Pork tacos.

It's National Taco Day, which is weird because we celebrate tacos every week (#TacoTuesday). Of course, we don't need an excuse for tacos, and neither do you.

We've talked tacos here before, so we know what can go IN them (sweet potatoes, flaky fish, homemade salsas!), but how often do you think about your tortillas?

Tortillas may seem like the least important part of your taco, but in Mexico, the place that has generously created this most perfect of food and shared it with the world, tortillas are sort of the main event and a fixture on every table--not just with tacos, but nearly every meal. Making tortillas is an important part of the cooking process at home, and though people spend years perfecting the art of making tortillas, it's surprisingly simple to do! Even if your tortillas aren't quite as perfect as Abuela's (that's grandma!, they will still be super delicious.

Tortillas can be made from either corn or what flour, and while there are certainly traditional uses for each, at home, you can choose whichever you like best. Though the doughs will feel different (flour dough will be a bit more elastic than the corn dough), the process is the same.

In addition to corn or wheat flour, tortillas are made with water, salt, and often some kind of fat (especially lard, the fat from a pig, but can also be vegetable oil or butter). The ingredients are mixed into a dough and then rolled flat using a rolling pin or pressed with a tortilla press.

Pressing tortilla dough in a tortilla press. 

The raw dough is then cooked quickly, either on a comal, a flat griddle common in Mexican cooking, or over a flame. You can cook yours in a nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet.

If you choose to make corn tortillas, you'll want to look for corn flour called masa harina. This flour is made from ground corn that has gone through a process called nixtamalization, which means it is rinsed with an alkaline solution (the opposite of acidic). This changes the texture, flavor, and aroma of the corn. Masa harina is the flour used for tortillas, tamales, and other corn-based dishes. You should be able to find it at your local grocery store (check with the baking ingredients or international foods aisle), or you can order it online.

Raw tortillas can be frozen and quickly defrosted for cooking. As you press them, layer them with freezer paper in between each tortilla to prevent sticking.

For times that you don't make your own tortillas, look for good quality tortillas and see if you can taste the different between styles and brands. Commercial tortillas are cooked, but they can benefit from being reheated. You'll know this if you've ever tried to eat a taco with corn tortillas straight from the package! They break and crumble, ruining Taco Tuesday.

For flour tortillas, warm them in a dry pan or even on a plate in the microwave. Cover the plate with a damp towel so they don't dry out. For corn tortillas, heat them in a dry pan or on a grill so they get a little charred on the exterior. You'll know they're ready when they get a bit floppier.