Corn Tortillas

Corn Tortillas on a towel

The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 24 mins
Rest: 10 mins
Total: 49 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 12 tortillas
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
207 Calories
2g Fat
44g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 207
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1593mg 69%
Total Carbohydrate 44g 16%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 83mg 6%
Iron 5mg 27%
Potassium 150mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

There is nothing like a freshly-made corn tortilla. Yes, you can buy them from the grocery store. But if you're asking a Mexican, there's just no other option: You have to make the corn tortillas fresh yourself. This is because we put everything in a tortilla, which means we turn everything into tacos, which means the tortillas better be good.

People have been nixtamalizing corn and using it to make corn tortillas since pre-Colombian times. In past centuries there was a huge variety in the size, shape, and color of tortillas, and you can still find a good diversity of tortillas today. In every part of Mexico they feel and taste different depending on the region.

From the time we're little we watch our parents and grandparents make tortillas from scratch. From watching we begin to learn. But even for those of us who grew up with freshly-made corn tortillas, it takes practice.

Your first tortillas may be dry, and they may break when you try to handle the masa. Or, they may be too thick. But keep practicing. Little by little you'll become better, and then you'll truly appreciate the effort that is required to make fresh tortillas. 

It is easier to make tortillas with the right equipment. You can find tortilla presses at Latin American markets or online. You can find a comal in the same places, or a cast iron pan works just as well. Most grocery stores in the U.S. carry masa harina in the Latin American or International section. For higher-quality masa harina try ordering from brands like Masienda online.

Now let's get our hands to work making corn tortillas. 

"The corn tortillas were excellent, and they were easy to prepare and cook. I used just slightly less than 1 1/2 cups of water for about 9 ounces of masa harina, and they were perfect. The corn tortillas would make excellent soft fish, shrimp, or meat tacos, or enchiladas." —Diana Rattray

homemade corn tortillas
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. The water should be almost hot.

    Corn Tortillas ingredients, masa harina, salt and water

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Combine the masa flour and salt in a large bowl and start to add the water little by little, mixing the dough with your hands.

    Masa flour, water and salt dough in a large glass bowl next to a measuring cup with water

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  3. Then knead the dough for 2 to 3 minutes. You will know when the masa has enough water when it stops crumbling and you can form a soft, smooth ball with little to no cracks. It should not be sticky; instead, it should have a texture similar to fresh play dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and allow to rest about 10 minutes.

    Dough ball in a glass bowl

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  4. Prepare your tortilla press. Line each side with a piece of parchment paper or with disposable plastic bags cut in half. Pre-heat a comal or a dry cast iron pan over medium heat.

    Tortilla press lined with parchment paper

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  5. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces. Shape each piece, rolling firmly between your hands, into 2-inch-sized balls. Keep covered with the towel or wrap to keep them from drying out.

    Dough balls on a white plate

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  6. Press the tortillas. Place a ball of dough in the center of the lined tortilla press, a little bit closer to the hinge. Place the other sheet of parchment paper or plastic on top.

    Dough ball on parchment paper on a tortilla press

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  7. Bring the top of the press down on top of the dough firmly, with as much pressure as you can muster. Open the press, flip the tortilla over, and press it again.

    Tortilla dough pressed between parchment paper on a tortilla press

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  8. When the comal or the pan is hot, place a tortilla on it and cook until the tortilla starts to form shallow hot air pockets, about 40 seconds. Flip and cook the other side for an additional minute. Flip once more and cook until it starts to puff. If this doesn't happen, gently press the center with your spatula. Place the cooked tortilla inside a folded towel to keep warm.

    Corn tortilla cooking in a cast iron skillet

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  9. You can press the next tortilla while you're waiting for the other to cook. Continue cooking each tortilla until they're all done. The steam inside the towel will soften them a little more.

    Corn Tortillas on a towel

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Tips

  • To make sure the tortilla dough is not too wet, shape your first ball of dough and test it before shaping the remaining dough. If it sticks to the plastic or parchment when pressed, add it back to the bowl, add a bit more masa flour to the dough, and test again.
  • It takes time for the masa harina to absorb the water, so make sure you give your dough at least 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes to rest.

How to Serve Corn Tortillas

Corn tortillas can be used in many dishes. Fry them up to make tortilla chips for a platter of nachos or make delicious meat, seafood, or vegetarian tacos. Homemade corn tortillas also make excellent enchiladas, taquitos, and quesadillas.

How to Store

Wrap cooked tortillas in plastic and store in the fridge for about 3 days. Warm on a pan or comal, never in the microwave. If you have a gas stove, you can also heat tortillas directly over the flame, holding them carefully with tongs.  


We don't recommend freezing your tortillas.

Why is my tortilla cracking when I cook it?

If the tortillas crack while cooking that means either the pan is too hot, or your dough needs a little more water.

What if I don't have a tortilla press?

If you don't have a tortilla press, you can roll out the dough balls with a rolling pin, but they tend to come out uneven and too thick.


Instead, you can place a heavy-bottomed pan on top of the dough (still using plastic or parchment paper) and press with all your might. Again, you may not get the thinnest tortilla, but it will have the right shape with much less frustration.

Are corn tortillas gluten free?

Yes, corn tortillas are gluten free, provided the masa is processed in a factory that does not process gluten products. Check the package if in doubt.