Julianna Strickland

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homemade corn tortillas

juliannastricklandtortilla

I never liked corn tortillas until I visited Mexico years ago and tasted my first handmade one. WHOA. When they’re hot off the grill they’re soft and warm and so insanely delicious. I asked if someone would teach me how to make them (good news, I found a willing taker) and now they’re something I love making at home.

mexican corn tortilla

tortilla making in mx!

(p.s. you’ll note i had a log of dough here, THIS IS INCORRECT DON’T DO THIS.)

Let’s start with what you’ll need. I definitely suggest picking up a tortilla press if you plan on making tortillas at home. Here’s a good cast iron version that won’t rust, and here’s an aluminum one that will rust but it isn’t that big of a deal and it’s cheaper than the cast iron version. You can also use a heavy bottom pan or a casserole dish to press your tortillas, but it’s hard to press hard enough and make them even.

Ingredient-wise, you need very little. Most importantly, you need masa harina, a corn flour that has gone through a process called nixtamalization. It’s very easy to find: it’s in most regular grocery stores, all Mexican markets, and online. There are yellow corn, white corn and blue corn versions. Yay options! Then you just need a pinch of salt (this isn’t traditional but I think it greatly improves the flavor of tortillas) and warm water.

maseca julianna strickland masa harina

To start, mix the masa harina and salt together in a bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups of warm water and stir to combine. Add more water a tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft and smooth without being sticky, knead it a bit with your hands until it comes together (it should feel like Play Doh).  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow the dough sit for 10 minutes or so the masa can fully hydrate.

Take a gallon size plastic bag or a large piece of plastic wrap and cut 2 circles the same size as the tortilla press out of the plastic.  Open the tortilla press and place one circle on the bottom plate of the press.  Before you start pressing the tortillas, heat a non stick grill pan or frying pan on medium high (a well-seasoned cast iron pan will also work). Roll a chunk of masa into a ball the size of a golf ball and position it in the center of plastic circle.  Place the second piece of plastic on top of the masa and lightly press the top plate down. The key here is to press just enough that you flatten the dough but NOT so much that it becomes thin like paper. I like mine to be a little on the thicker side, so I always press lightly, open the tortilla press to check my progress, and then press again if necessary. If you over-flatten the dough, just roll it into a ball again and start over!

julianna strickland corn tortilla
julianna strickland corn tortilla
julianna strickland corn tortilla

Once you’ve flattened the tortilla to the proper thickness, lift the top plate up and slowly peel the plastic off of the dough. Place the tortilla on the pan and let it start to cook. (I also need to note that during this process, don’t pre-roll all of your dough balls, they’ll dry out. Just pull dough out of the bowl and keep it covered with the wet towel while you work.)

julianna strickland corn tortilla

Once you notice the edges of the tortilla starting to dry out, it’s time to flip it! Cook on the other side until it begins to bubble up a bit. Depending on how hot your pan is, you’ll cook them from about 2 - 4 minutes each.

Continue the process until all of the masa is used.  As you finish grilling each tortilla, wrap it in a clean dish towel inside a tortilla warmer or heavy lidded pot.  This is an important step - stacking the tortillas together and keeping them warm will allow them to steam a bit and become the perfect texture.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

julianna strickland corn tortilla

I’ll include the full recipe below, make sure to comment if you have any questions! If you’re confused by any of these steps, here’s a video you might find helpful. Also, thank you to my incredible photographer Juliana Slemenda. You can see more of her work here!


Corn Tortilla Ingredients:

  • 2 cups masa harina (I like Maseca brand, and it’s the easiest to find!)

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 ½ cups lukewarm water

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine the masa harina with the salt (note: this is not entirely traditional, and can be omitted if you prefer, but I like a little salt in mine!).  Add 1 ¼ cups of the water and mix to combine. Add more water a tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft and smooth without being sticky, knead it a bit with your hands until it comes together (it should feel like Play Doh).  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow the dough sit for 10 minutes or so the masa can fully hydrate.

If you don’t have a tortilla press you can use a heavy saucepan or plate, but I very much recommend buying a tortilla press.  They’re inexpensive and do the job so much more efficiently than anything else! Take a gallon size plastic bag and cut a circle the same size as the tortilla press out of the plastic.  Separate the two circles, open the tortilla press, and place one circle on the bottom plate of the press. Before you start pressing the tortillas, heat a flat grill pan or frying pan on medium high.  Roll a chunk of masa into a ball the size of a golf ball and position it in the center of plastic circle. Place the second piece of plastic on top of the masa and lightly press the top plate down. Lift the lid and carefully peel the plastic off of the tortilla.

Cook the the tortilla for about a minute on each side until lightly browned.  Continue the process until all of the masa is used. As you finish grilling each tortilla, wrap it in a clean dish towel inside a tortilla warmer or heavy lidded pot.  This is an important step - stacking the tortillas together and keeping them warm will allow them to steam a bit and become the perfect texture. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Makes about 12 tortillas