Monday, April 25, 2011

How to Make Homemade Tortillas

I have been really obsessed with Mexican food of late. I can’t say why. It just tastes good! Chorizo and super green guacamole, tacos…but its homemade tortillas that are knocking the socks off of anything else. And their ease has fueled my obsession.

A couple of things to know about corn tortillas before you make them at home, or buy them...

· Corn tortillas must be made with Masa Harina, Spanish for ‘dough flour’. Masa Harina is not just cornmeal, you CANNOT substitute plain ole’ cornmeal. Dried corn kernels are cooked and then soaked in lime water. Then the kernels are dried and ground to make masa. Check out this link, it is really interesting. I am pretty adventurous, but maybe not enough to make my own masa.

· The vast majority of corn grown in North America is Genetically Modified. And we avoid GMO’s at all costs. I bought Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina because they are a great organic resource and in the FAQ section of their website they state that they do not use any GMO seeds. But when I pulled out the package today, it did not say organic!! Rats! But then thankfully, I saw online that the process of soaking the corn in limewater is not allowable under organic guidelines and so BRM cannot use the term ‘organic’ on the labeling. So if you have been searching trying to find organic masa in vain, now you know why.

· The masa I have been buying is kind of pricey, and I only see it sold in 1 lb 8 ounce bags (24 ounces). I have searched for 5 or 10 pound bags. But it is probably better that it comes smaller. Smaller packages stay fresh and turn over more often. You can buy Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina online in 4-packs. But BRM not package it in larger sizes. I did however find this very interesting family farm in Idaho. Some of their various flour prices are the same as my local Cayuga Pure Organics and some are lower. It is interesting though. I am not convinced that buying online gets you anything except a shipping bill. That is, if you already have a good local source.

· One 24 oz package is about enough to make 2-3 batches of tortillas. The below recipe is for one batch. But in my pictures I am making a double batch. My double batch made slightly less than 40 tortillas that are 4-5 inches in diameter. Your number per batch can change depending on how large you make them. And of course wetter dough will make thinner tortillas because the press will press them out more.

· I really recommend a tortilla press. The effort required to roll out 20 tortillas with a rolling pin might defeat the purpose. The dough can be slightly sticky, not like gluteny wheat dough. Presses are cheap. Mine is cast iron and was only about $15.

· I used a cast iron griddle to fry my tortillas. Any cast iron pan would do. Although much is written about reheating tortillas directly on your gas burner without using a pan, that is only for reheating. Cooking them is different. The tortillas are a soft and mashable dough before being cooked. They need to be cooked on some kind of pan. I have a feeling that any skillet would do. Just be careful to not use too much fat and deep fry them, you may end up with something crispy, more like a tostada.

Place 2 cups of masa harina into a large mixing bowl. Add ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix in 1 and ½ cups of water. If the dough feels too dry, add up to ½ cup more. If your dough feels too wet, add in more masa and mix it in with your hands. My dough was a little too wet today. I think I might have put in an extra cup of water in making my double batch. I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention. But I fixed it before I started cooking.
Let the dough rest for an hour with a towel covering. When you are ready, form a small ball. I haven’t bought wax paper in years, so I used a plastic baggie (that I use over and over again with my press). I don’t have anything against wax paper. I just haven’t bought any in a while. Place the ball in the tortilla press and…well…press.

The dough needs to be handled delicately. The tortillas can fall apart or get stuck to the paper or plastic you are using. Expect that the first few will be terrible looking. Ball them up and try again a few times to get the hang of it.

On your griddle, with the heat on medium, put a little lard. You could use coconut oil too. But lard is so good. And I just rendered some this week! Use just enough fat to keep the tortillas from sticking and burning.

My griddle fits three tortillas. Let them fry on for a few minutes on each side. I noticed mine started to look dryer and started to curl at the edges when they were ready to be flipped. When both sides have cooled, transfer them to a plate. I tend to wrap them up in a clean dish towel to keep them warm. That is perfect is you are making tortillas right before they are to be eaten. But also I think it softens and finishes them even if you will be freezing them.

I froze mine in 2 packages of 10 each and one container for this week to make something. And of course I ate 3 while cooking straight off the pan with butter and honey. Ridic. What I haven’t decided is what I will do with my tortillas, enchiladas? Chilaquiles? Tacos? The possibilities are endless. Seriously, try this. Regular tacos suck in comparison. I might never be able to eat store bought tortillas again.

This post is part of Sustainable Eat and GNOWFLINS Simple Lives Thursday


  1. We usedbto make these all the time, think we will again!

  2. I couldn't agree more about homemade tortillas. They are SO fantastic. Once you make them, you never want to go back to a package again! And they're so fun to make.
    Great tips here, too!

  3. Homemade tortillas are so delicious and can't compare to store bought. If you would like to venture in grinding your own corn for making the masa at home, please visit my blog.

    Here is the link:

    I think you will enjoy making your own masa as much as we do at home.


  4. Hello,

    You can use it right away. That is when it taste the best. But I make a large batch almost every 2 weeks and just after grinding pack in my foodsaver or ziploc bags and place in the fridge. One thing I do now is to grind the corn without adding water. Water seems to spoil the masa faster. I add the water right after making the tortillas.