This easy corn tortilla recipe yields flexible wraps perfect for taco night! The dough is a mixture of just three simple ingredients, masa harina, salt, and water. It’s mixed, rolled, flattened into discs, then cooked in a hot skillet.
Table of Contents
- How to make corn tortillas from scratch
- Demystifying masa harina
- Use warm water to make a quick masa dough
- Roll it up
- Pressing the dough balls
- Don’t have a tortilla press? No Problem!
- Unmolding the uncooked tortillas
- Cooking the tortillas
- Wrap them up
- Tasty ways to fill those tortillas
- Homemade Corn Tortillas Recipe
How to make corn tortillas from scratch
Making a fresh batch of hot and steamy corn tortillas is one of the most straightforward techniques to conquer. And once you do, you’ll want to skip the store-bought packs and wow your friends and family with homemade tortillas instead. There are minimal ingredients involved. I use finely ground corn flour, salt, and warm water. The process is quick too!
The recipe is naturally gluten-free, and the mixture yields a soft yet sturdy wrap that easily folds to hold your favorite fillings. As an extra perk, you can make homemade tortilla chips by cutting them into triangles and deep-frying them until hot and crispy. Serve with homemade churros, and your fiesta will be complete!
Demystifying masa harina
When making corn tortillas at home, masa harina is the most convenient product. This type of flour makes masa dough, the base for popular Latin staples like tamales, pupusas, empanadas, and sopes. It’s made from dried corn kernels that have been nixtamalized, dried, and ground to fine corn flour.
Nixtamalization is a process that soaks the vegetable in water and calcium hydroxide, also called limewater, slaked lime, or pickling lime. This process softens the kernels so that it’s easier to grind, while the alkaline solution breaks down the carbohydrates in the corn, causing it to give a more complex, flavorful product. The dried and milled product is corn flour called masa harina.
Use warm water to make a quick masa dough
I rehydrate the corn flour with warm water and salt for this recipe. This enhances the sweet and earthy flavor while making the dough more pliable and easier to knead. The higher temperature also hydrates the dried corn more quickly and helps activate the flour’s starches. This binds the ingredients together better for a flexible and robust tortilla.
After you mix the ingredients and knead the dough, it should become very smooth, similar to molding clay. It should not feel dry, sticky, or wet. You can easily adjust the texture by adding a small amount of water or masa harina.
Roll it up
Roll the dough into 1-ounce balls, about 2 tablespoon-sized portions. This will yield 5-inch diameter tortillas, perfect for street tacos or fajitas. This recipe makes a generous stack of eighteen tortillas. So you can create as many as you need for your meal and just save the uncooked tortillas to use within three days.
Pressing the dough balls
If you’re lucky enough to have a metal or wooden tortilla press, now’s the time to break it out. Place the dough ball between pieces of plastic wrap set in the press. Gently press down until the desired size is reached.
Don’t have a tortilla press? No Problem!
If you don’t have a tortilla press (Amazon), grab a large gallon-sized plastic bag and a frying pan, skillet, or pie dish. Cut the seam edges off the bag, ensuring that one side is left intact so you can easily open the bag to add and remove the dough. Spray the inside with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
Press the bottom of the pan on top of the dough ball placed inside the plastic bag. I like to press the pan straight down with even pressure, then check to see how wide the ball has spread. I’ll press it down one more time or use a rolling pin to make it 5-inches in size. If you don’t have a plastic bag, parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap will work, the bag is just easier to use.
Unmolding the uncooked tortillas
When you’re ready to cook the tortilla, carefully remove it from the press or plastic bag, as the dough will be thin and delicate. Lay the tortilla on your dominant hand, then slowly peel off the plastic.
Immediately transfer it to a preheated greased pan by gently laying it down. Avoid flipping it into the pan. The wet dough will stick to the surface until it dries and releases on its own.
Cooking the tortillas
A large cast iron skillet does a great job efficiently cooking corn or flour tortillas as it retains heat in between batches. Lightly grease the surface with a high smoke point oil like vegetable oil, canola, or peanut to prevent the dough from sticking.
Use medium-high heat to quickly cook and dry the surface, about 30 seconds per side. I like to flip over the tortillas twice, cooking the tortillas for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes total. The surface should have some speckled brown spots.
