Gluten-Free Corn Tortilla Recipe (How to Make Tortillas)

Since Kate left our house (and how we miss her!), I`ve spent a lot of time thinking about gluten.  Kate shared so much information about cooking Gluten-free and it fascinates me – after all, gluten is my favorite food group.  To imagine living without it is very difficult for me; which is why it has peaked my curiosity.  We  won`t be going gluten-free any time soon but I`d sure like to learn how to cook without it a whole lot more and see what I learn in the process.

Gluten Free Corn Tortilla Recipe (How to Make Tortillas) November Cornmeal Corn Cooking Recipes
Traditional corn tortillas are made with Masa Flour (also called MASA HARINA). It is similar to cornmeal although the whole dried corn is rinsed in limewater and dried again before being ground into a rough flour. The purpose of the lime is to make the corn somehow more digestible. Although it`s not local, it`s seasonal and we`ll be experimenting with variations to increase the presence of terroir in the dish.

A lot can be learned from the photos (full recipe after the pictures):

Gluten Free Corn Tortilla Recipe (How to Make Tortillas) November Cornmeal Corn Cooking Recipes

Corn Tortilla Recipe – Ingredients (to make around 12 medium-size tortillas)

  • 2 cups of Masa (around 5 ounces)
  • Around 1.5 cups of warm (nearly hot) water.  You may need a little more – this weighed 12 ounces.
  • 1 pinch of salt

Corn Tortilla Recipe – Instructions

  1. Mix the ingredients.   Stir well and work into a dough.  It will be a bit more moist than bread dough but not by much; ours looked a lot like bread dough with a bit of a sheen.
  2. Bring the dough together.  We stirred it and then worked it into a ball with our hands.   If it`s too wet (i.e. it won`t form a ball) , add some flour – add more masa if it`s too dry (you`ll know this if it forms a ball but starts to crumble).  If you`ve never made dough, it`s a bit drier than playdough but not far off.
  3. Allow it to rest, covered with a damp towel for 5 minutes.  The sheen will disappear as the moisture is absorbed by the flour.
  4. Form the dough into little balls (around the size of doughnut holes).
  5. Line a tortilla press with parchment paper.  I tried to skip the paper but the tortillas end up sticking to both sides of the press and fall apart.  You can use the same two pieces of parchment for as many tortillas as you can possibly make.  If you don`t have a press (they are around $12-$15) you could press between two cutting boards or roll with a pin.
  6. Place one of the  balls on the press – slighty off-center and closer to the side where the hinge is (this will allow for more perfect circles as the pressure starts from one side).
  7. Press down.  You don`t need to use He-Man or She-Ra strength; just enough to flatten things out.
  8. Remove the tortilla and parchment, carefully remove one side of the paper and then the other.
  9. I then give them a quick roll with the rolling pin (with the parchment paper in-tact).  This makes them a little more oval than circular but makes better use of my frying pan.
  10. The tortillas are cooked in a warm-hot (about a 6 out of 10) pan – we used a seasoned cast-iron pan without adding oil.  They cook for about 2 minutes per side.  Just before flipping the tortillas, push down on each tortilla with a spoon (a few times).  This will creat small air bubbles in the tortilla and make them ‘airier.’  You`ll know they are ready to flip when the outside of the tortilla begins to curl up and reach for the ceiling.

Here`s a few tips we learned:

  • You can make a lot at once.  We could have easily made 60-80 tortillas from the 600 gram (just over 1-pound) bag of masa.  The bag was just under $5 making these a fraction of the cost of store-bought, even with the one-time cost of the press (we purchased fresh tortillas on the weekend at $5 for 12).
  • Don`t crowd the pan.  Any part of the tortilla that isn`t in direct contact with the heat source will cook unevenly.
  • They should freeze excellently.  The package of masa recommends refrigerating or freezing the flour (though it was sold on the shelf so there wasn`t much purpose).
  • Let them cook a little longer than you are comfortable – near smoking.  They aren`t tender.
  • Let them cool separately to avoid sweating as they cool in a pile.
  • They taste fantastic.
  • Getting them to be uniform in size was tricky – we could have weighed the bits or used a special cutting technique (I`ll do that next time and take pictures to explain) that would have made them far more equal.
  • If your hands stick to the dough, keep them damp.  Wet fingers don`t stick.
  • You could easily add other dried flavors (I plan on hot peppers next time) to the dough.
  • The entire exercise was fast – 15-20 minutes.  We could have made 60 in an hour or so pretty easily.
  • Brushing them with oil on both sides and baking in the oven will crisp them up.

They are simply delicious.  I can`t remember making anything this easy in a long time that tasted so fantastic on a first attempt.  The texture and the flavor compared to store-bought isn`t a comparison; it will be hard to go back after eating these.

January 2, 2014.  We’ve changed our technique a little (and our measurements; though the ratio of masa and water stays the same) and thought it was time for an update so revised this post this evening.

Comments

  1. If, like me, you don’t own a tortilla press, you can use a cast iron skillet to press tortillas (and my favorite, pupusas). Just make sure to use wax paper. Yet another invaluable use for cast iron.

