Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
Jul 21, 2010 01:57 PM

Where to buy freshly made tortillas?

I'm having a Mexican themed dinner party coming up, but am not up to making my own tortillas for enchilladas. Does anyone know where I can buy freshly made tortillas in the area? I live in Bethesda, but am often in Arlington and McLean.
Failing that, any thoughts on which store-bought tortillas are the best? I've tried so many of them and haven't found any that come close to the taste of fresh.

Thanks for any help out there!


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm guessing Tortilla Factory in Herndon still does. They still make their own salsa.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dennis S

      They do:

      You can probably call them to make sure you get fresh. They also have whole wheat - which I may ask for next time we eat there.

    2. I've never seen the thin tortillas freshly made at a market, the thick ones are easy to find fresh, but won't work for enchiladas. You need a machine to make the thin ones, the thicker ones are made by hand. The Salvadoran markets will carry a pre-packaged brand or two, Banderitas is common, they are usually good enough. I buy them based on freshness, give them a squeeze, they should yield. Also check the date. Definitely check the date. These tortillas are always better than anything available at Safeway or similar. I spray them with olive oil and microwave for about 7 secs or more to get them pliable. If you do go to these markets, try and find "El Canton" brand Queso Para Pupusas for your enchilada cheese. This is now my go to shredded cheese for just about everything. As a quick appetizer, you could also pick up some "Viajero" brand Queso Para Freir. Slice these up in rectangles as thin as you can and fry in olive oil until the edges crisp up. The more crisp the better. If you're a purist, Balduccis does carry some of the real traditional semi hard Mexican cheeses for your tacos. I use the same tortillas for tacos, tossed on a hot grill for about 5 minutes, brings out the toasted corn flavor nicely. What enchilada sauce are you using? If you need a salsa, the Herdez brand is the best jarred salsa available in the area, but watch out for old product. You will know it when you see it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: justaddwater

        There are many Hispanic supermarkets around that carry a large range of cheeses. I've not been to Herndon, but when I go to Baltimore, there is a very good tortilleria there. And they make a pretty good taco. This is in Fells Point (on Eastern Avenue I think).

        1. re: ChewFun

          I've tried a good many of the cheeses in the cold cabinet at the local Hispanic markets in my area and find most of them unremarkable, except the El Canton shredded. They are mostly Central American, not Mexican. The Viajero is not the best version of the fry cheese, a bit too salty, if you can find the El Venadito brand, I'd love to here it. I eat this stuff for breakfast.

      2. Many years ago I went way across town to a local factory that grinds its own corn and ade chips and tortillas fresh, for restaurants. You're right, the freshness and superior taste of a made-the-same-day tortilla is amazing. But I've lost track (it's been 25 years).

        Absent a nearby factory, I tend to go to branches of Shoppers that cater to larger concentrations of hispanic customers. There I find the greatest choice of small regional brands, and find that their flavor and texture far exceed the national brands like Mission. You can identify the best brands by simply looking for the largest packages ... if someone's buying a pack of 50 corn tortillas, they want something better than those who only want 10.

        1. I found out about this place in Columbia from this site:

          I called them earlier in the year to check that they were still around and still made tortillas. The man who answered the phone seemed to confirm they made fresh tortillas but his English was sketchy and my Spanish is sketchier. I have yet to get out there.

          If they have them, I'd appreciate your letting us know. thanks

          20 Replies
          1. re: OldSchool

            Unfortunately, won't have time to make it out to Columbia. Here's another question: When I have made enchiladas before (not for a dinner party, just for dinner) I have used flour tortillas. I know that's a no-no -- one is supposed to use corn tortillas. It's just that it's so much easier to roll the fillings with the flour ones, they're so much more pliable and less likely to tear. So my question is: how MUCH of a no-no is it to use the flour tortillas instead? Am I sacrificing a huge taste difference?
            I practiced yesterday with both corn and flour ones and as usual the corn ones broke and tore immediately, leaving me with a hot mess. However, if the difference is big, I will knuckle down and keep trying with the corn tortillas until I get it right.
            Whew -- I'm so glad there is a discussion board like this !


            PS: My experimental tortillas last night involved a filling of braised pork, smoked cheddar, fresh halved grape tomatoes, carmelized vidalia onion slices, roasted yellow pepper slices, and chard sauteed in Valencia OJ and zest.

            I made another filling substituting queso fresco for the smoked cheddar, but the smoked one was infinitely more delicious.

            Any other suggestions for fillings? I'm thinking of one involving merguez sausages, an ingredient I am obsessing over these days. But what to add to that besides perhaps feta and tomatoes?

            1. re: tmemedia

              fwiw, have you tried making them yourself with a 1/3 flour recipe and 2/3 corn recipe? (I haven't tried it myself, but I'm thinking you'll keep a lot of corn flavor but get the pliability of a flour tortilla).

              A friend makes a vegetarian enchilada with a combo of grilled roasted eggplant that she cools and then chops and mixes with black beans, grated carrot , cheese and slivered almonds and a typical Mexican spice blend with a tomatillo & sofito sauce over top.

