Homemade Corn Tortillas: Easy, Delicious, Nutritious & Economical
The title of this post pretty much says it all. Homemade corn tortillas are easy (and quick) to make. They are absolutely delicious, with a roasty-toasty, deep corn flavor that enhances whatever their filling might be. They are surprisingly nutritious when made with traditional “masa harina,” ground corn flour which has been treated with limewater in a nutrient-enhancing process called nixtamalization. They are also a “slow-release” carbohydrate, so they won’t cause the same spikes in blood sugar that simple carbohydrates (like processed white flour) can. Finally, they are extremely economical. A 4.4 lb (2 kg) bag of masa harina cost me less than $3 at my local grocery store, and will make well over 100 tortillas without the preservatives, unhealthy fats, and sodium so often found in pre-packaged tortillas.
Did I mention how easy it is to make homemade tortillas? You don’t even need a specialized tortilla press to try out the recipe — you can pat the tortillas out by hand, roll them with a rolling pin, or press them with a flat-bottomed dinner plate. Ever the gadget-lovers, the Gentleman Tortilla Master and I did eventually decide a cast-iron tortilla press (less than $20 at a Mexican grocery store in Des Moines) was a worthwhile investment. The press takes up hardly any counter space, and makes tortilla-making not only foolproof, but fast enough for everyday weeknight dinners. Plus, it’s really fun to use.
masa harina (ground corn flour)
Use equal amounts of masa harina and warm water to create the tortilla dough. One cup of flour to one cup of water will make 8 tortillas, so you can adjust the proportions according to how many tortillas you want to make.
Mix the warm water into the flour with your hand, and keep kneading the dough until you have a smooth, pliable ball that is soft — like Play-Doh — but not sticky. Divide the dough in half and in half again, until you have the appropriate number of pieces of dough for the number of tortillas you’re planning to make.
Roll each chunk of dough into a round ball; it should be about the size of a golf ball. Drape a damp paper towel or kitchen towel over the dough to prevent it from drying out as you start flattening and cooking the tortillas.
Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and press with a tortilla press, pat out by hand, or roll with a rolling pin. Peel back the parchment paper from the tortilla and place it on a hot, cast-iron pan or griddle over medium-high flame. After about 20 seconds, the edges of the tortilla will look dry and start to lift slightly. Use tongs to gently flip the tortilla and cook it on the second side for another 20 seconds or so, until the tortilla looks slightly puffed. Stack the cooked tortillas in a clean cloth napkin or paper towels as you work through the rest of the batch. The tortillas make be slightly stiff when they come off the griddle, but the steam captured by the napkin will soften them.
Fill with your favorite fillings and enjoy while still warm!