Making Corn Tortillas by Hand

With or without a tortilla press, you just can’t beat homemade tortillas.

Like most foods, “homemade” or “from scratch” beats store-bought any day. Unless of course you’re buying from a store that has just freshly made what it is you’re purchasing — from scratch!

Homemade tortillas can be made in as little as 10 minutes if you have the tortilla ingredients on hand. So, unless you’re buying freshly made tortillas from a small Mexican shop that makes tortillas from scratch, you might want to save store-bought tortillas for taco emergencies. Once you learn how to make tortillas from scratch in this article by Simply Recipes, you may not want to ever buy store-bought tortillas again.


How to Make Corn Tortillas

Posted by Elise

Nothing beats tortillas made from scratch. The packaged tortillas you get at big American markets don’t even come close to a good, freshly made corn tortilla. My dear friend Martha’s husband Arturo recently spent an afternoon with me, taking me around to the Mexican markets, helping me to buy masa and a good tortilla press, and showing me (and now you) how incredibly easy (and cheap) it is to make wonderful, tasty hot fresh homemade tortillas.

How to Make Corn Tortillas


2 cups masa harina
1 1/2 to 2 cups water


Before you start

You’ll need a special corn flour called masa harina for making the tortillas. Masa harina is corn flour that has been treated with calcium hydroxide or “lime” which makes it more nutritious by releasing the niacin in the corn, and easier to digest. Masa flour can be found at Mexican markets or online at Look for masa harina that is only corn and lime (calcium hydroxide) for corn tortilla making.

You can make the tortillas completely by hand, by forming a thin pancake with the dough between your hands. But unless you are somewhat experienced in this method, you’ll get more consistent results by using a tortilla press. These too are available in Mexican markets and come either in wood or cast iron. They are available online at The wooden tortilla press pictured I purchased for about $16 at a local Mexican market in town. You can also roll out the masa with a rolling pin, between pieces of wax paper.

Making the Masa Dough

To make 16-18 tortillas, start with putting 2 cups of masa flour in a large bowl. (Hint: for added “lift” you can mix in 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.)Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of very warm water to the masa flour (according to the directions on the package, some brands may call for different amounts of water). Mix in and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Begin working the masa with your hands to make the dough. Work the dough for several minutes. Press the dough with your fingers and the palms of your hands as if you were kneading bread dough. If at any point through the tortilla making process the dough seems too dry or too wet, add a little more water or masa to the dough.

Take a piece of the masa dough and shape it into a ball the size of a plum, or slightly large golf ball. Make about 16-18 balls from the dough.

Pressing the Tortillas

Take two pieces of wax paper or plastic from a plastic bag and cut them to the shape of the surface of the tortilla press. Open the tortilla press and lay one piece of wax paper on the press. Place the masa ball in the center. Place another piece of wax paper over the masa ball. Gently close the press and press down, until the dough has spread to a diameter of 6 inches.

Cooking the Tortillas

Heat a griddle or a large skillet on high heat. Working one at a time, hold a tortilla in your hand, carefully removing the wax paper on each side. Allow the tortilla to rest half on your hand, and half hanging down, and gently lay the tortilla down on to the skillet. Start working on pressing the next tortilla. Cook the tortilla on the hot pan for 30 seconds to a minute on each side. The tortilla should be lightly toasted and little air pockets forming.

Remove the tortillas to a tortilla warmer lined with dish towel or paper towels, or wrap them in a dish towel to keep them warm. Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat.

Yield: Makes 16-18 tortillas.


As you can see, there isn’t a lot that goes into making tortillas from scratch. In the recipe above, a tortilla press is used to flatten the tortillas and make them fairly uniform in shape. In place of a tortilla press, a lid from a plastic container such as a Cool Whip container will do. Place the ball of dough in between two sheets of waxed paper as shown above, but instead of running it through a tortilla press, lay it on the counter, place the plastic lid over it with the edges facing down, and press down, rubbing the ball of dough out into the shape of the lid. The edges will hold the dough, making the tortillas a nice uniform shape.

While we’ve demonstrated an easy way to make homemade tortillas, we know that not everyone has spare time to spend in the kitchen. And that is just one of the reasons why we’re here. Escape your lunch or dinner chores for a while and visit Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant & Cantina at any of our 3 Massachusetts locations. We’re happy to serve you our fresh tortillas filled with a variety of fresh Mexican foods while you relax and enjoy your friends and family.