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How to Make Homemade Corn Tortillas With Dried Corn

Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home". She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated".

Homemade Purple Corn Tortillas with Pork and Salsa

Homemade Purple Corn Tortillas with Pork and Salsa

Corn Tortillas: A Great Bread for Gluten-Free Diets

Tacos, huevos rancheros, enchiladas, tostadas: Who doesn't love them? Since masa harina isn’t available in this corner of the world, I imagined manually grinding the corn, laboriously forming a masa, hand-rolling the tortillas and finally toasting them on a griddle. What a pain in the back—literally!

Then I found a corn tortilla recipe by Alton Brown. Unlike commercially made tortillas, these rustic corn tortillas are a little coarser in texture and bursting with corn flavor. If you have a food processor or blender, you'll find they're faster and easier than flour tortillas since a tortilla press does all the work for you. Then it’s a matter of cooking them on a skillet or griddle, and voila: handmade corn tortillas tastier than anything you can purchase at a grocery store or elaborate with masa harina, and much more nutritious than flour tortillas.

Benefits of Corn Tortillas

Corn tortillas are a great addition to a gluten-free diet. Since many commercial brands contain gluten, making them at home is the safest option. Both low in fat and high in fiber, corn tortillas also contain potassium, iron and B vitamins. Blue corn tortillas have 20% more protein than those made of white or yellow corn. All corn tortillas are chock full of calcium thanks to the slaked lime used to soften the corn. In areas of the world where corn tortillas are consumed daily, they add a significant amount of calcium to the diet.

And the best news of all? You only need two main ingredients: dried corn and slaked lime. Below you will find information on purchasing these simple ingredients and the necessary equipment.

Where Can I Find Dried Corn?

You’ll need dried field corn, not sweet corn. Depending on where you live, it may also be called hominy, grain corn, dent corn, maize, maíz posole or maíz mote. In the United States, field corn is not grown for human consumption, although twice as much field corn is grown than any other single grain. Used as livestock fodder or to make grain alcohol, it is also ground for breakfast cereals, cornmeal or grits. In Mexico it is an ingredients in pozole and tamales.

To make the tortillas, dried corn is heated and soaked overnight in slaked lime, which softens it enough to be ground. At this point, the corn is called Nixtamal.

What Is Slaked Lime?

Slaked lime or calcium hydroxide [Ca(OH)2], is used in the United States to make mortar. Once it is mixed with sand and water, the mortar is sandwiched between bricks. Although strongly alkaline, it is not as caustic as quicklime. It is also sometimes called “pickling lime”. In many Spanish-speaking countries slaked lime is called cal. In Peru, cal is added to soup made with quinoa and given to woman for its high calcium content.

The Tortilla Press

Once you have found the dried corn and slaked lime, you’ll need a tortilla press. Tortilla presses are readily available in the United States, won’t take up much cabinet space in your kitchen and are inexpensive. I own this tortilla press, which is both durable and easy to use.

You can find information on Google if you'd like to fabricate your own wooden tortilla press.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

30 min

1 hour

14 to 18 corn tortillas

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried corn kernels
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons slaked lime (or cal)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons water

Instructions

  1. Combine corn, water and slaked lime in a medium saucepan over low heat.
  2. Bring slowly to a simmer, allowing about 30 minutes. Immediately turn off heat and cover.
  3. Soak corn overnight, at room temperature.
  4. Next day: Pour corn into a colander and rinse thoroughly with plenty of running water for several minutes, or until water runs clear. Rub corn between your palms as you rinse, removing some of the husks.
  5. Place corn and salt into a food processor bowl or blender container.
  6. Pulse the blender or food processor to grind corn as finely as possible, stopping occasionally to scrape down the bowl.
  7. Add 6 tablespoons of water, one tablespoon at a time, as you continue to pulse the corn.
  8. Pour ground corn into a bowl and mix with your hands until it forms a ball of dough. If it’s still too dry, add a little more water so the dough comes together.
  9. Knead the dough for several minutes with the heels of your hands.
  10. Pinch off a portion of dough and roll between your palms to form a small ball. Keep main ball of dough covered.
  11. Place ball in the center of tortilla press which has been covered with plastic bags.
  12. Press the tortilla, rotating it several times to press evenly.
  13. Peel tortilla from plastic bags and place on a very hot (400°F) griddle or skillet. If you don’t have a griddle, I recommend using two skillets to speed up the process.
  14. Brown tortilla, about 30 seconds on each side.
  15. Keep tortillas warm in a towel-lined basket.
The completed homemade corn tortillas.

