Do you ever wonder, are corn tortillas gluten-free? I mean the packaged corn tortillas you can buy in most grocery stores. The answer is … sometimes. Sometimes corn tortillas are … more
Do you ever wonder, are corn tortillas gluten-free? I mean the packaged corn tortillas you can buy in most grocery stores. The answer is … sometimes. Sometimes corn tortillas are gluten free, and sometimes they either have some gluten-containing ingredient added in (like wheat flour), or are made on the same equipment as wheat flour tortillas so they’ll have traces of gluten in them. It seems like it should be a simple thing, right? They don’t have many ingredients. But, like many things gluten-free, it’s more complicated than you might think. Let’s see if we can simplify it – by making it at home with just a few ingredients. (Oh, read this post about whether to make or buy gluten free corn tortillas, I talk about a gluten-free brand I like. Be sure to read the comments – other readers talk about their favorite gluten-free brands, too!).
Last night was my most favoritest gluten-free restaurant meal in California during my whole almost-2-weeks in this very special wish-I-lived-here state. It was at Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, a completely gluten-free restaurant. They serve authentic arepas, which are, like, Colombian English muffins, sliced open and stuffed with all sorts of savory fillings.
I started eating the black bean arepa you see above, until one of my kids swiped it for their very own. This food is truly soul-satisfying. Reasonably priced, completely safe gluten-free food from the heart.
Since there’s already a recipe for arepas in My Cookbook, I was reminded of fresh corn tortillas, which are very, very similar to arepas. Both are made with gluten-free masa harina corn flour, an incredibly versatile, precooked cornmeal. When masa is made, it is wet. Masa harina, a corn flour, is dried. All it absolutely needs is some water to reconstitute it. I always add some salt, though, lest it be bland, but you can also add some spices, like ground cumin and chili powder, to taste.
I like to use corn tortillas to make quick quesadillas, huevos rancheros, or even as soft tacos. They really make even the simplest rice-and-beans-meal much more memorable.
I really like to use a tortilla press, whenever I’m making any sort of gluten-free tortilla. I find it makes really quick work of the whole process.
You can cook the tortilla right out of the press, but I find that it’s a bit too thick (usually about 1/4-inch) and I prefer to roll it out a bit more after I press it. You can skip the press altogether and just roll out disks of dough between two pieces of plastic (or unbleached parchment paper).
This is the basic thickness that I find works best.
When the tortilla is first placed on a hot skillet (cast iron holds heat so well – use it if you’ve got it), it lays flat.
Soon, the sides will begin to pull away from the pan, like you see above. That means it’s time to flip.
Cook the other side for about 15 seconds, then flip once more for another 15 seconds. It’s as easy as that. Here’s the printable, for your cooking convenience. Pay particular attention to the description of the dough consistency and procedure. It’s a simple process, but a specific one all the same. Looking for more recipes with masa harina? Try the recipe for arepas in my first cookbook, or this recipe for gluten-free pupusas here on the blog.
- 2 cups (232g) gluten-free masa harina corn flour
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 9-11 ounces very warm water
- Place the masa harina corn flour and salt in a large bowl, and whisk until well-combined and there are no clumps in the flour.
- Add 9 ounces water, and mix to combine. The dough should be stiff and thick, but a bit wet. It will absorb water as it sits. If it is at all dry, add more water, about ½ ounce at a time, until it reaches the proper consistency.
- Cover the masa dough loosely with a wet towel or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. The dough should not stick to your hands at all as you are handling it. Divide the dough into about 10 pieces, and roll each into a tight round between your palms. If the dough is at all crumbly, sprinkle it lightly with some water and knead it into the dough.
- Heat a flat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Cut a gallon-sized zip-top bag along the sides, and then in half into two equal rectangles. Cut off and discard the zip-top, and set the plastic aside.
- If not using a tortilla press, press one piece of dough into a disk, and then place the disk between the two pieces of plastic. Roll out into a round about 6 inches in diameter and about ⅕ of an inch thick (no thinner - corn tortillas are thicker than flour). Remove the plastic and carefully place the tortilla in the hot skillet. Allow to cook undisturbed until the tortilla begins to pull away from the pan around the edges (about 45 seconds in a hot pan). With a flat, wide spatula, flip the tortilla over and cook for about 15 seconds. Flip once more, and cook for another 15 seconds. Remove the tortilla from the skillet and cover with a moist tea towel. Repeat with the remaining dough, stacking the tortillas under the towel.
- If using a tortilla press, in step 5, don't press the dough into a disk. Simply press the dough first in the tortilla press (lined with plastic). Remove the dough from the press, and either place it right in the hot skillet, or roll it out a bit thinner between the two larger pieces of plastic. Continue with the rest of the instructions.
- Corn tortillas can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in a damp tea towel, for a few hours and remain pliable. They can also be crisped before eating by searing briefly on both sides in a hot skillet. They are best made the same day as they will be eaten.
P.S. For a recipe for arepas, and lots more gluten-free recipes, check out My Cookbook! With your support, the recipes will keep coming. :)