Making Tortillas: a step by step guide


© Lynda Swink and “Life on the Farmlet,” 2010.


Making tortillas is easy once you know the rules and if you own the proper tool~ a tortilla press.  They come in many designs, but my personal favorite is the cast iron one above.

I have to tell you that masa or corn tortillas are the simplest to make, and yet I see some pretty amazing additions to the recipe when I look online.  They’re just making it too hard on themselves.  Essentially, you need the following:

  • A tortilla press
  • One split Zip-loc baggie
  • A medium sized bowl
  • A clean, lint free dish towel
  • A very hot griddle set to 400 deg.  or a cast iron skillet
  • A bag of corn masa  (I like MaSeCa brand)
  • Water

>>>>>>>>>>>>YOU DO NOT NEED:  oil, salt, baking powder/soda, wheat flour, zanthian gum (a gluten free emulsifying agent).


1.)     Mix one cup of Masa by hand (literally) with enough water to make a stiff dough.  It will be the consistency of pie crust and will crack easily when squeezed.  NOTE:  too wet and dough will stick to the plastic bag, too dry and it will tear and crack when removing it from the plastic.

© Lynda Swink and “Life on the Farmlet,” 2010.

2)     Divide dough into equal portions of about the size of a small tangerine.  I find it easiest to just divide the dough into half, and continue
halving until the parts are approximately that size.  You should end up with about 8 portions.

© Lynda Swink and “Life on the Farmlet,” 2010.

3)     Insert the plastic with the seam against the hinge of your press.   Roll one portion between your palms to smooth and round, then place it between the plastic layers and press flat with the tortilla press.  Open and turn the plastic the opposite direction  pressing the dough a second time.

© Lynda Swink and “Life on the Farmlet,” 2010.


4)     Lift the plastic on one side, flip the tortilla onto your palm, now gently peel back the plastic from the other side of the tortilla…

© Lynda Swink and “Life on the Farmlet,” 2010.


5)     Flip your hand over the pre-heated griddle or pan letting the tortilla land on the surface. Wait about 1 minute.

© Lynda Swink and “Life on the Farmlet,” 2010.


6)     Using a spatula, flip the tortilla over for 30 seconds, and then flip back.  Try not to leave it long enough for little cracks to form on it.
Now you will cook that side until it begins to show the slightest signs of browning and then flip one last time.  This is the fun part!  If you have managed to do everything perfectly the tortilla will puff up in the middle!  Leave it be until you see a slight browning and then remove from the cooking surface.
7)     Place the tortilla into the folds of a clean dish towel to keep warm and continue as above.


NOTE:  At this point you can use them as is for a soft taco or fry them in a pan with about a half-inch of oil (NOT olive oil) to make tostadas or crispy taco shells.

Crispy shells:  Using tongs, put tortilla into hot oil five seconds or less, carefully turn and using tongs fold it over, wait about 8 to 10 seconds and roll it over to get the other side.  If you take too long it will be hard to fold, and if you don’t take long enough it will turn into a grease sponge!  Place shells onto paper towels or a clean paper bag to drain.


Making tortillas takes practice.  For the most part your first attempts are still edible!



32 thoughts on “Making Tortillas: a step by step guide

  1. Rich Fletcher says:

    Awesome!! Thank you so much for this Lynda! Very well written and photographed I love it !! Practice will begin soon… Ive got to go find some Masa 🙂

    • pixilated2 says:

      Claire, you can try it, but use the trimmed Ziploc bag. My suspicion is that the masa will have very irregular edges and some cracking. However, if the cracks are there you can press them together with your finger as the dough is very forgiving. If that doesn’t work out for you, then go to Amazon and order one. They are not as cheap as we would want, but the cast iron ones are worth the investment. I’ve had mine for 25 years and I love it! Oh, and let us know how the rolling pin works for you. Thanks! ~ L

    • pixilated2 says:

      Hi Tandy! I’ve seen you on two or three of the blogs I follow. Small world! Well, all I have to say is, that once you get the hang of it there is no going back to store bought. Thanks for visiting! ~ Lynda

  2. annashortcakes says:

    Hi Lynda, thanks for following my blog. I have really enjoyed your blog. As a country girl, born and raised, it is interesting to see you perspective. It looks like you have made the transition with grace. I look forward to seeing your future posts. 🙂 PS I love this guide to making tortillas. It is something I have always wanted to try but never had any idea where to begin.

    • pixilated2 says:

      Hello Anna, thanks for signing up! I look forward to more of your recipes in the future. Do try the tortillas if you get a chance. They are so much better than the store bought kind. 😉 ~ L

  3. Steve Schwartzman says:

    After I came home from two years as a Peace Corps teacher in Honduras, I bought a bag of masa and made some tortillas, but I have to tell you that there’s nothing like a real Central American tortilla made at home from ground corn that’s been soaked in lime. I hope you’ll get the chance to experience the real thing someday (if you haven’t already).

    • pixilated2 says:

      I did! I have friends from Costa Rica and I got to go there and visit for a month. I ate all kinds of wonderful foods I had never had before. Home made tortillas were one of many, but the heavenly treat was the tomal. Wrapped in banana leaves, buried in the coals, and steamed to perfection! I still make many of the foods I learned to love there. But only when I can find the fresh ingredients and the price is acceptable. 😉 ~ L

  4. KatyDaly says:

    Can’t wait to try these! We make Yankee tacos all the time, but always with store-bought shells. These look pretty easy, but I’ll have to find a cast-iron press before I try. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Kathee says:

    I learned to make tortillas in Chiapas, where we used them as eating utensils and everybody ate up a dozen or so at each meal rolled up and used to scoop up and bite off, repeat until you need another one. The Mayan Indians never had a tortilla press. When you make about 500 every morning you get real good at hand forming them. It’s really easy. I wish I could show you, Lynda, you’d have it mastered in about a minute. Basically, you just make a ball of the dough in your hands and then slap it back and forth in your hands real quick until it starts to flatten out and then you work it around in a circle in your two hands, using your thumbs to keep it moving. In about 20 seconds you have a tortilla once you get the hang of it. I still use this technique to make perfect and round flat burgers.

    • Lynda says:

      Hey, Kathee! Welcome to the Farmlet! 🙂

      I have seen your hand method done with the wheat flour tortillas, but I didn’t think it would work with the corn masa ones. I thought they had to be rolled or pressed because they are so fragile. Did you add something to keep them together?

  6. Kathee says:

    There was no wheat up in the mountains in Chiapas. We just used water and ground cornmeal. The Oxchuc Mayans all had cornfields in their valleys and mountainsides. They had corn dating back to before the conquistadors. Maybe what we used was different somehow, but it tasted the same as any corn tortilla I’ve ever had. I think the temperature of the water had something to do with the mix. Wish I could remember the details!

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