How To Make Your Own Tortillas

Last week I proclaimed the glories of having a tortilla press. But how do you actually make the tortillas?

This tutorial will take you through process, step by step, with pictures along the way. I’m going to get super specific, but at the end you’ll know exactly how to make tortillas. The recipe included below makes about 15 tortillas.

Required items:

  • One tortilla press (preferably cast iron)
  • Two frying pans, or a griddle covering two burners
  • One mixing bowl
  • Plastic wrap
  • Masa harina (the most common – and best – brand is Maseca)

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Once you’ve made your tortillas you’ll be putting them in the oven to keep warm while you make the rest of your meal. Fresh tortillas will keep for about one day, but they are best when cooked and eaten at the same time.

Step 2. Combine 1 3/4 cups masa harina with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot tap water. Mix together by hand, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes. This resting time is necessary to allow the masa harina to absorb the water.

Step 3. After 15 minutes, pinch your dough. It will likely be a little bit crumbly. Add water, a teaspoon at a time, and incorporate the water into the dough until the dough has a consistency of cookie dough. I find I usually add 1 tablespoon of water.

Step 4. Set up your work station: Put two frying pans on adjacent burners on medium-high heat. Cover both plates of the tortilla press with plastic wrap.

Step 5. Grab about a golf ball-sized piece of dough from the main dough ball.





Note the plastic wrap covering both plates.

Step 6. flatten the dough into a disc. Lay the top plate of the tortilla press down, then press down with the handle.




Step 7. Open up the press and see how you did. I usually do a light first press, open the press and reposition the tortilla, then press down again firmly.



Step 8. Here is where it gets slightly tricky. First, peel the top layer of plastic off the pressed tortilla, and lay it back on the upper tortilla plate (see picture). Then reach underneath the tortilla with your left hand, grab an edge of plastic wrap, and flip the tortilla onto the palm of your right hand. Now the side of the tortilla with the plastic wrap is on top. Peel the plastic wrap off with your left hand, gently holding the tortilla in your right.

Step 9. Turn the tortilla from your right hand onto the frying pan or griddle. Do this in one quick, confident motion. Once the tortilla touches the hot pan it will instantly stick, so if the tortilla isn’t lying perfectly flat, don’t worry about it.

The front burner is for new tortillas, the back burner for tortillas that have been cooked on one side. Note the curled edges of the front tortilla. It is almost ready to be flipped.

Step 10. Cook the tortilla for about 30 seconds. Then it will release from the hot pan and you can flip it, onto the other burner. Cook on the other side for 30 more seconds, then flip a second time and cook another 20 seconds or so. In this final stage the tortilla will likely puff up.

Step 11. Transfer to a tea towel-lined dish and cover. When done cooking, keep the dish and tortillas warming in the oven.

When I’m in the middle of cooking a batch of tortillas, I’ll have three tortillas in various stages of completion (two on the griddle, one on the press, waiting in line). Preparing and pressing one tortilla takes about 30 seconds, the amount of cooking time of one tortilla side. The first time I made tortillas it was stressful, but I got the hang of it quickly. Tortillas are very forgiving, so don’t worry if one is t0o thick, too thin, or tears when you’re flipping it onto the griddle.

Have fun, and enjoy the instant satisfaction that comes with making homemade tortillas!

  • Terra

    Man, I passed up a tortilla press the other day at a thrift store, because I thought, “That looks hard.” Now, I wish I had bought it. Thanks for the tutorial! My partner has been using the cleaning tips on your site and I’m gravitating towards the cooking and gardening posts. Thanks!

    • Mark Evitt

      You’re welcome! I’m glad both of you have found something useful. It’s really gratifying to make tortillas for the first time.

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