Corn Tortilla Dough from Scratch (Harina Nixtamalizada)

If you want the absolute best tortillas, you really need to make the dough from scratch. I’m not going to lie and say they are easy, but it is not really difficult either, and the taste is amazing! Comparing store bought tortillas to freshly made tortillas is like comparing mass produced grocery store bread to a fresh artisan sourdough loaf straight out of the oven. There is simply no comparison in taste and quality.

I remember my tortilla making class like it was yesterday. We took the first corn tortillas off the griddle, let them rest, then spooned on a bit of refried black beans, and sprinkled on some queso fresco (all from scratch).

My first bite was a revelation. I could not believe how good a simple bean taco could be. I remember thinking to myself, “wow! If all vegetables could taste this good, I could totally go vegetarian”. It was so far beyond Mexican fast food that I was so used to. I consider myself a pretty manly man, but damn, I wanted to cry it was so good.

Unless you are living in Mexico and making masa for other people, this is not an activity you want to do every day. But you can do it once month and freeze what you don’t use right away. That way you have masa to make tortillas, tamales, or any other deliciousness that sounds good. The recipe scales well, but in really large quantities you need better, and bigger equipment.

You do need one piece of equipment – a food processor or grain grinder. Both work, but using the grain grinder is a bit of an acquired skill. If you wanted to go old school and stone grind it, I take my hat off to you.

One important note: You need dried corn kernels, but do not use dried sweet corn, or popcorn kernels. They will not produce the right flavors. Blue, red, yellow, white etc. all work, so choose your favorite. If you are in the USA, you can find dried corn on Amazon or thru several providers like Rovey Seed Co.

If you are in South or Central America, you can find dried corn kernels almost everywhere, except Argentina it seems. In Argentina look on Mercadolibre.com.ar, or head out to the market in Liniers to pick up some corn, and some peppers for your next Mexican Fiesta.

You will likely find lime (AKA “slaked lime”, not the fruit) at the same place. Make sure it is food grade!

On to the recipe!

Print Recipe
Corn Tortilla Dough from Scratch (Harina Nixtamalizada)
This recipe for making corn tortilla dough (Harina Nixtamalizada) from kernel to finished masa.
Prep Time 1 hour
Servings
5 inch tortillas
Ingredients
Prep Time 1 hour
Servings
5 inch tortillas
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Rinse the corn in water and sort, checking for anything that isn't corn. Can be done with a wide mesh sieve, but not a lot of people have them.
  2. In a large pot, add the water, corn, and lime. Turn heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cook until the corner is tender, but not soft, about 30-45 minutes. The kernel should still have some bite, kind of like al dente pasta. How long it takes depends on the variety of corn, so start checking at 30 minutes.
  3. When the corn is ready, remove from heat and let it sit overnight.
  4. The next day, drain the corn in a colander, and rub between your palms to remove the outside covering (called the bran). You don't have to get it all off, just do your best. Rinse again and allow to drain well. It is important to drain well before grinding or you could end up with a dough that is too wet and sticky.
  5. Add the corn to a food processor ( you may not want to add all of it at once if your food processor is smaller) and process on high speed until the mixture is smooth and no large corm chunks remain. It should come out the texture of a good hummus. This could take a decent amount of time, ten minutes or more.
  6. Scrape the dough into a mixing bowl and mix well with your hands. The dough should have the consistency of Playdoh. Test the dough by pressing some with your palms. If the dough is too dry, the edges will crack. In that case, add water a little at a time until it is soft and pliable.
  7. At this point your dough is ready to make tortillas, tamales, gorditas, and more!
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