Homemade corn tortillas, also known as tortillas de maíz, are a basic Mexican recipe. Learn everything you need to know about how to make them from scratch with masa harina, even if you don’t have a tortilla press.
Use them to eat with your favorite Mexican recipes. From tacos to enchiladas, stews, soups, and so much more. This easy recipe is a game-changer!
Corn tortillas are a staple food in Mexican cuisine consisting of a flat gluten-free bread that is a base for many traditional dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas.
In Mexico, corn tortillas are usually made with fresh corn dough, either bought from a tortillería (tortilla shop) or prepared with masa harina.
Masa harina is a soft flour made from dried corn kernels which are treated with cal (a chalky substance also known as lime or calcium hydroxide).
The corn kernels will be soaked in this solution to soften and release their skin, improving their nutritional value and flavor.
After being soaked the corn will be milled into a flour called masa harina, or cooked and ground into a dough called masa.
Masa harina is the most common way of making dough for tortillas de maíz since it is available in many countries outside Mexico and it has a long shelf life. The flour is perfect to make also tamales, gorditas, sopes, and other Mexican traditional recipes.
The difference between homemade and store-bought corn tortillas is the flavor and quality.
Ingredients & Equipment
- Nixtamalized corn flour: This flour is also called masa harina and is easily available in many countries through Amazon and Mexican grocery stores online and locally. There are many brands such as Maseca, Minsa, Natural, Maza Real, etc.
- Water: Use room temperature water. I don’t recommend using hot water as it will slightly cook the flour and change the tortilla texture.
You will also need the following equipment:
- Comal, non-stick pan or skillet, or a griddle: For cooking the tortillas you will need one of those.
- Heavy dish or rolling pin: I highly recommend using a heavy dish to shape tortillas as a rolling pin is more difficult.
- Tortilla press (optional): If you’d like to enjoy homemade tortillas often, I suggest investing in a tortilla press, they are available at Amazon or in some kitchen gadgets stores. If you have a Mexican food store near to you chances are that they will also sell them, ask for “prensa para tortillas” or “tortillera”.
- 2 plastic sheets: To prevent the dough from sticking when flattened. Cut a resaleable bag to make 2 sheets about 10×10 inches (25×25 cm). Once you’re done, just clean them with a paper towel and reuse them anytime you make tortillas.
- Clean kitchen towel: To keep the homemade tortillas warm and soft. You can also use a tortilla warmer but honestly, a simple kitchen towel and a plastic bag or bowl will do the same.
How To Make Homemade Corn Tortillas
Heat a cast iron skillet or a comal over medium-high heat. Also, line a large bowl with a clean kitchen towel to keep tortillas warm.
1.- Make the dough
Place masa harina in a large bowl. Start adding water little by little and mixing with your hands until combined.
Knead for 4-5 minutes until you will have a dough that doesn’t stick to your hands or to the bowl. The dough texture should resemble play dough.
2.- Shape tortillas
Take 2-3 tablespoons of corn dough and roll it into a ball. If you want to make large tortillas you can use 1/4 cup of dough instead.
Place the dough ball between the plastic sheets and press a bit with your hand to make a patty.
Press with a heavy dish to flatten the dough until it forms a 5.5-inch (14cm) tortilla.
Slightly moisten your hands with water, then take the tortilla wrapped in the plastic sheets with one of your hands and carefully peel off the top sheet.
Then, carefully flip the tortilla in your other hand with the dough touching your palm, and remove the remaining sheet.
3.- Cook tortillas
In a quick slide motion, place the raw tortilla onto the hot skillet and leave it to cook for about 40-45 seconds.
Flip it and cook for another 45 minutes or until the tortilla has some brown spots.
Turn the tortilla over again and cook for 15 seconds more to make the tortilla puff.
Place the homemade tortilla between the kitchen towel you prepared before and repeat the steps until all dough is used.
Using a rolling pin:
- Place the dough ball between the plastic sheets and roll the dough large enough to make a thin tortilla.
- To make perfect corn tortillas you can use a round container lid and cut around the edges the excess of dough with a knife (watch the video below).
- Make sure you don’t press the knife too hard or you’ll cut the sheet too. Then carefully peel off the tortilla as shown in the video.
How To Make Tortillas Puff
- Dough: Test the dough by making one tortilla first, if it has rough cracks around the edges it means the dough needs more water. If it falls apart or sticks to your hand when you try to take it, the dough needs more flour.
- Knead: Take the time to knead the dough, 4-5 minutes should be enough.
- Temperature: The pan temperature is important, it shouldn’t be too hot that will burn the tortillas within seconds, but neither too low that will take more than one minute to cook one side of the tortilla.
- Press: When both sides are fully cooked, press the tortilla against the comal with your hands or with a spatula.
How To Use
- Tacos: Definitely the most common use is for tacos. You can make Tacos al Pastor, Vegan Tacos de Lentejas, Steak tacos, or load those homemade corn tortillas with anything you prefer! Crispy tacos are also made with corn tortillas, such as tacos dorados, or tacos de papas.
