Homemade corn tortillas are a life-changer for all sorts of Mexican dishes. Think tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, burritos, corn chips with pico de gallo . . . Don't like Mexican food? Not a problem - warm homemade tortillas are good enough to be eaten on their own.
Since this post is about corn tortillas, you might have guessed that I love homemade corn tortillas. In fact, I prefer corn tortillas over regular (wheat flour) tortillas. Not only because of their flavor, but also because of their nutritional profile. High-quality masa harina (dehydrated nixtamalized corn flour) contains whole ground corn kernels. This means that corn tortillas are higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than flour tortillas. Another advantage corn tortillas have over wheat tortillas is that they don't call for any fat (lard or shortening). All you need is corn flour, water, and salt. Finally, since corn is a gluten-free grain, corn tortillas are also naturally gluten-free.
Tips for Making Homemade Corn Tortillas
Masa harina, sometimes simply referred to as masa, is the easiest way to instantly improve your tortilla quality at home. Masa harina is made with dried corn kernels that have been cooked and soaked in lime water, dried, and ground into masa. The nixtamalization process (soaking in lime water) is what loosens the hulls from the kernel and softens the corn for grinding. Nixtamalization also gives corn tortillas a very distinctive flavor. You can buy masa harina in Mexican, Latin American, specialty food shops, or online. The most popular brand of masa harina is Maseca and some recipes call for it using this name.
The other ingredient you'll need is water. You can use warm or hand-hot water. The warm water (as opposed to cold water) will make the dough soft and pliable.
There's some trial and error when it comes to the amount of water you'll need. When you add water to masa harina, the texture will seem dry, crumbly and will barely hold its shape. If you add more water, it will get very sticky and almost impossible to work with. The trick? Time. Whereas wheat flour tends to absorb water very quickly, corn flour takes its time, about 20-30 minutes.
So, when you begin to knead, the dough will be very tacky and will stick to your hands. That’s because the water is clinging to the outside of the corn. As you knead, the dough will become softer and won’t stick. It should take about 5 minutes. If after kneading for a few minutes the dough still seems dry and crumbly, add 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) warm water at a time and knead for a few minutes before adding any more water. If the dough is sticking to your hands, add a little bit more masa harina. The finished dough should feel soft, slightly sticky, and smooth.
Next, separate the dough into golf ball sized chunks, rolling them between your hands to form smooth balls. This will make the tortillas about 4" (10 cm) in diameter. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel until you're ready to press out the tortillas (so they don't dry out).
When rolling out the tortillas, put something on either side of the dough ball to prevent it from sticking. You can use a piece of parchment paper, plastic wrap, or a large zip-lock bag cut into halves. Place the dough on the parchment paper and press it down to a flattish shape with your first two fingers. Cover with the second sheet of parchment paper and roll out the dough or press in the tortilla press to a 1/24"-1/12" (1-2 mm) thickness.
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan or flat griddle to medium-high heat. Carefully place the tortilla into the dry pan and cook it until the tortilla changes color and slightly puffs up. I like mine a little charred so I wait until a few brown spots appear. When the tortilla has taken a bit of color on one side, I turn it over and cook on the other side. The cooking time for each tortilla should be less than 2 minutes. Do not cook the tortillas until crispy!
Tools You'll Need
1. Tortilla Press (8 Inches, Cast Iron) | 2. Pan (12 Inches, Lodge, Cast Iron) | 3. Knife Set (6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) | 4.Cutting Board (12″x 9″, Midori Way, Bamboo) | 5. Rolling Pin (French, Wood) | 6. Measuring Cup (1 Cup, Pyrex, Glass) | 7. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Stainless Steel) | 8. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel)
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- 2 cups masa harina
- 1 cup warm water
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- Mix flour and salt together. Add warm water and start kneading the dough with your hands. Since masa harina absorbs water slowly, you'll need to knead the dough for at least 5 minutes. If, after kneading for a few minutes, the dough still seems dry and crumbly, add 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) warm water at a time and knead for a few minutes before adding any more. The finished dough should feel soft, slightly sticky, and smooth.
- Tightly wrap dough in plastic wrap and let sit for 10-30 minutes.
