Homemade Corn Tortillas – Part Two: How to Make Masa

by Ann Marie Michaels on August 7, 2008

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Making Masa - Rinsing the Corn

This is the second post on how to make corn tortillas from scratch.

After you’ve cooked and soaked your corn in lime water, you’re ready to make your masa (or dough). Please read Homemade Corn Tortillas – Part One: How to Soak Corn for Masa to learn how to properly soak the corn prior to making masa.

How to Make Masa

Equipment:

Food processor

Ingredients

Soaked corn (nixtamal) – from Homemade Corn Tortillas – Part One: How to Soak Corn for Masa
Filtered water

Directions

1. Rinse the soaked corn thoroughly in a colander.

Making Masa

2. Add the corn to the bowl of your food processor, 1 cup at a time.
3. Pulse a few times, then let it run.
4. Add anywhere from 1-4 tablespoons of water per cup of corn. You just have to feel it out. Keep adding water 1 tablespoon at a time and blending until the dough is very soft and is no longer crumbly.
5. Keep pulsing and scraping down until the dough is done. You will know when it’s done when the dough is very smooth and it forms a ball on one side of your food processor.
6. Be very conservative about adding water. If you add too much water, the dough will be overly sticky. That’s OK though. Just add more corn and make it a little dryer, then mix it with the wetter one. It will all balance out.
7. Form the dough into a few large balls and wrap in plastic and store in the fridge until you are ready to make your tortillas.

Making Masa - Forming the Dough

Read how to make the tortillas in Homemade Corn Tortillas – Part Three: How to Make Tortillas.

Other posts in this series:

Homemade Corn Tortillas – Part One: How to Soak Corn for Masa

Homemade Corn Tortillas – Part Three: How to Make Tortillas

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Vehement Flame May 7, 2009 at 7:08 PM

I am hoping a blender will work for this??? I don’t have a food processer! Can I give my kids the soaked corn and some rocks?? hee hee:)

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JLB June 11, 2013 at 6:28 PM

I have tried to use a blender and food processor to make masa with good results. I recently ran my soaked, fermented corn through my champion juicer and it was incredible. No juice comes out of course…just the smoothest masa I’ve ever made. You have to put it through the champion juicer slowly and in small batches (with a few drips of water) but it comes out great. I have tried the Estrella corn grinder and was less impressed. It was gritty. If you have a champion juicer at home give it a try.

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alex September 15, 2013 at 6:11 AM

I have a meat grinder and use that. I ran it through and it worked great. Just finished eating some of the best tortillas that i have ever had, and i own a Mexican restaurant.

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Jeannette May 21, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Does this dough hold up ok in the freezer — in the event that you wanted to make a big batch of dough at once to make tortillas later?

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Beth January 17, 2010 at 10:35 AM

If I don’t have access to the raw, dry corn but CAN find some organic corn meal; could I soak the corn meal with pickling lime like soaking flour? If so, how do you think I would do this since the lime has to be rinsed out? Any thoughts about that route? I have the pickling lime in my cupboard although I have never used it.

Bummer that corn is so GE. I happened to have both corn meal and masarina a long while back (neither organic but that’s what I had) and used the masarina to make cornbread following instructions on the cornmeal bag. All that to say that I did NOT react to the cornbread even though masarina is not soaked long enough per your research like I would have if I had made it with the regular cornmeal. So maybe even the short soak helps neutralize somewhat?

I have fond memories of going to the corn mill with someone in Central America (I spent every summer there from the age of 1 and then lived there 8 years). One thing that stands out is how wet and loud it was! We’d go in with a big basket of corn and come out with a big basket of masa. I was too young to pay more attention than that. I wish I could go back in time and pay more attention :).

Thanks in advance for any input about soaking cornmeal!
.-= Beth´s last blog ..Coffee Creamer =-.

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Beth January 17, 2010 at 10:38 AM

By the way, I meant to include in the previous post that the corn via your link from Tropical Traditions says unavailable :(. Maybe later?
.-= Beth´s last blog ..Coffee Creamer =-.

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cheeseslave January 17, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Beth –

Do a search online for field or dent corn.

You can use corn meal. Make sure it’s organic and don’t soak as long. Just rinse in a colander.

I don’t know if you would “react” if the corn is not soaked properly. (Although I ate corn once at a luncheon that I think was not soaked at all and ohhhhh was I ever in pain!) But if the corn is not soaked adequately, whether you react or not, you will not be absorbing vitamins & minerals.

