Have you ever wondered how to make homemade tortillas? Whether it’s for wrapping around your favorite taco filling, homemade quesadillas, or just snacking right off the griddle, making a corn tortilla is a lot easier than you’d think and sooooooo much better than store bought.
homemade tortillas from scratch
There are two different ways to make a corn tortilla recipe.
The first is to use fresh corn masa, which is simply nixtamalized corn that has been finely ground with warm water into a dough.
If you’re like nixta-what?! Read up on this ancient process of softening and getting nutrients from the hard corn—super interesting.
This post is about making homemade tortillas made from masa harina which is the masa dough mentioned above that has been dried and ground into a corn flour (corn meal that you use to make corn bread is not the same thing and won’t work).
Scroll down for my three favorite masa harina flours.
masa harina 101: the most important part of a corn tortilla recipe
Seeing that it only takes three ingredients to make homemade corn tortillas— masa harina, hot water, and salt—the masa harina that you use is pretty important.
Here are my top three picks:
- Masienda’s Chef-Grade Masa Flour Masienda sources traditional maize from Mexico to produce a superior masa harina. Plus by supporting them, you are supporting their efforts to protect valuable native varieties of corn that exist nowhere else in the world.
- Gold Mine Masa Flour This has the convince of being available on Amazon, is organic and comes in white, yellow, or blue corn varieties.
- Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina Flour Bob’s Red Mill is a great option for picking up at your local grocery store. This organic masa harina is widely available in stores (and also on Amazon as well).
The nice thing about making your own tortillas is you don’t need very many ingredients or tools but there are two pieces of equipment you do need to be successful.
- A Tortilla Press. These are very inexpensive and can be found at any Latin market or online. If you really don’t want to buy one you can use a glass pie plate.
- A Comal or Cast Iron Skillet for cooking the tortillas. A nonstick skillet also works.
This is the process I use to make corn tortillas. Don’t worry if your first ones don’t turn out great, it takes practice. Just keep trying an pretty soon you’ll get the hang of it.
mixing the dough
- Place 2 cups masa harina flour in a mixing bowl and toss with a teaspoon of salt.
- Slowly mix in 2 cups water with a wooden spoon. As a general rule I like to use equal parts masa harina and water but this will depend on the type of masa harina you use and how dry it is in your kitchen.
- The masa is ready when it is soft but neither sticky or crumbly. You can always add more masa harina or water as needed. Roll some dough into a golf ball-sized piece. It should be smooth and not crack when you roll it. If it sticks to your hands, add more masa harina. If it cracks add more water. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest while you heat up the comal.
heat the pan and prepare the tortilla press
- Heat a cast iron skillet, comal, or non-stick frying pan over high heat. Don’t add any vegetable oil or fat.
- Line the tortilla press with the two thin pieces of plastic. The thin produce bags from the grocery store work great. Resealable plastic bags like a Ziplock also work but I find them to be a little too thick. If you really love making tortillas you can use the same pieces of plastic many times, just wipe clean and reuse.
form the corn tortilla
- Roll masa into a ball. Start with a small walnut-sized ball and work your way up to a bigger one. The smaller the tortilla, the easier it is to work with. You can divide the dough all at once or do it one at a time.
- Place dough in the middle of the tortilla press on top of the plastic. Place the other piece of plastic over the dough ball, then close the tortilla press gently. Press down. Lift the press, flip the tortilla and repeat as many times as necessary to make a 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch thick tortilla.
- Gently lift the lid of the tortilla press. Remove top piece of plastic. Pick up tortilla using the bottom piece of plastic, invert onto your free hand and peel off the plastic. Half of the tortilla should be hanging off your hand, this is the side you’ll put on the comal first.
cook the tortillas
- If your pan is smoking or too hot set the skillet over medium heat instead of high heat.
- To cook the tortillas, carefully but swiftly flip tortilla onto the hot comal. Don’t touch! Let cook for 15-30 seconds or until one edge starts to lift off the comal. Flip with a metal spatula (or your fingers) and cook on other side for 15-30 seconds or until it starts to get toasty with golden brown spots. Repeat, flipping two more times.
- Remove to tortilla warmer and repeat with remaining dough.
what about flour tortillas?
Homemade flour tortillas are also super delicious but are pretty different from making the corn version.
As the name suggests, they are made with wheat flour, salt, and baking powder and rolled out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.
Check out my flour tortilla post for step-by-step instructions.
how to make the most of your tortilla recipe
So you’ve made this tall stack of beautiful corn tortillas, now what?
- Of course you have to eat a few right away, because there’s nothing better than a warm, fresh tortilla right out of the pan.
- Then keep a few in a tortilla warmer or clean kitchen towel to wrap around your favorite Mexican tacos.
- To Store Them: spread them in a single layer on the counter to cool.
- Once cool, stack and store in a plastic bag for 3 days in the refrigerator or 1 month in the freezer.
- To Reheat Them: Rewarm one at a time on dry, hot comal or skillet until soft and pliable.
the best easy tortilla recipes
Now that you’ve mastered the basic corn tortilla recipe here are a few variations I love:
mexican food fans unite!
If you make Mexican recipes at home on a regular basis, check out my Ultimate Mexican Pantry Guide to see what you need to have on hand.
you’ve got homemade corn tortillas and I want to see them!
Once you’ve got that perfect tortilla technique down, I want to see it! Tag all your tortilla creations @holajalapeno or #holajalapeno on Instagram whether it’s tacos or quesadillas, I want to know how it goes.
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