HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Why do authentic Mexican places serve 2 corn tortillas for each individual taco and not one?

Are the corn tortillas not substantial enough to hold the fillings? What is the thinking behind this?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I believe, though have never posed the question and can't be absolutely sure, that that is the thinking, that one tortilla will usually tear and split from the liquid and heft of the fillings. I know I have done this at home, and one corn tortilla just won't hold the fillings.

    1. It's to help with saucy fillings. It also makes a great tortilla-to-filling ratio. And I have seen some people eat the taco using just the inner tortilla, then use the second to scoop up any goodness that fell out of the taco, essentially making a small second taco.

      1. Now I want to go eat some tacos, but I am too full from dinner. Lunch tomorrow then!

        1. This is specific to a particular part of Mexico; generally a little further south than the border region, though not quite central. My guess is that two two tortillas are just that much more filling, and a cheap way to satisfy customers. Or it may be a regional tradition, (I wouldn't know).

          4 Replies
          1. re: gilintx

            I live thirty miles north of the Mexican border and 2 soft corn tortillas is what you get here with carnitas and most other fillings--same when I've eaten at taco stands thirty miles into Mexico.

            1. re: escondido123

              Hmm. So maybe it's a regional thing? I never saw it before I started frequenting a taco truck whose owner came from San Luis Potosi. Never saw this in Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Guanajuato or even the D.F.

              1. re: gilintx

                Hmmm...and I don't think I've seen a taco in Mexico *without* 2 tortillas.

                Here's a short 6 minute video about tacos in Tijuana and the presenter does talk about why there are 2 tortillas - http://crossingsouth.com/videos/tacos/ . Not sure I agree with him 100%, but he makes a plausible argument for 2 tortillas.

            2. re: gilintx

              2 corn tortillas per taco in Salinas, California -- taco trucks & restaurants.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                Wasn't there a much longer thread debating one v two?

                1. re: paulj

                  Yes, here:
                  "Plse Help Stop the Arguing About 1 or 2 Tortillas on Mexican Tacqueria Tacos!"

                  The question also came up here:
                  "Questions about Tacos from Taco Stands"

              2. I always thought that it was because it held up better but the idea to make two tacos for an over stuffed taco has merit too.

                It could also be that when serving fresh made tortillas which are more tender you might really need two tortillas.

                I am attempting to learn to make fresh tortillas from instant masa (dry) tonight. My first attempt came out too dry and a tad too thick. I had to throw them out. Will try again tonight with more water in the mix.

                11 Replies
                1. re: cajundave

                  I can make perfect tortillas from the masa I pick up at any of the local Mexican markets. Can I make it from masa harina? Urg, no! And one of the reasons is the amount of liquid to add. It seems I always end up at first with not enough and then have to worry about adding too much . Thickness is never ususally an issue as I use a tortilla press. Press, open, rotate half a turn, press again then on to the flat top/griddle. Works every time Good luck

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    I have seen the bags of masa in the refrigerated section at my local mexican grocers. I will have to try it.

                    I have a tortilla press too but didn't know the trick of turning it and pressing it again, I'm sure that is it.

                    Our local Mexican star chef in Chicago says the perfect corn tortillas are the ones where you go to the tortilla factories in the morning and get fresh masa and make them that day. He says that it is extremely perishable and you have to use that day. The tortilla factories are a long drive for me.

                    Thanks for the tip

                    1. re: cajundave

                      Senor Rick?

                      I'm in San Diego so of course I've got Mexican markets all around me :-). While the masa from the markets *is* very perishable, it will last more than a day. I've experiemented around a bit with the masa we get here and I can hold it up to 3 days if I refrigerate it immediately upon getting it home. There is some loss of quality holding it that long. I have frozen masa and it freezes "okay" but not really well. Usually I buy it on a Saturday and try and use it up by Sunday.

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        Thank you very much. I was hoping to hear that. So do you think the masa in the mexican grocer is fresh or the dry mixed in water and put in a bag?

                        1. re: cajundave

                          CD, how did your tortillas turn out?

                          Some of the masa in grocery stores is from masa harina, most likely Maseca. I've always found it easier to work with than what I make at home. Could be they've got the big machinery to mix it, and, since they work with the stuff everyday, the ability to know when enough liquid has been added or not. Some grocery stores and tortillarias are nixtamalizing corn and grinding it, a much more laborious process.

                          1. re: DiningDiva


                            Much better than the first try. I was able to eat them! They were still a little moist and spongy, I think I used too much water this time. I seems that the water to masa ratio is extremely critical. Next time I will try the pre made masa from the store.

                            It also appears that the temp of the pan is critical. I have been going at a little higher than med high which means I can't use non stick. I had to use my carbon steel.

                            1. re: cajundave

                              Ugh, I never heard of any Mexican grandmas using carbon steel!

                              1. re: LorenM

                                Maybe not carbon steel, but I've seen tortillas cooking on a lot of steel/metal comals. Not that odd.

                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  The cheapest metal comales are carbon steel. The traditional ones are earthenware.

                                2. re: LorenM

                                  Loren M,
                                  what do they use? what is the preferred material?

                                3. re: cajundave

                                  Good for you :-). Just remember that a good corn tortilla will be pliable, tender and somewhat moist. I admire your desire to get it right.

