Cinco de Mayo – Simplified Homemade Tortillas

27 Apr

I went crazy at the grocery store yesterday. I bought enough food to last a whole week, with lots of fun projects. One of my projects was handmade corn tortillas to go with grilled steak tacos with avocado salsa.  The recipe we “followed” was really complicated, and I still don’t really know if we made them “right,” but the final result was delicious and worth the wait – even if Steve did give up after his first tortilla.  Don’t give up!

I’m sure there are a few technical foodies out there who will disagree with my method, but it sure did simplify the process. These tortillas are worth every ounce of effort, but they really do require some time, and a little bit of a learning curve.

taco night

Here’s the original recipe from Bon Appetit with notes:

And here’s how to make it like a normal, non-technical person… I mean simplified.

Corn Tortillas

yield: Makes 12

(We doubled the recipe to go with the Grilled Steak Taco recipe, but we made much smaller tortillas, and ended up with more than 24)

  • 1 3/4 cups Masa Harina – a corn “flour” that can be found in the baking aisle in my grocery store, but try the international section, too
  • Warm water
  1. Mix 1 3/4 cups masa harina with 1 cup warm water plus 2 tablespoons in a large bowl.
  2. Add warm water to dough by tablespoonfuls as needed, kneading until dough is soft, smooth, and pliable but not sticky. The trick here is to not add too much water. Add water sparingly just until the dough comes together, tablespoon by tablespoon.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  4. Use one or more skillets (to speed up the process) and put them all on medium heat.
  5. Lay down a square of aluminum foil. Place a handful-sized ball of dough in the center (or larger if you want to try to make larger tortillas). Cover with a square of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to work the dough into a flat round shape. Roll it out until it’s about as thin as you can get it while still being able to remove it from the foil and plastic. I found that using the foil on the bottom helped me push the dough off easily. You will need to replace the foil occasionally as it may tear.
  6. Put tortilla on 1 skillet, use the other skillet for your next tortilla to speed up the process. Just drop it on there. Don’t worry about any crazy technique.
  7. Cook tortilla until it looks slightly dry at edges and starts to release from griddle surface, about 45 seconds. Lift tortilla with fingers and place, uncooked side down, on same griddle. Cook until brown spots appear on bottom, about 1 minute. On same griddle, turn tortilla over again. Cook until bottom browns and parts of tortilla puff up, about 1 minute longer. As a side note, our tortillas never looked very browned or puffed up, they looked more like tostadas at first, so don’t be afraid you’ve screwed up. They are more rigid than you would think, but they do soften up.  Go approximately by the timing given above, about a minute on each side, flipping it twice.
  8. Transfer tortilla to a large sheet of foil and keep warm in 250°F oven. At this point they really soften up. Yum!
  9. Repeat with remaining dough, adding tortillas to foil packet. (Tortillas can be made 2 hours ahead. Wrap in aluminum foil. Rewarm in 300°F oven 15 minutes.)
corn tortilla on a skillet
And there you have it! Amazing corn tortilas. Good work 🙂 Pair these with the perfect combination (if you don’t eat them all first):

Grilled Steak Tacos with Avocado Salsa


  1. 3 jalapeños
  2. Extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 1 large onion—half cut into 1/2-inch dice, half sliced 1/4 inch thick
  4. 1 garlic clove, minced
  5. 1 pound tomatillos—husked and chopped (my grocery was out, so I bought 5 small tomatoes, removed the seeds and juice, and chopped)
  6. 1 Hass avocado, diced
  7. 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  8. 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  9. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  10. 2 links of fresh chorizo (somehow I ended up without this, even though I thought I bought it! Really not necessary, especially with all the other meat)
  11. 1/2 pound queso panela or halloumi cheese, cut into squares (I bought manchego, just don’t try to grill it!)
  12. One 1 1/2-pound flank steak


  1. Heat a grill pan. After finishing cooking, I agreed that a grill pan was better than a grill for this recipe. There is so much busy work in the kitchen, unless you have a sweet outdoor setup with a counter next to your grill for your preparations, keep it inside.
  2. Grill the jalapeños until charred. Stem and seed the jalapeños; finely dice 2 of them. Thinly slice the remaining jalapeño and reserve on a platter.
  3. In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the diced jalapeños and onion (they don’t tell you here, but they mean the DICED onions only) and the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, 10 minutes. Add the tomatillos (or tomatoes) and cook until softened. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Stir in the avocado, cilantro and lime juice; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Oil the chorizo and grill over moderate heat until cooked through. Remove the chorizo casing and crumble the meat into a bowl.
  5. Lightly oil the cheese (manchego – i can confirm – is not a good cheese to grill… Steve: “Why is there melted cheese all over the grillpan?” Do, however, warm it up if possible) and grill for 1 minute per side, then oil the pan and grill the sliced onion until charred; transfer both to the platter.
  6. Oil the steak; season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once, 8 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a board and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak and serve with the accompaniments.
The combination of these two recipes, the warm homemade corn tortillas, with the hot off the grillpan steak, finished off with a warm avocado, onion and tomato salad, it was pretty much heavenly. And it all reheats well for the next day too. I can’t wait to make these again soon! There’s another Mexican fiesta coming up this summer!  Hm… Cinco de Mayo?

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