  2. Chocosol makes tortillas from scratch, including making the masa. Instead of drying the masa, they make it into dough directly. I’m told that they’ll sell you some of the masa at the farmer’s market if they have extra – I expect you’d see a quality difference compared with dried masa.

    Wild Fermentation has a good summary of the process the masa goes through.

    • Val, great tip and thanks for the reference to Wild Fermentation – will need to go back and take a look at that part. My copy is becoming well worn. :)

  3. I love the pictures – they really do capture the process well, thanks!.

    M.L.

  4. Great post. A few tips though:
    (It’s masa harina, not masa farina) I’ve been very pleased with Bob’s Red Mill masa, which is non-GMO.
    I flip my tortillas quickly the first time, as soon as I can get a spatula under them, then leave them, like you say, until they start to curl a little, then flip again. After the second flip, they should puff. If they don’t puff, they won’t be as flexible. Pressing them in the middle helps them puff.
    We do not cook them in a pan, that seems awkward. We cook them directly on the surface of our glass-top stove, or otherwise use a griddle (dry).
    We don’t cool them separately. The point is to keep them hot, cold tortillas are not very good. We stack them as we cook them, then wrap them in a cloth to take to the table. I flip the stack so the hottest ones are on the bottom and stay warm longer. There’s no sweating as long as you don’t seal them in plastic while they’re warm.

    • Thanks Brandie, made the edit – I’m a dork. :)

      You make a really good point re cooling them – I was making them to store (as oposed to eat fresh). Great tip re puffing them up as well – thanks so much for your comment!

  5. Yes, you’re using wax paper! We used plastic (which we hated) until Melanie one day decided to try wax paper. Way better.

    • Heh – I did indeed, though based on the comments Jesse I’m curious about a bag which is far more reusable… would be interesting to know how many uses becomes the environmental break even. :)

  6. He-man Or She-ra strength lol.

  7. Great post – but aren’t you in Toronto? La Tortilleria (in several locations around the city), sells fresh tortillas (incl. organic) for pennies. I get 1/2 kilo for about $3 – which is such a great deal, that I no longer make them. I don’t know where you paid $5 for 12.

    • Thanks LK, we are indeed – we’ll check them out and compare. The cost is one part of the appeal – but I also love the process of making something by hand as well… Great to have the option though. :)

  8. Once we started to make Masa tortillas we never wanted to go back. The kids can help. I use a ziplock bag cut on the zip side and the two sides – it will do 10s of tortillas and is sturdier than wax paper. the Masa recipe says 2 cups masa and 1 1/2 cups water (and some salt) to make 16 tortillas – our press and our likings mean that we go for 12 tortillas from this quantity. I have cooled and piled and frozen (shrinkwrapped) leftovers, it is so precious on a busy night. take the time to triple the recipe! You will love the speed another time

  9. Just a late follow-up. I realized I had a vat of masa and a baby-tightened budget, so I thought I’d make my own tortillas tonight. Made a huge batch to freeze a bunch, and have to say, the tip to cut a zip-lok and use that instead of waxed paper is tops. I would have to keep changing parchment (granted not “waxed paper” proper) as it would get sticky after two or three tortillas had been pressed. The zip-lok worked perfectly from start to finish. I rinsed it and left it with the press, and I fully expect to be able to use it next time. Awesome awesome tip, thanks, Ecoteri!

    • The other trick is to MAKE THE DOUGH at least 1/2 hour before you are going to use it.. It is much better to work with.

      and form a ball, and put in the fridge. then, when you are ready to squish, cut with a knife into the pieces and form balls. We use a plugin griddle as we don’t have the ability to use gas and a gas griddle. the plugin doesn’t get really hot but the leftovers aren’t crispy. Take the time to make your own corn masa tortillas, after abotu 50 or so you will know the feel of the dough, and it will be a go-to recipe. mmmmmm. and yes, we re-use the zip loc bag until it gets lost – just wash when you rinse the press, then when dry pack it away with the press….

      • Great tip Ecoteri; I was avoiding plastic because I was thinking of plastic wrap but the re-usability of te bag is a great idea. We baked a few of these with a light coating of olive oil to make them crisp right up and they were amazing.

    • Awesome Chris – love seeing all of us learning and sharing from each other. I’m a convert for next time. :)

  10. This is one thing we do as a family when we have a swack of folk coming over. get the beans cooking the night before, pull your salsas out, chop up fillings, and then set up the assembly line – one person on the griddle, a little person running the press, someone else running around like a chicken. the kids and I can eat 2 or maybe (when really hungry) 3 of these, but the guys can eat 5 or more – even totally loaded. I used to make a single recipe (2 cups of Masa) but now I ALWAYS double it, and then I look to the leftovers – and freeze a few if there aren’t enough fillings. a super fast treat for a last minute supper…. OK, you guys get it – these are just about my most favourite thing of all time, Masa Tortillas plus homemade black beans and grated cheese and fresh tomatoes from the garden – and some spicy salsas that we put by this summer. mmmm. I am now planning Tuesday’s supper! ;-)

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