina, a pinch of salt and hot water until combined. Turn dough onto a clean surface and knead until pliable and smooth. You can also use a dough hook on your mixer. Add more masa harina if the dough seems too wet, and spritz with warm water if it gets too crumbly. Return to bowl and cover with saran wrap for thirty minutes.

Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle to medium-high. For extra authenticity, rub just a bit of lard in the pan.

Divide dough into 10 equal-size balls. Using a tortilla press, a rolling pin, or your hands, press each ball of dough flat between two sheets of parchment paper or saran wrap.

Immediately place tortilla in preheated pan and allow to cook for approximately 30 seconds, or until browned and slightly puffy. Turn tortilla over to brown on second side for approximately 30 seconds more, then transfer to a plate. Repeat process with each ball of dough.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 12:49 PM on September 7, 2010 [9 favorites]

Yeah, it's the crumbliness of the masa dough, specifically because of the lack of gluten. The gluten fibers allow the flour tortilla dough to stretch and be rolled out thinly. With the corn dough, the bigger it's pressed out, the more likely it is to tear when taking it off the press. That doesn't mean it's impossible, it's just finicky so tortilla factories don't bother. You could probably roll the masa out with a heavy rolling pin between pieces of wax paper like you would with sugar cookies.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:58 PM on September 7, 2010

I've had decent luck making bigger, more structurally stable corn tortillas by adding a little wheat flour to the masa.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:23 PM on September 7, 2010

Consider making New Mexico style enchiladas-- we don't roll them, but instead we layer the elements, lasagna style.
posted by pickypicky at 1:48 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would suggest that you grab a bag of Maseca (masa harina which you can buy at Walmart or in the ethnic section of any grocery store) and experiment. The flour is cheap and it is super easy to use--add water, mix, roll out, and cook in a hot pan/griddle.
posted by MsKim at 3:11 PM on September 7, 2010

Corn tortillas fold just fine if you're willing to soften them briefly in hot oil before you fill them.
posted by path at 4:00 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's economics--I've never seen burritos in any but wheat tortillas (which are the usual in northern Mexico) Otherwise, they'd be taquitos or enchilaldas. Most tortillas presses come in the standard size, although you could hand roll them.

Trader Joe's sells big brown rice tortillas.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:14 PM on September 7, 2010

The only big corn tortillas I've seen are tlayudas, a specialty of Oaxaca. They're very large thin fried corn tortillas usually served covered with refritos, quesillo, avocado, and either tesajo or cecina.

Also, I've never seen a burrito in southern Mexico, where corn tortillas predominate. The large tortillas needed to roll a burrito hail from the north where wheat is more common.
posted by Wet Spot at 7:12 PM on September 7, 2010

I've seen large corn tortillas for sale by ladies in Oaxaca. They're hand made, and seem to be very common there. So they do exist.
posted by agent99 at 7:37 AM on September 8, 2010

They do exist, but they are hard to work with.

My (very lazy chef) alternative is to make an enchilada casserole with layers of (small) corn tortillas between the filling ingredients and topped with sauce, sour cream, cheese and avocado slices. Messy to eat, but yummy and easy.
posted by Kurichina at 8:54 AM on September 8, 2010

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