How to make tortillas (a.k.a. You’re not in Arizona anymore)

Spoiled.  That’s what I was.  Living in Arizona, I was surrounded by great Mexican food (I’m not talking about authenticity here, if you want to argue about that, go find another blog).  Fresh tortillas were a dollar a dozen.

And then I moved to Adelaide– about as far away from Mexico as one can get, which essentially makes it a gaping black hole of tortilla making.  For a while, I made do with Old El Paso corn tortillas that smelled sort of like Play-doh and had the consistency of fake plastic puke.

Luckily, I found a shop here called Chile Mojo which is run by an American who was probably about as homesick for Mexican food as I was.  Lo and behold, Chile Mojo carries masa harina.  My next problem was a tortilla press.  Chile mojo had metal ones, but since they’re imports they’re expensive.  I shopped for tortilla presses in Arizona, but was underwhelmed by the selection and the price as well.  So my very handy hubby made me a tortilla press that works like a dream.

Until you get the hang of it, making tortillas is a tad time consuming, but when my options are fake plastic puke tortillas or the real deal, I’m happy to give up half an hour of my time.  And there is nothing like the smell and taste of fresh tortillas.  The aroma is amazing– they really smell like fresh ground corn, which is something you’ll never find in store-bought bag.

Making the dough is simple.  In fact, you don’t really even need exact measurements. 

Pour the masa harina in a mixing bowl– just eyeball it– a cup and a half to two cups will make plenty of tortillas.  Add a pinch of salt and just a dab (a teaspoon or so) of cooking oil.  Fill a measuring cup with hot tap water.  Pour in about half a cup, maybe more, and stir it into the masa harina with your hands. Keep adding water bit by bit until the mixture is just moist.  You want it just past the crumbly stage but not sticky.  Form the dough into a ball, cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, and then go do something else for about an hour.

When the dough is ready (it’s not going to rise or anything, it just needs to rest for an hour), heat a non-stick skillet over high heat (don’t use oil, you don’t want to fry them).  I use my Calphalon griddle, which I adore.  While the griddle is heating, roll the tortilla dough into just-smaller-than golf ball-sized pieces.

Line the tortilla press with plastic wrap on each side, place one of the dough balls on the base…

put the lid down and press. 

Lift the lid, then carefully peel the tortilla from the plastic wrap and place it on the hot skillet. 

 Be prepared to tear your first few tortillas, but don’t cry, pobrecita, just roll it back into a ball and do it again.  Let it cook on one side for about 30 seconds and flip it.  The first side should have brown speckles.

  Let  it cook on the other side for about the same amount of time, maybe less, then flip it one more time and finish it off on that side for about 10 seconds.  The tortillas are supposed to puff up when they cook. Sometimes mine puff a lot, sometimes they don’t  but they still turn out fine.  Take the tortilla off the skillet and place between the folds of a clean dish towel.  Eventually, you’ll find a rhythm and be able to press a tortilla while one is cooking to speed the process along.

The last time I made corn tortillas, I used them to make cheese enchiladas.

Ready for the sauce and cheese…

Time to go in the oven…

Hot and bubbly, topped with green onion.

Plated with some refried black beans, which, I must admit, look pretty unattractive, and a green salad with a creamy chipotle dressing.  Delish.

Now, even if I do ever wind up living in tortilla central (Phoenix) again, I’ll probably make my own from time to time, just because nothing tastes better than homemade.

10 responses to “How to make tortillas (a.k.a. You’re not in Arizona anymore)

  1. Oh yum! Those enchiladas look great!
    That’s what I need to get my husband is a tortilla press. He just made a batch of tortillas and tortilla press would have gotten the process along faster. Thanks for the tip. I like your blog.
    Feel free to check out my husbands blog as well, he put up some of his grandma’s recipes.

  2. Thanks, Betty! I’ll bet he would be thrilled to get a tortilla press for Christmas. I got mine for my birthday and was happy as a clam. Maybe I should get my husband to go into the press making business 🙂
    I’ll definitely check out your husband’s blog.

  3. That’s cool that M made you a homemade tortilla press! What a fantastically handy man he is! I guess you didn’t know I had a tortilla press because you could’ve borrowed mine. I also have a couple of cloths I got in Mexico that you use to wrap hot tortillas in and keep them warm in a basket. I have a metal press (aluminum) that I got at an outdoor market, works well at making them thin. If you want, I also have TONS of blue masa too.

  4. Thanks for the great idea.. .On my shopping list will be a tortilla press in order to prepare mexican food like you shared with us…thanks


  5. Andy, I hope making your own tortillas is as satisfying for you as it is for me. I love it!

    Michelle… a tortilla cloth? Why am I not surprised that you have something like that? 🙂 How is a tortilla cloth different than a dishtowel?

  6. Awwwwww… Matt made you a tortilla press? What a man!!! My man can’t even change a lightbulb! LOL!

  7. Guess I don’t listen well enough…didn’t realise the owner of Chile Mojo was a yank;) Hope you enjoyed yesterday evening–we missed you at the meet up.


  8. Huh! I had the same problem when I lived in New Zealand! I used my tortilla maker as a party gag, Whoever can guess what this is…nobody ever figured it out.

    You can cook that meal for me anytime!

  9. Hey HD!
    My foodie friends and I play “guess this gadget” parlor games every once in a while here.
    It seems like you and I would have a lot to talk about– maybe we can meet sometime and I’ll make enchiladas as a trade for a jar of your yogurt 🙂

  10. I cannot imagine my husband making me a tortilla press EVER– that’s impressive!

    And the enchiladas recipe??? no pressure, I’m just sayin’…

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