Can You Use Vegetable Oil Instead of Shortening in Tortillas?


Homemade tortillas are simple to make and require less than five ingredients. They're typically made with shortening, but you can easily substitute vegetable oil or other oils. Avoid using butter, which can burn and also creates a crisp tortilla. Once cooked, you can use homemade tortillas for everything from quesadillas to chimichangas and fajitas.


  • You can easily substitute vegetable oil for shortening in homemade tortillas and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results. When you use shortening in tortillas, you must use a pastry knife to blend the shortening into the flour mixture. Using oil eliminates this step and you'll end up with softer, more pliable tortillas.


  • Flour tortillas are among the simplest types of bread you can make. Whisk together a bit of flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in some water and oil and you're on your way. Some recipes omit the baking powder; others require you to knead the dough and then let it rest for 30 minutes or so before rolling the tortillas out. This resting period activates the gluten so the tortillas are softer and easier to roll. To make tortillas, roll out two-inch balls with a rolling pin, or use a tortilla press. Cooked on a hot griddle or In a cast-iron pan, they turn golden brown within two or three minutes. Homemade tortillas can be frozen for later use. Place sheets of parchment paper between each tortilla and freeze them in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag.


  • Substituting oil for shortening not only makes a softer tortilla, but it's better for your health. Shortening is a hydrogenated trans fat, which can raise levels of bad cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease and other health problems. Opt for a neutral flavored oil, such as vegetable oil that's been cold-pressed or expeller pressed. You can also use sunflower or canola oil. If you use olive oil, make sure it's not extra virgin, which will impart a strong flavor in the tortillas. Recipes vary, but in general, substitute equal amounts of vegetable oil for shortening, at a rate of 1 part oil to 3 parts water.


  • If you're making corn tortillas, you probably won't need shortening or oil. Most corn tortilla recipes call for masa harina, a corn flour that has been dried, cooked and dried again. Just add water and you're ready to mix the dough. Authentic flour tortilla recipes rely on neither shortening nor oil, but lard. Although not particularly heart-healthy, lard does make a soft and tasty tortilla. It's available next to the shortening in most grocery stores.

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