- Flautas: Try those traditional Chicken Rolled Flautas or Chicken and Cheese Taquitos.
- Tostadas: Corn tortillas are fried or toasted in the oven and then served with your favorite toppings. Check out this Tostadas de Pollo or shrimp tostada.
- Enchiladas: Try these Red Chicken Enchiladas or some cheesy Green Enchiladas.
- Soups: Make a delicious sopa de tortilla with chicken and cheese.
- Classic: Serve warm homemade corn tortillas with your favorite Mexican dishes, such as Beef in Chile Colorado, Albóndigas stew, Chicharrón, Caldo de Res, and many others!
- Leftovers: Some recipes call for stale tortillas, such as Chilaquiles Verdes, migas for breakfast, or this homemade tortilla chips.
Store & Reheat
Homemade corn tortillas are best freshly cooked and warm, but you can also make them ahead and store them for later uses. Here is how:
- Spread tortillas over a kitchen towel so they will cool down completely, spreading prevent them from creating moisture, so don’t skip this step.
- Once cooled, place them in a resealable bag or wrap them tightly with cling film and store them in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
How to reheat homemade corn tortillas:
- If frozen, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator.
- Heat up a cast iron skillet or a comal over medium heat. Place two or three tortillas in a single layer and heat for about half a minute on each side or until soft.
- On the microwave. Wrap tortillas in a clean kitchen towel, then put them in a microwave-safe container and heat them in 30 seconds intervals.
Can I use corn flour instead of masa harina?
Because of the difference in how the corn is processed, substituting masa harina with cornflour will change the texture and yield a different type of dough not suitable to make homemade corn tortillas.
What is a good substitute for masa harina?
A good substitute for masa harina is harina P.A.N. This flour is used mainly to make arepas and empanadas, but it will also work for homemade corn tortillas. You can find harina Pan in Amazon and Latin American grocery stores.
Why are my homemade corn tortillas dry?
Some of the reasons why corn tortillas are too dry and present visible cracks, is because they were cooked for too long over low temperature, or because the dough needs a bit more water.
How do you make tortillas taste better?
If you’d like your homemade corn tortillas to taste better, you can add a pinch of salt to the dough or mix in some spices for a flavor kick.
What’s the Difference Between Masa Harina and Maseca?
Masa harina is a type of corn flour that is used to make tortillas, Maseca is just one of the various brands available of masa harina. Other famous brands include Naturelo, Minsa, and Maza Real.
Corn Tortillas vs Flour Tortillas
Corn tortillas are made with nixtamalized corn flour and are gluten-free, while flour tortillas use wheat flour which is not free of gluten. Flour tortillas also have lard or shortening among its ingredients and are rolled with a pin, unlike corn tortillas that can be flatten with a press, heavy dish, or hands, and uses only corn flour and water to prepare them.
Perfect Homemade Corn Tortillas
- 2 plastic sheets 10×10 inches (25×25 cm) each
- heavy dish or tortilla press
- cast-iron skillet or comal
- 3 cups masa harina
- 2 ¼ cups water (read notes)
- Heat a cast iron skillet or a comal over medium-high heat.
- Place masa harina in a large bowl and add water little by little while mixing with your hands until combined.
- Knead for 4-5 minutes and add more water if needed, until you will have a dough that doesn’t stick to your hands or to the bowl. The dough texture should resemble play-dough.
- Take 2-3 tablespoons of tortilla dough and roll it into a ball (read notes)
- Place the dough ball between the plastic sheets and press a bit with your hand.
- Use a heavy dish to flatten the dough until it forms a 5.5-inch (14cm) tortilla.
- Slightly moisten your hands with water and take the tortilla wrapped in the plastic sheets with one of your hands and carefully peel off the top sheet.
- Flip the tortilla in your other hand with the dough touching your palm, and remove the remaining sheet.
- In a quick slide motion, place the raw tortilla onto the hot skillet and cook for about 40-45 seconds.
- Flip it and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the tortilla has some brown spots.
- Turn the tortilla over again and cook for 15 seconds more to make the tortilla puff.
- Place the tortilla between a kitchen towel to keep it warm and soft.
- Repeat the steps until all dough is used.
- You might need more or less water than the recipe calls, it will depend on the brand of flour and the weather where are you making them. So make sure you add the water little by little.
- If you want to make large tortillas you can use 1/4 cup of dough instead.
- Test the dough by making one tortilla first, if it has rough cracks around the edges it means the dough needs more water. If it falls apart or sticks to your hand when you try to take it, the dough needs more flour.
- Take the time to knead the dough, 4-5 minutes should be enough.
- The pan temperature is important, make sure the tortillas don’t burn within 10 seconds, but neither take more than 1 minute per side to cook.
- When both sides are fully cooked, press the tortilla against the comal with your hands or with a spatula to make it puff.
Tried our Homemade Corn Tortillas recipe? Then please don’t forget to comment below if you liked and rate the recipe and follow us on:
Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.