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Homemade Corn Tortillas

I've made corn tortillas at home now a few times with the usual Masa flour / water mix. I have a press which works pretty well.

They always turn out ok, but just ok. For tacos, etc., they don't have that elasticity / flexibility that you get with good store-bought corn tortillas, and so they don't hold up very well when you use them for tacos. Also I can't ever get them as thin as the store bought ones - eventually the press just destroys the tortilla or the dough gets too thin and I can't peel it from the plastic wrap.

Usually I agree that the homemade stuff beats the store bought stuff every time, but in this case I am not so sure.

And I might be willing to accept that homemade / traditional corn tortillas are just different and that is what makes them so great, except I have been to good mexican restaurants who make their own tortillas and they are more like the store-bought ones than the ones I make at home, and so that leads me to believe that I am missing something.

Anyone have any tips on how to get thinner, better homemade corn tortillas?

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  1. I believe your results are what should be expected according to Master Mexican chef Rick Bayless: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/co... His recipe follows the article.

    I've had freshly made tortillas (corn and flour) from a tortillerĂ­a and trust me, store bought ones don't hold a candle to them. I applaud you for making them fresh!

    1. If you have a good tortilla maker nearby then forget making your own. I think the difference is fresh masa vs. masa harina. I keep the masa harina on hand for emergencies, but we just buy tortillas hot from the store.

      But if you want to make, line the press, you may need to add more water, and turn the tortilla around clockwise a few times and repress.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jsaimd

        I use a ratio of 10 oz white bread flour to 14 oz masa harina with some salt, oil and warm water. I've made my own tortillas for years using an electric tortilla press and a hot skillet on the stove. The tortilla press gets them started but isn't hot enough for me so after moment on press, I transfer them to the hot skillet to brown & puff them. I also often make a big batch of dough and freeze some pingpong size balls in the freezer - convenient and they thaw pretty quickly. This texture tortilla works great for fish tacos & rolls up very easily.

        I've also made the tortillas with masa harina only and pureed posole for the liquid. The flavor is great for enchiladas or when it doesn't matter if they fall apart a bit.

      2. I've been trying to make corn tortillas using Quaker's masa harina de maiz flour to which water is added. I completely agree that this is a case in which homemade doesn't come close to store-bought.

        First, the tortillas really need some salt. Apart from the corn flavor, they are just too bland.

        More importantly, when I try to lift the tortillas after rolling out or pressing out the dough, they always tear. They were also tearing when I eventually got them onto the non-stick 12-inch pans that I was using as a griddle (same pans I use for store-bought tortillas). I've managed to get them to not stick in the pans as much by putting a little oil on the pan before dropping the tortilla on - but they still stick in the pan somewhat.

        Now, I have to admit I haven't strictly followed the instructions, so a fair amount of the problem may be my fault. The instructions call for rolling out or pressing the tortilla balls between two sheets of wax paper. Since I haven't had wax paper on hand, I've tried parchment paper, aluminum foil, and a "non-stick" silicone-covered baker's mat. The tortillas would stick to all of these, so I eventually started oiling the silicone mat, which works to a degree, but they are still prone to tearing unless removed very, very carefully. Problem again is that they still tend to tear when I try to flip them in the pan.

        The instructions also call for making the balls of dough to be rolled out only 1 1/2 inches in diameter. But such small balls yield really small tortillas, so I've been making the dough balls larger.

        The tortillas that I've been able to make are also a lot thicker than what you get from the store or a restaurant. If they were any thinner, I wouldn't be able to lift them at all between the sticking and the tearing.

        So I'd only give these 1 star out of 5.

        My experience with Quaker harina preparada for wheat-flour tortillas (again, just add water) was completely different. They are a breeze to make and tasted pretty good. As with the corn flour, the instructions call for 1 1/2-inch dough balls, aiming for 6-inch tortillas, but these are too small for me so I just make them a little bigger. I also haven't been able to make the tortillas as thin as you would get from the store. But they don't tear and are much easier to lift than the corn tortillas, I guess from the gluten in the wheat.

        1. I agree that making good masa yourself is difficult and time consuming. In another post (that I can't find) the best tortilla masa supposedly is made from fresh ground nixtamalized corn kernels plus a little finely ground corn flour added.
          The best corn tortillas I've made were pretty much luck - one package of store bought, prepared masa had the perfect consistency, no preservatives, and I made the tortillas the same day. Possibly a moister batch of dough.
          Still, some taquerias in SoCal consistently manage to buy (or make) them - I just haven't found out where yet :-(.
          I've resigned myself to thicker, sturdier (but still tasty) homemade tortillas - no doubling needed for tacos!

