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Corn tortillas are easy enough to make with the right tools and technique! With the tips and tricks laid out in this recipe, you’ll know how to make corn tortillas that are undeniably authentic: soft, foldable, and with that sweet, nutty scent of authentic Mexican street food.
Your first step toward making delicious Mexican street food at home is to master the traditional corn tortilla recipe. Don’t be daunted — it’s all about using the right ingredients and getting the right timing. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be looking for excuses to make them with every meal!
We’re using traditional masa harina flour to create 14 6-inch tortillas — the standard size. You’ll be surprised by how quickly these cook!
I also want to remind everyone reading that practice makes perfect. You won’t get perfect corn tortillas on your very first try. But the dough is very forgiving! You’ll get a feel for it very quickly. Save any ones you deem not worthy and cut them up to fry and make into tortilla chips! Nothing is wasted.
Table of Contents
Is My Masa Hydrated Enough?
Roll a piece of dough into a ball. Holding the dough ball in one hand, use your index finger and press down in the middle of the ball. If the edges of the flattened ball crack, it’s too dry and you need to add a little more water. It may feel like it doesn’t need more water, but if it cracks, trust me, and work in a tablespoon or two of water at a time until it passes this test.
Also if it’s too sticky, add some more masa, but it still must pass the no-crack test!
Don’t Have a Traditional Comal to Cook Tortillas On?
A comal is a smooth, flat griddle typically used in Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America, to cook tortillas and arepas, toast spices and nuts, sear meat, and generally prepare food.
If you don’t have one no fear! Any well-seasoned cast iron pan, a non-stick skillet, or pancake griddle will do the trick.
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- Masa Harina – Masa harina is a dried Latin American corn flour. Its flavor is nutty, buttery, and savory. This is an absolute must-have ingredient if you want to learn how to make corn tortillas that are truly authentic.
- Kosher Salt – Use just 1 ½ teaspoon of salt the first time you prepare this corn tortilla recipe. You might be tempted to use more for very flavorful tortillas, but the masa harina has a tremendous amount of flavor on its own! Add more salt as desired in your next batch.
- Warm Water – I’m being picky with the temperature for a reason! Using warm water makes the dough more pliable and workable.
- Vegetable Oil – Mexican corn tortillas are usually cooked in vegetable oil. I would recommend, if you don’t want to use vegetable oil, that you try a neutral oil like sunflower or corn oil.
Master the Puff!
Heat your well-seasoned comal, cast iron skillet, or nonstick pan to around 400-500 degrees F. We want this REALLY hot because we’re searing both sides of the tortilla quickly and trapping the moisture inside.
- Mix Dough. Combine the masa, salt, and oil in a large bowl. Pour the warm water on top and mix with your hands until a dough forms. Knead for just a minute or two.
- Check That Hydration! Different brands of masa harina require varying amounts of hydration. Test the dough by rolling some into a ball, holding it in one hand, and pressing into it. If the edges crack, it’s too dry — add a tablespoon of warm water. If it’s too sticky, add just a bit more masa flour. The most important thing is that the dough doesn’t crack!
- Shape. Roll the dough into 14 balls, covering with a damp paper towel as they’re formed. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.
- Press. Lay plastic wrap or parchment paper on the tortilla press. Place one dough ball on it and gently close, pressing on the top of the press to flatten the ball to a 6-inch disc with roughly the thickness of a quarter.
- Sear. Immediately transfer the raw tortilla to a comal, skillet, or pan that has been preheated to 400-500 degrees F — it needs to be very hot. Cook each side for just 20-30 seconds. It should puff, but it’s fine if it doesn’t. It will still be delicious!
- Store. Transfer each cooked tortilla to a tortilla warmer or wrap in a kitchen towel. Store in a plastic bag to keep them soft and warm.
- Tortilla Press – This tool is well worth the investment to get the tortillas to just the right thickness without much work.
- Comal, Pan, or Skillet – It’s crucial to use a flat, evenly-heated tool to quickly sear the corn tortillas.
