Recipe: Homemade Corn Tortillas

Makes 16 small or 8 medium tortillas

This week’s Guatemalan Global Table starts off with a popular treat – the corn tortilla. Store-bought corn tortillas can be so … stale, dry and yucky. But, take five minutes to throw together a simple dough and you can smoosh out the best corn tortillas in the world – certainly as good as any you can find in Guatemala. Make them thick or thin, big or small – any way you shape them you’ll be glad you did. And if you have kids, watch out. You just might need to double the recipe (but don’t worry, they’ll be doing most of the work).


2 cups masa harina
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
one giant helping of super secret ingredient (see below)


My recipe is not too different from the back of the masa harina bag. There’s one major difference though. I add…

… and I think you’ll notice a real difference. With that being said, combine a healthy portion of love with masa harina, water, and salt until a soft ball forms. Knead for a few minutes. Use this time to listen to the sounds around you. Do you hear birds chirping? Traffic humming? A man snoring on your couch? I do and was just wondering if I was alone in this.

Next, divide the dough into 16 equal portions (or 8, if you want large tortillas). In related news: I love my pastry cutter. It makes cutting dough up easy peasy.

Next, shape each piece into a pretty ball. Keep the balls covered so they don’t dry out. Note: our dough is sitting on a comal, or traditional Central American griddle used for cooking tortillas, toasting spices, and roasting vegetables. We’ll cook the tortillas on it in a minute.

If you’re an amazingly skilled person, you’ll now use your hands to shape each ball into a flat tortilla. Otherwise a tortilla press will be required (line the press with two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap). Please note that a tortilla press should come with a handle, otherwise it’s difficult to smoosh things effectively and you’ll have to exchange it for one that is not missing any parts. Ahem.

As you can see, I still managed to smoosh the dough balls into tortillas, even without the handle. I just had to use a little more muscle, of which I don’t have much to spare. Hence why I exchanged presses.

Cook over medium-high heat on an ungreased comal, griddle, or pan (do not use nonstick) for about a minute per side or until sun spots show up (little black dots)

When you have a pile of fresh, hot, homemade corn tortillas all is well with the world.

I can personally attest to this.

Especially when they are made with love.
And eaten with friends.
Opt In Image
Hungry for more?
Be notified when National Geographic releases my memoir.

Simply fill in your details below.


  1. Ooh that does look super simple…I might have to add to my gadget collection and get a tortilla press!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Make sure it has a handle ;) The nice thing – you can also use it to make flour tortillas. We’ll be making those soon, too.

  2. Brian S. says:

    Your secret ingredient reminds me of this most famous of Mexican cooking films.

  3. Love these tortillas!! These are so fresh and lovely. Homemade absolutely is the best.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      So true! Almost any bread product is 200% better when homemade… especially if you have someone to help you who has “been there” before.

  4. Sure the instructions on the face of things are super simple but in reality I’ve found it not so easy. Through trial and trial (or should I say error and error?) I’ve learned: don’t press the tortillas too thin, and the pan needs to be screaming hot. You neglect to say that the pan needs to be un-oiled.

    And still my tortillas are not as great as they should be. :-(

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Hi Laura – there’s definitely a bit of practice to it, especially if you’re doing them by hand, but I think even the mistakes are good eats. Oh, I mention ungreased not *un-oiled* pan – just below the picture of the pressed tortilla. Thanks for sharing your experiences, it will help everyone as they get to work… and, finally, you’re probably being too hard on yourself. I bet they’re great!

      • Sasha Martin says:

        Oh, as I read this it occurs to me that I should have included a few smilies to uplift you from your frownie face … :) :) :) Hope that helps ;)

  5. Yum! I’ve made flour tortillas at home, but not corn. I think these will be on the list for next week. I have a love/hate relationship with my press. They seem to press unevenly. It’s nothing that a quick swipe of the rolling pin won’t fix, though. :)

    I’m loving your blog, BTW. Everything looks so delicious!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Sherry, thank you so much :) I’m glad you’re enjoying it! My press seems to be even – so far. I’m looking forward to trying flour tortillas with it (my personal favorite)… anyway, enjoy!

  6. Why do these look more like flour tortillas? I’m not familiar with corn harina. Can I make them using corn meal, do you think? I really shouldn’t read your blog this late at night because it always makes me so hungry, but when else do I have time to catch up on what I’ve missed the last few days?! Thanks for letting me hitch a ride on your adventures!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Hey Tina – you actually do need to use masa harina – it’s not the same at corn meal. It’s processed with lime, so it gets a different flavor and texture. You can also use it to make the pupusas (from El Salvador). It’s worth the purchase – and keeps a long while, if you keep the bag sealed up.

  7. I was curious as to why you said don’t use non-stick pans?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Hi Wendy :) Generally, heating nonstick over medium high without oils in the pan can be dangerous – The surface gets to hot and I’ve read that the nonstick creates fumes capable of killing canaries… always check with your manufacturer if you are not sure or think it might be different for your pan.

      • okay yes I’m familiar with non-stick and birds. And I try to be careful with non-stick and high heat with or without oils. In fact I just don’t purchase non-stick anymore because of my birds although I still have some I use till I can replace them. thanks for your great posts I look forward to them.

        • Sasha Martin says:

          I hear some of the high quality ones (where it’s not a spray on layer, but actually integrated into the pan) are a lot better… I got an Emeril one for about $60 that I use for omelets and I like it pretty well for that. Thanks for reading :)

  8. health & fitness


  1. […] my local Latino market for $7.00 – a total bargain. I use it all the time, whether to make tortillas and chapati, char tomatoes, chilies and garlic for salsas and pepian, or even to make pupusas. It […]

  2. […] Enchiladas, tacos, burritos, tamales, and tortillas (wheat in the north, corn everywhere else [recipe]) were on all the menus. The base of most cuisine is corn and beans, with a healthy smattering of […]

Speak Your Mind