Wrap them up
When cooked tortillas are removed from the heat, they will be a little crisp. Immediately wrap them in a kitchen towel or tortilla warmer container. The trapped heat will steam them and complete the cooking of the centers while also making them more pliable. Stack them up and keep them covered until ready to serve.
Tasty ways to fill those tortillas
Selecting the right masa harina product
Unless you have access to fresh masa, masa harina is your next best option. I recommend using Maseca brand instant corn masa flour. The product is affordable and sold at most major grocery stores or Mexican markets. I like that it gives a smooth consistency that’s soft and pliable. Various other products are more coarse in texture if you’re looking for a firm heartier wrap, but those are better suited for tamales.
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Homemade Corn Tortillas
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Warm the Water – In the microwave-safe bowl, heat up the water until warm, about 45 to 60 seconds to reach 100 to 110ºF (38 to 43ºC).
- Make the Masa Dough – In a medium bowl, whisk together masa harina and salt. Add the warm water to the mixture and stir with a spatula or large spoon to combine. Use your hands to knead the dough until the texture becomes very smooth. The texture should be pliable and moist but not sticky.Test the consistency by rolling a small dough ball and flattening it. If the edges crack and don't hold together, add more water, about 1 teaspoon at a time, kneading until the consistency is reached. Add more masa harina if the dough becomes too sticky.
- Roll the Dough – Make 16 balls, 2 tablespoon-sized, about 1 ½-inches wide. Cover with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
- Press the Tortillas – Working one tortilla at a time, use a tortilla press lined with two pieces of plastic wrap to flatten the rounds into 5-inch wide tortillas. Lightly spray the plastic wrap with cooking spray if needed to prevent sticking.Alternatively, use scissors to cut open the seams of a large resealable plastic bag, leaving the bottom intact. Spray the inside of the bag with cooking spray. Place the tortilla ball in the center of the bag, and use a flat-bottomed pan or pie dish to press and flatten. If needed, use a rolling pin to roll out into a 5-inch circle.
- Cook the Tortillas – Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add ½ teaspoon oil and use a paper towel to spread a thin film. Skip oiling if using a nonstick pan.Add one to two tortillas, and cook until the edges begin to dry, 30 seconds. Flip and cook for 30 seconds. Flip one more time, and cook until the tortillas start to slightly puff up, 30 to 60 seconds.
- Keep them Warm – Transfer the tortillas to a kitchen towel and wrap them to keep them warm and steam. This allows them to finish cooking and become more pliable. Continue the rolling and cooking process with the remaining dough.
- Storing Uncooked Dough Balls: Place rolled dough balls in a resealable plastic bag and use them within 3 days.
- Storing Cooked Tortillas: Transfer to a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Heat tortillas in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 15 to 30 seconds on each side until warm. Alternatively, wrap 4 tortillas at a time in a damp paper towel, place them on a plate, and microwave on high power until warm, about 30 to 45 seconds.
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9 Comments Leave a comment or review
Christine N Markwart says
It took me a few tries to get the technique right, but once I got going, I was on a roll. This corn tortilla is superior to any store bought corn tortilla. It’s a fairly easy prep and requires some patience to cook, but totally worth it. The texture was perfect and the tortillas did not crack like store bought, and the taste was incredible! Definitely will be making these again!
Jessica Gavin says
Thank you for the feedback Christine! I agree, a little practice with shaping and cooking the tortillas but it gets smoother and fun to make once you get going. Happy cooking!
Can you freeze these? Any specific way if you can freeze them how do you store them in the freezer?
Jessica Gavin says
I prefer enjoying the tortillas fresh. However, if you want to freeze them I would place a piece of parchment paper in between, then in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer.
Should they be cooked or uncooked for freezing? I’m histamine, gluten and casine intolerant so any freezer options are seriously appreciated!
Jessica Gavin says
I would cook the soup, let it cool down completely, then freeze.
Jackie Barrow says
How to make tamales! ?
Michele Arreola says
Hi Jessica –
I just left a message regarding more instructions on using corn flour, however I dont have those questions any longer. I do want to know how long I need to dry out the nixtamalizised-gound cornmeal, before I grind again. Do I refrigerate it or leave it out while it dries? What tool do you use to grind your corn/grains?
Jessica Gavin says
I’ve read that people dry the nixtamalizised gound cornmeal in a dehydrator overnight at 100 degrees, but perhaps you can do that on a sheet pan in the oven at lowest setting for several hours until it’s dry. I would grind that flour in a vitamix or food processor.