How to Make Corn Tortillas

How ToMexicanTortilla

Making Homemade Corn Tortillas from scratch is EASY! They taste better than anything you can buy at the store.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Nothing beats homemade tortillas made from scratch! The packaged tortillas you get at big American markets don’t even come close to a good, freshly made corn tortilla.

Making homemade corn tortillas is actually almost ridiculously easy, once you get the hang of it.

All you need is masa harina corn flour, water, a tortilla press (can use a rolling pin, but a tortilla press is helpful), and a hot griddle surface.

What is masa harina?

You’ll need a special corn flour called masa harina for making the tortillas.

Masa harina is corn flour that has been treated with calcium hydroxide or “lime” which makes it more nutritious by releasing the niacin in the corn, and easier to digest.

Where to buy masa harina

Masa flour can be found at Mexican markets or online at Amazon.com. Look for masa harina that is only corn and lime (calcium hydroxide) for corn tortilla making.

Maseca Masa Harina for making homemade corn tortillas

Maseca brand Masa Harina

You can make the tortillas completely by hand, by forming a thin pancake with the dough between your hands. But unless you are somewhat experienced in this method, you’ll get more consistent results by using a tortilla press.

A tortilla press

These too are available in Mexican markets and come either in wood or cast iron. They are available online at Amazon.com.

wood tortilla press for making tortillas

Traditional Wood Tortilla Press

The wooden tortilla press pictured I purchased at a local Mexican market in town. You can also roll out the masa with a rolling pin, between pieces of plastic wrap or freezer bag plastic.

Updated August 11, 2018 : Intro text, method, and photos updated

How to Make Corn Tortillas

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 16-18 tortillas

Ingredients

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups very warm water

Method

Make the Masa Dough

1 Mix masa flour with warm water: To make 16-18 tortillas, start with putting 2 cups of masa flour in a large bowl.

Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of very warm water to the masa flour (according to the directions on the package, some brands may call for different amounts of water).

Mix in and let sit for 5 minutes or so.

add warm water to masa corn flour to make tortilla dough mix water thoroughly with masa harina to make the dough for making tortillas

2 Knead the dough: Begin working the masa with your hands to make the dough. Work the dough for several minutes.

Press the dough with your fingers and the palms of your hands as if you were kneading bread dough.

The dough will be a little gritty at first, but should become more pliable as you kneed it.

kneed the tortilla dough to make it pliable

If at any point through the tortilla making process the dough seems too dry or too wet, add a little more water or masa to the dough.

3 Form balls of dough: Pinch off a piece of the masa dough and rub it between your hands to shape it into a ball the size of a plum, or slightly large golf ball.

Make about 16-18 balls from the dough.

make golf ball sized balls of tortilla dough make several balls of tortilla dough

Pressing the Tortillas

4 Prepare the press with two sheets of plastic: Cut two pieces of plastic from a plastic freezer bag into the shape of the surface of the tortilla press.

5 Place ball of dough between the plastic sheets and press: Open the tortilla press and lay one piece of plastic on the press. Place the masa ball in the center.

Place another piece of plastic over the masa ball.

place ball of tortilla dough on a sheet of plastic on the base of the tortilla press cover the ball of tortilla dough with another sheet of plastic

Gently close the press and press down, until the dough has spread to a diameter of 4 to 5 inches.

close the tortilla press with the tortilla dough inside open the tortilla press to reveal the flattened tortilla dough

Cooking the Tortillas

6 Heat a griddle or a large skillet on high heat. A well seasoned cast iron griddle or large cast iron pan works well for this.

7 Remove the raw tortilla from the plastic: Working one at a time, hold a tortilla in your hand, carefully removing the plastic on each side.

Remove plastic from the pressed tortilla dough

8 Lay the tortilla down on the hot pan: Allow the tortilla to rest half on your hand, and half hanging down, and gently lay the tortilla down on to the skillet. Start working on pressing the next tortilla.

drape tortilla on your hand place tortilla on hot pan

9 Cook the tortilla on one side, then flip: Cook the tortilla on the hot pan for 30 seconds to a minute on each side. The tortilla should be lightly toasted and little air pockets forming.

air pocket forms on tortilla on hot pan homemade corn tortilla on hot cast iron pan

10 Keep the tortillas warm, covered: Remove the tortillas to a tortilla warmer lined with dish towel or paper towels, or wrap them in a dish towel to keep them warm.

Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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79 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Doubleclutch

    If you are unable to obtain masa harina, here is how you can make your own:
    https://www.mexicanplease.com/homemade-masa-dough-using-yellow-field-corn/

  • Nivedita

    Thanks for the detailed instructions. I added a pinch of salt to the dough. Didn’t have a tortilla press. Used skillet and cut out plastic bag to flatten initially and then rolling pin to get fairly thin. The tortilla peeled off very easily off the plastic wrap. I’ll admit I have practice rolling out and handling Indian wheat dough rotis. So these were no problem. I cooked on a cast iron griddle, on medium high heat. But mine didn’t get the dark brown charred marks as in the picture above. Will try higher heat next time. They puffed all the way up. Again because of the roti background I also tend to measure success by whether or not it puffs up all the way.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Chris J

    Dang. Recipe works, but the trick is removing the pressed, uncooked tortilla from the wax paper. Even if successful in that endeavor, it has to transfer (sticky a bit) from my hand to the skillet flat and round…and I’m successful only about 30% of the time. Watering my hands? Spraying oil on the wax paper?

    Probably best to hire some Mexican grandma!

  • Karin

    I am failing miserably at making these! The dough sort of resembles wet sand, so I add a little water …now it’s too sticky. I went back and forth adding more water, then more masa until it looked alright. But when I tried forming the tortillas they just crumbled and stuck everywhere.

    Does anyone have any suggestions? Tips would be greatly appreciated!

  • Jeanie

    Perfect! This is my second time trying to make tortillas- the first time I used a different recipe and was only moderately successful. This recipe, with Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina and a tortilla press, made gorgeous tortillas! Thank you.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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