Homemade corn tortillas from scratch

January 23, 2019 (Last Updated: June 16, 2019) - As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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Do it like they have been doing it for thousands of years with this delicious homemade Corn Tortillas recipe. This is simple, flavorful, and something really special.

A set of tacos on homemade tortillas.

One of the most identifying and unique elements of enchiladas and tacos is the magnificent and delicious corn tortilla. That is what we are going to make today. Corn tortillas represent a long tradition of Mexican and South American foods that goes back thousands of years. We originally posted this as part of our Enchilada Series and now we are revisiting and making this as the first recipe in our Taco Series. Today, we are going to make our own homemade corn tortillas!

Masa Harina and homemade corn tortillas

When I started down this recipe path, I wondered if I could just mill some popcorn I already have to make a corn tortilla. I mean, one might think that homemade corn tortillas are made from corn flour. WRONG! Well, sort of wrong. Corn flour is fairly close to what is used in tortillas, but there is a distinct difference. Masa Harina is the flour that we use in this recipe. It is different from corn flour because the corn is soaked in a lime mixture and then ground to flour. Corn flour is just finely milled corn, while Masa Harina is treated corn that is turned into flour.

Incidentally, the only difference between cornmeal and corn flour is how well it is milled. Cornmeal has a bit more weight to it and is… well, you know… mealy.

Nixtamalization of Corn – Why Lime Soaking?

It turns out that diets where untreated corn is a main staple often leave people malnourished. Treating it, such as how Masa Harina is made, allows humans to get more nutrition from the corn. The process of soaking and cooking corn in an alkaline solution, such as lime or wood ash, is called nixtamalization. While we don’t know exactly when this process started happening, it was a very important invention. Corn was a critical part of the diet of many people and without nixtamalization, people would end up with Vitamin B deficiencies and a disease called Pallegra, which can lead to death.

The natives of North and South America learned these techniques and that is part of the reason corn, and the corn tortilla became such an important part of early diets on these continents.

Don’t Skip Mixing or Resting

One thing I learned while making corn tortillas from scratch is that you need to knead your dough and then let it rest! If you do not, you are going to have a tough time rolling out your tortillas. These tortillas are easy enough to make when the dough is right, but it can be a bit of a delicate process and we don’t need things working against us. While I used my kitchen aid mixer (with the Beater Accessory... NOT the dough hook), you can knead this by hand, as well.

 

 

KitchenAid mixing bowl with corn tortilla dough inside of it.

After mixing the dough in my KitchenAid mixer, but before putting it in a ball.

Tortilla dough wrapped in plastic wrap

After I have formed the dough into a ball, I wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.

I put it in my stand mixer on low for 5 minutes and I would recommend a good 10 minutes of hand kneading for it to come out right. You should be able to somewhat tell when it is ready. Dough that is not kneaded enough feels a bit grainy, but the well-kneaded dough will have more of a Play Dough sort of feel. One thing to recognize is that if you are used to working with flour dough, this is much different than that and considerably more delicate.

Then, make sure to wrap it and rest it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Tortilla press

I am sure this would have been a much easier process with a tortilla press. I, however, decided not to purchase one (although a Victoria 8 inch Cast Iron Tortilla Pressad image can be found on Amazon). Instead, I just used a roller and it worked out pretty well. It took more time, but I am ok with that and that is how I am going to show you how to do this, as well. If you have a tortilla press, you can skip over some of this. For those of you who want to make corn tortillas without another kitchen gadget, I have you covered!

Four tortilla balls with one being rounded off in my hand for these homemade tortillas

Rolling the dough into individual balls that will become our tortillas.

A tortilla shell on our large cutting board and a sheet of plastic wrap.

One of our tortilla balls on plastic wrap before we add the second sheet of plastic wrap and smoosh it down.

 

Two hands pressing down on a heavy dish for the purpose of flattening a tortilla.

Pressing down on one of our small tortilla balls to start the process of rolling a tortilla out.

A flattened tortilla between two sheets of plastic wrap.

Flattened tortilla that has not been rolled out with our rolling pin.

The end product may not have been quite as perfectly round had I used a tortilla press, but they were still great.

