Monday, April 30, 2012

Tortilla Talk (And a 2nd Flour Tortilla Recipe)

So, I've seen a lot of (identical) recipes floating around the Internet lately that advertise themselves as "fresh tortillas just like Cafe Rio!" I admit, this bugs me every time, because friends—that recipe is NOT anything like the tortillas you will get at Cafe Rio, or any other similar restaurant. Here's why:

The most popular online recipe for flour tortillas calls for four cups of flour and two teaspoons of baking powder. Years ago, when I started making my own tortillas (before I even got married), I tried this recipe. And what I ended up with was a number of rounds of big, puffy flatbread. Even when I rolled them out as hard as I could, the amount of baking powder in the recipe was so large that it caused the tortillas to puff up into something more like Indian naan than Mexican tortillas.

Eventually, after some playing around with the proportions, I adapted that ubiquitous recipe in the flour tortilla recipe that I shared on this blog. My main change was to dramatically decrease the baking powder to just under 1/2 teaspoon. Still, if I let the tortillas sit too long they were apt to get too thick, and because of the baking powder in the recipe and the way it interacted with the dough I couldn't use my tortilla press to smash them—which meant that making flour tortillas was a time-consuming and laborious process involving liberal use of the rolling pin.

And, as much as I loved my tortillas, they weren't like the ones I'd had at Cafe Rio. There was something different about them that I couldn't put my finger on. Earlier this year, when I was in North Carolina, I went to a Relief Society activity where a dear friend gave a demonstration on making fresh tortillas. When I tasted hers, I realized that they were much more texturally similar to the Cafe Rio tortillas I remembered eating. And she made hers using a tortilla press! Once I saw her recipe, I realized the difference—there was no baking powder at all!

Intrigued, I started some more experimenting. At first, I took my own favorite recipe and adapted it so that it didn't use any baking powder, but did involve a dough resting time of 30 minutes (as my friend's recipe instructed). It turned out great, and worked terrifically in my tortilla press (cutting down on the inconvenience factor a LOT!). Then one night, I was impatient and didn't want to wait for my tortilla dough to rest. So I went ahead and made the tortillas without any resting time. And guess what? They turned out perfectly! (The only difference between a resting time and no resting time was that the ones that didn't rest had a little less developed gluten in the dough, which meant that they were a tiny bit more prone to breaking before they were cooked and didn't stretch as well.)

Now, at least once a week we make flour tortillas using this new-and-improved recipe. And yes, friends, this is VERY similar to what they use at Cafe Rio. So don't believe that one going around on Pinterest! THIS is the recipe you want.

(Also, a troubleshooting tip: Tortillas need to cook at a relatively low heat for a longer time. If your tortillas—flour or corn—are breaking or crumbling, it's because you cooked them too hot. I usually set my griddle between 300 and 325.)

One of these days, I'll actually post my corn tortilla recipe too....

Cindy's Flour Tortillas, Version 2.0

4 cups flour (I typically 75%-100% whole wheat)
2 t salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups hot water

Heat pan or griddle to 325-ish (do not grease). In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Stir in canola oil. Add water gradually (I usually start with 1 cup, mix, and then add the water about 1/4 cup at a time after that) until dough is moist and holds together without being sticky. Knead with hands for a minute, then divide into balls about the size of a ping-pong ball or smaller. (Your dough balls can be bigger if you are rolling out by hand and not using a tortilla press.) In a tortilla press lined with a sliced-open plastic bag (to prevent sticking), press balls twice (I usually press, pick up the tortilla, flip it over, and press again). Cook tortillas 3-5 minutes on each side. Fill with your favorite taco or fajita fillings.


  1. Flavor and texture good. Quite oily, though.

  2. Thank you so much!! I've tried the "Cafe Rio" recipes more than once, and always fail like you said. Way too thick, very hard to roll out. I just barely tried yours and it turned out wonderful! Easy to roll out, great texture, thin. I've been wanting to learn to make my own so I can have whole wheat without all the other crap the store puts in them. Excited! Thanks!

    1. Milly, so glad that you enjoyed them! They are my absolute favorites. :)

  3. Love homemade tortillas, but looking for a good tortilla press so it doesn't take three days. The reviews of ones I looked at were not so good. Which one do u have and do you like it?

  4. Fantastic recipe. I've tried multiple recipes and this is soooo close to Cafe Rio tortillas. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  5. What kind of tortilla press do you have?

  6. Thanks so much for this recipe! I've made it a few times and it's the best recipe I've found for Cafe Rio style flour tortillas.

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