Corn Tortillas

Corn Tortillas

Are corn tortillas inexpensive and readily available? Yep. Should you still make your own because it’s fast, kinda fun and totally worth it from a flavor and texture standpoint? Yep.

Corn Tortillas
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  1. 1 1/2 to 2 pounds nixtamal (see recipe below)
  2. 4 to 5 tablespoons lukewarm water
  3. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. 1 pound dried corn kernels, approximately 2 cups
  2. 1/2 ounce slaked lime, approximately 2 tablespoons
  1. Rinse the corn under cool water, drain and set aside.
  2. Place the water and the lime into a 3 1/2 to 4 quart, non-reactive stockpot, set over medium low heat and stir to combine. Add the corn and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Make sure that it takes at least 30 to 45 minutes to come to a boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit at room temperature overnight. Do not refrigerate.
  3. Drain the corn in a large colander and rinse under lukewarm water for 5 to 6 minutes while rubbing the corn kernels between your fingers in order to remove the outer coating.
  4. Place the corn into a large bowl, cover with lukewarm water and allow to soak for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, rinse and repeat. Use immediately to make masa dough for tortillas.
  1. Place the nixtamal into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 10 to 15 times. Add 2 tablespoons of the water and pulse 10 times, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add two more tablespoons of water along with the salt and pulse until a dough begins to form. If the dough is still dry and somewhat crumbly, add the remaining tablespoon of water and pulse several times. Turn the dough out onto the counter and shape into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 30 minutes to hydrate.
  2. Heat a cast iron griddle over medium high heat until it reaches 400 degrees F. (See note below.)
  3. Divide the dough into 1 1/2 ounce portions, roll into balls and cover with a damp tea towel.
  4. Cut a 1-gallon zip top bag in half and line the base of a tortilla press with the plastic.
  5. Place one ball at a time onto the press and top with the other half of the plastic. Close the press and push down firmly several times until the tortilla is flattened. Remove the plastic wrap from the tortilla and place onto the cast iron skillet and cook for 1 minute on each side. Remove the tortilla to a plate lined with a tea towel. Cover the tortilla with a second towel to keep warm.
  6. Repeat with all of the dough. Use immediately or store in a zip top bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  1. Yield: 14 to 16 tortillas
  2. Yes, you'll need an IR (infrared) thermometer for this. I like the ones made by Thermoworks, but that's just me and they don't pay me to say it.
How to Make Corn Tortillas by Alton Brown


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  1. 6
    Rick Woolsey

    Regarding the package of “El Guapo” hydrated lime, shown in the photo above: I went to 2 Latino grocery stores (in the Toronto Kensington Market) and the store owners looked at me like I was crazy. Did did not carry anything even remotely close to it. They were not even sure what type of dried corn to use. What gives with that? And does anyone know EXACTLY where to buy or order the hydrated lime? And is there a specific name for the dried corn?

    • 8

      I doubt most Latin kitchens do anything like this technique. It appears to be a more ancient process. I just use Masa from the grocery store, and mix it with salt and water and that’s my dough. I can see the texture he’s getting here and I imagine it’s very exciting, but I don’t think most people go to these lengths when they are making tortillas.

      • 13
        Ace Frahm

        The problem with trying to google any recipe for Alton Brown, is that all food websites are littered with his name, even for recipes that are not his. And the trouble with googling for any tortilla recipe is that they usually begin with “first take your store-bought tortillas out of the package, and put ___ on them”.

  2. 16
    Nicholas Kane

    I’ve used nixtamal to make tamales many times,they turn out way better. I usually buy it premade though…

    • 20
      Ace Frahm

      Popcorn is a very different kind of corn, quite unlike the other kinds, and not one we would like to eat “on the cob”. It’s made for drying into the hard shell poppable kernel that will retain a teeny tiny bit of water inside that will explode when the phase change from liquid to vapor under high heat causes it to rapidly expand. The corn you desire for tortillas will not have a hard shell.

      It *might* work, but you’ll almost certainly end up with a very different product that won’t stick together.

      • 24
        Gina L

        Masa harina is made with the right type of corn (cacahuazintle), tortillas in Mexico are made with cacahuazintle corn (always been) If you are going trought all the trouble and make them from scratch why not use the right type of corn ?

          • 26
            Gina L

            Yes I know masa harina is cacahuazintle corn and lime wich makes nixtamal, as a mexican (and any mexican knows this) can tell you also, would never use yellow corn to make tortillas, my father owned a mill and a tortilleria for years, tortilleria is the place you buy the tortillas in Mexico, fresh made every day, so i am quite familiar with the process and ingredients.

  3. 27

    Don’t be afraid to season your masa dough…
    And old tortillas make great chips when fried. Super strong for hearty dips.

  4. 28

    Thoughts: people need to read the recipe. The nixtamal ingredients are clearly listed as 1 pound of dried corn and 1/2 ounce of slaked lime. Then you get instructions on how to make the nixtamal.

  5. 31

    Can you just roll them out by hand, or do they really need to be pressed? Also, this extremely light blue font you’ve chosen for the comments is VERY hard to see, please add a titch of blue food coloring will ya? 🙂

    • 34

      It’s difficult to roll them with a rolling pin because it’s a wet dough without much structure. If you don’t have a tortilla press, you can just put the dough ball between two plastic sheets, and then press it with a heavy cutting board or flat bottom pan. The key is just press slowly so it stays even thickness, press until you feel some resistance and then press a little more.

  6. 35

    Homemade tortillas are so worth it! Many years in Mexico have made me partial to Maseca. Put a little fresh queso fresco, a slice of avocado and salt and you won’t be able stop at one.

  7. 36

    Corey, not sure where you are, but here in Texas, it isn’t much of an investment. You can get one at the grocery store for about $5-$10. As for it being a unitasker, it is essentially 2 heavy plates with a handle, so I suppose when you aren’t busy having fresh, warm, delicious corn tortillas with every meal, you could use it to crush nuts.

    • 39

      Thanks Dale, I thought the nixtamal was only the the lime! (I guess I should have looked it up, I generally just use masa harina) 🙂

  8. 40

    Just buy Maseca (instant corn masa mix) add warm tap water, mix it with your hands and make little balls, place them in the tortilla press start he says and cook them

    • 42

      Hi there, just some quick information. Being raised in Mexico the most popular way tortillas are made is using masa produced by nixtamalization , this is done when the corn kernels are cooked in cal also known as Calcium Hydroxide this softens the corn’s outer lining so that when this is pressed it creates a really lovely dough . that will produce the most delicious tortillas ever!

  9. 43

    Any suggestions on where to find nixtamal? I live in Northern Minnesota and ingredients like that are essentially make-believe in this part of the state.

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