              1. re: tmemedia

                I think you're making a huge difference going from corn to wheat. The corn tortillas should be wetted with the enchilada sauce - then they become more pliable.

                1. re: Dennis S

                  Yeah, tried wetting the corn tortilla with the enchilada sauce but they still tore. The only thing that works is to fry them on a hot griddle and then almost immediately fill them up and roll carefully while they are still hot. May be the only way to go. Still experimenting.

                  1. re: tmemedia

                    It's not really an enchilada if it isn't fried.

                    1. re: tmemedia

                      I have been spraying corn tortillas with oil and popping in the micro for years, has eliminated the tearing tortilla issue completely, making 30 or so at a time, no tears, maybe the ones you are using are old or too rigid. Does the stack yield when you press on it? If not, they are too hard to roll. You have to experiment with how long to run them in there to get to the proper point. Enchilada sauce on them is messy, real messy. Be sure to spread enchilada sauce on the baking pan bottom prior to placing them on it or they will stick.

                      1. re: justaddwater

                        Still having problems? Throw those away and get a pack that will roll properly, the problem is the tortilla, not your approach. Don't even think about using flour tortillas, you can go to jail around these parts for something like that.

                        1. re: justaddwater

                          Thanks justaddwater, will try the oil spray/microwave method. After experimenting w/both flour and corn tortillas, I agree the corn tortilla enchilada is so much better I don't know WHAT I was thinking making them with flour tortillas. I was just trying to think of a way I could make the enchiladas ahead of time so I can spend time with my guests, but I don't see that happening... the corn tortillas turn to mush pretty quickly after they've been rolled and baked.

                          1. re: tmemedia

                            My patented method involves spraying the tortilla on both sides and placing on a paper plate, microwaving for anywhere from 5-10 seconds, you will need to experiment. I usually get two going at one time. It's a bit slow if you are making a bunch and boring, but works. Let cool a few seconds before handling. I do think your tortilla is not roll friendly, is it Mission? You will never go back after you try the ones at the latin markets or Shoppers. The squeeze trick works, hard tortillas will not pass, and they are best avoided. Lining the bottom of your pyrex with sauce before you put them on is an absolute must. Even a simple cheese and onion enchilada is a thing to behold (especially if you have vegetarian guests), don't give up on this dish, it's my go-to easy dish when I'm too lazy to cook something more elaborate and have leftover meats around. Safeway Select enchilada sauce is good enough, but I'm open to suggestions for something better, even if its mail order. Made from scratch sauces, at least for me, seem to always be missing something.

                            1. re: justaddwater

                              i've had great luck with pliable white corn tortillas -- i think the brand was banderitas -- in florida (but i think it is a national brand. shoppers food warehouse has a big turnover of all sorts of tortillas -- at least the one at seven corners -- if you don't have luck elsewhere).

                              somehow, the white corn seems easier to roll than a yellow corn tortilla, but still has a better flavor than flour tortillas. maybe it was the freshness when i used them, or maybe there is something inherent.

                              is a white corn tortilla also anathema?

                              1. re: alkapal

                                Banderitas and Ole tortillas (same company) are very common here and the vast majority of the tortillas in the markets I frequent are white corn. Usually there are a couple of yellow corn and at least one blue corn, but mostly white. The blue are always hard. I go around squeezing packages and usually get the white. Kind of like squeezing fruit to see if they are ready. Tortillas should always be cooked for best flavor. Pop onto a heated pan or grill, no oil needed. A few minutes of heat really brings out the flavor and makes them easier to bend without breaking. They have gradually become a staple in my household, like bread.

                              2. re: justaddwater

                                Just tried the oil spray and microwave trick and it is genius. The tortillas are soft -- love it. Now experimenting with whether I can roll them with filling and let them sit in the fridge for a few hours and THEN smother them with sauce and bake them. Rick Bayless says this will work if one doesn't dip the tortilla in enchilada sauce before rolling.
                                I'd like this to work so I can have the enchiladas ready to go before my guests arrive... so I'm not spraying, microwaving, rolling enchiladas for a half hour while everyone else is having a good time.

                                PS: justaddwater: the tortillas I'm using are homemade ones from Trader Joe's, and they do pass the squeeze test.