- Divide dough into about 16 balls, Place each ball between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll it into a 4" (10 cm) round using a rolling pin, Keep each tortilla covered so they don't dry out.
- Heat a dry cast iron griddle or large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully place each tortillas into the dry pan and cook it until the tortilla changes color and slightly puffs up (under 1 minute). Then flip the tortilla and cook on the other side. The cooking time for each tortilla should be less than 2 minutes. If you keep the tortillas on the griller longer, they will become stiff.
- Keep the cooked tortillas warm (wrap them in a kitchen towel and place them in a low oven) as you cook the rest. The tortillas will be a bit dry and brittle just off the griddle, but will continue to steam and soften inside the towel as you finish cooking the rest of the batch.
- Store leftover (cooled) corn tortillas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat the tortillas, dampen a kitchen towel or paper towel slightly and wrap the tortillas loosely. Microwave in 30-second bursts until the tortillas are warm and pliable. Serve immediately.
I can do this recipe With normal corn flour?
Thank you and sorry for my english, I 'm french.
Hi - your English is absolutely fine 🙂 Thank you for your question. For corn tortillas, you do want to use masa harina. Masa harina is made from finely ground corn and treated with an alkali. Corn flour is just ground corn. If you use regular corn flour for tortillas, you won't get a dough with enough cohesion to stay in one piece. Hope this helps 🙂
Chang Yi Jen
What kind of masa harina? Yellow or white?
I'm come from Taiwan, I am very glad to read your recipe,it's very useful to me.
Hi and thank you for the comment! It doesnt matter. You can use either. As long as it is masa harina and not just regular corn flour
Is this a keto recipe? If so what are the macros please?
Hi Nida - while I don't follow a keto diet, I believe that grains are off limits. However, if you're ok with grains, here is the nutritional breakdown for 1 tortilla - carbs: 10.9 g (fiber: 1.4 g, sugars: 0.1 g), fat: 0.5 g, protein: 1.3 g. One tortilla has 52 calories. Hope this helps 🙂
May I know how you store masa harina? I used Bob's Red Mill. The package says it should be best refrigerated or frozen, but some others say that it should be kept in the pantry. So how do you store yours?
Hi Sue - I do keep my masa harina refrigerated (if I had more room in the freezer, I would freeze it). The reason is that masa harina can (and does) go rancid. Hope it helps 🙂
The h in Harina silent. Its pronounced Arina
Oh, I had no idea! Thank you for letting me know!
I was looking for information on whether to use warm or cold water when making corn tortillas, and I found this page. I watched your video, which was informative, well made, and answered my question. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge. I intend to look around your website for other recipes.
Thank you for the kind comment, Richard! So happy you found the information helpful 🙂
Hello! Thank you for your in-depth tutorial on this. I’m having trouble getting my torts to puff up! I’ve got the temp right to brown then a little but no dice on the fluffiness!
Hi Noah - there are a few variables you could play with.
1. Perhaps the most important is the heat of the griddle. A lot of times you will find chefs having two separate griddles going on when making corn tortillas - one set to medium (for when the tortilla first hits the heat and begins to cook) and one set to high for the second side - the tortilla will expand from the steam that has developed inside the tortilla). If having two griddles isn't an option, try cooking the first side of the tortilla for a shorter time.
2. To encourage puffing, press down the tortilla with a spatula while it is in the final cooking stage.
3. Kneading the dough long enough is also important. I find that if I don't knead the dough for a long enough time, the tortillas don't puff (no matter how hot the griddle is).
Is it possible to make them ahed of time ? Maybe one or two days earlier than needed. I’m afraid of them getting crispy, when I reheat the tortillas. And what about freezing them? Is there any experience with it?
Many thanks in advance.
Hi Meli - I am so sorry for the late reply. I completely missed your comment. Yes, you can make them ahead of time. Corn tortillas are best when they are fresh and still warm. However, you can store leftover tortillas wrapped in a kitchen towel in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat the refrigerated tortillas, place them into a dry (no oil) cast iron skillet or a griddle, warmed over medium-high heat, for 15-20 seconds on each side. You can also reheat the tortillas over an open flame (just know that they will take on color more quickly, so you need to watch them closely).