Practice makes perfect

I have been making my own flour tortillas for quite some time, so cooking these were not that much different. I will say, however, is that this can require a little bit of practice, as these are a bit more delicate. If you allow them to cook too long, you can end up with a stiff board that tastes a bit more like a chip than a homemade corn tortilla.

Also, we put plastic on top and bottom to help keep the delicate dough together. This is not a dough to beat up, but one that requires a little extra care and attention. For example, after you roll it out, be a bit careful about removing the plastic wrap. While rolling it out, be a bit delicate with your rolling pin and conscious of how the tortilla is forming.

If they end up falling apart. That is ok. Just reform it into a ball and try it again. Have some patience with the dough and with yourself. Find a little tortilla zen.

Also, practice makes perfect. After a few at the right heat and the right thickness, you will have it down I was making some great little tortillas for any tacos or enchiladas.

Can I halve This Recipe?

We have two people in our house and six tortilla shells is plenty for us. I have found that halving this recipe works just fine.

Cooking Pan – Cast Iron

I used a big cast iron pan I have for this and I feel cast iron is the preferential cooking pan. Because my cast iron pans are already seasoned, I did not need to add any oil initially. After having it on medium high for so long, I did add a bit of cooking spray to keep the surface oil. Additionally, I used a thin metal spatula to handle the tortillas. Like many households, we have a handful of plastic ones. They just seemed too thick and made it difficult to handle these fragile little flowers.

Overall, I really loved making these and pretty proud with how they came out. This recipe will make 12, but I may experiment with size to make them a little bit bigger or maybe smaller. I made a great little homemade corn tortilla in much the same fashion that people did thousands of years ago.

Holding one of two tacos over a plate. The plate is on a table that contain a bunch of taco fixings.

Homemade tortillas are easy enough to make and this recipe should get you on your way to making a beautiful round of great corn tortillas. If you like what we are doing here, do not forget to subscribe to get updates via email and to follow me on Instagram.

Products Used In This Recipe

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A set of tacos on homemade tortillas.

Homemade corn tortillas from scratch

  • Author: Ben Myhre
  • Prep Time: 40 hour
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 Hour
  • Yield: 12 tortillas 1x
  • Category: DIY
  • Method: Skillet
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

Making your own homemade corn tortillas is both gratifying and makes for an excellent meal. This recipe is simple and really only needs a few ingredients.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups masa Masa Harina
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tbsp shortening or lard
  • 1 cup water
  • Plastic wrap

Instructions

  1. Add Masa Harina to large stand mixing bowl
  2. Add salt
  3. Add Shortening
  4. Turn mixer on low. While mixing, slowly pour in water.
  5. Allow to mix for 5 minutes or knead for 10
  6. Form into large, tight ball,
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for half hour
  8. Measure the weight of entire mass and divide by 12
  9. Separate dough into 12 equally weighted balls. roll in hands until it looks like a nice, even sphere and set all aside
  10. Heat seasoned cast iron to medium high- if using another pan, make sure there is a small amount of oil coating pan or it is nonstick
  11. For each of the 12 balls do the following:
  12. Place ball between two sheets of plastic wrap
  13. Use large can (ie a San Marzano 28 oz) OR other pan (I used my Deep Dish Pizza Pan)to press ball down into something resembling a patty.
  14. Using rolling pin, evenly roll out the patty until it is as thin as you can make it and in a nice circular shape. This is a bit delicate. Use care
  15. Gently pull away from plastic wrap and don’t be afraid to ball it up and start over.
  16. Place on cast iron and cook 30 seconds to 1 minutes on each side.
  17. There should be light brown marking spotting on the tortilla and it should not be stiff.
  18. Remove and place into tortilla basket or wrapped in a towel on a plate
  19. While one tortilla is cooking, I start rolling the next.
  20. Gently stack into a large cloth and let cool (or eat)
  21. Use soon, as fresh tortillas will go stale and stiffen faster than store bought ones.

Keywords: DIY Corn Tortillas

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Mely Martinez
    July 21, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Thank you for stopping by http://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com
    Mely Martinez

  • Reply
    Stacey @ The Sugar Coated Cottage
    July 25, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Hi Ben! I had no idea that making your own tortillas was so straight forward. I’ve heard homemade makes all the difference with tortillas (like most things). Take care.

