How to Make Corn Tortillas
Nothing beats homemade tortillas made from scratch! The packaged tortillas you get at big American markets don’t even come close to a good, freshly made corn tortilla.
Making homemade corn tortillas is actually almost ridiculously easy, once you get the hang of it.
All you need is masa harina corn flour, water, a tortilla press (can use a rolling pin, but a tortilla press is helpful), and a hot griddle surface.
What is masa harina?
You’ll need a special corn flour called masa harina for making the tortillas.
Masa harina is corn flour that has been treated with calcium hydroxide or “lime” which makes it more nutritious by releasing the niacin in the corn, and easier to digest.
Where to buy masa harina
Masa flour can be found at Mexican markets or online. Look for masa harina that is only corn and lime (calcium hydroxide) for corn tortilla making.
You can make the tortillas completely by hand, by forming a thin pancake with the dough between your hands. But unless you are somewhat experienced in this method, you’ll get more consistent results by using a tortilla press.
A tortilla press
These too are available in Mexican markets and come either in wood or cast iron. They are available online.
The wooden tortilla press pictured I purchased at a local Mexican market in town. You can also roll out the masa with a rolling pin, between pieces of plastic wrap or freezer bag plastic.
How to Make Corn Tortillas
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups very warm water
Make the Masa Dough
1 Mix masa flour with warm water: To make 16-18 tortillas, start with putting 2 cups of masa flour in a large bowl.
Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of very warm water to the masa flour (according to the directions on the package, some brands may call for different amounts of water).
Mix in and let sit for 5 minutes or so.
2 Knead the dough: Begin working the masa with your hands to make the dough. Work the dough for several minutes.
Press the dough with your fingers and the palms of your hands as if you were kneading bread dough.
The dough will be a little gritty at first, but should become more pliable as you kneed it.
If at any point through the tortilla making process the dough seems too dry or too wet, add a little more water or masa to the dough.
3 Form balls of dough: Pinch off a piece of the masa dough and rub it between your hands to shape it into a ball the size of a plum, or slightly large golf ball.
Make about 16-18 balls from the dough.
Pressing the Tortillas
4 Prepare the press with two sheets of plastic: Cut two pieces of plastic from a plastic freezer bag into the shape of the surface of the tortilla press.
5 Place ball of dough between the plastic sheets and press: Open the tortilla press and lay one piece of plastic on the press. Place the masa ball in the center.
Place another piece of plastic over the masa ball.
Gently close the press and press down, until the dough has spread to a diameter of 4 to 5 inches.
Cooking the Tortillas
6 Heat a griddle or a large skillet on high heat. A well seasoned cast iron griddle or large cast iron pan works well for this.
7 Remove the raw tortilla from the plastic: Working one at a time, hold a tortilla in your hand, carefully removing the plastic on each side.
8 Lay the tortilla down on the hot pan: Allow the tortilla to rest half on your hand, and half hanging down, and gently lay the tortilla down on to the skillet. Start working on pressing the next tortilla.
9 Cook the tortilla on one side, then flip: Cook the tortilla on the hot pan for 30 seconds to a minute on each side. The tortilla should be lightly toasted and little air pockets forming.
10 Keep the tortillas warm, covered: Remove the tortillas to a tortilla warmer lined with dish towel or paper towels, or wrap them in a dish towel to keep them warm.
Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat.