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I like the flavor and texture of corn tortillas (store-bought), but they always tear apart whenever I try to use them in a non-flat way - enchilada-style, for example. How can I make the corn tortillas soft enough to work with (to roll around some ingredients, for example)?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 15 down vote accepted

You need to warm them up a bit. There are a number of ways to do this - 20 or 30 seconds on a griddle (or a comal is you have one), wrap a stack in foil and place in 325 oven for until warm, wrap a stack in a clean towel and steam them using a steamer, or slightly moisten a towel and wrap it around a stack and microwave them for a bit, etc etc. If you've warmed them and they are still tearing then your tortillas are no longer fresh.

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For enchiladas, dipping in hot oil is also a good way- the oil also keeps the tortillas from getting mushy in the sauce. –  Sobachatina May 2 '12 at 18:12
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If possible, don't buy your tortillas from a modern super market, but look for a source of homemade/fresh tortillas. These can be found in many cities in the U.S. at Mexican or Latin American stores or neighboroods. Perhaps check your yellow pages for "Tortilleria" (The spanish word for "Tortilla Store"). These tortillas will also taste much better (at least in my opinion), and have fewer preservatives or other additives (such as artificial colors, etc).

If you can find a good source of fresh tortillas, they will generally be much softer than those you buy pre-packaged in a supermarket. They will be fresher, and if you find a good source, they'll be sold to you still warm (often kept in an ice chest or similar, to keep them warm until sale).

If you can't find this, you can learn to make your own tortillas.

Or, you can do as @djmadscribbler suggested, and warm your tortillas gently. Between warming and using, keep them covered so they don't dry out or cool down. Don't overheat them, or you'll dry them out (especially if you're warming them individually on the stove).

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I spread coconut oil on the tortilla (thin layer like butter) and heat them in a hot skillet for about 15 seconds per side, drop it in the enchilada sauce, stuff and roll. That way the tortilla gets pliable, the sauce gets on the tortilla, and the sauce helps it stick together and look nice and neat. I've tried many ways (enchiladas are one of my favorite dinners to make with leftover beef or chicken) and this one has proven to be the easiest for me.

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I used to make enchiladas all the time and what I did was dip the corn tortilla in hot oil briefly, flip and do it again. However, now the tortillas I get turn mushy and tear easily, so I think something about the tortillas in my neightborhood has changed.

A friend's family's technique is to fry them in oil until they are almost hard enough for tostadas since she explained that the enchilada sauce will soften the tortillas once they are cooked.

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How can you roll the tortilla after you fried it hard? –  Mien Apr 1 '13 at 12:57
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My husband is Mexican grew up in Puebla, Mexico, the proud "mecca" of Mexican cuisine. His family puts their corn tortillas in a plastic grocery bag and microwaves them for a few seconds. Or, they warm them in a frying pan in olive oil for a few moments on each side, long enough to soften but not crisp them. I've never seen Poblano cuisine use crispy tortillas.

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Using tongs, dip corn tortillas in hot manteca (lard) briefly on both sides, and drain on paper towels.

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