Storing and Reheating
I highly recommend serving this corn tortilla recipe immediately for the softest tortillas possible.
If not serving right away, wrap the corn tortillas in plastic wrap. Wrap in two layers, and maybe even a final layer of aluminum foil for good measure, to make sure the storage is really airtight.
Reheat back on the skillet, pan, or comal for just 15 or 20 seconds on each side until warmed through, flipping before the surface browns.
It could be that you’re pressing your tortilla too thin. Re-roll and apply less pressure to the lever of your press. Your masa might also be too wet. Let your mixed masa rest 10-20 minutes, covered, to fully hydrate. If after resting, it sticks to your hands, incorporate more masa harina and repeat.
Why do my tortillas keep sticking to the pan?
If the tortillas are getting stuck to your cooking surface, it could be that your pan isn’t hot enough (aim for between 400 and 500°F), or that they needed to cook a bit longer. Wait until the edges of the tortilla begin to change color just slightly before flipping the first time.
Dough breaks because it’s too dry.
The dough must remain moist until you’re ready to fry it. Ensure this by keeping the dough covered with a damp paper towel whenever you’re not actively kneading, shaping, or pressing it.
Once pressed, fry right away in your comal, skillet, or pan so that it doesn’t have time to dry out.
Many qualities make corn tortillas a healthier choice than flour. They’re made with whole grains so they have all of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals you lose with refined grains. They also have fewer calories and carbohydrates.
Not quite. Masa harina is made with an entirely separate process that involves nixtamalizing corn, which introduces an alkali agent to the grain and forms hominy. This hominy is then ground to create masa harina, which is much preferred in an authentic corn tortilla recipe.
Cornmeal is simply ground kernels. It is rougher and won’t yield the same workable dough and soft texture that masa harina does. It also doesn’t have as much flavor.
How to Make Corn Tortillas
- In a large bowl add the masa harina, salt and oil. Pour the warm water over all and using your hand, mix until the dough forms.
- Knead the dough in the bowl for a minute or two. Test if hydrated enough by rolling a piece of dough into a ball. Holding the dough ball in one hand, use your index finger and press down in the middle of the ball with the other hand. If the edges of the flattened ball crack, it’s too dry and you need to add a little more water (tablespoon at a time). Also if its too sticky, add some more masa, but it still must pass the no crack test!
- Roll the masa into 14 balls of equal size, being sure to cover with a damp paper towel as you work. After all have been rolled, cover and let rest 30 minutes.
- To make it easier to peel the dough off and into transfer to pan, lay some plastic wrap or parchment paper on the open tortilla press and place 1 dough ball on top. Fold the other side of the plastic wrap or parchment paper over the dough and gently close and press the upper portion of the tortilla press to flatten it out into a 6-inch size round. No need to press it like you're the Hulk, you'll get it! You are looking for a thickness similar to a quarter (25 cents). Open the tortilla press and carefully peel back the plastic wrap or parchment paper and transfer the tortilla to your hand.
- Carefully transfer the raw tortilla onto a hot comal, griddle or nonstick skillet and cook for 20-30 seconds (See Note 3). Carefully lift an edge with a spatula, grab and flip it using your fingers, then cook the other side for 20-30 more seconds. Flip the tortilla again and cook for another 20-30 seconds on each side, it should puff, but if it doesn't don't be discouraged. They will still be good.
- Place each cooked tortilla in a tortilla warmer or wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and place them inside a resealable plastic bag to keep them warm and soft.
- Please note that every brand of masa harina is different, and depending on air humidity, will require a different amount of hydration.
- Also, as with anything new, practice makes perfect. Don’t get frustrated if they are not perfect at first. If they stick to the liner, scrape and re-roll them.
- Heat your well-seasoned comal, cast iron skillet or nonstick pan to around 400-500°F, we want this REALLY hot because we’re searing both sides of the tortilla quickly and trapping the moisture inside.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.