Imagine walking into the grocery store early one morning and seeing this:
That’s the dough used to make fresh corn tortillas each morning in the markets of Cozumel.
Luckily, you can easily mimic this process at home by buying a bag of this:
Masa Harina, or corn flour, is the corn dough pictured above but in a dried and powdered form. Add some water and you are 15 minutes away from a stack of warm, delicious corn tortillas. For less than a buck. (What is Masa Harina?)
Making a batch of these beauties comes with two main benefits, the most obvious being a stack of corn tortillas that are good enough to be eaten on their own.
The other, hidden benefit is that your taste buds will now have a built-in tortillameter that you can use to gauge the quality of tortillas sold in your neighborhood. It will help you stay away from the ones that have strayed too far away from the nixtamalization process.
Enough chatting, how do I make ’em?
OK, all you need is 2 cups of masa harina, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1.5 cups of warm water.
Add the 2 cups of masa harina and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a mixing bowl.
Add one cup of the warm water and stir until all of the water is absorbed. It will look like this:
Now start adding the rest of the warm water incrementally, a couple tablespoons at a time, and stirring regularly.
The idea is to keep adding water until the flour bits meld into a dough. At that point you can pick it up with your hands and knead it together.
But there is some trial and error along the way as the exact amount of water used can vary. If the dough is sticking to your hands there is probably too much water. You can dial it back by adding some additional flour to the mixture and kneading. If the dough isn’t forming a cohesive ball you probably need to add a bit more water.
Eventually it will look like this:
Next, we’ll separate the dough into golf ball sized chunks, rolling between the hands to form a smooth ball. This will make the tortillas about 4 inches across.
We need something to put on either side of the dough ball to prevent it from sticking when flattening. You can use plastic wrap, but I’ve found that cutting a large Ziploc bag into halves works best:
That’s half a Ziploc bag on either side of the dough ball. And after flattening:
Ideally, the tortilla peels off the plastic effortlessly. If it’s sticking there is probably too much water in the dough.
And don’t worry if you don’t have a tortilla press, you can use a skillet or bowl that has a flat bottom.
Here I’m using the bottom of a casserole dish and you get the same effect as a tortilla press. Just be sure to put plastic on either side of the dough ball:
OK, there are two schools of thought when it comes to cooking the tortillas.
The first simply cooks them on each side for 1-2 minutes, or until brown spots start to appear on each side.
The second flips the tortilla 10 seconds after putting it on the skillet and then cooks each side for 1-2 minutes. The idea is that those first 10 seconds will seal in some of the heat as it’s cooking.
I’ve found the second method makes the tortillas lighter and fluffier, so I use that one. It’s a little bit more work, but I think it’s worth it.
So again…heat the skillet to medium-high heat. Add a tortilla and flip after 10 seconds, then cook each side for 1-2 minutes or until brown spots form on each side.
Don’t be surprised if they start to puff up during cooking, that’s a good sign!
Eventually, you’ll have a stack of warm, steaming corn tortillas.
They are best eaten as soon as possible. If you want some friends for life feel free to share with neighbors.
These two cups of masa harina made 16 tortillas, each approximately 4 inches across.
Not pictured is the tortillameter that you have now acquired for life!
Update: Bob’s Red Mill has been my default masa harina lately. See our latest article for a side-by-side comparison: 3 Different Masa Harinas To Choose From.
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Homemade Corn Tortillas
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1.5 cups warm water
- Add 2 cups masa harina and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of the warm water and stir until the water is absorbed. Add the rest of the water incrementally until the flour melds into a dough. Use your hands to knead the dough into a cohesive ball. If the dough is sticking to your hands, add a bit of masa harina to dry it out.
- Separate the dough into golf ball sized chunks, this will make tortillas approximately 4 inches across.
- Flatten the dough balls using a tortilla press or a flat bottomed pan. Be sure to line each side of the dough ball with plastic or ziploc pieces.
- Heat a skillet or comal to medium-high heat. (Lately I use a tad over medium heat and this will have brown spots forming in about 60 seconds.)
- Add a tortilla and flip after 10 seconds. Then cook each side for 1-2 minutes or until light brown spots are forming.
- Continue cooking the rest of the tortillas.
- Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge.
This article we wrote on types of tortillas has a current list of all the tortilla recipes we have on our site, including this one for making corn tortillas from fresh masa dough.
We also just used some Masa Harina to make a batch of Tamales.
And some of these Gorditas:
And our latest post shows how to make a batch of tortillas from dried White Olotillo Corn.