Yesterday, I gushed about some fajitas that unassumingly sneaked their way into our kitchen and flat-out blew us away. And by the way, they were meatless; vegan, even. Portobello and poblano. Spicy, fragrant, healthy, fantastic. We made them twice in the course of a week, something we rarely ever do. And I wholeheartedly believe that a good reason for the awesomeness of those fajitas was due to these homemade corn tortillas.
They’re not something I ever seriously considered making because I’m actually not a fan of corn tortillas…or at least not the mass-manufactured version that Americans have come to know as corn tortillas. You know – rubbery, bland, temperamentally impossible to roll around chicken enchilada filling without cracking. So I had dismissed them and opted to make flour tortillas instead. And while I really love those flour tortillas, they’re sort of labor intensive with all the rolling required to get them thin enough, and this isn’t amenable to my weeknights.
But these corn tortillas totally are and I did actually make them Monday night after I got home from work. You’ll need five minutes to mix the four ingredients for the dough together, 30 minutes to let it rest, and about 15 minutes to cook them. I broke down and bought a tortilla press* but since the dough is so malleable, you can easily flatten the dough between plastic wrap using a pie plate. There’s no rolling and they’re gluten-free so you don’t have to worry about the dough springing back into a tiny piece (so annoying!).
And the result? I knew the smell of fresh corn hitting me when I opened the bag of masa harina was a good sign and I was right. These tortillas are unreal. Soft and pliable. Fresh and flavorful. Sturdy and tender. No processed ingredients; just wholesome food. Made by my hands, a $22 tool, and a cast iron pan. I realize I’m a complete dork about these types of things, but this just makes me so happy.
So yes. I’m a corn tortilla convert and I may never look back.
- 1½ cups masa harina
- ¼ tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil, softened butter, or lard (I've used olive oil with great success)
- About 1 cup hot tap water, plus more if needed
- In a medium bowl, mix the masa harina, salt, and fat of your choice together with a fork until the fat is evenly distributed and the mixture looks uniformly crumbly. Slowly drizzle the hot water into the mixture while you stir it into the dry ingredients. You'll need about one cup to get the dough to come together and when it's slightly sticky, you'll know you've added enough water. (I imagine that in humid areas, you'll need less water than this; and vice versa where the climate is very dry.) You will want the dough a little on the wet side since as it rests, the masa harina will absorb some of the water. If you add too much water, stir in a little masa harina to compensate.
- Transfer the dough to a surface lightly dusted with a little masa harina and knead the dough several times to bring it all together. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for between 30 minutes and 2 hours.
- Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces, roll each piece into a ball with your hands and loosely cover them with the plastic wrap.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet (or multiple skillets if you have them to speed up the cooking process) over medium-high heat. Place a dough ball between two pieces of plastic wrap set on the bottom piece of a tortilla press (or on the counter if you're using a pie plate) and press the top half down to form the dough into a flat round. Carefully peel the dough away from the plastic (this may take several attempts to do successfully but you can re-roll and press the dough again with ease) and lay it out in the hot pan.
- Cook for 1-2 minutes then flip with tongs and cook for another 1-2 minutes. The tortillas should be lightly browned in spots and will likely be a little darker around the edges. Keep the cooked tortillas nestled flat inside of a large, clean kitchen towel until ready to serve. They will come out of the pan a little crispy but they will soften with the heat and moisture of the other tortilla inside the towel. Serve immediately.
- Wrap any leftovers in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. They're definitely best eaten on the first day, are ok on day 2, and need to be cut and baked into tortilla chips by day three.
*The model I purchased is currently out of stock but I’m sure other similar models would work fine as well.