Tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, burritos. The versatility of tortillas is seemingly endless. It’s a staple of Mexican cuisine and is easy to make at home. All you need are two ingredients: masa harina and water.

Photo: Kiera Wright-Ruiz

Masa harina is a finely ground flour that’s made from nixtamalized corn (that is, corn that’s been soaked in an alkaline solution), and traditionally used to make both tamales and tortillas. In the U.S., the most common brand is Maseca, which you can find at most supermarkets or Mexican grocery stores. Bob’s Red Mill also makes a widely available version. Important: cornmeal or corn flour will not work in its place.

Masa Harina

Photo: Kiera Wright-Ruiz

Making homemade tortillas can be a slight time commitment but is well-worth the effort for their soft texture and rich taste. Once you start making your own, you won’t ever want to buy premade stuff again.

Field Notes:

1.

If you’re planning to make homemade tortillas more than once, we highly recommend purchasing a tortilla press, which isn’t much of an investment. Although they’re made from various metals and even wood, our favorite model is (appropriately) made from cast iron.

2.

The key to getting the perfect tortilla is finding the right balance of flour to water. If your tortilla dough appears to be on the drier side, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time until it’s soft again.

3.

Our tortillas are finished over an open flame, which adds extra char (and more flavor). If you have an electric stove, just cook your tortillas for a little bit longer in the skillet.

Kiera Wright-Ruiz is a writer and recipe developer based in Brooklyn. When she isn't working, she's probably watching anime and eating onigiri, preferably at the same time. Follow her food adventures on Instagram.

recipe

Cast Iron Tortillas

Yield: 20 6-inch tortillas

Photo: Kiera Wright-Ruiz

Ingredients

2 cups masa harina (yellow or blue)
1 ½ cups water
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

1.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the masa harina and salt. Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon until a soft dough begins to form, then knead it gently with your hands to form a ball. Transfer to a baking sheet and cover the dough with a damp towel.

2.

If using a tortilla press, prepare it by covering both sides in plastic wrap. If you don’t have a tortilla press, use two cutting boards wrapped in plastic wrap.

3.

Use a knife to divide the dough into 8 pieces, then divide each piece into 2 to 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball, and cover with the damp cloth until you’re ready to press the tortillas.

Dividing the dough

Photo: Kiera Wright-Ruiz
4.

Place a cast iron skillet over medium heat. While the skillet heats, take a ball of dough and place it in the tortilla press (or between two cutting boards). Press down firmly and carefully remove the tortillas with your hands or a plastic bench scraper. If the dough tears, reform it into a ball and press again. Take the tortilla and immediately place it in the hot skillet. Cook, flipping once, until the edges are starting to curl, about 2 minutes per side.

Photo: Kiera Wright-Ruiz
5.

Using tongs, remove the tortilla from the pan and place directly over a medium-high flame. Cook for 10 to 15 seconds or charred in spots, then flip and cook the other side for 10 to 15 seconds longer. Transfer to a tortilla holder or lidded container and cover. Repeat with the remaining dough and use immediately.

Photo: Kiera Wright-Ruiz