Don't you just love eating three-month-old tortillas from the store?
No? Learn how to make corn tortillas from scratch using just 3 simple ingredients then (2 of them are salt and water).
Are you on team corn or wheat when it comes to tortillas? If you're team wheat, you've probably never had a warm and authentic corn tortilla hot off the comal.
It's time you did.
This thin flatbread made of ground corn has been around for thousands of years (think waaaay back to 10,000 B.C.E.).
During the Aztec times, corn tortillas were eaten plain, dipped in chile sauce, or stuffed with different meats, veggies, and beans.
Originally known as "tlaxcalli" by the Mayans, Spaniards later gave them the name "tortilla," which comes from the Spanish word tort (or "cake").
Corn tortillas are a staple in Mexican culture and cuisine and are now widely enjoyed all around the globe!
What are they?
It doesn't get much easier than this. Corn tortillas consist of masa harina, salt, and water.
Simply mix those together, flatten each tortilla with a press, and cook them on a comal to form warm and delicious corn cakes.
You'll find many Mexican recipes start off with a variation of these three ingredients. Determining the dish's name depends on the corn tortilla preparation or cooking method.
For example, sopes are thick tortillas with a ridge around the edge to keep the toppings from falling off. Empanadas? That's just a corn tortilla folded over fillings and fried up. What about quesadillas? Corn tortillas with melty cheese and fillings inside.
You get the point.
Are they vegan?
Since the ingredient list is only masa harina, water, and salt, these are gluten-free, oil-free, and vegan!
We promise you won't be in the kitchen for hours making this corn tortilla recipe either because it's such a breeze! You need to see for yourself how soft and tender the homemade version is.
You'll never want to buy them from the store again.
Enjoy your tortillas hot off the skillet with your favorite taco fillings. We love serving these with tacos al pastor.
Not a taco person? Cut these up and make tortilla chips and guacamole! The options are never-ending.
We can't stress this enough — do yourself a favor and learn how to make corn tortillas! Everything will taste that much better and give you the traditional Mexican flavor you've been craving.
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
You're definitely going to need to understand and master this extremely important and versatile Mexican ingredient.
What is it?
Translated to "dough flour" and often confused with corn flour, masa harina is a type of corn that's been soaked in calcium-rich lime water. This process allows it to absorb calcium and niacin to make it easier on our digestion. The corn is then rinsed and ground into an "instant flour."
Masa comes in yellow, white, and blue corn varieties, and all work well for making tortillas. You'll be able to enjoy your tortillas in multiple colors!
On its own, masa harina has a nutty, almost mineral-like flavor. When cooked, it transforms to slightly sweet with a soft texture.
Since it's naturally gluten-free, this type of flour is sought after by those with gluten allergies. Masa harina also contains a higher amount of fiber, vitamin A, and zinc compared to wheat.
Where to buy it?
You can find this type of flour at most grocery stores in the Mexican or ethnic aisle. One thing to note: each brand varies in consistency and taste. If you follow this recipe, make sure to use the Maseca brand. If you use a different brand, the ratio of water may need to be tweaked slightly.
If you have questions about how to make corn tortillas, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: add the masa harina and salt to a mixing bowl and combine. Then, add in your warm water and mix everything together. You're going to want to use very warm water, but not so hot that you burn your hands.
Step 2: begin kneading the dough to form a ball that's sticky enough to stay together, but not coming off on your hands. Keep rolling and pressing with your palm for a few minutes (like you would when kneading bread dough).
Note: if the dough appears too crumbly, add a small amount of water at a time until you are able to form a texture similar to play-dough. If it becomes too sticky, add in a little more masa harina (it's all a balancing act).
Step 3: once you've got the right consistency, start forming small dough balls roughly the size of a golf ball. You should end up with about 14-16 tortillas in total.
Step 4: cut up a freezer bag into a couple of pieces that will fit your final tortilla size (about 5 inches). If you have a tortilla press, grab it out now!
Step 5: open the press and place a ball of dough in the center on one of the plastic pieces. Place the other plastic piece on top and close the press down gently to form tortillas. You can also use wax paper for this.
Note: if you don't have a tortilla press, don't worry! You can achieve the same results with a rolling pin, baking dish with a flat bottom, or whatever flat surface you own.
Step 6: preheat a seasoned cast-iron skillet for 10 minutes starting on low and working your way up to medium-high. Cook the tortillas on either side until brown spots are forming, then wrap them in a tea towel while you cook the rest.
Keeping warm: while you're cooking the tortillas, it's important to keep them warm before serving. Wrap them in a tea towel as you go.
