DIY GOURMET: Fast and Casual is a Great Recipe for Mediocre Tortillas


Chipotle is the worst thing to happen to the Latino culture. And yes, this ranking includes “Apocalypto” and that little Mexican-American War fiasco.

It’s just bland. Straight up flavorless meat piled onto too-thin tortillas and covered in “guac.” This is not a popular opinion, but as a Hispanic person, I cannot stand idly by as this purveyor of subpar food dares to include the word “Mexican” in its name.

Real Mexican food is flavorful. It’s warm, sometimes spicy and a whole lot cheaper than a $9 burrito.

But nothing is more emblematic of Mexican food than a good tortilla. It’s thicker than the tissue-paper-like variety you get at a King Soopers, but still light. It can hold up to a good thick carne guisada but tastes just as a good on its own with a little butter.


With few ingredients, it’s not difficult or expensive to make, which is a saving grace for journalists who graduated a year ago and are still paying off loans while living in one of the most-expensive metro areas in the country (i.e. the person writing this).

When my own familia fell on financially trying times, my mother pawned her wedding ring. A selfless act not uncommon for Latinas, who tend to always put their families first above all else.

That night watching her knead the tortilla dough with her bare hands, unadorned by the simple but beautiful ring my father had given her 20-something years prior to that moment, I was filled with sadness but also pride. She shouldn’t have had to make that sacrifice, but she did, and with bravery and not a single tear shed.

I told her they were the best tortillas I had ever eaten, which wasn’t a lie.

It’s odd how food can become so tightly connected to family, which is maybe why I am unabashedly a Mexican food snob and refuse to give Chipotle my service.

To me, tortillas are a mother’s love, a family’s sacrifices, a grandmother’s recipe and, most importantly, a taste of home in a place so far away from the U.S.-Mexican border towns I grew up in.

Flour Tortillas

Yields about 20,
8-inch-diameter tortillas


5 cups of flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup of Crisco shortening

2 cups heated water (not boiling, you don’t want to scald yourself)

Warm up the water and have it ready before stirring together flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.

Cut the shortening into the flour mixture until it’s pea-sized. You can use a fork, a pastry blender or your hands. Then add ½ cup of the warm water to the dough and start kneading.

Keep kneading the dough, adding water as you go. Just a little at a time. The goal is for the dough to just form. It shouldn’t feel dry or coarse at all but you also don’t want it to be too sticky. You’ll know when you’ve added enough water because you’ll hear the dough “fart” as you knead.

Then set the dough aside for about 20 minutes, covering it with a damp cloth or paper towel.

After the dough sets, form the dough into testales, or dough balls. Depending on how big you want the tortillas, you can make the testales small or big.

Once your testales are ready, heat up an ungreased comal or griddle on medium heat. Roll out the testales with a rolling pin on a very lightly floured surface. Too much flour can make the tortillas dry. You’ll need to roll each testal about four times, turning 45 degrees each time so you can get a round tortilla. (Although a slightly non-round tortilla is still a tortilla).

From there, place the tortilla on the hot comal. You’ll see air bubbles forming and dark spots will form on the other side. At most, each tortilla will need 1-2 minutes on each side to cook. You will only flip each tortilla once.

Repeat until dough runs out.

The last step? Eat — and be happy it’s not Chipotle.

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