                                1. re: tmemedia

                                  The true genius is in not forgetting to line the bottom of your bake pan with enchilada sauce. It will ruin your batch. Ask me how I know. You should be using pyrex for making these, I have 3 or 4 that give me about 30 enchiladas total. With all due respect to Mr. Bayless, I have never dipped my tortillas in enchilada sauce. It is a complete, messy waste of time. Don't do it. Set up your pyrex pans on the counter all in a row and pour enchilada sauce into each of them and make sure that all surfaces are completely covered, including the vertical edges. Since its your first time, you are going to have to estimate how many will fit in each. An 8x10 pan fits about 10 or 12, I think. You should have your fillings next to them, I use stainless steel bowls for this. Cheese in one, chopped onions in another, the meat fillings in other(s). Leave a working space between the pans and the fillings, you will be coming here from the micro to assemble your enchiladas. Place the stack of tortillas near the micro. Pull one off the pile, spray both sides and slap down on a paper plate. Repeat. Pop both into the microwave, spread them out, though there will most likely be some overlap. No problem. Run for about 10 seconds. For the first few batches I'm usually paying a great deal of attention to how long I need to run the micro to get flexible tortillas without overheating them too much. You may need to increase or decrease this time. I then run the micro at the best setting over and over again for each batch. Once the micro beeps and the tortillas are ready, I move them to the workspace, set them down, grab filling, place a cigar shaped amount offset about 1/3 from the middle, roll, and place in the pan. You need to keep track of what you put in each pan, because they will be hard to differentiate when you are done, though the cheese enchiladas will end up collapsed and should be easily identifiable, if you are using multiple meat fillings, you will not be able to tell them apart later. For the cheese/onion, grab filling from the cheese and onion bowls. For the meat, always put a bit of cheese into the filling or they will be a bit dry. OK, you have opened and closed the micro door 15 times and moved from your assembly station to the micro as many times (I told you this was boring and tedius). You now have 30 enchiladas in glass containers ready to go. Pour enchilada sauce over them all, making sure they are completely covered. Don't skimp on this, make sure you always have enough sauce, buy more than you need. Cover them with aluminum foil. I usually have the oven preheated by now to about 350 F and in they go. They are done in about 30 minutes. If you are going to store them in the fridge before baking, you might want to wait to cover with sauce. I would take them out a couple of hours ahead of time to bring them to room temperature so as to not risk pulling them out of the oven and finding the centers are still cool, then covering them as described. Enchiladas should be served piping hot. Some hints: the meat should be shredded. Chopped red meats like brisket just don't work. Meats need to be shredded and chicken works best for this reason. You can also get a Peruvian chicken or any rotisserie chicken and shred it up by hand, that works pretty well. Smoked meats make incredibly good fillings, I usually smoke a few whole chickens from Balduccis and use the leftover meat in my enchiladas. They also freeze well for multiple lunches later on. The cheese I mentioned earlier, Mi Canton, from the latin markets, makes a great filling as it has a mild flavor. I would not use a full smoke cheddar cheese in them, but a mixture to tone down the sharp flavor. The big markets usually have a three cheese Mexican which works well. Safeway Select enchilada sauce is pretty good. I have made several hundred enchiladas using the procedure I just described. This is a great bang-for-the effort type of dish.

                                  600 Franklin St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                  1. re: justaddwater

                                    Wow, that was a long post. Maybe its best to bake immediately after prep and reheat, who knows what can happen when they are stored in the fridge, they could begin to crack. Good luck.

                                2. re: justaddwater

                                  I've enjoyed the Frontera line of products.

                    2. re: OldSchool

                      Lily's Mexican Market is definitely still open and still making tortillas. They have a machine behind the takeout taco / chicken counter. It's a great place for Latin American groceries, spices, etc. -- plus the takeout and a small butcher.

                      Generally, the women who work the checkout are fluent in English, so you can get lots of questions answered if you shop.

                      Lily's Mexican Market
                      6490 Dobbin Rd Ste N, Columbia, MD 21045

                      1. re: HowChowBlog

                        Seriously people - you all are killing me with eat spots in this area. I only get up there once a week!

                        How does the food compare with R&R and the taco/torta truck North of R&R on Rt 1?

                        1. re: Dennis S

                          Their menu is more limited than R&R, and sometimes the food on the steam table can be a little hit or miss. But with fresh tortillas, and their usually dependable barbacoa, they can put out some pretty good tacos. When the first opened they had Al Pastor on a spit...that was always fantastic, but they took the spit down a while ago.

                          1. re: Jason1

                            Thanks! It's now on the list, and I'm bummed that the spit is down.

                            1. re: Dennis S

                              I tried Lily's today for lunch. Got the three tacos; two barbacoa and one asada. The asada is marinated in something that didn't really taste good to me, and they finish it on the grill top. The barbacoa was very good and is pre-made and kept warm.

                              They definitely make their own tortillas! The machine and the folks working it are right there behind the food counter and they were lining the shelves with the packages - many still warm. I thought it was cool that they also stocked other tortillas that also seemed to be locally made?

                              Anyway - nice place - wish that were in Reston/Herndon. I need to pick up some things from their meat counter next - see how their chorizo's cook up at home (which was one odd thing that chorizo didn't seem to be on the menu - but I also didn't ask).

                    3. Moctec in Landover! The only tortilla factory anywhere near here that starts with dried corn and not masa seca. They are serious about traditionally made tortillas. Flour tortillas are hand stretched and delicious too (and I'm usually a corn tortilla person.) They are a wholesale business, but I went in a few weeks ago and they were MORE than happy to sell me what I needed in small quantities. The corn tortillas come in different thicknesses, so tell them what you are making and they'll set you up. They also mentioned they sold some of their products in one of the Whole Foods in the area, but it was not close to me so I don't remember which one.

                      Moctec Enterprises, Inc.
                      3601 West Street
                      Landover, MD 20785

                      by the way, for heating them up if they were refridgerated (you might get them still hot): spritz with water and use a very hot cast iron pan. Should take just seconds on each side.