Making homemade corn tortillas is way easier and more fun than you might think, and they are likely to be the best corn tortillas you've ever tasted. Here's a Complete guide with everything you need to know.
Just wait until you try these steamy fresh homemade corn tortillas! They are SO much better than the ones you buy at the store.
The only ingredient you have to buy for homemade corn tortillas is a specially-formulated corn flour called Masa Harina. It's easy to find in most grocery stores or online. Tortilla dough is made by mixing masa harina with water and a little salt. It takes all of two minutes to throw together.
The rest of the process is also straight-forward. Divide the dough into small pieces, roll into balls, flatten, and cook in a dry skillet.
I'll share top tips for making sure your dough is the right consistency so your tortillas are soft and pliant and not dried out. I'll also show you how to make tortillas without a tortilla press.
It's all so simple, you won't even need a recipe after you read through this post and make these once. Just keep a bag of masa harina in your pantry and you'll be able to whip up a batch of fresh corn tortillas for any occasion!
On a personal note, I want to thank my 21-year-old son Paul for introducing me to homemade corn tortillas and for collaborating with me on this post. Paul's big brother Alex bought him a tortilla press on Amazon and he's been cranking out corn tortillas for himself and his college housemates and cooking up lots of tasty Mexican food.
The BEST homemade Corn Tortillas!
I love to hear about what my kids are cooking but didn't think too much about Paul's tortilla-making until he brought his tortilla press and a bag of masa harina on our family vacation in Maine and made tortillas in our airbnb kitchen. Lots of fond memories from that Maine vacation including the daily stack of fresh steaming corn tortillas which we stuffed with anything and everything from melted cheese to scrambled eggs to tuna salad.
I realized on that trip how much I needed homemade corn tortillas in my life and on this blog!
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CORN TORTILLAS
- Masa harina
- A tortilla press or something to flatten the dough. The best alternative is a flat-bottomed glass pie pan. (scroll down to see how it's done)
- A large ziploc bag, cut along the side seams
- A skillet, preferably cast iron
- Put 1½ cups of masa harina into a large bowl with ¼ teaspoon of salt.
- Fill a measuring cup with 8 ounces of warm water and pour ¾ of it into the bowl
- Use your hands to mix and gather the dough together, slowly adding more water, until you are able to form a smooth ball.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN YOUR TORTILLA DOUGH IS RIGHT
- Your dough is the right consistency if you can squeeze the ball gently and the dough doesn't crack. If it does crack, work a bit more water into the dough.
- If your dough is sticky and adheres to your hand, it needs more masa harina.
- Once you have a smooth pliant dough that doesn't stick or crack, break it into ten equal-sized pieces and roll each piece into a golf-ball-sized ball.
HOW TO MAKE TORTILLAS IN A TORTILLA PRESS
- The next step is to flatten the dough ball into a tortilla-thin pancake. You'll need a large plastic bag, cut along the side seams so it's essentially just a long piece of thick plastic. You'll use the plastic to line the press and keep the dough from sticking to it.
- Open the tortilla press and lay the plastic down over it. Place the dough ball in the center of the press and flatten it a bit with your hand. Fold the top of the plastic over so the dough is between plastic.
- Close the press and pull back the handle to flatten the dough to about ⅛-inch thick. You can flatten it again if you want a thinner tortilla but don't go too thin or you'll have trouble removing it from the plastic in one piece.
HOW TO MAKE TORTILLAS WITHOUT A TORTILLA PRESS
A $20 cast iron tortilla press will make it super easy and fun to crank out homemade corn tortillas. But if you're not up for buying yet another kitchen gadget, I can totally relate!
I did lots of research to find the best way to make tortillas without a press. Some people suggest using a rolling pin, but others say "no, too laborious."
This technique, using a pie plate, is the unanimous favorite. I tried it and it works like a charm! Here's how to do it.
- Use a flat bottomed glass pie plate as your tortilla press
- Cut down the sides of a large Ziploc bag so it's a long sheet of plastic
- Fold the bag over the dough ball and set it on your work surface
- Place the glass pie plate on top and press down to smush the ball flat
- Gently tilt the plate from side to side or in a circular motion until the tortilla is as thin as you like, but don't go too thin or you'll have trouble removing the tortilla from the plastic in one piece.
HOW TO COOK THE TORTILLAS
- You can cook each tortillas as it comes out of the press or you can press them all first and then cook them.
- If you press them all before cooking them, stack the uncooked tortillas between parchment or lay them out on a large tray so they don't stick together.
- To remove a tortilla from the plastic without breaking it, peel the top layer of plastic off, place your hand over the tortilla and flip it over onto the palm of your hand. Then carefully peel the other layer off.
TORTILLAS ARE COOKED FOR A FEW MINUTES IN A DRY SKILLET WITH NO OIL
- Heat your skillet over medium heat until hot. I like to use a small skillet and cook one tortilla at a time but if you have a large skillet that holds multiple tortillas, by all means use it.
