Snow on my balcony, April 18, 2020There’s something about snow in the middle of April that makes me want comfort food, and for me there’s no greater comfort than my abuela’s tortillas. It’s also a nice recipe to have in the middle of a pandemic if you’re running low on yeast. (Spoiler: I still have plenty of yeast, I buy it in bulk. I just really wanted tortillas.)

I remember helping Abuela make these in her kitchen. She’d hand me a chunk of dough and a rolling pin and let me roll to my heart’s content. She would roll hers perfectly round. Of course, my tortillas came out looking like houses or Alaska or the occasional deformed hippopotamus, but that doesn’t matter. They still taste wonderful.

For a long time, I didn’t have this recipe because there was none. Abuela would just shake some flour into a bowl until it looked right, grab a handful of baking powder and a few pinches of salt, and mix it all by hand. Finally, one of her neighbors forced her to measure all the ingredients as she went, and this recipe is the result.

Abuela’s Tortillas

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour plus additional flour for dusting
  • 1 heaping tablespoon baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • ~2 cups hot water

Combine dry ingredients thoroughly. Mix in shortening with your hands until you have a dry, crumbly, even consistency. Gradually add water and mix until dough becomes almost smooth. You may need more or less water depending on humidity levels. Knead the dough for about five minutes.

Tear off a chunk of dough and squeeze it through your thumb and forefinger, about the size of a golf ball. Then, digging your fingers into its base, flatten the ball into a disc about two inches across that’s slightly hollow underneath. Line these up on a floured board and cover with a cloth to keep moist.

Roll the discs into tortillas using a small rolling pin. Put flour on the rolling pin to keep it from sticking to the tortilla. I recommend giving the tortilla a quarter, rolling again, and repeating until you have a nice round tortilla.


Cook on an ungreased hot skillet or electric griddle at 400F until brown spots appear on bottom, then flip and repeat. Watch them carefully and turn frequently or they will burn, and the skillet will be hard to clean. Makes about 18 6-inch tortillas.


For lunch, I made myself a delicious fish taco with a mahi mahi patty, fresh tomato slices, colby jack cheese, baby kale, and green tomato relish.