Traditional Homemade Corn Tortillas (and why you should soak the corn)

I love Mexican food and I love to learn to make things myself. My first adventure with homemade corn tortillas involved a bag of Masa Harina from the grocery store. It was genetically modified corn, that was boiled in lime water for 30-60 minutes, then dried into a “quickie” tortilla flour. I made a batch of 12 flour tortillas in about 15 minutes, which was nice. But the flavor was so bland that I ended up not making them again for many years. When I started researching traditional cooking methods, I was happy to discover a different corn tortilla method. It involves soaking the corn in lime water for up to 2 weeks!

Why soak the corn?

Soaking corn in an alkaline solution has quit a few benefits.

1. Makes corn easier to grind

2. Increases flavor (I can attest to that for sure!)

3. Increases nutrition: The soaking process balances the amino acids in the grain, making them more available to your body. It also un-binds the Niacin in the grain, so that you can absorb this important mineral. Soaking also increases the grains absorption of minerals from the cooking pot. So if you soak the grain in an iron, copper or zinc dish the grain will absorb minerals from this dish. Soaking increases calcium absorption by up to 85%.

4. Reduces Mycotoxins and other carcinogens: There are several strains of mold (Fusarium Verticillioides and Fusarium Proliferatum) that very commonly infect corn. These molds are known carcinogens and are rampant in many kinds of grain. The alkaline lime water kills this mold.

The masa harina tortillas that I made previously and this soaked recipe don’t even compare to each other in flavor. This is completely worth your extra time and effort. Just remember to plan ahead. I make a large 2 pound batch of dough, wrap the extra balls of dough in the freezer. Fresh tortillas on demand! The tortillas themselves also freeze well, if you’d rather just cook them all at once.

Traditional Corn Tortillas

(makes 48 tortillas)

2 pounds of organic dry corn kernels

2 Tbsp pickling lime

  • Place corn in large stock pot. Cover with filtered water. Add 2 Tbsp pickling lime, and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Cover pot with a lid and let soak for a minimum of 48 hours. Traditional recipes call for a 7-10 day soaking, which I would recommend.
  • Drain the corn in a colander and rinse. Place 2 cups of corn in your food processor. Process into a fine mush, adding water one Tablespoon at a time until the mixture is a thick, paste-like dough. (if you like salt, add it now.) Not too wet! If the dough won’t form into a ball and stay there, it is too dry. If it sticks to your hands and the counter it is too wet.
  • Process all of the corn in a similar fashion, until you have a large amount of masa. Freeze some if you like.
  • Form a whole bunch of little balls 2″ in diameter. The size of the tortillas is up to you. I sometimes make large 4″ balls of dough, if I’m planning to make Enchiladas the next day, because they are so much easier to roll up when they are slightly bigger.
  • Heat a heavy skillet to medium-high heat. No oil or grease needed.
  • Using a tortilla press or a rolling-pin, form the tortillas. I personally am too cheap to buy a tortilla press, I lay out a piece of wax paper, put the dough on it, put another piece of wax paper over that. Then I roll with a rolling-pin into a circle. But that’s just my cheap-girl method 🙂
  • Throw in the pan and heat one minute each side. They will brown slightly and smell delicious!

You’re done! That seemed like an awful lot of words to explain a recipe that contains 2 ingredients 🙂

Now you can make any one of your favorite Mexican recipes. I love to cook these, because I get the first one hot off the pan, with lots of butter. And talk about frugal, even the highest quality organic corn is only $8.00 for a large 10 lb bag. 2 pounds makes 48 tortillas (.03 cents per tortilla)

I read an article just today about a woman who kept a pot of corn soaking in lime water on her kitchen counter at all times. She would just scoop out the amount of corn she needed to make tortillas for that nights dinner, and continue feeding the pot. Interesting idea!




  1. Jennifer said,

    March 14, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    I can’t wait to try this! I already tried your flour tortillas and loved them, although it took me quite a bit longer than 20 minutes to make them. (I always have to double the time on recipes, because I usually get interrupted by 4YO twin drama at least 6 times when I attempt to do, well, anything.)

    Love your blog!

    • March 14, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      Jennifer, thank you so much. My first tortilla attempt didn’t take me 20 minutes either and ended up with quite a few burnt tortillas. Nowadays I’m making a double batch of tortilla dough, and just frying up a few for the meal we’re eating, and keeping the rest wrapped up tightly in the fridge. It saves lots of time.

  2. cjdelgrosso said,

    March 14, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    Great post, I too have made my own corn masa (nixtamal) and there is no substitute! I also use MaSeCa masa harina in a pinch, but you are right, it does not have the same flavor. I have found however, that grinding the corn in a food processor does not give the masa the right texture, it is still to grainy. I end up using a hand cranked mill. Your thoughts?

    • March 14, 2012 at 11:12 AM

      You’re right, it is a little grainy still. I am saving up to buy a grain mill. I’ve been threatening to grind my own grains for years, and haven’t gotten around to it yet. It’s on the list!
      I get a better texture when I use the food processor, but only about 1 cup of corn at a time. It comes out smoother that way.

      • cjdelgrosso said,

        March 14, 2012 at 1:12 PM

        That sounds about right! I never thought to try a bit at a time! LOL

  3. March 15, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    […] 12 Fresh corn tortillas […]

  4. May 7, 2012 at 1:04 AM

    […] (make them myself corn and […]

  5. Cheui May said,

    August 5, 2012 at 8:10 PM

    Looks delicious. Thanks for posting this. My husband and I love Mexican food and I haven’t made any because of the problems with phytates in grain and beans. I finally broke down and made carnitas tacos last night, but the tortillas were dry and hard and just didn’t have much flavor. Maybe I didn’t heat them enough. I got them from Whole Foods. I went there in hopes of finding organic ones, but they had none and I had to settle for these. When I read the ingredients, there was no lime listed, so probably the corn wasn’t even soak. I can’t wait to try these. Love the fact that you can freeze and use when ever you need it.

  6. January 3, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    hi! just found this and am very excited to try it. question: where do you find organic corn kernels?

  7. Josh said,

    February 13, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    You can save some money on corn if you know you will use it. Look up Azure Standard Farms. You can order 20 pound bags on the cheap, and it’s non-GMO, chemical free corn. And, CJDelgrosso, what kind of mill are you using to grind your corn? Have you ground the corn without soaking, to compare it to grinding after it is soaked? I have a mill, but we have to grind dry corn twice (once to “crack” it, and then a second time to actually grind it.) Have any of you used a molcajete for your corn?

    Great post!

  8. missmykael said,

    February 9, 2015 at 8:07 PM

    Hi, I’ve tried this 3 or 4 times now and I always end up with tortillas that taste….fermented? I’m not quite sure what to call it. My family thinks it’s wierd and just this side of gross. We do eat naturally fermented foods, so they are used to that taste. But this is different, I just can’t put my finger on the proper word. I’m using azure standard organic, non gmo corn soaked in KAL dolomite powder.

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