    • Reply
      Ben
      July 26, 2017 at 6:08 am

      It is always fun to find out this thing we buy is almost just as easy to make at home, isn’t it.

  • Reply
    Rachel (LittleChefBigAppetite)
    July 26, 2017 at 10:11 am

    These look awesome! I’ve never made my own tortillas, but now I have to try!

  • Reply
    Frank
    August 10, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Curious to know what masa harina you use. The most common sold around here is Maseca, a commercial product which produces a much less yellow tortilla and a texture I find rather too brittle. So I’ve gone to back to buying ready made tortillas…

    • Reply
      Ben
      August 11, 2017 at 6:24 am

      We have a Natural Grocers in the area and they have their own brand. I also had some issues with brittleness, but I think for me it was a matter of cook technique. I let them sit on my pan for too long and they gained a crispy feel. Well, then I tried to make them into enchiladas and they fell apart. I adjusted my cook time and they became more manageable.

  • Reply
    Kitty
    September 21, 2017 at 11:10 am

    I’ve been contemplating the purchase of a tortilla press. Don’t know why I’m mulling it over since I own almost every kitchen gadget known to man. Twinkie pan, grilled chili pepper rack, whoopie pans, krumkake maker, canape bread molds, drawers and drawers of chocolate molds… When I finally break down and buy that press, I’m going to try this recipe!

    • Reply
      Ben
      September 21, 2017 at 11:47 am

      that is the thing… only so much room! And if I use it twice a year, is it really worth the convenience? I always go back to the pineapple corer I once bought. OK, it made it easier to make a pineapple filled cocktail, but how often do I do that? It was shaped just weird enough that it did not fit in the drawer. And sure, I used it, but was it worth the two years of the annoyance of it getting stuck in the drawer when I opened and closed it? No! learning how to properly cut a pineapple was the best solution and ended up being more efficient anyways.

  • Reply
    Jen Sharpin | So Damn Delish
    September 26, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Ben! I LOVE these. I happen to have some masa marina harina laying around. Now I just gotta dust off my tortilla press and get to work! Can’t wait to try this recipe!

    Jen

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    October 9, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Completely worth the effort! I’ve made them with duck fat before, SO good 🙂

    • Reply
      Ben
      October 9, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      oooo… duck fat… I love it. Goose and duck season is coming up in our neck of the woods soon. Now, I have a new plan!

  • Reply
    Monica | Nourish & Fete
    October 15, 2017 at 7:18 am

    I love making tortillas from scratch! I do still use store-bought sometimes for convenience, but knowing how much better homemade ones are kind of ruins them a little bit. Love your method and pictures. 🙂

    • Reply
      Ben
      October 16, 2017 at 5:53 am

      I still use store-bought as well, but these are fun to make and it is always nice to know that if you don’t have em, you can just make em!

  • Reply
    Homemade Flour Tortillas Recipe - Ramshackle Pantry
    January 28, 2019 at 11:05 am

    […] already have shared our corn tortilla recipe and these are quite a bit different. I mean, the ingredients are only slightly different, but in […]

  • Reply
    Julia
    March 23, 2019 at 9:16 am

    I have been meaning to try making homemade tortillas for ages now so glad I came across this recipe!

  • Reply
    Andrea Metlika
    March 23, 2019 at 9:56 am

    This was much simpler than I expected. I love tortillas for everything.

  • Reply
    Jacqueline Debono
    March 23, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    I’m not sure I can find masa harina here in Italy but I’d love to try making my own tortillas! Going to look out for it!

  • Reply
    Monica
    March 23, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Yum! I’ve got flour tortillas down to a science but hadn’t really mastered corn, even though I just love their flavor. These step by step instructions are so helpful!

  • Reply
    Veena Azmanov
    March 23, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Anything Homemade is always so very special. This looks perfect and easy to make too. Tortillas are best snack option to my family.

  • Reply
    Dr. Maggie
    May 6, 2019 at 9:52 pm

    Thanks Ben I took inspiration from this recipe and made tortillas with ground flax as many of my patients have corn allergies. It worked great.

    • Reply
      Ben
      May 7, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      Woo hoo Maggie!

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