The completed homemade corn tortillas.

One corn tortilla boasts a whopping 5% calcium and 2% iron!

Tips

  • This recipe makes rustic tortillas with hearty corn flavor. They won't be as finely textured as corn tortillas made with masa harina.

Soaking and Grinding the Corn

  • Soak corn for at least 8 hours or overnight. I’ve soaked corn for as little as 6 hours, but you won’t be able to grind it finely enough for the best result.
  • After soaking corn, rinse it thoroughly to remove the bitter lime.
  • You can’t overgrind the corn. Grind as finely as possible both before and after adding water.

Making the Dough

  • Add only the minimum amount of water suggested then pour the dough into a mixing bowl. Add more water, if necessary, so the dough just forms a ball.
  • If the dough is too wet, it will stick to the plastic bags. If the dough is too dry, the tortilla edges will crack when you cook them.
  • If you’ve added too much water, allow the dough to rest on the counter. Check the dough every 15 minutes and knead it several times, until it’s dry enough to manage.

Using the Press

  • Plastic wrap or plastic bags will keep the tortillas from sticking to the press.
  • Rotate the tortilla and press it several times. With practice, you’ll learn how thick/thin to press the tortilla so it easily peels from the plastic bags.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your first few tries yield less-than-perfect tortillas. Just spread them with a little salted butter and enjoy the fresh, nutty deliciousness as you press out the rest. No one will be the wiser!

Grilling the Tortillas

  • Heat the griddle until very hot. Brown tortillas on both sides until edges are dry.
  • Keep tortillas warm in a towel-lined basket.
Chicken mole.

Chicken mole.

Authentic Mexican Meal and Snack Ideas

Sweet and Smoky Chicken Mole Tacos

Fill warm tortillas with seasoned ground beef, beef tongue, chicken or pork. Serve with a sprinkling of queso fresco, chopped onion, cilantro and mole sauce.

Enchiladas.

Enchiladas.

Quick Stacked Enchiladas

Choose ground beef or shredded chicken. Combine with shredded cheese and enchilada sauce. Serves 6.

  1. Oil a 9x13-inch rectangular baking dish.
  2. Line the baking dish with corn tortillas, overlapping them a little if necessary.
  3. Spread the meat/cheese/enchilada sauce mixture over the tortillas.
  4. Cover with another layer of corn tortillas.
  5. Pour more sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
  6. Place in 350°F oven for 30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and melted.
Huevos rancheros.

Huevos rancheros.

Huevos Rancheros for Two

  1. Place 4 warm tortillas on a plate.
  2. Top with a fried egg and drizzle with enchilada sauce, mole or salsa.
  3. Finish with a sprinkling of grated cheese and chopped cilantro. I recommend either pepper jack or queso fresco.
Tostadas.

Tostadas.

Tostadas

  1. Heat 2 inches of oil in a skillet to 400°F.
  2. Fry tortillas until crispy and golden brown, about a minute on each side. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Top with seasoned ground beef or shredded chicken, chopped lettuce and tomatoes, salsa and grated cheese.
Queso fundido.

Queso fundido.

