In an ideal world, we'd make tortillas from fresh masa every time. Luckily, masa harina flour is a good alternative and makes any homemade tortilla a vast improvement over most store-bought ones.
Masa (wet) and masa harina flour (dry) differ from the cornmeal used in cornbread because they have undergone a centuries-old process called nixtamalization. This means that when the corn is just harvested, it’s dried and then soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution. This helps soften the corn while making it considerably more nutritious.
You can make a small investment in a tortilla press, which will produce perfectly uniform rounds, or press the tortilla dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper underneath a skillet. Traditionally, a comal (a flat griddle) is used to cook the formed tortillas, but a cast-iron pan works just as well. Try to resist tampering with the cooking tortilla.
Tortilla makers pride themselves on turning the tortillas only once. To encourage an air bubble, which is the sign of a properly made tortilla, they tickle or poke the center, often with the end of a dry, clean towel. Whether or not your tortillas inflate on the griddle, they will certainly improve any meal, even a simple bowl of black beans with a bit of salsa. Once you get this recipe down, as long as you have masa harina on hand you will be able to make tortillas anytime.
Prep Time30-35 minutes
Cook Time30-40 minutes
Cook it With Our
- 1 ¼ cups masa harina
- 1 cup hot water
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ to 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Combine the masa harina, water, and salt in a medium bowl and knead into a smooth ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes to allow the masa to completely absorb the water.
- Break off golf ball–size pieces of dough, about 40g each. (Use larger pieces if you want to make bigger tortillas.) Roll each piece into a smooth ball. If using a tortilla press, place one piece of plastic wrap on the bottom of the press, set the dough ball on it, and then place another piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough before pressing. Alternatively, choose a plate that has a high enough ridge on its underside to make the tortilla the thickness you like when a dough ball is placed directly under the plate and the plate is pressed down to rest on the work surface. Or you can simply press tortillas with the bottom of a pan or even a book. Stack the pressed tortillas on a plate until you’re ready to cook them.
- Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and cook the tortillas, one or two at a time, on each side until browned in a few spots and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes total, depending on the thickness of the tortillas.
- To store cooked tortillas, wrap in aluminum foil and set aside until completely cool. Place the foil packet in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days.