When I go to a Mexican restaurant and they ask me “Corn or flour tortillas,” I am always going to choose corn. I think they are so much more flavorful! In Chicago, you can go to just about any grocery store and pick up a package of corn tortillas still warm on the shelf, soft and pliable… you can smell the masa emanating from the package! But you cannot get those beautifully fresh corn tortillas throughout most of America, which is why I think most Americans prefer flour tortillas. What’s a corn tortilla-loving gal to do when she lives in a rural town in Michigan and she wants an authentic and amazing taco? Well, she makes her own!
If you live in a town or close to one that has a place that makes fresh corn tortillas, you can often buy the masa needed to make your own tortillas from them. Likely if there is a place making tortillas close, you can already get good tortillas, so you may not be as inclined to make your own. But if you do have access to fresh masa, it will create an even fresher tortilla. In Mexico, many people buy tortillas already made and many people still buy the masa and make their own. If you do not have access to fresh masa, you’ll need to make your own from masa flour. You can usually find masa flour at the grocery store but if not, you can purchase it online and have it around for whenever you need it.
Step One: Make the Masa
This recipe only makes 6 tortillas, but it is easily scaled if you want more.
1 cup masa flour
Pinch of fine sea salt
Approximately 1 cup of warm water
Put the masa flour in a bowl and add the warm water gradually, you may need a little more or a little less than a cup. Mix with your hands until combined, and the dough isn’t sticking to your hands. It should also be pliable enough to roll into a thin disk. If the dough is too dry, it is difficult to roll and it will break apart. If this happens, put the dough back in a bowl and add a little more water. There is no need to knead this dough because there is no gluten in masa flour.
Step Two: Portion the Dough
I used a portion scoop so I could have more even sized tortillas, but there's no need to do that if you don’t have a scoop. Just dived the dough in equal portions, about two-inch-wide balls.
Step Three: Roll the Dough
I couldn’t recommend a tortilla press more, so if you have one, just line both sides of the press with wax paper or a Ziploc bag, put the ball of dough into the center and press. If rolling by hand, you are basically doing the same thing: put the ball of dough between two Ziploc bags or sheets of wax paper and roll evenly. You’ll roll it as thin as you can without the tortilla falling apart. Don’t worry if it does fall apart, just ball it up and re-roll it, or if it seems too dry put it back in the bowl and mix in a little more water.
Set the tortillas aside but don’t stack them unless you put a layer of wax paper between them. Usually people will start cooking the tortillas as they are rolling them so you don’t have to worry about them sticking together. If that just seems like too many moving parts at one time, roll them all at once and then cook them all at once.
Step Four: Cook the Tortillas
Heat a Comal or flat cast iron pan over medium high heat. Do not add oil to the pan, simply put the tortilla in the pan and cook on the first side until it doesn’t stick anymore. Flip it over and cook on the other side. You may flip it back and forth a couple of times until it is cooked through, you’ll see the dough turn more whiteish all over, and you’ll see a few brown spots when it is down. This just takes a minute or two.
Stack the tortillas up after you cook them and wrap in plastic wrap for a few minutes or until you are ready to eat them. They will steam and soften up under the plastic wrap. I’m heading to the freezer now to pull out some of my homemade Chorizo so I can whip up a taco this instant!
If this blog has got you craving true Mexican flavors, join us in one of The Chopping Block's upcoming Tacos and Tequila classes. If you want to see the versatility of tortillas, you should sign up for our wildly popular Touch of Seoul class. After writing this blog, I realized we should be teaching people how to make their own homemade tortillas in class so keep your eyes peeled for that in our upcoming curriculum!
Tacos and Tequila
Touch of Seoul