Need to take the simplest meal and make it 100 times more special? Wrap it in a tortilla. Have to serve dinner on-the-go? Wrap it in a tortilla. Tired of sandwich bread for school lunches? You get the idea.
But we all know that store-bought tortillas, gluten free or not, tend to break when we’re counting on them to bend. *whomp whomp whomp* These fresh gluten free corn* tortillas are perhaps the simplest recipe you’ll find (if you don’t count water, there are only 2 ingredients!), but make them once and I dare you not to become obsessed with them.
*If you’re just getting started on a gluten free diet and you’re wondering if corn is gluten free, for example, check out my Ultimate Guide to the Basic Rules of a Gluten Free Diet. Everything you need to know is in that guide, along with plenty of links for a deeper dive into some important information.
What is masa harina?
It all starts with certified gluten free masa harina, a finely ground corn flour that is made from corn that has been dried, cooked in lime water, ground and dried again. It should be naturally gluten free, except that some store-bought varieties are frequently contaminated with gluten.
So, like oats, you need to source a certified gluten free variety. Luckily, Bob’s Red Mill makes certified gluten free masa harina corn flour that is available in most larger grocery stores and is of perfectly good quality. I often order it from Nuts.com as well.
Some readers have told me that Maseca brand is gluten free, but I’m still trying to figure out if it’s certified gluten free or not! Either way, stock up when you find a brand you trust. Once you start making your own gluten free corn tortillas, it’s hard to go back to the store-bought ones!
A few notes:
Corn tortillas are typically a bit thicker than flour tortillas. Don’t try to roll them as thin. They’ll still bend.
You can make them using a tortilla press or just with a rolling pin. The instructions below cover both methods.
Pay particular attention to the consistency of the masa dough as described in the recipe instructions. If it crumbles at all, add more water a bit at a time and knead it in. Don’t skip the resting phase, either. It gives the moisture a chance to be absorbed into the flour.
Of course, you do not need to cut out perfect circles for your tortillas using a cake cutter or the lid of a pot (see old photo below). I just like the way it looks.
I have a simple tortilla press made by Vasconia, and I purchased it at a local kitchen supply store but it is also readily available online.
Like this recipe?
Prep time:Cook time:Yield:10 6-inch tortillas
2 cups (232 g) gluten free masa harina corn flour (Bob’s Red Mill and Nuts.com are both good brands here)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
9 to 11 ounces very warm water (about 90°F)
Make the dough. Place the masa and salt in a large bowl, and whisk until well-combined. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add 9 ounces water, and mix to combine. The dough should hold together well and have the consistency of play-doh: stiff and thick, but a bit wet. It will absorb water as it sits. If it is at all dry, add more water, about 1/2 ounce at a time, until it reaches the proper consistency.
Let the dough rest. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and touch the dough. It will have absorbed enough of the water that it is not crumbly but leaves no residue on your hands when you touch 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.
*If using a tortilla press, do not press each piece of dough into a disk. Line a tortilla press with plastic (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 use the two pieces of plastic to line the press). Then simply press the dough first in the tortilla press. Remove the dough from the press, roll it out a bit thinner between the two pieces of plastic and then continue with the rest of the instructions.
Prepare and cook the tortillas. Heat a flat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Place one piece of masa dough between two sheets of unbleached parchment paper and roll into a round about 6 inches in diameter. For a perfect circle, cut a clean round from the dough using a 6-inch cake cutter or lid of a pot of similar diameter. Remove the top sheet of parchment, peel the bottom sheet of parchment away from the raw tortilla and place it in the hot pan. 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, gathering and re-rolling any scraps and stacking the tortillas under the towel.
Serving and storage. Corn tortillas can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in a damp tea towel, for a few hours and remain pliable. They can be refreshed before eating by searing briefly on both sides in a hot skillet. They can also be cooled completely in a stack, then wrapped tightly in freezer-safe wrap and frozen. Defrost at room temperature and refresh in a hot skillet as described.
Originally published on the blog in July 2012. Recipe refreshed, retooled and re-photographed—with one old photo retained.