                    2. So they can get rid of the stale ones.

                      Slide it on top with the fresh one, pile on the toppings, and no one is the wiser.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I've seen them being made at places near me and all the tortillas come from the same pile. And they are nice and fresh, both of them.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          You realize I was being facetious, right?

                          They of course save the stale ones to make chips ...

                            1. re: escondido123

                              Oh, c'mon, give me a little more credit than that ...

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Humor...it is a difficult concept. :-)

                          1. lets remember this is people's food, not rich food, not imperial food. most poor people have more corn than they do filling.......

                            1. I agree that it's to keep the juice of the filling from breaking through one and creating an awful mess.

                              1. I think of it like double-bagging at the supermarket.
                                Makes me feel more comfortable and secure.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Tripeler

                                  Agreed: comfort and security are of the utmost importance for ALL double-bagging...


                                2. Since there are no written instructions, my natural assumption is that it's my food to eat as I want to. So I usually divide the filling ingredients into two piles, one atop each tortilla, and then roll each one up and devour it. I have learned to ignore looks of disgust, mothers shielding their children's eyes from the spectacle …

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    Will has certainly got the best idea here.
                                    Just Eat It.
                                    Can't get any simpler and more practical than that!

                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                      Had a farewell lunch for a software developer, gorgeous Indian woman whose husband was getting a fab job somewhere. Went to Nashville's only Indian buffet. This older man, typical smartass-nerd database guy, had gotten a plate full of stuff he'd never seen before, and was staring at it when the honoree walked by. He looked up at her and pointed to his plate: "What am supposed to do with this?" She, pityingly: "Bob, I am not going to tell you how to eat your food!"

                                  2. I think it's a texture benefit. Two thin corn tortillas stacked together have a better texture than one thicker corn tortilla, like the flaky layers in a croissant

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                      We had a pair of ten-dollar coupons for Wahoo last night, so went and got ourselves a free meal (which I must say was worth every penny!). Anyway, my two fish tacos were each jammed into a neatly-stacked pair of baby tortillas so tightly that even Mr. Klutz here had to work hard to make any mess at all. They tasted as free-spirited as they looked. So you see it's not just those carefree authentic Mexicans using two tortillas per taco - the massively regimented fast-food-franchise gang has figured a way to do it, too! Who else could design a hand-made taco that looks as though it were extruded from some industrial device?

                                    2. remember corn fills the same role as rice in,say, chinese cuisine

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: thew

                                        I'm going to get killed for this I know.. But in general, do you think Americans prefer flour over corn? I personally like the corn but the flour seem more reliable to serve to a group...especially if you can't get fresh corn. Thoughts?

                                        1. re: Teraesa22

                                          Mexican corn tortillas are a thing of beauty. American ones, not so much. In fact, about the only relationship between the two is the name. I would think that the answer to your question might be regional and depend upon the availability (or not) of proper corn tortillas.

                                          I'm lucky I live where good corn tortillas can be pretty easily sourced, so there is no excuse for the use of flour tortillas. That said, if I was face with the choice of a a poor quality corn tortilla (i.e. cardboard disc) I might be inclined to go with flour instead. A dry, mealy corn tortilla that breaks up while trying to eat it is no fun :-(

                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                            No one needs an excuse to use flour tortillas :)

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              No one needs an excuse to use flour tortillas :)

                                              Esp. if you work at Chipotle.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                Actually, a good handmade, not package, flour tortilla is also a thing of beauty. I just picked up a to go menu from a litlle place on the east side of Houston, the barrio, and in Spanish they advertised fresh flour tortillas. The original Ninfa's on Houston's east side again, which started serving fajitas in the 70's that became a national craze, served flour tortillas, the family is from south Texas. I just asked my Mexican wife what they ate in the Rio Grande Valley, what kind of tortillas were served in the mostly Hispanic Valley, answer, both. That being said, the billion or so taco trucks in Houston serve corn, to the best of my knowledge. What kind of tortillas do we eat? Corn, mainly because they are better for you, but when we come across fresh flour ones, we buy them.

                                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                                  I lived for a while in a house full of guys outside of San Jose, and every weekend we'd have a big pot of bean-burrito stuff on the stove: canned refried beans, canned chiles, sausage and cheese all mixed together. Sitting next to it was a skillet and a package of flour tortillas, and when someone wanted a burrito then he, she or one of us would fill and fold a tortilla full and fry it until it was crisp, with nice scorch marks here and there. Now, I don't care much for un-fried flour tortillas, but at this point I developed a near-addiction to fried ones. These of course were commercial American ones; I think one lesson here is that the way to make a blah tortilla (among many other things) really edible is to fry it.

                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                    Will, I'm talking about fresh, non-packaged flour tortillas. They don't need to be fried, the way it's done down here is to put them on a gas flame and heat until partially blackened, then serve with a little butter or fill and roll with whatever is available.

                                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                                      oh yes any flour tortilla is great over a gas stove burner, even gives a smokey quality.
                                                      costco sells rolled out raw flour tortilla dough that cooks up in a pan very nicely. i understand it is also popular with east indians. i have not tried this with this product but my mexican roommate used to make a similar dough to deep fry for soppapillas.

                                              2. re: DiningDiva

                                                Mexican corn tortillas are a thing of beauty. American ones, not so much. In fact, about the only relationship between the two is the name. I would think that the answer to your question might be regional and depend upon the availability (or not) of proper corn tortillas.

                                                Truer words have never been spoken.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  How about ones made by Mexicans in America?