Corn Tortillas

My friend spent the better part of a year sailing around the Caribbean a few years ago.  I went on board before she set sail.  The galley was stocked with neatly labeled containers of grains, enough to last the whole trip.  She would be making everything from scratch.   Cooking lots of good food while exploring the Caribbean (not to mention sailing, snorkeling, reading) sounds like heaven to me.

One thing she made on that trip was tortillas.  There wasn’t a tortilla press or a rolling pin on board.  Of course she had a wine bottle, and that worked just fine. Hearing about this, along with finding preservatives and parabens on the label of my usual tortillas, inspired me to make my own.  They’re made with masa (or masa harina), which is corn flour that has been treated with lime.  

The texture of corn flour dough is springy, not stretchy like wheat flour dough.  This is because corn flour doesn’t contain gluten.  That quality is what allows it to be pressed flat without kneading or rolling.  I’ve found this tortilla press makes quick work of them, but you can also use a rolling pin.  If you don’t have either one, use a wine bottle.

 Corn Tortillas


  • 2 cups masa harina (corn flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups warm water


Stir the masa and salt together in a large bowl.  Slowly stir in 1 1/4 cups water.  Keep stirring until it becomes a crumbly dough.  If it’s too dry, add more water, only a tablespoon at a time.  Add just enough to be absorbed, but not so much it gets sticky.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high.

If using a cast iron tortilla press, put it on a placemat to protect countertops.  Line the surfaces of the press with plastic wrap.

Divide the dough into 16 balls, about the size of ping pong balls.  Cover them with a damp cloth. If you’re not using a press, place the balls between two sheets of wax paper.  Press or roll the tortillas until they’re 5 inches across.  Place each one on the griddle or skillet.  Cook on one side for about 50 seconds, then flip and cook for about 20 seconds.

Use immediately, or keep them in the refrigerator for about a week.