Important Tortilla Question
April 9, 2015 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Why is the texture of restaurant tortillas different than the ones that you buy at the supermarket? Where can I buy ones that are like that?

Like that thin, slightly shiny, slightly stretchy texture. I know they have the steaming press thing but there has to be something else to it. I have tried warming mine in the microwave and on the stove, with or without moisture and it still hasn't been right. They are too thick and too floury, or something. Where do you buy really delicious tortillas? Are there any other tortilla secrets?

I am in Chapel Hill, NC by the way.
posted by mermily to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by primethyme at 5:07 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

You're talking about flour and not corn tortillas, yes?

Where I live, there are some grocery stores that sell fresh (made-on-premises) flour tortillas by the dozen. They'll usually keep for at least a few days and sometimes a whole week, depending on how humid it is. Those are the only ones I've found that don't have the depressingly thick and doughy texture that prepackaged brand-name flour tortillas have.

I'd look for hispanic markets in your area that do something similar.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:12 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

It is the lard in the flour tortillas that makes them like that. They sell tortillas like what you describe in most of the grocery stores here in AZ. It's the local brands that are like that though, not the national brands like Mission.
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 5:17 PM on April 9, 2015

See if the restaurants where you like the tortillas sell them. Sometimes you can buy from them. I know it isn't lard, because the best tortillas in the world are from the Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque, NM and they do not contain lard.
posted by NoraReed at 5:19 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Spray each side of the tortilla lightly with water. Put them in a stack of three to five, and roll them (not too tightly or they'll crack). Wrap the roll in foil and put in the oven (there's no hard and fast rule - I do them anywhere from 160oC to 180oC depending on what else is in there). 15-20 mins is usually about right.

They steam in the foil and go super soft and stretchy.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:20 PM on April 9, 2015 [9 favorites]

I usually do mine in a cast iron pan (no oil) or directly over the gas burner for abut 10 secs per side. I never steam them--the store bought ones are a bit undercooked, I think.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:25 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is a good question. Both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have good flour tortillas preferably the "hand made" labeled tortillas. There is none of the plastic-y quality of the usual grocery store brands. I can't even eat the grocery store brands. They have a funny smell. Even my children notice the difference and do not eat the grocery store brands. I've found the good store tortillas do freeze well if you end up buying several packs.
posted by RoadScholar at 5:25 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are Hispanic groceries in the Chapel Hill-Durham area that make excellent corn tortillas on premises and sell them by the pound. I'll usually buy a pound, which is a couple weeks' worth for me, but they're used to orders of several to several-dozen pounds. So it feels like buying eggs three at a time. These are cheaper than mainstream grocery store tortillas, as well.

My favorite tortillas are from Miguelena, on Apex Highway, less than a mile from the I-40 exit. The people and tortillas both are pretty great. The other place I've patronized is La Superior Carniceria. It's a full-fledged grocery with a mini food court, including a tortilla bakery/panaderia (pastries and bread), deli, and counter service restaurant at the back. There are many more around that are probably good too, but I haven't explored to make more recommendations than those.

I think it's fair to observe, though, that the taco stands and trucks around here are as likely as not to be using commercial-branded tortillas of various kinds, and prepping them usually involves heating them on the same grill the meat is cooking, after either dipping them in oil or in the meat juices.
posted by ardgedee at 5:37 PM on April 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

I know what you mean. Mission-brand tortillas are puffy and Guerrero-brand are superflat. I don't know the chemistry, but I just don't buy Mission ones.
posted by rhizome at 5:53 PM on April 9, 2015

Lard and freshness. Look for small, local companies and don't buy from the national brands.
posted by quince at 6:15 PM on April 9, 2015

My Latina grandmother made the best flour tortillas. Thick and rich. I asked her what her recipe was. She said she was taught by her mother back in the thirties. She used Bisquick.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:17 PM on April 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

You could try to make your own, it's not that hard.
posted by Marky at 11:28 PM on April 9, 2015

You can buy uncooked tortillas at your local Hispanic grocery, or Whole Foods. Heat them for a few minutes each side and they are soft and tasty, or for a few more minutes for crispy. The latter makes an excellent quesadilla.
posted by a halcyon day at 4:36 PM on April 10, 2015

I just saw this article, and thought of this thread. If you're interested in trying to make your own......
posted by primethyme at 2:46 PM on April 15, 2015

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