Queso Fundido

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces chorizo or other spicy pork sausage, removed from casings
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook sausage until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving any rendered fat in the pan.
  2. Stir in olive oil, jalapeño and red pepper. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add cheese, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until cheese melts.
  4. Garnish with cilantro and chorizo. Spread hot cheese mixture on corn tortillas.

Lime-Cilantro Butter

(from The New Best Recipe)

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon minced cilantro leaves
  • Pinch of cayenne, optional

Instructions

Beat ingredients until light and fluffy. Spread on warm corn tortillas and enjoy!

Crispy taco shells.

Crispy taco shells.

Fried Taco Shells

  1. Into a medium saucepan, pour oil with a smoke point high enough for frying. Make sure the oil is deep enough to submerge a taco shell.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 to 400°F.
  3. Using two tablespoons, submerge the tortilla and bend it into a taco shape.
  4. Hold the tortilla in place until crispy, about one minute.
  5. Drain taco shells on paper towels.

Not-So-Authentic Snack Ideas

  • Gluten-free cinnamon “toast”: Spread tortilla with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Toast under broiler until bubbly.
  • Use tortillas as roll-ups for sandwich filling and spreads, such as cream cheese and ham.
  • Cut tortillas in 4 to 6 wedges, spray wedges with oil or cooking spray, sprinkle with salt and bake at 400°F for 10 minutes, flipping once, for low calorie tortilla chips.
  • Grill fish or shrimp to make Baja tacos.
  • Tortillas make a great "crust" for gluten-free pizza.

Comments

Luke St Clair from Irving, Tx on March 07, 2019:

This all looks so good. Definitely going to try the corn tort recipe.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on May 14, 2013:

Beth37, I follow handicappedchef! Thank you for the kind words. : ) I'll have to go over there and check out his latest stuff.

Beth37 on May 14, 2013:

You are just so amazing. Have you visited https://hubpages.com/@handicappedchef page? If you two ever met in the same kitchen, I believe there would be a small explosion.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on May 14, 2013:

ClaudiaTello, I really appreciate the pin and comment! This is a nice short-cut recipe for corn tortillas that takes pretty close to the real thing.

Claudia Tello from Mexico on May 14, 2013:

Fantastic Hub and great food photography. I´ve pined it to my Authentic Mexican Food Board.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on February 02, 2013:

PeggyW, we love huevos rancheros! Now I'm craving them. : ) We just moved and there's a Mexican restaurant on the corner that makes them from scratch, so I understand what you mean about buying them being so much easier than making them. The homemade do taste a lot more yummy than the store bought ones, though. Thank you for the votes, comment and share!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 02, 2013:

Gave this 5 stars. While I may never make corn tortillas from scratch since they are so readily available and inexpensive in our part of the world, it sounded so interesting regarding making them from scratch. I also liked the suggested ways of using them in the recipes which followed. We often eat Huevos Rancheros for a weekend brunch meal. Up votes and sharing!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 10, 2013:

AudreyHowitt, making corn tortillas really isn't difficult. The most important step is to finely grind the corn with a processor and/or blender so the tortillas aren't coarse. I hope you have a chance to try them!

Audrey Howitt from California on January 09, 2013:

This just looks wonderful!!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on January 06, 2013:

Lemonkerdz, "masa harina" is used to make corn tortillas in Mexico. It's made from corn treated with slaked lime. If you use "harina de maiz", or corn flour (made of untreated dried corn), your tortillas will fall apart. You can try mixing half corn flour and half wheat flour, but the tortillas will be a cross between flour and corn tortillas. They also won't have the same flavor or texture as real Mexican-style corn tortillas. This method really isn't difficult and yields authentic, gluten-free corn tortillas. I hope you try it! Thanks for your comment.

lemonkerdz from LIMA, PERU on January 06, 2013:

Nice recipe, but have you ever used "Harina de Maiz"for making your tortillas. i saw for the first time in the local market. i'm guessing by its yellow color that it is milled dry corn. i have always made tortillas with plain flour but like the idea of milled corn.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on December 08, 2012:

AudreyHowitt, I can't imagine pressing out the tortillas without a press. No wonder you had problems! They aren't expensive and easy to order from Amazon. Be sure and use the plastic bags, which makes it easier to peel the tortilla off the press. Please let me how it goes if you think of it!