          2 Replies
          1. re: DiveFan

            Recently I read an article about efforts to save water during the nixtamalization process. From that I gathered that in many Mexican towns, one or two businesses specialize in this, providing the fresh masa to neighborhood tortillerias.

            1. re: paulj

              Which is a scary step toward the "Wal-Martization" of Mexican villages.53% of daily caloric intake in Mexico is corn tortillas, and it's becoming an attractive business to corporate interlopers at the village level, much to the detriment of the village.

          2. I must be buying some awesome store bought tortillas because mine don't have that durability either.

            I have made home made tortillas however and learned that a light mist of oil on the wrap and they come right off.

            1. Our babysitter, from Puebla, makes the best corn tortillas I've ever had, either side of the border. She just uses the masa harina from the bag and some water, dash of salt. From watching her make them, it seems like the trick is in the kneading. Too much, they get tough, she says, too little, they'll fall apart. Unfortunately, this is not much help since it's like a mom-recipe that says, pinch of this, handful of that.
              I guess my point is just that you can use the storebought, non-fresh, masa and still make killer tortillas.

              4 Replies
              1. re: brownie

                Brownie, does she make them in a tortilla press?
                And how does she keep them from sticking to the counter after she rolls them out?

                1. re: racer x

                  roll them on plastic wrap or parchment - when you lift it up you can peel it off.

                  1. re: racer x

                    Yes, Rick Bayless has the best directions. He recommends a ziploc bag split open to press them in. They peel right off, no trouble.

                    1. re: Becca Porter

                      Yes! The ziploc cut open works SO much better than plastic wrap. I (re)use a heavy duty quart freezer bag.

                2. This would be a good topic for Chow Tips.

                  I think I'll watch a few youtube videos.

                  1. I don't use a press when I make mine... I wrap a cutting board and a wine bottle in plastic wrap (why buy a rolling pin when there's always a wine bottle around?) and roll them out by hand. They don't end up uniformly round, but that's the beauty of home-made. If you use the proper water-to-masa ratio, they shouldn't stick or tear.

                    1. Is there any difference between Maseca Masa mix (White bag/green lettering) and Maseca Masa for Tamales (Rose-colored bag)?

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: KaponE

                        There should be - real masa for tamales has lard in it! Not sure about some commercial product..

                        1. re: DiveFan

                          There isn't any lard in the actual Maseca Masa for Tamales product; when making tamales you add lard or vegetable shortening, but beyond that, here's Rick Bayless' take on the difference between Masa for tortillas and masa for tamales. He prefers Maseca brand, if fresh masa is not available, which is the brand I use, after not having the best results, flavor-wise, with the Quaker product:


                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                            BWG, I've had much better luck as well with Maseca than Quaker masa harina. But like others I can get masa already prepared, whether for tortillas or tamales, that's better than either brand of masa harina and way easier to use.

                          2. re: DiveFan

                            Thanks for the link, but he isn't real specific about the differences between Maseca Masa para tamales and Maseca masa para tortillas (texture?). Fortunately I can buy the prepared masa para tamales at several local markets - fresh tamales are enough work as it is!

                            I'm surprised that there is no 'powdered' lard in Maseca like there is in some American biscuit box mixes. I'd compare the ingredients at http://www.mimaseca.com but my good monitor died and I can't read the sites fine print on the backup one.

                            1. re: DiveFan

                              Fat is included in flour tortilla mixes. Lard isn't used for corn tortillas.

                              What's the proportion of lard to corn in tameles? Higher than in biscuit mix?

                              1. re: DiveFan

                                Hm, just a little jealous of both you and DiningDiva, fresh masa es muy dificil buscar en Nueva York. We do have a number of tortilla "factories" in Brooklyn that make godd tortillas, and sometimes for me it's a toss up between buying those on site or making my own. Although we really don't have many options for authentic Mexican food in Brooklyn, we do have a pretty substantial Mexican population in NYC and most ingredients for home cooks are generally available in mainstream supermarkets in certain neighborhoods. Just not fresh masa, as far as I know, sadly.

                                I don't remember the texture between the two masas being very different, a bit coarser for the tamale version, but the flavor definitely is lighter than Maseca para tortillas. As DiveFan mentioned, tamales are some work and I don't make them very often.

                                I checked the nutritional label for the Maseca para Tamales and there is no grasa (fat) % listed.

                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                  Attention New Yorkers who are looking for fresh masa: Hot Bread Kitchen in East Harlem (at La Marqueta on Park Ave & 115th) sells fresh masa made from blue, yellow, or white corn. It's only available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and you have to call ahead to order it for $3/lb.

