DIY Food

Homemade Corn Tortillas

June 29, 2012

Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.

This week, Kelsey Brown of Happyolks shows us a gadget-free way to make our own delicious corn tortillas at home.

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The inspiration to make my own tortillas comes from my time studying in Nicaragua in 2010. I lived with a family in a small corrugated tin hut and watched my host mother prepare tortillas every morning (at 4:00AM) over a Lorena, or block style wood burning stove. She dried her own corn and ground it in stone bowls before creating the paste with water and salt. She didn't have a press, and I remember being tasked with pressing them flat with my hands.

Of course, it is my fundamental kitchen belief that if it comes from a package, it's probably not going to taste like the real deal. Masa harina is cheap -- the investment is your time. Time well spent, in my opinion, creating new memories and sparing your belly from all the nasty additives and preservatives you'll find in the store-bought variety.

This technique for press-less tortillas at home is, in reality, no creative genius. It occured to me, after letting my dough rest for an hour, that most logical folk would go about figuring out how to flatten their tortillas before making a mess of the kitchen.

No tortilla press? Eh, no biggie. I don't collect kitchen gadgets because more often I'd rather spend my money on good coffee beans or gogi berries (dang, they're expensive!), but I think it would be neat to have one of these around. Of course, then you miss out on the fun of using casserole dishes and making noises like the Williams sisters while you prepare your dinner. Okay, I'm being dramatic. But the grunts make them taste better, right?

Homemade Corn Tortillas
Makes 8-12 tortillas, depending on how big you make them

2 cups masa harina
1 1/4 cup hot water
pinch of salt

Dissolve salt into the measured glass of warm water. Pour over the bowl of masa harina slowly, stirring as you go. Mix until combined; smooth but not sticky. Knead/press into a ball. Cover, and let rest for as long as you can wait -- 30 min-2hrs.

Lay out a few (2-3) sheets of parchment paper and fetch a nifty casserole dish or Pyrex to help you press out the dough.

Pinch off a golf-ball sized chunk of dough and roll into a smooth ball. Set between two pieces of parchment and start to flatten a bit with your hand. Continue with hands, or for even edges, grab your casserole or Pyrex dish and put your weight into it over the sheets of parchment and the ball. Remove dish, peel back parchment, and voilà.

Cook for two minutes on each side in an non-greased frying pan (cast iron is best). Set aside and begin to stack ‘em up.

Save and print the recipe here.

Kelsey will be answering questions about tortillas on the Hotline for those of you who want to take on this project at home. For the quickest response, go to her recipe and ask a question from there -- we'll email her your question right away!

On your next trip to the grocery store, skip those enticing bags of potato chips, and pick up a big old sack of potatoes instead. And be sure to stay tuned for next week, when Lara Ferroni will show us how to make crispy, salty potato chips right at home.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jessie Beck
    Jessie Beck
  • Smaug
  • Brandon
  • linda a johnson
    linda a johnson
  • sara
"Be a lamp or a lifeboat or a ladder..."


Jessie B. January 4, 2018
Love making homemade tortillas -- definitely going to try out this method.

