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How to Make Corn Tortillas

Making Homemade Corn Tortillas from scratch is EASY! They taste better than anything you can buy at the store.

How to Make Corn Tortillas
Elise Bauer

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.

Maseca Masa Harina for making homemade corn tortillas
Maseca brand Masa Harina. Elise Bauer

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.

What Kind of Tortilla Press to Use?

These too are available in Mexican markets and come either in wood or cast iron. They are available online.

wood tortilla press for making tortillas
Traditional Wood Tortilla Press. Elise Bauer

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

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 6 to 8 servings
Yields 16 to 18 tortillas

Ingredients

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups very warm water

Method

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.

    add warm water to masa corn flour to make tortilla dough
    Elise Bauer
    mix water thoroughly with masa harina to make the dough for making tortillas
    Elise Bauer
  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.

    kneed the tortilla dough to make it pliable
    Elise Bauer

    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.

    make golf ball sized balls of tortilla dough
    Elise Bauer
    make several balls of tortilla dough
    Elise Bauer

Pressing the Tortillas

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    place ball of tortilla dough on a sheet of plastic on the base of the tortilla press
    Elise Bauer
    cover the ball of tortilla dough with another sheet of plastic
    Elise Bauer

    Gently close the press and press down, until the dough has spread to a diameter of 4 to 5 inches.

    close the tortilla press with the tortilla dough inside
    Elise Bauer
    open the tortilla press to reveal the flattened tortilla dough
    Elise Bauer

Cooking the Tortillas

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    Remove plastic from the pressed tortilla dough
    Elise Bauer
  3. 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.

    drape tortilla on your hand
    Elise Bauer
    place tortilla on hot pan
    Elise Bauer
  4. 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.

    air pocket forms on tortilla on hot pan
    Elise Bauer
    homemade corn tortilla on hot cast iron pan
    Elise Bauer
  5. 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.