Basic Preparations/

Corn Tortillas

Some communities in the United States—like here in Chicago—have a wealth tortillerias that daily boil dried grain corn in an alkali bath and stone-grind it into the paste-like masa that gets pressed and baked into beautiful tortillas. At many of the Mexican groceries here, paper-wrapped stacks of tortillas are still warm when they arrive from the tortillerias, perfect for customers to take home and serve at their freshest. But not everyone lives near a tortilleria or has access to that fresh-baked goodness. Which has given corn tortillas a bad reputation, because yesterday’s (or last week’s) tortillas can taste stale and cardboard-y. The antidote: Make your own tortillas. While the recipe is simple, tortilla making—like bread making—is all about feel and experience with your equipment and its temperature. The ingredients are inexpensive, though, so give yourself a few practice rounds before inviting your friends over for perfect tacos. A note about masa versus masa harina. Masa harina is just the paste-like fresh-ground masa that has been dehydrated and powdered—masa flour, if you will, which is completely different from corn starch, corn flour or corn meal because of the corn’s initial processing. For me, the best-texture tortillas are made from fresh-ground masa, though you’ll have to go to a tortilleria to buy it. It is best used the same day because masa can turn slightly sour after a few hours. Masa harina is easy because it is shelf-stable (though I recommend storing it in the freezer if you’re not going to use it up within a month or two). Maseca brand is readily available in Mexican groceries and well-stocked grocery stores, but it is bland by comparison to the heirloom varieties of masa harina offered by Masienda. It’s worth pointing out here that traditional corn tortillas can be made from myriad corn colors, each with a unique flavor. Thankfully, masa harina is now available in many of those colors. Also, corn tortillas are naturally gluten free and contain no salt or fat
Servings: 15tortillas


  • 7 1/2ounces /210 grams (1 ¾ cups) powdered masa harina for tortillas OR 1 pound fresh-ground masa for tortillas


Mix the dough.  If using powdered masa harina, measure it into a bowl and add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot tap water. Mix with hand, kneading until thoroughly combined. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. If using fresh masa, scoop into bowl. Break up and knead a few times until smooth.


Heat griddle or skillets. Set a large griddle (one that stretches over 2 burners) or 2 skillets on stovetop. Set heat under one end of griddle (or one skillet) at medium. Set heat under other end (or other skillet) at medium-high.


Adjust the consistency of the dough. Gently squeeze dough. If it is stiff (it probably will be), knead in water about 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough feels like soft cookie dough—not stiff, but not sticky. Divide evenly into 15 pieces and roll each into a ball. Cover with plastic or a damp towel.


Press out dough balls. Cut 2 squares or rounds of plastic bag a little bigger than the tortilla press. Open the press. Lay in one piece of plastic. Lay a dough ball in the center and gently mash with your fingers. Top with the second piece of plastic. Close the press. Press gently—enough to mash dough into 1/8-inch-thick disc about 5 inches in diameter. Pull off top piece of plastic.  The edge all around should look smooth, not rough and cracked.  Rough edges are a sign that the dough needs more water.  


Unmold the uncooked tortilla. Pick up the tortilla by lower piece of plastic and flip it onto your right hand (if right-handed). IMPORTANT: top of tortilla should line up with top of index finger. Lay on medium-hot griddle (or skillet) by letting bottom of tortilla touch griddle, then lowering your hand slightly and moving it away from you—the tortilla will stick to the hot surface so you can roll your hand out from under it as it lies down flat.  As the back of your little finger comes close to the hot surface, you’ll need to resist the temptation to jerk away, which inevitably leads to a crumpled up tortilla that has to be thrown away.  I suggest you practice this whole unmolding step on your countertop before attempting it on a griddle or skillet.  Once unmolded, simply roll the tortilla back into a ball and begin again. Masa is really malleable and easy to work with.   


The first flip. After about 30 seconds, the edges of the tortilla will dry slightly and the tortilla will release from griddle—before this moment, the tortilla will be stuck to the hot surface. With a metal spatula (or callused fingers), flip the tortilla onto the hotter side of griddle (or hotter skillet).  Don’t overbake the tortilla on the first side! If, when you flip it, the surface looks like dried mud with little fissures running through it, you’ve left it too long and the tortilla probably won’t puff.   


The second flip. After about 30 seconds, the tortilla should be browned in spots underneath. Flip again. Cook for about 30 seconds more to brown that side.  The tortilla should puff in places (or, if you’re lucky, it’ll balloon up like a pita; a gentle press with a metal spatula or fingers encourages puffing. Transfer to basket lined with towel.


Continue. Press and bake the remaining tortillas. Stack each baked tortilla on the previously baked ones. Keep the tortillas well wrapped in towel to keep them warm.


Don't know where to start with ingredients and equipment? Get your already curated Tortilla starter kit from our friends at Masienda:




  1. Greetings!
    Thanks for Corn Tortilla recipe. I tried it but my Blue Corn tortillas did not puff, tried alittle higher heat and no puff. I will keep trying till I find out what I am doing wrong.
    I love Mexican food and love making it.
    Enjoy Your Day!

    1. the puffing is from steam trapped under a sort-of-crust from your partially cooked side. so: fresh tortilla on the medium side of grill for about a minute [makes a less permeable barrier], flip to hotter side which will then ‘puff’ as some of the moisture in the center and bottom heats to steam.

      important, must have:
      both sides of griddle hot enuff [almost certainly this is your problem, not hot enuff]
      enuff [not TOO much] moisture in dough.

      this works the same way to ‘puff’ flour tortillas–its NOT from baking powder which many people [including me] don’t include–just wheat flour, salt and water.