Audrey Howitt from California on December 07, 2012:

This looks wonderful. I have masa and have tried to make tortillas without a press and they just didn't turn out well--maybe I need a press???

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on October 08, 2012:

KoffeeKlatchGals, I find them easier to make than flour tortillas and so delicious! I hope you have a chance to try them. Thanks for coming by!

Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on October 08, 2012:

Wow, you tortillas look great. I never thought about making my own but yours look so inviting I'm going to have to try. Your meal and snack ideas look amazing. Thanks sfor sharing.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 21, 2012:

Bright yellow? That is suspicious, Letitialicious! It's surprising how easy these are too make. They just need a little patience. Thanks for the comment!

Letitialicious from Paris via San Diego on September 21, 2012:

These look scrumptious. In Paris we used to occasionally find imported tortillas, but some company appears to be making them here now, and they are a most suspicious bright yellow!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 20, 2012:

Cclitgirl, enjoy! The blue corn tortillas are my favorite. Thanks so much for coming by and for the vote, pin and tweet!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on September 20, 2012:

Beautiful hub! I love tortillas and I want to try using blue corn. YUM! Voted up, pinned and tweeted.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 31, 2012:

KrisL, it's so nice to meet someone who also appreciate fresh corn tortillas. I hope you enjoy the recipe and thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

KrisL from S. Florida on July 31, 2012:

Great hub! We made tortillas sometimes in San Antonio, because we could buy fresh masa there . . . now I see we can make our own!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 14, 2012:

Rebeccamealey, they're so much easier to make than flour tortillas. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be pumping them out all the time. Thanks so much for coming by!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 14, 2012:

Arlene V. Poma, making a tortilla press sounds like a fun little project. I found some step-by-step instructions at: http://www.curbly.com/users/chrisjob/posts/1013-ho... I hope that helps. Thanks so much for stopping by and please let me know how it comes out!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 13, 2012:

They look great. I don't know if I will get around to making these but I am filing this idea in the "someday I would love to do this" file!

Arlene V. Poma on July 13, 2012:

Oh, vespa! What a wonderful Hub! I was shopping around for a wood tortilla maker, but I think I can get my hubby to make one for me. I am open to all suggestions! When I was a child, my neighbor tried to show the neighborhood how to make flour tortillas, but all we were interested in was the end project. A+++, useful, interesting, and awesome!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 13, 2012:

Moonlake, it's difficult to master the flour tortilla rolling technique for uniformly shaped and sized tortillas. The tortilla press makes the process faster and puts out uniform tortillas. I hope you can find the field corn! If nothing else, you can buy almost anything on Amazon. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

moonlake from America on July 13, 2012:

Great hub. There was a girl that lived next door to me in Calif. We both girls and newly weds at that time. She tried her best to teach me how to make flour tortillas and I just couldn't get the hang of it. Maybe I could make these. Now to just find field corn. Voted up and shared.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 09, 2012:

Alocsin, there's nothing like the flavor of homemade corn tortillas! The lime also adds a substantial amount of calcium. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 09, 2012:

I love homemade corn tortillas. I imagine the lime in this adds a bit of a kick. Voting this Up and Useful.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 06, 2012:

SmartAndFun, homemade corn tortillas are so much better than the grocery store variety! I hope you can try them someday. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

SmartAndFun from Texas on July 06, 2012:

Corn tortillas just might be my number one favorite food of all time! I could eat them with melted cheese and salsa three meals a day. These homemade ones look delicious! I will have to give them a try!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 05, 2012:

Thanks for coming by Om Paramapoonya. It's always nice to hear from you!

