Friday, February 23, 2018

Homemade Corn Tortillas – Seconds to Learn, Years to Master

Even though they only require a few of ingredients, and the technique to make them only takes a few seconds to learn, homemade corn tortillas do take a fair amount of experience to master, because of all the variables. But, don’t let that stop you from trying, since the results, even as produced by a novice, are vastly superior to ones from the grocery store. They’re also significantly cheaper, but the “vastly superior” part is more than enough reason.

That’s because a bag of Maseca, which is the most commonly found brand of masa flour in U.S. grocery stores, and the one I used, is very inexpensive, and will make hundreds of tortillas. So, the instant corn masa flour isn’t a variable, but pretty much everything else is. From the amount of water, to how much salt, to how hot a pan to use, to how long to cook them; everyone seems to have a little bit different system.

When it comes to the water, you’ll know you have the right amount, if your tortillas press out to a nice round, relatively smooth-edged shape. If the outside edge of the tortilla has cracks once pressed, then you need more water. On the other hand, if the tortilla sticks to your fingers, or breaks apart getting it off the plastic, then it was too wet. Adjust accordingly. And like I said, give yourself a few years to experiment.

As far as the pan, I go with a cast-iron skillet, which I get nice and hot over high heat, and then I’ll back it down to about medium while I cook my tortillas. I also tend to cook mine a little longer in the pan than is traditional, but I enjoy that nice, lightly-toasted corn flavor you get when a little bit of browning occurs. A few extra seconds in the pan is fine, as long as they are stacked, and wrapped in the towel, which is probably the most important step in the entire operation.

In fact, eat one of these right from the pan, and then compare it to one that you’ve let steam together with the rest of the tortillas in the towel. You’ll be truly amazed at the difference. So, if you enjoy store-bought corn tortillas, but always wondered what the real stuff was like, I hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 10 Corn Tortillas:
1 cup instant corn masa flour (aka masa harina)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup hot water (about 130 F.)
- adjust with more water or masa flour as needed

20 comments:

Kim said...

Do you think this would work with an organic, non GMO type of corn flour? Or does that not even exist? 😂 Thanks Chef John!

The Fine Art Diner said...

Hi Chef John!
I absolutely love Food Wishes! You are so delightful and make me confident that I can successfully carry out any of your wonderful recipes. THANK YOU!!!
I do have a question about the tortillas: can these be frozen? It would be awesome to make up a batch, freeze, then re-heat just before serving during the week.
Thank you again and very best wishes!
Kasey

Bob Rugg said...

Can these be Frozen and reconstituted? It just seems that spending half a day making 7 or 8 dozen would be worthwhile if they could be preserved.

Alonna Smith said...

Hey Chef John,

Love your Vlogs and especially this one because I have attempted to make corn tortillas and they weren't great. I think I didn't rest them.

Secondly, I have a request that you do an injera video. I love injera so much but to do it right, it is a project. Oh, and if you do, could you make it 100% teff so it is gluten free (and more authentic)?

Thanks so much and keep up the good work!
Alonna

ilya epshtein said...

Great recipe. I really wantto try it.

Is there a way to adjust this recipe to corn mill?

There is no maseca flour where I live :/

Thanks

Cindy Draia said...

THANK YOU! I've been trying to master these for some time. You e included some GREAT tips!

Bryan Gardner said...

Do you think a panini press would work for pressing tortillas? I may just have to try it

Greeter said...

What?! No comments? This is a very handy recipe and I have lived in Central America for 15 years and I appreciate this recipe because you are right, there is nothing like freshly made when compared to store bought. Thank you for your endless creativity in this blog.

ScienceSusan said...

I was hoping I could use the P.A.N. corn flour as a substitute, ‘cuz I have a kilo bag minus two arepas, but no. P.A.N. is the precooked stuff and masa harina did some lime thing instead. Columbian arepas look quite thin; not sure what’s the diff. I used a semicolon to demonstrate I went to college.

Dave Shield said...

Thanks for posting, Chef! How hot should the pan be for this recipe?

Ed Adams said...

Chef J, I have a question for you regarding risotto. I know how to make risotto and in fact it’s probably my specialty after living in Italy. My wife won’t o0rder it in any American restaurant, if she wants it she asks me for it. I’m curious how it’s prepared in a restaurant. I must assume they don’t start with uncooked rice because it would just take forever to get out to the customer. I think they might pre cook the rice somewhow but not sure what that process is. I know you haven’t done a risotto recipe, expect for an oven cheat one or that was paella, I don’t remember. Anyway, if you could find the time to answer my question I’d appreciate it. I’d say something silly like I’;d be a bigger fan, but I already am.

Thanks in advance, or thanks anyway if you are too busy.

Ed Adams

Jordan said...

How do you recommend storing them so I can eat them throughout the week?

Jordan said...

How do you recommend storing them so I can enjoy them throughout the week?

Steve Kennedy said...

Thanks, I keep making mine too dry, and I thought they were too wet. I always get ragged edges and tearing.

beemo said...

Like tortillas, Chinese 'Bao' bread rolls are dead simple to make, but no doubt require fine technique to get the best results. (All-purpose flour, rise, shape, steam.) Perhaps you could try them for us? Recipes are all over the Web.

Novonia said...

Mine came out to a perfect 9 tortillas, however only one really puffed any - though they still tasted really good, I 'm just wondering what I did wrong; I followed the recipe though my dough stuck to my hands so I added more masa until it no longer did this (maybe an extra 2Tbsp) I used a dry cast iron, heated like you said in the blog on high and then turned down to medium once at temperature. The masa was freshly bought from the store this week, and I even washed a few dishes before getting the hot tap water to not waste any.

beemo said...

To practice for when I get some Maseca (for corn tortillas), I just tried making a few samples of your version of primitive flatbread. It is fun and the results are completely edible, but due to inexperience I have no way of evaluating the quality at this point. Clearly it is another easy-to-learn-lifetime-to-master product. Thanks again

Donna said...

The resting is important. I never rested mine before and they never came out quite right. These were perfect. While wheat flour tortillas can be frozen with good results, corn cannot because they thaw to a mealy mess. They do keep for a long time in the fridge. I don't know how long these will last but the store-bought ones last for at least a month. Of course, they probably have preservatives.

Sean Scott said...

I tried mine with a small twist. I used the juice from a small lime and added thr rest of the water to make 3/4 liquid total. And they turned out brilliantly.

Philippe et Émilie said...

@ Kim, I tried another type of corn flour. I was never able to reach the required texture. It always got to crumbly or too sticky. Tried the same flour as chef John (by chance, we had it at Super C, in the international section). I had less trouble than he had dare I say! As he said, very important to get instant flour.