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A tortilla press is a game changer if you're looking to make tortillas from scratch. Since you're reading this, I can only assume you've tasted homemade tortillas...and now you don't want to go back.
When you use a tortilla press, you trade an afternoon with your rolling pin in for a quick and easy way to get homemade tortillas on your table for dinner tonight.
Click here to jump to the recipes (WARNING: you'll also skip over the "How to use a tortilla press" video).
This post will cover everything you need to know about how to use a tortilla press, as well as tips, tricks, and even a video of me making tortillas with a tortilla press.
At the bottom of the post you'll find three recipes for flour tortillas, grain free (Paleo) tortillas, and corn tortillas. So no matter what diet you're following, there's a way to enjoy homemade tortillas. Don't you worry!
Benefits of Making Tortillas from Scratch
- When you make your tortillas at home, you can decide what you want in them (and what you want out). Gluten free? No problem. Paleo? Easy. Traditional flour tortillas? Yep. You can do that, too.
- Making homemade tortillas is also a lot less expensive than store bought tortillas (especially if you're following a special diet).
- Also, anyone who's had homemade tortillas will tell you that they just taste so much better when you make them at home.
What is a Tortilla Press?
A tortilla press is a simple, yet brilliant invention.
Basically, you put a ball of dough between two plates. Then you close the plates and push a lever to flatten the dough.
Using a tortilla press saves time AND energy...sounds pretty great, right? I'm a big believer of spending as little time as necessary in the kitchen to provide my family with nutritious and delicious food, and the tortilla press is a helpful tool to make that happen.
Is a tortilla press worth it?
"Yeah, but...is it worth it?"
This is a question that I encourage you to ask yourself anytime you're looking to make a purchase. Because sometimes the answer is "yes" and sometimes it's "no". It all depends on your lifestyle and priorities (learn more about budgeting based on priorities here).
When you're deciding whether you need a new kitchen tool, think about these questions:
- How often will I use it?
- Will it help me cook more at home (or enjoy cooking more at home)?
- Do I have space in my kitchen for it?
When it comes to the tortilla press, if you make tortillas at home (or would like to make tortillas at home on a regular basis), or make tortillas for a big crowd, then yes. I'd say it's definitely worth it.
If you think you'll make homemade tortillas maybe once a year just for a few people, then no. It's probably not worth the space it's going to take up in your cupboards.
What can I use instead of a tortilla press?
If you're making homemade tortillas, you'll need to flatten the dough in some way.
But a tortilla press is not your only option here.
- A rolling pin is one way to go about it, especially if you want an arm workout. I did the rolling pin method quite a few times before we invested in a tortilla press. If you're a roller and you love it, more power to ya.
- You can also try to figure out a DIY tortilla press option by using two casserole dishes to flatten the dough.
Benefits of using a tortilla press
We got our first tortilla press several years ago now, and over the years I've come to realize a few key benefits of using it (versus another flattening method).
- Multi tasking is much easier with a tortilla press
- I can make tortillas one-handed
- It flattens the dough uniformly
Let me explain a little...
Multi-Tasking is Much Easier With the Tortilla Press
I like multi-tasking way too much to make tortillas with a rolling pin. When you roll the dough, expect to be rolling for about the same amount of time it takes a tortilla to cook. So you're going back and forth from the stove to the dough, until all the tortillas are cooked.
When you use the tortilla press, you place the dough ball in the press, close it, and push on the lever. In about one second it's flat and ready to cook. This leaves some time to work on preparing whatever else you're eating with your tortillas.
One Arm Free With the Tortilla Press
I've successfully made tortillas while holding a fussy toddler. Not that I'd recommend it. I don't remember it being an enjoyable experience. But I did it! And I couldn't have done that if I was rolling the dough out with a rolling pin.
Whether you have little kiddos around to hold or you like talking on the phone while cooking, or whatever else. You only need one hand to use the tortilla press!
Uniformly flattened tortillas
If your tortillas are thicker on one side than the other, it'll make cooking them evenly pretty difficult. Not to mention eating them might not be as enjoyable if one bite is kinda doughy, and the next is crispy.
How To Make Homemade Tortillas With A Tortilla Press
Okay, so let's get into how to actually use the tortilla press to make your tortillas. Here's a brief description of the tortilla making process:
- Combine the ingredients in a bowl - You want the dough to hold together, not be too sticky, but also not too dry that it doesn't hold together. Follow the recipes below and you'll soon get a feel for what the dough should look and feel like.
- Form the dough into small balls - We usually do golf-ball size, and when you use the tortilla press to flatten them, that yields tortillas that are about 6" in diameter.
- Flatten the balls - Use the tortilla press to flatten the balls (or roll out the dough with a rolling pin). I like using this bench scraper to get the tortillas off the parchment paper to transfer them to the pan.
- Cook the tortillas - Cook the tortillas on a hot pan, then flip (oil is optional).
Steps three and four can be done in tandem. Flatten, cook, flatten, cook, etc. For more details in the process (amounts of ingredients, etc.), scroll to the bottom to the recipes.
Ever since we got a tortilla press, making homemade tortillas has been much less of a chore. It's so easy. We no longer need to get the rolling pin out and spend an hour flattening each tortilla - one at a time.
I mean...it's easy enough that my five year old daughter can do the pressing part all on her own! Here's a picture:
Tools needed to make homemade tortillas
- Tortilla press (this is the one we just got because our old one broke (we LOVE it) - get 10% off with code STB10)
- Parchment paper (I love these pre-cut sheets)
- Frying pan (we cook exclusively with cast iron and love it)
- Bench scraper (I've recently discovered this as a SUPER easy way to get the tortilla dough off the parchment paper without turning it into a mushed mess (especially helpful for grain free tortillas).