Om Paramapoonya on July 05, 2012:

Neat! It's so interesting to learn how corn tortillas are made! Your photos made my mouth water as usual. Thanks for sharing.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 04, 2012:

Olde Cashmere, it's always nice to see you again. Thanks so much for your comment and vote!

Olde Cashmere on July 04, 2012:

I always love checking out your latest works vespawoolf. Thank you for offering up these delicious looking recipes. Voted up, awesome, useful, and interesting!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 04, 2012:

Man from Modesto, you're so right. These tortillas are much easier than making bread. You just have to plan ahead so the dry corn has enough time to soak. The process is enjoyable and the homemade tortillas are sooo worth the effort. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 04, 2012:

Beingwell, thanks so much for coming by and I really appreciate your vote!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 04, 2012:

Algarveview, so nice to make the acquaintance of a fellow Mexican food fan! Thanks so much for taking the time to read, vote and share. I really appreciate it.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 04, 2012:

Kelley, thanks so much for taking the time to read, vote and share! I'm always happy to see that you've visited one of my hubs. : ) There's nothing like homemade corn tortillas and they're so versatile in a gluten-free diet. Enjoy!

Man from Modesto from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California) on July 04, 2012:

This is great! It seems a bit easier than baking white bread, too.

beingwell from Bangkok on July 04, 2012:

Your tortilla looks so good!! Voted up!

Joana e Bruno from Algarve, Portugal on July 04, 2012:

Hello, Vespawoolf, I love Mexican food and your tortillas look divine... plus the chicken mole, enchiladas... hmmm... seems absolutely delicious... 5 stars for you... Voted up and sharing! Have a great day!

kelleyward on July 04, 2012:

What a fantastic hub! You've included so much here. I need to get a tortilla press so I can make gluten-free corn tortillas. Bookmarking this one. Voted up, 5 stars, and shared! Kelley

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 04, 2012:

Whole wheat flour tortillas are delicious and nutritious, but corn tortillas are in a class of their own. I hope you have a chance to try them someday. Once you get the knack of it they're actually quite easy. For me, they're faster than the flour variety. Thank you for your kind words, MargaritaEden. I really appreciate it!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 04, 2012:

Mhatter99, we wouldn't want to upset your wife's friend. I wonder if she uses masa harina or makes them from field corn and lime? Thanks for taking the time to come by. It's always nice to hear from you.

MargaritaEden from Oregon on July 03, 2012:

I love you recipes, they always look like masterpieces, these pictures just make my mouth water. I make whole wheat flour tortillas, but never made corn ones before. Thanks for the recipe!

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on July 03, 2012:

love tortillas. Unfortunately, my wife's friend would be upset if I tried you recipe. She makes all my tortillas.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on July 03, 2012:

Vespawoolf, I am truly a mexican food lover so this hub really spoke to me. Thanks again and you are so welcome too!!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 03, 2012:

Lovesleftovers, I'm so glad this hub inspired you to try making your own corn tortillas. It's bound to bring back wonderful memories of your Abuela. They're actually easy to make once you get the hang of it, and there's nothing like homemade as you know! Thanks for taking the time to vote and share. I really appreciate it.

lovesleftovers from Texas on July 03, 2012:

Wow, what an information and recipe packed Hub! My family is from Mexico, and my Abuela always made tortillas from scratch. I almost always take the short cut and purchase tortillas, but your recipes motivate me to make some fresh ones. Voted up and shared!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 03, 2012:

Janine Huldie, it's nice to know a fellow Mexican food lover! Thanks so much for taking the time to read, the vote and the share.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on July 03, 2012:

Love Mexican food and agree this left me so hungry right now. Seriously loved your recipes and have pinned, shared and voted up!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on July 03, 2012:

artist101, thank you for taking the time to read and comment! Homemade corn tortillas are so much more delicious than anything you can buy and so versatile, too.

Sherrie Gill from Hobart,In on July 03, 2012:

You are making me hungry!! looks very good.