How to Make Nixtamal

Edsel Little / Flickr / CC By 2.0

Nixtamal is the treated corn that is used to make masa and hominy. First, the corn is cooked and soaked in lime, rinsed and then the hulls may or may not be removed. This task may seem daunting and the ingredients may seem unusual, but they are easily found and you will have fresher tasting Posole, Tamales, and Tortillas. Once you assemble the ingredients, the rest is easy.

Here are some recipes you can use nixtamal in-

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 2 hours to 24 hours, depending on what you will be using it for

Here's How:

  1. Prepare
    Measure out 3lbs or 2 quarts of dried corn, 4 quarts of water and 5 tablespoons slaked lime.
  2. Mix
    Mix water and lime in a large nonreactive pot. Turn up ​the heat to "high" and stir constantly until lime is thoroughly dissolved.
  3. Cook
    Add corn to pot and remove any kernels that float to the top. Bring water to a rolling boil, then turn down heat to let it simmer. See #8 for cooking times.
  4. Soak
    After simmering for the appropriate amount of time, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Allow the corn to soak in the heated water. See #8 for soaking times.
  5. Rinse and Remove
    Drain corn in a large colander and rinse under water using your fingers to rub the corn, removing all traces of lime. If you are making hominy, it will be necessary to remove the hulls at this time. The hulls are the little brown tips, and you can just rub them or pick them off.
  6. Additional Rinse
    Put the hulled corn into a large bowl and cover with lukewarm water. Allow to soak for 5-10 minutes while moving the corn around with your fingers. Repeat. This will ensure the lime is washed away.
  7. Drain
    Drain the finished corn through a colander and you now have nixtamal.
  8. Cooking and Soaking Times-
    1. Tortillas- Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let soak overnight.
    2. Tamale Dough- Boil for 15 minutes, then let it soak for 1 1/2 hours.
    3. Hominy- Boil for 15 minutes and let it soak for 15 minutes.
  9. Process or Grind
    To make tamale dough or dough for tortillas, you will need to grind the nixtamal. The food processor can be used for tamale dough, but it won't grind it fine enough for tortillas. You can use a grinder, or a metate y mano to grind it very fine for tortillas.


  1. Make sure to remove all of the lime or your masa will be sour and taste bad.
  2. For hominy, remember to remove the hulls.
  3. Follow the cooking and soaking times because they differ depending on what you are going to be using it for.
  4. Be very careful with the lime as it is caustic and can cause bodily harm if ingested in large quantities. It is in the same family as lye.
  5. If you have trouble finding lime, try the pickling supplies section of your local grocer. It may be called pickling lime.

What You Need:

  • Dried Corn - Feild, Dent or Hominy
  • Lime- "Cal", Slaked Lime, Calcium Hydroxide (Not Quick Lime or Calcium Oxide)
  • Water
  • Food Processor or Grinder
  • Non-Reactive Pot (Stainless Steel or Enamel)