Are you ready for an epically detailed post about homemade tortillas? I don’t typically do step-by-step tutorials, but I thought it would be particularly useful in this instance. Not because it’s extremely difficult—it does take a trial or 2 to get the feel for the dough—but because I think it’s helpful to have a visual for each step in this process.
Plus, I kind of have a thing for documentation. Thank you architecture school for that!
I’m going to list the directions with the photos but also include a document you can print with directions only. Look for that at the end of the post along with a list of tips. Feel free to add your own tips in the comment section.
Homemade Corn Tortillas
gluten-free, vegan // yields 16, 5-6” tortillas
- 2 cups masa harina, I prefer Bob’s Red Mill as they specifically address using non-GMO seeds
- 1-2 cups hot water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Things to have on hand if you do not have a tortilla press:
- rolling pin
- flat bottomed object – bowl/plate/etc. at least 7-inches in diameter for flattening the dough
- parchment paper – you’ll want to tear 16 squares about 7” to use to keep the rolled out dough from sticking to one another, plus 2 larger sheets for rolling the dough in between
- cast iron skillet – works best for cooking the tortillas
- small bowl of cold water
Things to have on hand if you have a tortilla press:
*It’s completely doable to make these without a press, as I did for my first few batches. However if you’re making multiple batches in one day and you think that might be a frequent occurrence, I highly suggest buying a press. I gave it a few trials to see if it was something I thought I would do again in the future before deciding to buy.
- tortilla press – I just bought this one at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $15 with a $5 coupon. You can also find them on amazon.
- parchment paper – I‘ve read others say to grease the plates before pressing the dough, but I found parchment paper to work perfectly. I tore 1 large sheet and folded it in half to cover both sides of the press. I had to replace it about every 12 tortillas as it started to thin out tear.
- cast iron skillet – works best for cooking the tortillas
- small bowl of cold water
- Place the masa in a mixing bowl and dissolve 1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 cup of hot water.
- Slowly pour the water over the flour mixing as you pour. A large spoon or fork is helpful at first but then you’ll need to use your hands.
- Continue to mix the dough with your hands and knead it in the bowl for about 2 minutes until you can form a smooth ball that is not sticky or crumbly. Add more hot water 1 tablespoon at a time to help form the dough.
*I typically need 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups of water to get the dough just right.
- When the dough is just right it will have a texture similar to Play-Doh. It will feel smooth and sort of clammy to the touch and should not feel wet, sticky, dry, or gritty. It will have sort of a springy feel when lightly pressed.
- If the dough is wet/sticky/mushy, incorporate more flour into the mixture and vice versa if it is too dry. Add water and/or flour slowly.
- Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes to 2 hours on the counter to allow it to hydrate. Do not skip this step!
- Section the ball in half, and then in half again, until you have 16 similarly sized pieces.
- Roll each piece into a ball and keep covered with a towel as you roll them out.
*If the dough feel slightly dry/gritty as you’re rolling them, keep a bowl of cold water close by and wet your fingertips as you roll to help hydrate the dough. You want to keep that same Play-Doh type feel the entire process.
- Tear off two ~10x10-inch pieces of parchment paper, plus sixteen ~7x7-inch squares. Also take out a flat plate or dish that's larger than 6 inches in diameter.
*I found this casserole dish and the bottom of our dinner plates to work really well.
- Place one ball between the 2 larger sheets of parchment and, holding the plate, use your body weight to flatten the dough.
- You want the dough about 6 inches in diameter and less than 1/8 inch thick. If you can't flatten it enough with the plate—I definitely could not—finish rolling out with a rolling pin.
- Keep the dough covered with parchment and lightly roll in varying directions to keep it in the circular shape.
- Carefully peel dough off the parchment and place on one of your smaller sheets of parchment. Continue this process and keep stacking the tortillas with the small sheets of parchment so they don't stick together.
- Keep the stack covered with a towel as you work.
- If you want perfectly round edges, trim with a bowl or other circular object about 6 inches in diameter.
- Once you've finished rolling them out, preheat a non-greased cast iron skillet [or non-stick frying pan] over medium-medium/high heat.
- Place tortillas on the hot pan one at a time and cook for about 45 seconds - 1 minute per side, then flip, and cook about 45 seconds - 1 more minute. The tortilla should puff as it cooks on the second side. If it puffs you’ve done well.
- Adjust the cooking time and temperature as needed.
*I keep mine in between medium and medium-high heat.
- Stack the tortillas as they finish and keep covered with a towel or in a tortilla warmer. As the tortillas sit they should stay soft + easily roll.
*If they are crunchy or tear when rolled they were most likely overcooked.
- Repeat until all tortillas are cooked.
Guess what?? YOU’RE DONE!!! Now it’s time for some tips, suggestions if you’re using a tortilla press, and then crunchy, homemade chips!
