For those of you who read my blog regularly, you may remember that I posted a tortilla recipe a while back. Although that recipe has been great, I really wanted a thinner, more authentic tortilla. I realized I probably wasn’t getting that because I wasn’t using a key ingredient- lard. I know that lard seems gross and unappealing, but it’s really not that bad.

I looked for lard at the local grocery chains (Safeway, Albertson’s, Fred Meyer) but had no luck. After asking around, I learned that there is a Mexican supermarket in Eugene called La Plaza Latina. They also have a little taqueria inside, so while my mom was visiting this weekend we had lunch there and took a look around. It turns out they also sell computers, computer software, and wedding cakes. It was certainly interesting!

We found the lard, and next to the lard there were bags of dough for tortillas and tamales that had been made by the supermarket. We decided to get some lard to try our own tortillas as well as some of the pre-made dough.
Also, I got a tortilla press! It’s a round, cast iron device that allows you to squish the masa dough nice and flat for the perfect tortilla. This may seem kind of unnecessary because you can roll them out, but usually no matter how much you roll, they aren’t thin enough. The tortilla press allows you to put tons of cast iron pressure on the masa and make it paper thin. It’s important that you put a barrier between the cast iron and the dough- I just use a plastic bag I’ve cut up. I got my tortilla press from Target for a pretty good price!

First, I tried out the pre-made dough. I let it soften on the counter for a few minutes before working with it. Immediately upon pulling the dough out of the bag I noticed the texture was strange. There were chunks of something in it. I tried kneading it to smooth out the chunks, but the dough fell apart in my hands and was too sticky. Eventually, I just balled it up a piece of the dough and tried to press it. When trying to peel it off the bag, it just broke off in little chunks. I pieced it together and tried to cook it anyways. It browned a bit and I put it on a plate.

The taste was just… unpleasant. Very bland and gritty texture. After a few minutes, they got somewhat rubbery.

Probably out of delusion, I tried to make one more tortilla with the store bought masa, and got the same results. I kept them for a bit for comparison purposes but immediately threw out the masa.

I had to know: was it the lard? Did it just not mix well into the flour? So I adjusted my original recipe and used lard instead of vegetable shortening.

The problem was so not the lard. This masa was perfect: elastic, clay like, stayed together.

When I flattened the pieces of dough, they formed perfect circular shapes. It cooked nicely, and the texture and flavor were PERFECT. I finally achieved the right thickness. The best tortilla. Now I understand why people say homemade are so much better than store bought!

Here’s a side by side comparison of the tortillas. The store bought masa tortilla is on the left, homemade is on the right.

Here’s the recipe for your own homemade tortillas! Please try it with lard… they really are so much better.

Authentic Tortillas

3 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup lard
1 cup warm water

Combine flour and salt. With your mixer or by hand, combine the flour mixture and lard until it has a crumbly texture. Make a well in the middle and add the water. Stir and knead until mixture is clay like. Divide into ten balls and let rest for a few minutes. Roll out until very thin (as thin as possible with out tearing the dough). Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Once hot, cook the rolled out masa on each side until a few golden brown spots appear (30 seconds or so). Place on a plate under a slightly damp towel to prevent it from drying out. Repeat until all ten tortillas are cooked.