- Flip #1: When your skillet is hot, carefully lower the tortilla in using your hand or a spatula. At first, the tortilla will stick to the bottom of the pan. Keep giving the pan a shake and when the tortilla releases from the pan and slides around, after about 15-20 seconds, use a spatula to flip it over.
- Flip #2: Let the tortilla cook for about a minute or until it browns a bit on the underside. Flip it a second time.
- Finish: Cook the tortilla for a final 40-60 seconds. It should be slightly browned in spots underneath and should puff up a bit. Cooked tortillas have two layers and are hollow in the middle.
- Continue pressing and cooking the remaining tortillas. As they come out of the pan, stack them up and keep them wrapped in a towel so they stay warm and steamy.
- Don't despair if your first tortilla is a fail. If you've ever cooked pancakes, you know that the first one is never as good as the rest!
WHAT IS MASA HARINA?
Just to clear up any confusion about what kind of flour to use when making corn tortillas, here's the scoop.
- Masa Harina is the corn flour that's used to make corn tortillas. It is also sometimes called Instant Masa Corn Flour or Maseca or Harina de Maize.
- It's made from finely ground hominy. Hominy is dried corn that has undergone nixtamalization, a fascinating chemical process that transforms the flavor of corn and makes its nutrients more digestible.
- When masa harina is mixed with water it becomes "masa' which is the dough used to make tortillas. 'Masa' is the Spanish word for 'dough.'
- Masa harina is not the same thing as cornmeal. Cornmeal is made from coarsely ground dried maize (corn), not hominy.
- You can buy masa harina in most mainstream grocery stores either in the baking aisle or in the ethnic section with Mexican or Latin American ingredients. Masa harina is also available online from Bob's Red Mill and other vendors.
Corn tortillas are an essential ingredient in so many of my favorite Mexican, Tex-Mex and Latin American dishes: Chicken Enchiladas, Huevos Rancheros, Fish Tacos, and Mexican Lasagna, just to name a few.
If you have the time and inclination, try making any one of these dishes with homemade corn tortillas and see how something already delicious can get even better!
Here's the recipe for homemade corn tortillas. If you try this recipe I hope you'll come back to leave a star rating and comment. Paul and I would love to know what you think!Print
How To Make Homemade Corn Tortillas
A complete guide to making delicious authentic corn tortillas at home.
- Prep Time: 10 min
- Cook Time: 20 min
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 10 6-inch tortillas 1x
- Category: How To
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: Mexican
- 1 ½ cups masa harina
- 1 cup warm water, more or less
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- Cast iron tortilla press or a flat bottomed glass pie plate
- Large ziploc bag, cut open along the side seams
- Small or large cast iron skillet
- Clean dish towel
- Put 1 ½ cups masa harina in a large bowl. Pour in about ¾ of the water. Mix and knead the dough with your hands for a minute or so, slowly adding more water until the dough comes together into a smooth ball. If the dough sticks to your hand, knead in a bit more flour. If the dough ball cracks when you give it a gentle squeeze, knead in a bit more water.
- Once you have a smooth ball of dough that doesn't stick or crack, divide into ten equal pieces and roll each piece into a golf-ball-sized ball.
- If using a tortilla press, open the press and lay cut-open plastic bag over both sides. Place a dough ball in the center of the press and smush it down into the press a bit with your hand. Fold the plastic over the dough so it's between plastic. Close the press and fold back the arm to flatten to about ⅛-inch thick.
- Heat skillet over medium heat until hot. Carefully remove tortilla from the plastic by pulling off the top layer, laying your hand over the tortilla and flipping it over so it sits on the palm of your hand. Peel off the remaining piece of plastic.
- Set the tortilla in the hot skillet. At first it will stick to the bottom of the pan. Use a pot holder to hold the pan and shake it until the tortilla dries enough to loosen and slide around the pan. Flip it over using a spatula.
- Cook for 60 seconds or so until lightly browned in spots. Flip a second time. Cook for a final 40-60 seconds until browned in spots and puffed up a bit. As you press and cook tortillas, stack them up, keeping them wrapped loosely in a clean towel.
Make Tortillas Without A Press: Use a flat-bottomed glass pie plate as a tortilla press. Lay the plastic bag on your work surface, folded over the dough ball. Put the pie plate on top and press it down to smush the dough into a pancake. Gently tilt the plate from side to side until the tortilla is as thin as you like. For more details, see photos and explanation in post.
Make Tortillas ahead of time: Corn tortillas are extra delicious when they're freshly made but they can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight plastic bag in the fridge for up to three days. For best results, reheat them, one at a time, in a hot skillet, for about 15 seconds per side. To keep them warm, stack them and wrap with a clean towel.
- Serving Size: 1 tortilla
Keywords: authentic corn tortilla recipe, corn tortillas from scratch