Whole Grain Weekends – Homemade Tortillas


Hello everyone, and happy weekend!  Welcome back to Whole Grain Weekends, a space to share and explore cooking with whole grains!  Whole Grain Weekends will be happening in this space the first and third weekends of the month.  I’m going to post a recipe and photos, and have a space below where I will link to all of your recipes, too!  The basic rule to play is: post a recipe on your blog using whole grains.  Soup with grains, sprouted grain bread, salad with whole grains added, etc . . . Whole grain flour recipes are welcome, but we prefer to explore using these beautiful grains in their whole form.  If you want to join us but don’t have a blog, you can leave it in the comments, or email me your recipe (wheatberryma (a) gmail.com), and I will post it for you at the end of the weekend.

This week, I’m posting (at last!) a recipe for homemade tortillas, all the way from dried corn to your plate!  For those of you who are not members of our grain CSA, you may be able to find dried corn at your local farmer’s markets or coops – just make sure it’s not popcorn or sweet corn, you want dried dent corn.  I want to thank Kyce, who started making her own tortillas last winter during a plastic fast, and who inspired me to gather the courage to try making my own.  After we committed to eating local foods a few years ago, I stopped buying tortillas (they come in plastic too – double whammy), and while I occasionally eat them out at a restaurant, for the most part our life has been very tortilla-deprived.   So when I saw Kyce’s, my mouth began to water and I was determined to try.

Simply using corn flour did not work well.  also, the wood ash or lime does great things for the corn – it makes the B vitamins available to our bodies, and helps with the calcium absorption as well.  My mother kindly sent me her dormant tortilla press, and with our new gorgeous Mandan Bride corn, I set to work.  After a bit of experimenting, here’s what works best for me.

Homemade Masa & Tortillas

3 cups dried corn

2 tsp wood ash  or food-grade lime (this is often available in Mexcian grocery stores, and may be called “Mex-Cal” or something similar)

6 cups water

Mix the above together in a cooking pot and let soak overnight.


The next day, bring the pot to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes to an hour, until the skins of the corn kernels burst open and they are softened.  Pour into a colander, and run cold water over the corn, stirring and rubbing with your fingers to get off all the ash or lime (it takes five to ten minutes to do a thorough job – a great job for small helpers!).


Then, pour your corn kernels into a food processor.  I tried this at home with my blender this week, and it did not do a very good job – it came out too chunky (as you’ll see in the last photos), and didn’t really make a dough.  So, you really do need to use a food processor to make the wet dough.  (If you so desire, you could at this point spread out your kernels onto sheet pans to dry, then grind them into flour (masa harina) and make your tortilla dough from that flour.)  In the food processor, add just a wee bit of water to make it turn smoothly – add it a teaspoon at a time.  Grind until you have a smooth corn kernel paste – but not too wet!  Ella says it helps if you make a Very Fierce Face.


And now you have your masa dough!  Let it rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes.  Heat up a cast iron pan with just a bit of fat or oil.  Then, shape about 2 tablespoons into a small ball and press with either a tortilla press, or the back of a heavy pan.  Use a plastic bag cut in half or waxed paper to prevent it from sticking.


Now, slide the tortilla into the hot pan, and cook very lightly on both sides.  Sliding it off may be the trickiest part – I found that using a spatula was really helpful.  Keep the tortillas warm on a plate with a cloth towel, and use them however your tummy desires!  You could also make a big batch and freeze them.  Congratulations, you’ve made your own tortillas from scratch!  And they’ll look much better than these, since my dough this time was too chunky and fell apart.  Isn’t that exciting?



Can’t wait to read your recipes, everyone!  Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to join us at Winter Fare in Northampton – we’ll be taking names for a giveaway of 10 pounds of local flour, and selling 2011 grain shares (plus more!).

12 Responses to “Whole Grain Weekends – Homemade Tortillas”

  1. 1

    This is great! I’ll have to try this soon.

  2. 2

    Help! Your whole grain recipe looks great. If you like picture linkys and blog hops, a Decidedly Healthy or Horridly Decadent hop has just begun (Sat party, but open for entries until Mon noon). But, the decidedly healthy (whole grain or veggie) recipes are in short supply. Consider sharing your recipe with the folks following this hop:
    Older posts that fit the theme are also a-ok. Posting 2 recipes also ok.

  3. 3

    Adrie, you blow my mind. I live in the land of tortillas, and have never once considered making my own from dried corn kernels. This looks amazingly simple and delicious, and I look forward to doing it the real way. (I’ve always just used masaseca…which is not organic and not gmo-free. Yuck.) Have you considered making tamales with your homemade masa? I bet they would be delicious. Let me know if you need corn husks. XOK

  4. 4

    You’re too sweet! I wish I had saved some of our thousands of corn husks from this summer – maybe this year I will. I really should try tamales next, thank you for the reminder!

  5. 5

    Thanks for stopping by, Maggie.

  6. 6

    Thank you Grace!

  7. 7

    Would I be correct in thinking that food grade lime is the same thing as pickling lime?

    We’ve made awesome tasting corn bread with the Mandan Bride corn, so I’m really looking forward to the idea of corn tortillas made with Mandan Bride too.

  8. 8

    I just checked to be sure, and yes, they’re the same. Enjoy!

  9. 9

    Hi Adrie, we just gave tortillas a shot with the Mandan Bride dent corn as well. We didn’t have a tortilla press but tried using a cast iron pan to press them. We could get them pretty thin but they wouldn’t quite make it into the pan in one piece. It seems like the masa dough was a little crumbly. Two things may have happened: 1) too much water and/or 2) not grinding for long enough in the food processor (too coarse). So…if anybody else runs into this problem, we mixed in about 1/2 cup of AP flour to get some gluten going in the dough and it seemed to help. We ended up making cookie size fritters that tasted pretty darn good and served some pork tinga over the top. Just a note that we’ve also used the dent corn in posole and it’s fantastic.

  10. 10

    Great to hear of your adventures! I think your thoughts are correct about not enough grinding and too much water – you can knead your dough a bit to get out the extra water, too.

  11. 11


    Where have you found the wood ash or lime locally? Greenfield, Amherst, Hadley, Northampton? (I’m in Heath.) Do you sell the corn at Wheatberry? If not, I suppose Greenfields or BFC would have it this time of year.


  12. 12

    Oh, and thank you, thank you, thank you for the recipe!

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