Photographed below were my first two attempts at making the tortillas. On the right was the first attempt and you will notice the tortillas are very flat and didn’t puff or char at all. This was due to the dough being slightly too dry, which I didn’t realize since it was my first try. The resulting texture was slightly tough and heavy, similar to what I’ve experienced with store-bought corn tortillas.
After making the second batch and having them puff up a bit, the texture was much more tender and fluffy. They weren’t dense like the first batch. This is when I got the feel for the Play-Doh-like dough when mixing the water + flour together. The first batch has a slightly dusty/gritty feel to it, which I now know means the dough is not wet enough even though it held together.
- The amount of hot water you’ll need will vary each time you make the tortillas. Start with 1-1 1/4 cups and work up from there.
- The best description I’ve read is that the dough should feel like Play-Doh. It will have a clammy, smooth feel.
- This is nothing like bread or pizza dough. It will not rise or stretch.
- If your dough feels slightly crumbly, dusty, or is cracking, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time and knead until smooth. If you add too much water, add a small amount of flour to soak it up.
- The rest period for the dough is important for the flour to hydrate.
- If the dough feel slightly dry/gritty as you’re rolling them into smaller balls, keep a bowl of cold water close by and wet your fingertips as you roll to help hydrate the dough. You want to keep that same Play-Doh type feel the entire process.
- When you’re cooking the tortillas, you know the dough was properly hydrated if the tortilla puffs a bit as it cooks on the 2nd side.
- If the dough doesn’t puff it may have been too dry. This will result in slightly tough and dense texture.
- If the dough cracks horribly or feels very stiff as you roll it out, it is definitely too dry.
- Parchment paper is your new best friend.
- Once fully cooked, tortillas can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for about 5 to 7 days. Or, store in them in a sealed container in the freezer and reheat in a dry skillet.
- I like to stack the tortillas on a cooling rack as I cook them—keeping them covered with a towel--and let them rest fro about 10 minutes before eating. I’ve found the texture improves as they sit for a short time.
First trial tortillas – They were definitely still edible and were able to be rolled but had a tough/chewy texture.
The second batch were soft and fluffy while still being able to hold up to a large pile of fajita toppings without tearing.
Shortcut *if using a tortilla press*
- After the dough has rested for 30 minutes – 2 hours, I go straight to preheating the pan.
- Tear off a large sheet of parchment paper and place it in the tortilla press so it covers the bottom and top plate. *I found it easier to work with 1 large sheet rather than 2 separate sheets. You’ll need to replace the large sheet once in awhile as it thins out and starts to tear.
- Instead of sectioning off the ball into 16 smaller balls, I tear off golf-ball sized pieces one at a time, roll them into a smooth ball [add a sprinkle of cold water if the dough feels dry as you roll], press it in the tortilla press between the parchment, then cook as directed above. As it cooks I section off another piece of dough and press it so it’s ready as soon as the first is done cooking. And so on. *If you’re doing this without a press I found it much easier to pre-roll and stack them all as it takes a bit longer to do the pressing and rolling and you want to be able to keep an eye on the dough that’s cooking.
And now that you have tortillas you will definitely want to make baked tortilla chips. The hard part is already done!
Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips
gluten-free, vegan // yields 64 chips from 16 tortillas
*For the crispiest chips you want to make sure your tortillas were rolled under 1/8-inch thick.
- 16 corn tortillas
- 2 tablespoons safflower oil
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or more, to taste
- 1-2 limes, juiced
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and take out two large rimmed baking sheets.
- Lightly oil each tortilla on both sides using a pastry brush.
- Cut each tortilla into 4 segments and place on the baking sheets in a single layer.
- Top with salt and bake for 8 to 12 minutes until golden brown and crispy. They will crisp up even more as they cool.
[photograph is in the unbaked state]
To make lime-salted chips:
- Salt the lightly oiled chips before baking. After fully crisped, remove from the oven and spritz the hot chips with fresh lime juice using your fingertips. You want a light sprinkle over each chip so they stay crispy. Let cool completely.
- These are delicious with guacamole!
To make cinnamon sugar chips:
- Combine about 1/4 cup of pure cane sugar with 1 to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.
- Sprinkle desired amount over your lightly oiled cut tortillas before baking. [Instead of salting.]
- Bake for 8-12 minutes until crisped and golden brown and let fully cool.
- These are awesome with fruit salsa!
This post was spurred on after Food52 asked me to create a how-to on making homemade tortilla chips. I soon realized I had to figure out how to make the actual tortillas before the I could get to the chip part. While I shared some of the same content on Food52 this post includes a handful more photos + details to hopefully have you on your way to perfecting your own homemade tortillas + chips! While this process is actually quite simple and most sites give very brief and informative instructions, I wanted to include what I learned along the way.
Print this! A consolidated version of the tortilla + chip-making steps.
How about that for a Monday post? Be on the lookout for a very fiesta-themed week on the blog. We never really go all out for Cinco de Mayo but I couldn’t help myself after making the tortillas. A simple mango, avocado, lime salad is up next and then juicy veggie fajitas! And there will most definitely be dessert. Stay tuned!