  2. Thanks for saying something about the blue corn not working. I just got a tortilla maker and some blue corn and was about to try it.
    The flour tortilla recipe on this site is my favorite by far for the regular flour tortillas!!!!

  3. I too have trouble getting mine to puff. And yes I have tried gentle pressing with spatula or fingers. But I also find there are so many different instructions given for letting the dough rest. Any where from not at all to 60 min. Does that affect the puffing?

    1. I too found that the tortillas didn’t puff because I didn’t knead the dough long enough when preparing it. It was so frustrating, but I eventually figured it out.
      So when I started to knead the dough much longer -for 5-7 mins…the tortillas all behaved themselves and puffed for me!

      **The tip about placing the tortillas first on med heat for first side and then to higher heat for the second to trap the heat inside is excellent too! Or first place it for a shorter cooking time on first side, and longer on second to trap the hot air to make it puff.

    2. I couldn’t get mine to puff at first and finally found I was making my dough to dry. Good rule of thumb I picked up on is when you get it right if you squeeze your ball of dough it shouldn’t crack.

  4. How can you tell if your cast iron skillet is the right temperature? I will try your suggestion with two skillets, one on medium and one on medium high. I have made corn tortillas 3 times with a skillet on medium high and I end up smoking up the whole house. The tortillas taste great, but am very distracted by the fire alarm.

    1. Hi Amy,
      Your skillet may be too hot. If after 30 seconds on one side your tortilla is more than “starting to brown in a few spots,” your skillet is too high. Maybe try again and set one side to medium and another to medium-low. Hope this helps!

  5. as humidity can affect the quantity of the flour when measured by volume, is it possible to convert its amount into grams/ounces for a more accurate measurement ? Or am I being overly cautious ?


  6. Greetings!
    I finally learned from watching all video’s around the web and youtube that tortillas puffing up depends on how good the masa flour is old flour will affect puffing.

  7. I made corn tortillas for the very first time in my life. Watching Rick’s video was perfect. Corn tortillas are hard to find where I live in Tokyo so I am happy to be able to make them from scratch at home. Muchas gracias and arigato!

    1. I also live in Tokyo.. I am hand making my corn torillas!
      i used to buy them in america and put in freezer. .but now i make fresh!

  8. Hello,

    Can these tortillas be made ahead of time? I would love to make them for a large crowd at a party and if I could reheat them that would be a big help.


  9. I’ve had good luck using a in-greased cast iron griddle with one side at approximately 400 F and the other at just about 600 F. I find if the cool side goes much below 400 F I won’t get a puff. If the hot side goes much over 600 F the tortillas start to burn. I used an infrared thermometer to figure out my strategy.

    1. Hi Andrew…That’s exactly what I found. I don’t know how I ever lived without an infrared thermometer!?

  10. This is a great recipe! The kids and I made organic corn tortillas for the very first time. They are much better than the packaged ones and relatively easy to make. The video was very helpful along with the written instructions. Only two of our tortillas puffed up, but it did not seem to impact the flavor or the ability to fold them for tacos. Really happy this worked out so well. Thank you!

  11. hey rick or ricks followers, do you ever make masa from either boil (i know a lot of work) the hominy and cal or buy the cooked hominy (like for pozole)…and grind in food processor or ? thanks

  12. Making masa is a lot of work. I’m more interested in what is going into the tortilla than the tortilla itself. Life is too short to do EVERYTHING so I go for what gives me the biggest bang. So Maseca is fine for me, infact, store bought works fine for my daily meals. Nevertheless, I know people who have used Alton Brown’s recipe and very detailed instructions on making masa from scratch and they feel that this is as good or better than buying masa from a tortilleria. Here’s the link:
    And, here’s the link to the recipe:
    AND, I kind of think I remember Rick Bayless making his own fresh masa but I couldn’t find it so maybe I’m mis-remembering.

  13. I tried corn tortillas using other website’s recipes before and it didn’t work. But with Rick’s recipe and video showing the exact method, I made great tortillas! I started with the amount of water suggested, but ended up using 3-4 more tablespoons of water. Perhaps my flour is old. It’s a good idea to start cooking the tortillas with a cooler pan and then finish it in the hotter pan to puff. Once it puffs up, remove from pan and put it a lidded container lined with a cloth towel to continue steaming. I used a big glass container and placed a cloth napkin inside to wrap the tortillas and absorb some of the moisture coming out as steam. The steam keeps the tortillas soft and pliable. I’ll be making corn tortillas from now on!

  14. This worked great for me. Thanks for the recipe. My tacos were outstanding with these fresh tortillas.

  15. I have two questions. One is that the tortilla looks a little dry on one side when I cook it on my comal. I think the masa has the right amount of moisture when I form it into balls and then press it. I am not sure why one side does not look as smooth as the other. Maybe I do need to add some more warm water even though I already use about 1 cup and 4 tablespoons, Also I have trouble folding the tortillas in half (the shape of a taco) and not having them break at the fold. I want to be able to add a corn/cheese mixture and gently fry the tortilla in a non-stick pan. I try to fold them right after I take them off of the comal. I even slightly undercook so that they can finish cooking while I fry in a nonstick pan. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

  16. Can you comment on the optimal surface temp for “medium” and “medium high”? It seems to matter to success with puffing. Given high degree of variability between stoves, gas v electric etc some more precise info would help. ( I have a gadget that will measure surface temps.)

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