Taco Shells v/s Tortillas: How to Buy, Store and Make

We keep eating them all the time; yet, are we really clear on what each of them mean? Most important, are they the names of the same dish or different? It’s true that they taste yummy and perhaps that’s all that should matter! But it’s good to know if tacos are the same as tortillas or any different so that the next time you go to a Mexican restaurant, at least you know what you’ve ordered. Makes sense?

Taco Shells v/s Tortillas: Are They Really Different?

The answer is they aren’t. To put it more clearly, it’s like asking the difference between sandwich and bread. Tacos are generally made of tortillas, just like sandwich is made of bread. Tortillas are thin, flat bread prepared from a mix of corn, sometimes wheat, salt, and other ingredients blended together with water to form a dough and then pressed into a flat layer.  

Taco is the filling that you put inside the tortilla to taste good and it could be a mix of several yummy things you like – beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, cheese, etc. So basically, we can say that Taco is a wrap that comprises a tortilla flatbread and fillings. We can buy bulk taco shells and enjoy them with friends and family. Now, taco shells are of two types – soft-shell tortilla and hard-shell tortilla.

The soft-shell one is generally wrapped around the ingredients within and served both hot or cold. The hard one, also called baked taco shell or tostada (at some places) is hard and crispy, holding hot and cold fillings. Tacos are generally had as small appetizers in small shells or as part of a main meal in large taco shells.

Now that we know what they really are, let’s now learn more about buying ‘tortillas’ to enjoy a perfect ‘taco’ evening with family and friends.

How to Buy the Best Tortillas?

Though it’d all come with practice; the more you eat, the more you go on buying trips, and the more you learn about them. However, here we offer some basic tips which might come in handy at the store:

  • Always buy only as much as you you’d be using at one time. It’s best to serve your taco shells fresh and delicious to your guests.
  • Read the label carefully for the ingredients. There are tons of varieties these days – corn, wheat, gluten-free – it’s best to know especially if you’re allergic to anyone. Besides, the good-quality ones would usually have fewer ingredients, and most importantly, all of which you’d be able to pronounce, so you’d know it right there.
  • Prefer to buy them from local stores instead of big supermarkets – the ones made at your local bakery would be as fresh as they can be.
  • If going in for ready flour tortillas, make sure to check if they’re prepared from bleached or unbleached flour. Try and always go for unbleached. 

How to Store Your Tortillas?

After having bought them, you either choose to make them right away (which is the best option, by the way), or you may have to wait a little longer until it’s time to cook (if you have a party or special occasion). In case of the latter, it’s highly important to keep your tortillas soft and fresh until they’re ready to be cooked into delicious tacos. This can be ensured through proper storage.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Put the tortillas in a re-sealable plastic bag or an airtight container. You can then refrigerate them for up to two weeks.
  • If you need to preserve them for even longer, it’s best to freeze them, again in the bag/container mentioned above. Remember to move them to the refrigerator to thaw them a day or two before cooking.
  • Take them out of the fridge and transfer them to the microwave after they’ve been thawed completely. Heat them for up to 20 seconds. Then cover the plate with a clean tissue/towel. This would keep the tortillas soft until you’re ready to use them.

How to Make Delicious Tortillas at Home?

While it’s only tempting to stop by at the nearest Taco Bells to grab one every now and then, it’s definitely more cost-effective and even healthier to make your own at home. Besides, you get to be as creative as possible with endless options to try from for your fillings. 

Here’s a simple recipe to make some crispy corn tortillas at home. 

Corn tortillas


  • Masa Harina (ground corn kernels soaked in limewater) – 2 cups
  • Kosher Salt – half spoon or to taste
  • Hot Water – 1 ½ cups

Preparation Method:

  • Mix Masa Harina and hot water in a large bowl using a wooden spoon. Cover it up with stretch film and let it rest for half an hour.
  • Add 2 tbsp of cool water until the mix reaches its desired texture – soft but not sticky.
  • Divide the dough into 15 equal pieces to make 6-inch tortillas. Cover the remaining dough with a clean towel.
  • Take a zip lock pouch and cut each side to make it into a large rectangular piece. Lay the dough on the tortilla press so that it covers both the upper and lower parts of the press.
  • Roll each piece by placing it at the bottom of the press lined with the zip lock pouch.
  • Cover it with the top of the pouch, close the press, and push it down. Peel back the top layer of the pouch and transfer it to your hand.
  • Place it on a baking sheet and cover with a towel. Continue pressing the remaining pieces.
  • Heat a cast-iron pan on medium heat. Place a tortilla on the skillet and cook. Flip it over and cook again until light brown.
  • Transfer all cooked tortillas into a basket lined with a clean kitchen towel. Let them cook in the steam inside the basket for 10 minutes before serving. 

Try these lip-smacking treats at home and share with us how they were.