Homemade Corn Tortillas and Hard Taco Shells

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It won’t come as a surprise that after visiting casa Remcooks, I have been inspired to do some Mexican/Tex-Mex/Southwestern cooking. Baby Lady got me a big bag of corn masa flour, needed to make corn tortillas and she also taught me how to make crispy taco shells. Thank you, Baby Lady! Making your own corn tortillas from scratch is easy. You only need a tortilla press. I simply followed the recipe on the bag of masa, and it worked the first time around. Corn tortillas are easier to make than flour tortillas, which are hard to keep soft. Especially the fried version (taco shells) has a very nice flavor, which you probably know from tortilla chips.

Ingredients

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For 16 tortillas of about 14 cm (5-6 inches)

280 grams (2 cups) corn masa flour

320 ml (1 1/3 cups) water

1/4 tsp salt

(Please note that you cannot use the type of corn flour used to make polenta for this. It has to be corn flour that has been ‘nixtamalized’ as the process is called. Available from Mexican shops.)

Preparation

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Combine the corn masa flour, water, and salt in a bowl.

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Mix thoroughly. I started with a spoon until all the water had been taken up.

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Then I continued with my hands.

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The dough should be soft. If it is dry, add more water (one tablespoon at a time).

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Divide the dough into 16 equal balls. (The easiest way to do is, is to divide the dough in half. Then divide each half into quarters. Then divide each quarter into 8ths, and finally divide each 8th into 16ths.)

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Keep the dough covered by a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out.

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Place a ball of dough on the tortilla press, in between two sheets of plastic wrap.

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Close the tortilla press and press down on the handle.

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The tortilla will probably still be a bit thick and small. Turn it a quarter and press again. I had to press 4 times to get the size and thickness I wanted.

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Press until the tortilla has a diameter of about 14 cm (5-6 inches).

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Carefully peel the tortilla off the plastic wrap, as it breaks very easily.

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Wrap the tortillas with a damp cloth. Repeat until you have pressed all tortillas.

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Preheat un ungreased frying pan (or a comal if you have one) on medium high heat. Cook a tortilla for about 50 seconds.

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Flip it over and cook the other side for 50 seconds as well.

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Keep the tortillas warm and soft under a cloth.

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Repeat until you have cooked all the tortillas.

Eat them straight away, or allow them to cool to room temperature and store them in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag for up to a week.

How to make hard taco shells

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Allow the tortillas to cool to room temperature first. Head about 1 cm (1/2 inch) of vegetable oil or lard to a temperature of about 180ºC/350ºF. Add a tortilla, cook for about 5 seconds, flip it, and cook again for about 5 seconds.

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Now use tongs to fold the tortilla to a 45-degree angle and cook it for about 15 seconds or until crispy and golden, using the tongs to press it down. Flip it over and cook the other side for 15 seconds as well.

It takes some practice to get this right. You may actually make them wrong on purpose, as a freshly fried tortilla is a great snack with some salsa 😉

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Allow the tortilla shells to drain on paper towels. Serve them soon, as otherwise they will become chewy. They can be crisped up again in the oven if needed.

Flashback


It is very appropriate that two years ago I prepared flaky pork shoulder sous-vide, as I will apply the same method soon to prepare carnitas sous-vide (which will be served with corn tortillas).

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46 thoughts on “Homemade Corn Tortillas and Hard Taco Shells

          1. I figured out what was wrong. I saw the bag of Quaker tortilla mix and assumed it was flour tortilla mix. Even though I read your post. I have no idea where my mind was. I’ve actually never used the corn tortilla mix, but I’m sure it’s just as good. I used the mix until I realized it was really easy to make the flour tortillas without one. And yes, that’s probably why there’s a resting step. I also use warm water, and include some finely ground corn with the flour. We’re not as fond of corn tortillas in this house, although they certainly have their place. But my husband’s favorite purchased tortillas are a 50-50 mix of corn and wheat. They’re wonderful. They’re not as corny, and don’t have to be softened before using. Just so you know. But you’re right, corn tortillas are always corn!!!

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  1. non sai quante volte ho provato a fare le tortillas ma non mi son mai riuscite bene. Ora voglio provare la tua ricetta. E’ indifferente usare la farina di mais che cuoce per lungo tempo o quella che cuoce in tre minuti?

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    1. Per le tortillas di mais, è indispensabile la farina di mais “masa harina”, che nulla ha a che vedere con la farina utilizzata per preparare la polenta. Forse questo è stato il tuo problema con fare le tortillas? La masa harina viene prodotta essiccando e poi cuocendo i chicchi di mais bianco che successivamente verranno messi in ammollo con acqua e ossido di calcio e poi macinati.
      In Italia si pùo trovare per esempio su tibiona.it.

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  2. I have, on occasion, made corn tortillas with the MaSeCa masa you suggested. However, if you have a tortilla factory near your location, you owe it to yourself to try their fresh masa. It is mucho delicious. I usually purchase at least 5 pounds to make megas, chips, flautas, enchiladas and tacos. I always enjoy reading your posts.

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  3. Just as many readers may not cook as much Pacific island-style or Asian food as we do, tortillas and tacos are a sometime affair for me. here in Oz We seeem to have a growing love affair with all kinds of flatbreads and I know of quite a few commercial outlets selling the Mexican ones. Sinfully I normally use such as luncheon wraps with oft the same fillings I would pile on a ‘sandwich’!! Very interesting to read – look moreish and ‘real’ but don’t think a press will fit into my already overloaded kitchen cupboards 😉 !

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  4. Way to go. Stefan! These look great and I know they taste better than any that can be bought. I’ve enjoyed homemade tortillas before and they’re incredibly tasty.

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  5. Hi Stefan, I tried this recipe, but somehow my raw tortilla pancakes all stick together when I stack them. How did you stack yours? I was forced to press and fry them one by one, which was a very tedious task, especially with the oil boiling. Thanks for sharing, cheers, Araaf

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    1. Hi Araaf,
      I didn’t have any sticking problems. Perhaps your dough was more sticky?
      As you mention boiling oil, I assume you were making hard taco shells? I usually dry-fry each tortilla immediately after pressing, and then press the next one while the other one is dry-frying. As soon as they are dry-fried, they certainly won’t stick.
      Hope this helps!

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      1. Hi Stefan, yes, I was talking about making hard shells indeed. Thanks for the dry frying tip. I found that they just keep sticking together, unless I let them dry out, but then they break even more easily. I’ve become quite efficient in pressing 1 and frying 2 shells simultaneously. Cheers, Araaf

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  6. ¡Mil gracias! Stefan. I am wondering if I can make taco shells or taco chips from our own yellow maiz that we grind in our own grist mill? It is not “nixtamalized”, just milled and sifted.

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  7. Prior to the availability (invention) of the Tortilla press, were these dough balls flattened with a rolling pin or pounded flat. I’d prefer to try an alternative method first, before purchasing a press. ¡Gracias! Stefan.

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  8. Enchiladas are a favorite, Stefan, and the dish I am most likely to order when “going Mexican”, I’ve never attempted to make them, however, and can only imagine how much better yours would be. The homemade tortillas alone would elevate the dish beyond compare. It’s approaching midnight and now you have me craving Mexican food. 🙂

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  9. Over the last several years I’ve twice before tried to make crispy corn tortillas. Followong your recipe/methodology was the first time they I’ve been successful.
    Great explanations and tips! I no longer call it “that fucking POS tortilla press”.

    Liked by 1 person

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