Also, gogi berries? Isn't it spelled goji?
Smaug July 30, 2015
It would be pretty simple to make some guides for this- the dough doesn't spring back. If you have a tablesaw (or know someone who does) it's a simple matter of cutting a couple of strips the appropriate thickness, but you could also use cardboard, plastic or metal strips- whatever you can find around the house. I'd guess about 1/16" thickness, but that's just a first guess.
Brandon April 3, 2014
Can you freeze for later use? How long do they last in the refrigerator?
I_Fortuna April 3, 2014
Commercial corn tortillas last indefinitely in the freezer and for over a month in the refrigerator. Therefore, I should think the homemade tortillas would last at least as long. They defrost quickly so most can be stored in the freezer. They freeze very well, just try not to let moisture accumulate inside the wrapper. If it does, I wipe mine out with a paper towel. Moisture condensation causes them to fall apart.
linda A. March 4, 2014
i purchase masa harina at regular grocery store - in the "mexican" food section - with salsas, refried beans, chiles, etc. i have not tried Bob's Red Mill brand, though that is available in the "organic" items section at our grocery.
Smaug July 30, 2015
I couldn't get "Bob's" masa to hold together as tortillas- it's pretty coarse, probably better for tamales. Maseca makes a yellow corn version, which tastes much better than their regular tortilla masa. I paid a ridiculous $10 per kilo for it online (from Amazon), but there's no reason it should be particularly expensive- just the facts of buying food online.
sara March 4, 2014
I made flour tortillas for the first time last night and they were so good that I thought I would try corn tortillas. I am confused about Mesa Harina? Is that a standard at the typical grocery store or do I need to go to a specialty store?
I_Fortuna April 3, 2014
Masa Harina can be found in your grocer's Mexican (or ethnic) food isle. If it is not available at your grocer's, they sometimes will order it for you. Otherwise, you may find it online. We buy ours at Walmart.
Jo S. February 4, 2014
I want to try this I make flour tortillas, but have never made corn.
Joan D. December 7, 2013
Do you know where I can find non-GMO masa harina?
Ali R. February 7, 2014
Bob's Red Mill. Even though it's not labeled (because of the lime treatment), it's GMO free.
I_Fortuna October 23, 2013
This is a good recipe and how tortilas are often made in the home. Calcium hydroxide (slacked lime) is how masa harina is processed. This makes it very different from regular cornmeal. Tortilla dough must be pressed as thin as possible to get super thin foldable tortillas.(Hence, tortilla press or pressed as demonstrated here.) Personally, I like mine thicker and I see no reason to fold them anyway. All food can be piled on top and eaten like a tostada or with a knife and fork or semi-folded to pick up. In addition, the dough can be rolled out, filled and baked as an empanada or filled and steamed as for tamales.
Smaug July 30, 2015
Commercial makers are now using guar gum in tortillas- it makes for a very flexible tortilla, which withstands trips in grocery bags much better than other tortillas. I plan to try it if I ever come across guar gum- my local stores only have Xanthan gum (Bob's)- don't know how that would work, and it's quite expensive. Most tortillas will fold pretty well when warm, and it is essential to some dishes.
Maritza G. September 25, 2013
Im from nicaragua and from what i know our tortillas are thicker and dont fold as easily as the thin ones most americans are used to eating. i wonder if these are like that because i would love to make my own.
darren August 24, 2013
Made these and they tasted great, but they were not good for folding, is there something that I should change to make them more foldable?
linda A. August 22, 2013
something seems wrong here! the "photo" story requires 2 c. masa to 1 c. water (+1tsp). the printable recipe requires 1 c. masa to 2 c. water. which is the correct proportion?
Maxymina August 26, 2013
mor than on and less than two, the texture should be play-dough like. probably 1+1/2 or 1+1/3
linda A. August 26, 2013
do I get this correctly? the 2 c. masa to 1 c. water would be right? the printable recipe of 1 c. masa to 2 c. water would be very watery?
Maxymina August 26, 2013
more masaharina than water
Stephanie B. April 30, 2014
We've updated the recipe to have the same amounts as here.
Smaug July 30, 2015
It'll depend on the Masa and your method- I usually end up with about 7/8c water to 1 1/4c. Masa for 8 medium thickness tortillas. I usually make the dough in the morning and finish in the afternoon- it does take some time to hydrate;
Teresa August 22, 2013
This is a nice solution for those of us who don't own a press (although I wish I had one). Can hardly wait to make my first batch.
bellly October 23, 2012
Can I use cornmeal from Anson Mills to make tortillas?
natalie G. July 9, 2012
I use Bob's Red Mill masa harina; it has a better flavor than white corn masa (being yellow corn masa, that is). I have a tortilla press, and it's definitely worth the small investment. I can crank out 8 tortillas for dinner in no time. once you taste 'the real deal', it is really hard to ever buy tortillas from a package again.
Anthony B. July 1, 2012
What kind of masa do you use--isn't that key?
aargersi July 1, 2012
We also add a squeeze of lime to our masa. Home made corn tortillas are seriously so much better than store bought!
Lizthechef June 30, 2012
Nice to see a fellow San Diego food blogger featured here - lovely post.
Happyolks June 30, 2012
Liz! I've recently moved from San Diego to Denver, CO! :) I'll miss you guys.
Lizthechef July 1, 2012
Nuts - we will miss you. I follow your blog and thought you were just going on a long vacation...Don't forget your SD buds.
darksideofthespoon June 29, 2012
I need to try this!
NBrush June 29, 2012
Perfect, going to try this evening--thanks!
babs1652 June 29, 2012
I make mine like this but I add 1/8 teaspoon each of onion salt and powdered garlic. To me, this is the smell of Mexico and I am transported back there each time I make them. What a coincidence to have this posted today because this is what I am making for dinner tonight!