Which is the best tortilla press?
Now that you've realized how GREAT a tortilla press is for making homemade tortillas, you're probably wondering...which tortilla press you should get.
When the time comes for you to start your search, Amazon is a great place to start. They carry a large selection (over 700 results in this Amazon search). Or go straight to the Uno Casa website and get 10% off the one we use with the code: STB10.
We started with a different cast iron tortilla press (different brand that we found on Amazon). After a year or two of use, the metal pin that acts as the hinge for the press had bent and the tortillas weren't flattening proportionally.
Maybe we broke it because we pressed down too hard? Or maybe it just broke because it wasn't the highest quality to begin with. We'll never know. But we switched our tortilla press to this one, and so far are loving it!
If we ever decide to change from a cast iron press, we'd love to invest in a wood tortilla press like this one, just because it'd be so pretty to look at. But for now, we're really happy with our cast iron tortilla press.
How to Use A Tortilla Press - FAQ & Troubleshooting
No matter which method you use, you should use parchment paper or plastic wrap to keep the tortilla dough from sticking (to the counter, the rolling pin, or the tortilla press).
If you're using parchment paper on your tortilla press, but the dough is still sticking, you'll need to add more flour. Add a little bit at a time until the dough holds together, and doesn't stick to your fingers. Over time you'll learn what this feels like.
I've heard from a few people who try to make the Cassava flour (grain free) tortillas below that it takes a LOT more cassava flour than the recipe calls for. And that's because each brand makes their flour a bit differently. Some are finer, and some are more coarse. It's best to go by weight when measuring flours.
If the tortilla dough is sticking to your pan, make sure you've got enough oil in the pan before putting the dough in. We use a cast iron to cook our tortillas, and as long as the pan is hot and there's a little oil in it, we don't have a problem with the tortillas sticking to the pan.
Three Tortilla Recipes (Paleo tortillas, Flour tortillas, and corn tortillas)
Flour and corn tortillas are both readily available in any grocery store, but cooking them from scratch will provide a more flavorful and more nutritious tortilla. No preservatives in these tortillas!
Extra bonus...you can choose what oil you use. I recommend avoiding the vegetable oils found in most processed foods, and opting for olive oil or avocado oil instead.
Here are a few basic recipes to get you started. Honestly, my favorite ones right now are the grain-free cassava tortillas. They have a great soft texture and a deliciously mild flavor.
Looking to buy gluten free/grain free tortillas?
Up until a couple months ago, I thought the only way to eat grain free tortillas was to make them from scratch. BUT I just found a brand that makes cassava, almond flour, and coconut flour tortillas. Check out the grain free tortillas on Amazon! They're delicious (but not as good as homemade).
Recipe 1: Homemade Grain-Free (Cassava Flour) Tortillas [Paleo / Aip]
I've been experimenting with grain-free food options in an effort to work through some health issues. These tortillas are gluten-free and grain-free. And they taste amazing!
We've had great luck with Bob's Red Mill cassava root flour (different brands have different consistencies, so be sure to either use Bob's Red Mill & measure 2 cups OR use a digital kitchen scale to weigh the flour to 4 oz).
- 2 cups cassava flour (this weighs about 4 oz using a digital kitchen scale)
- 2 teaspoon salt, to taste (we LOVE this salt because of the nutritional benefits)
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup coconut milk (from a can)
- ¼ cup oil (if using coconut oil, melt it first)
- sprinkle of garlic powder (optional)
Combine ingredients, divide into golf-ball sized balls. Then flatten (roll or press) and cook in a hot pan, flipping to cook both sides.
Note: These tend to stick when you flatten them. If they are sticking to your parchment paper too much, add a spoonful of cassava flour and try again. You can also add a pinch or two of flour to the parchment if you're having trouble. Also, this tool really helps get the dough off the parchment paper.
Recipe 2: Homemade Flour Tortillas
This was the first kind of tortilla I made from scratch. I really loved being able to control the salt content (have you seen how much sodium is in store bought flour tortillas!?!)
- 3 cups flour (I've successfully used whole wheat flour and a gluten free flour blend)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup oil
Combine ingredients, divide into golf-ball sized balls. Then flatten (roll or press) and cook in a hot pan, flipping to cook both sides. If the dough won't stay flattened (or rolled out) let it rest for 10-20 minutes and try again. The flour might just need to "relax" a bit.
Note: This recipe is really flexible. If the dough is too try, add a little water. If it's too wet, add more flour. Since we eat a gluten free diet, I haven't made this recipe in a few years, and I won't be able to re-test it if you have problems. However, I used this recipe for years before we switched to the grain-free tortillas.
Recipe 3: Homemade Corn Tortillas
This is the recipe found on the bag of masa harina corn flour from Bob's Red Mill. You can buy this gluten free corn flour on Amazon.
- 2 cups masa harina corn flour (note: corn flour is different than corn starch. Don't use corn starch for this recipe. Use corn flour (basically just ground up corn). Corn starch is just made of the starchy part of corn and is used as thickeners in gravy, etc.).
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ - 2 cups hot water
Tip: Sometimes I add a pinch of arrowroot powder to this mixture. It seems to help the tortillas stay a little softer for longer.
Mix the salt and the masa harina in a bowl. Pour in hot water. It should not be sticky or dry, but should be "firm and springy". Cover and let sit for an hour. Then flatten (by rolling or tortilla press) and cook in a hot pan, flipping to cook both sides.
How to use your homemade tortillas
Chances are, you won't have a problem using your homemade tortillas. But if you need a few recipe suggestions, I've got you covered.
- Sheet pan steak fajitas
- Sheet pan veggie fajitas with creamy cilantro lime mayo
- Fish tacos with avocado mango salsa
- Eat them plain, or rolled up with some homemade guacamole.