                            2. re: KaponE

                              I think the tamale version is a bit coarser. Haven't compared them myself.

                            3. tried 'em too many times to do it again.
                              not worth the effort and the outcome is dismal.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: iL Divo

                                Lucky are the people who live near a Tortilleria!

                                1. Sam Salmon, I live near several but if and when I need tortilla's I just buy them from the market, no sense to my way of thinking to make an extra drive elsewhere, just not that important to me.

                                  good/decent or even passable corn or flour home made tortilla's in this house anyway, still elude me.

                                  1. I had the same problem. My first few batches of tortillas were tough, dry, and would crack in half if I tried to make a taco. I decided I hated tortilla presses, so I gave it away. Now I just use 2 cast iron skillets, a large Ziploc bag, and literally stand on top of the cast iron skillets to press it into a tortilla. It sounds more annoying than it actually is. Just make sure to wash the skillet........... Somehow this turns out the exact right thickness of tortillas. My other piece of advice is to make sure your dough has enough water. It's ok if it feels a little wet, as long as it's not sticking. If it's too dry, it'll crack no matter what thickness it is.

                                    1. I just started making my own corn tortillas myself. And it has been a hit and miss process for some time, because for some reason, certain corn flours does not work at all. But then I hit the jackpot with this one: http://gftonline.de/csv/grafiken/eng8...

                                      For some reason this works, while other corn flour doesnt. But if there is one thing I have learned, you need to add as much water to the dough as possible to make them soft and pliable.

                                      I need a few pointers though. Because even though they turn out great, they dont compare to the ones in mexican restaurants. Which are much softer than mine. Do I bake them too long in the pan?

                                      I use a really hot pan, and I always wait long enough for them to start bubbling up and get markings. But the ones in mexican restaurants are much paler and softer than mine.

                                      I also do not use a tortilla press. But I put a roll of dough between two sheets of baking paper, then roll them out with a rolling pin.

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: Ramius

                                        You might want to check your bag and see where it's from. I believe this product is from Colombia which makes it better for arepas than tortillas

                                        To make the tortillas you want, you need to be using a product from Mexico, which would most likely be Maseca.

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          I have just read up on nixtamalization and this flour is indeed wrong. Problem is nobody is selling mexican masa harina in Norway. But this one works quite well. It takes up alot of water and creates soft bread. Its just a bit more tough. But it tastes more corn though.

                                          1. re: Ramius

                                            Norway has a long tradition of flat breads, whether it's the soft potato lefsa or crisp flatbrød (that keeps all winter). http://mylittlenorway.com/2012/11/nor...

                                            This Pan flour is intended for arepas, which are a thicker 'cake', a bit crisp on both sides, but soft in the middle.
                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arepa discusses some national variations

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              This precooked cornmeal is absorbing alot of water, bubbles up in the pan and ends up with soft tortillas.

                                              But they are not that soft - as they should be. But they are surprisingly good.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                A blog about making arepas in Norway

                                                suggests Cool Chile Company in London for Mexican products.

                                              2. re: Ramius

                                                Corn may be more traditional with some dishes, but you probably have all the necessary ingredients in Norway to make some pretty decent flour tortillas. Flour + fat + water & salt. Rest, roll and cook.

                                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                                  And baking powder. Recipes I see always add that though a flatbread.

                                                  1. re: divadmas

                                                    The amount of baking powder is minor, and it's not entirely clear whether it does much.

                                            2. re: Ramius

                                              I was gifted this product-but it's been a while, think it's time to toss

                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                I have seen some corn tortilla recipes made from canned hominy grounds up in a food processor. Not tried it yet. Hominy is nixtamalized corn and great in red people, I like it much more than the green.

                                                1. re: divadmas

                                                  I'll assume you meant red posole and not red people ;-)

                                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                                    Oops don't you love tablet predictive spelling?

                                                    1. re: divadmas

                                                      I was pretty sure you weren't really eating people :-D

                                            3. If you can find them, these are really good: http://www.tortillaland.com/Tortillas. They're uncooked,so you just throw them on a grill or frying pan for a few seconds on each side. No preservatives and I think they taste so much better than the precooked store bought tortillas.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: gmm

                                                Costco has these in the loaf cheese aisle. Flour tortillas. They are much better though a little spendy. Thinner and more delicate than I can make homemade. Though I have rolled out homemade flour tortillas and deep fried into puffy Sopapillias.

                                              2. Good luck dear and do share us your results :)