Fridge: these store in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. If you don't think you'll use the tortillas up that quick, we recommend freezing them right away.
Freezer: store in a freezer-safe container or bag and they will last for up to 6-8 months. When you need some tortillas, thaw the amount you want in your fridge overnight and they'll be soft in the morning!
Reheating: the best method is to reheat each corn tortilla in a dry skillet over medium for 30-60 seconds per side. You can also wrap them in a tea towel and microwave them if you prefer.
💭 Pro tips
Time to share our tips and tricks we learned while perfecting this corn tortilla recipe for you:
- Double or triple this recipe so you'll have tortillas on hand instead of buying them from the store.
- Freeze these right away so they don't go bad.
- If your corn tortillas are going stale, don't throw them out! Turn them into homemade tortilla chips!
- Let the edges start to curl up. This helps ensure the first side won't stick when you try to flip the tortilla.
- Make sure to keep them warm. Wrap the tortillas in a towel after cooking to keep them soft and pliable.
🍴 Tasting notes
We think you really need to learn how to make corn tortillas because they're:
If you try this corn tortilla recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
How to Make Corn Tortillas
- Measuring cups
- Mixing bowl
- Freezer bag
- Tortilla press or rolling pin
- 2 cups (240g) masa harina ($0.25)
- 1 ½ cups (332g) warm water ($0.00)
- ¼ tsp salt ($0.01)
- Add the masa harina and salt to a mixing bowl and combine. Then, add in 330g (approx. 1 ½ cups) of warm water to start with and mix together using your hands.
- Begin kneading the dough to form a ball that's sticky enough to stay together, but not coming off on your hands. Keep rolling and pressing with your palm for a few minutes (like you would when kneading bread dough).
- If the dough appears too crumbly, add a tbsp of water at a time until you are able to form a texture similar to play-dough. If it becomes too sticky, add in a little more masa harina.
- Next, start breaking off pieces of the dough to form small balls (about 40g each). Roll each piece of dough in between your palms until smooth. You should get about 14-16 tortillas out of this recipe.
- If you have a tortilla press, cut a zip lock bag into 2 pieces that will fit into the press (one for each side of the tortilla).
- Open the press and place a ball of dough in the center on a piece of plastic. Place the other plastic piece on top and close the press down gently to form tortillas about 5 inches in diameter.
- If you don't have a tortilla press, place your ball of dough between the same 2 pieces of plastic on your counter. Press the tortilla down with the bottom of a baking dish or flat plate, then begin flattening it out with a rolling pin until quite thin (again, about 5 inches in diameter).
- If you don't have a rolling pin, continue pressing down with a hard, flat surface until your tortilla is the same size as the above methods.
- Preheat a seasoned cast-iron skillet for 9-10 minutes starting on low and working your way up to just over medium or medium-high. If you are using a regular frying pan, preheat it with no oil as you normally would.
- Then, carefully add a tortilla in and cook on the first side for 40-50 seconds. Flip and cook for another 30-60 seconds, or until brown spots are forming (for us, 40 seconds on the first side and 50 on the second seem to be just right in our cast-iron, but it will depend on the pan you use).
- Remove your tortilla from the heat and wrap it in a tea towel to keep warm while you cook the rest.
- When they are all fried, serve your corn tortillas warm with your favorite meals. Enjoy!
- For best results, weigh out the water and masa harina as specified in the recipe (especially if you are using the brand Maseca like us).
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- Nutritional information is a rough estimate.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For some recipes to use these corn tortillas in, check out our:
- Crispy black bean tacos If you're in the mood for a hearty meal drizzled with an avocado cream sauce.
- Jackfruit carnitas to try a tender, flavorful, and healthy dish served in homemade tortillas.
- Quesabirria tacos to try the messy and delicious viral taco trend (vegan-style).
- Chilaquiles rojos if you're unsure what to do with your leftover corn tortillas, try out this spicy and authentic Mexican breakfast!
If your dough is too sticky, add more masa harina 1 tbsp at a time until it reaches a playdough-like consistency.
If your dough is too dry, add in warm water 1 tbsp at a time until it stays together with kneading.
You don't have to let the dough rest. Just leave it while you're getting the rest of your supplies ready and that will be enough time.
No, you do not need a tortilla press to make these. If you think you will make tortillas regularly, it makes sense for you to invest in one since it saves time. Otherwise, using the bottom of a baking pan, casserole dish, or rolling pin will all work.
If your tortillas are sticking to the pan, it likely means you didn't preheat it enough before putting the tortilla on to fry. This is especially important if you use a cast-iron skillet since it takes a while to heat up evenly.