Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas)
Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas)

Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas)

Recipe by Pati Jinich

The difference between store-bought and homemade corn tortillas is striking — and this recipe proves it. Shared with us by Pati Jinich of PBS' Pati’s Mexican Table, this tortilla recipe features the distinct flavor of masa harina, the traditional flour used in Mexico for corn tortillas. Try fresh homemade tortillas in tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas — anywhere you’d use the purchased version. Once you become familiar with the tortilla-making process, you'll never go back to store-bought again!

30 mins
32 mins
1 hr 5 mins
sixteen 5" tortillas
Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas) - select to zoom
Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas) - select to zoom
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  1. To make the dough: Weigh your masa harina; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. In a large, shallow mixing bowl, combine the masa harina and salt. Gradually add the warm water, stirring with your hands to make a cohesive dough.

    Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas) – Step 2
  2. Using your hands, mix and knead the dough in the bowl for a minute or so, until it’s smooth and somewhat firm; it should feel like Play-Doh.  If the dough sticks to your hands and feels wet, add more masa harina a teaspoon to a tablespoon at a time. If you roll a piece into a ball and squeeze it and the edges crack, add more water a teaspoon to a tablespoon at a time.

  3. To shape the tortillas: Preheat a comal, a cast iron or nonstick pan, or a griddle over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until evenly hot.

  4. Cut two round or square pieces of food-safe plastic — from a plastic produce or zip-top bag — to a size about 1/2" larger than the diameter of your tortilla press (see “tips,” below). Set aside.

  5. Divide the dough into 16 pieces (about 35g to 40g each) and roll each piece into a ball. Place the balls on a clean work surface and cover them with plastic or a damp kitchen towel to keep them moist.

  6. Working with one ball of dough at a time, sandwich it in the center of two pieces of plastic. Place the plastic-enclosed dough on the bottom plate of a tortilla press. Gently squeeze the handle of the press until the dough is about 1/16” to 1/8” thick and about 5” in diameter. To achieve a nicely round tortilla, jiggle the handle of your press just as you near the bottom. You may need to press it a couple of times to get the desired thinness.

    Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas) – Step 6
  7. To cook tortillas: Peel the top piece of plastic and then the bottom piece away from the tortilla. Quickly but gently lay the tortilla on the hot pan. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly flat (you’ll get better as you practice), and don’t try to move it, which will cause it to tear.

    Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas) – Step 7
  8. Cook the tortilla until it releases easily from the pan and its color has lightened and become opaque, 30 to 45 seconds; you don’t want the tortilla to brown or become freckled at this point.

  9. Using a spatula or your fingers, flip the tortilla and cook it until the bottom edges start to brown and some freckles appear, 60 to 90 seconds more.

    Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas) – Step 9
  10. Flip the tortilla one more time and cook until it puffs, 10 to 15 seconds. If the tortilla doesn’t puff on its own, gently poke it a few times near the center. Once it puffs, let the tortilla cook for 15 to 20 seconds longer, until fully set and soft.

    Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas) – Step 10
  11. Remove the tortilla from the heat and wrap it in a clean kitchen towel, or transfer it to a cloth-lined tortillero.

    Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas) – Step 11
  12. Repeat the pressing and cooking process with the remaining dough.

  13. Storage information: Enjoy the tortillas the same day by keeping them wrapped in a kitchen towel or tortillero. Refrigerate leftover tortillas, wrapped in a kitchen towel and sealed in a plastic bag, for two to three days, or freeze for two to three months.

  14. To reheat tortillas: Preheat a comal, pan, or griddle for 5 minutes over medium heat and warm the tortillas for about a minute on each side.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Masa harina (translation: dough flour) is flour made from corn that’s been soaked in a solution of slaked lime (nixtamalized) to loosen its hull and soften it, which improves its texture and helps release its nutrients. The soaked corn is ground into a paste (masa), dried, and then ground again, this time into a fine flour. Due to the corn’s special treatment, neither cornmeal nor corn flour are good substitutes for masa harina.

  • Do you really need a tortilla press to make these corn tortillas? For best results, yes, but a heavy skillet or Dutch oven that has a flat bottom that’s at least 6” in diameter can work in a pinch. Place the dough between your two rounds or squares of plastic then center the skillet over the dough. Press the dough with the skillet as evenly as possible until it’s 1/16” to 1/8” thick and about 5” in diameter. You may need to press several times to get the desired thinness.

  • We were lucky to have Pati’s expertise as we learned the ins and outs of making homemade corn tortillas. Thanks to her, we picked up these five handy tips and tricks.

  • If you’re having a hard time transferring the tortillas to the hot pan, press them between two parchment squares, peeling off one square and using the second to transfer the tortilla to the heat before removing it. One downside of this technique is that the parchment tends to leave marks on the tortillas.