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Beth January 17, 2010 at 2:10 PM

AnnMarie,

Thanks for your quick response! I agree with you that with less soaking the nutrients wouldn’t be as well absorbed and it’s not as good; thanks for reminding me of that. My reactions are from the mold/toxins like aflatoxin – my hands literally start bleeding after 15 min after eating beans or corn that is not soaked (or even, say, potato chips cooked in corn oil). Yet I can eat corn on the cob fine.

I’ll look local for now and see what I find and search online as well. One last question (hopefully!), does it matter if it’s field corn marketed for animals or ‘fancied up’ marketed for people as long as it’s organic or are they different?

Thanks again!
Beth
.-= Beth´s last blog ..Coffee Creamer =-.

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cheeseslave January 17, 2010 at 5:15 PM

Beth – Not sure what you are talking about on that last question. Can you elaborate?

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Ginny Stebbins January 25, 2010 at 5:07 PM

I just made your fantastic tortillas. In Love!!! Now my paranoid friend tells me that ALL corn has a neurotoxic mold on it that cannot be killed or removed. Tell me it isn’t so!

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Beth January 25, 2010 at 11:06 PM

Ginny,

Maybe she is talking about aflatoxin. I’m not “allergic” to corn or beans but haven’t been able to eat them because of my sensitivities to the mycotoxins, etc (aflatoxin and aspergillus and maybe others are on corn/beans). My hands literally bleed after 20 minutes of eating them. After reading in Nourishing Traditions that soaking beans in water overnight with some lemon juice in it neutralizes the aflatoxin I decided to give it a try. NO reaction, yeah!! So, yes, I can eat properly soaked beans – a ton – and don’t bleed. After that success I thought I would venture a try with soaked corn. Yeah, no bleeding hands! I happen to have a very outward sign so I can tell.

I tried these tortillas and did NOT react. Trust me, I would! I’m so sensitive that I can’t even eat, say, potato chips fried in corn oil or any corn product whether it’s organic or not (I can, however, eat fresh corn on the cob – no mold buildup yet). So, this recipe for soaking the corn was wonderful for me. The tortillas themselves were a bit of a flop for me because I was using cornmeal, I think. On the other hand, the chips I made with the tortillas were awesome. It was so nice to enjoy the taste of corn once again.

Hope this helps,
Beth
.-= Beth´s last blog ..Goodbye Board Books! =-.

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Beth May 6, 2010 at 11:56 PM

Hi,
Can you please tell me if I can put the soaked corn in a blender if I do not have a processor? Does soaking the corn make it soft? I am just trying to figure out how it works. I have a mill, and have always ground corn into flour for cornbread, but I know I can not put the soaked corn into my mill because of the moisture…? And, this is a silly question I know, but I guess I can’t mill the corn into flour first and then soak it can I? Thanks. Just trying to figure out how to do all this!

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Rachel June 14, 2010 at 8:52 PM

I have a question, but first thought I’d share something that I found interesting. When my children and I were reading Little House in the BIg Woods for school, at the end of summer, Pa Ingalls brought ears of corn and shelled them for Ma Ingalls to make hulled corn and it took 2-3 days to make; using clean ashes from freshly burned hardwood (burned in the summer without a/c!) placed in a cloth bag, boiled for a long time, then scrubbed for a couple of days, changing the water frequently till the hulls came off. If anyone has the book and wants to look it up, it’s on pages 218-221. She used the traditional lye method that acheives the same result as the lime, but the lye was readily available to the pioneers from ashes.
Now, I am interested in boiling the corn in lime, etc…as you showed, I already have the lime water prepared. However, what about doing the boiling part, then drying out the kernals in my dehydrator and store for later use (kind of like the idea behind sprouting and drying for later use)? Then, grinding the masa kernals, soaking in an acid medium overnight and finishing the recipe. Does that sound like an option? Do you have a guesstimate on how long to dehydrate for? (I know at a low enough temp. to keep enzmes) I like to make a lot of corn bread and would like to venture into corn chips and tortillas, but won’t go through this everytime I want cornbread (which is often), but if I have the masa kernals already prepared and all I have to do is grind and soak, I’m willing.
Thanks for your time answering.

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pliglee July 10, 2010 at 5:37 PM

I’m in the process of trying to make these tortillas but have run into a problem. A small patch of mold has developed on my soaking corn! Is it ok to just scoop out the little mold patch and use the corn?

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cheeseslave July 10, 2010 at 5:41 PM

I would scoop it off and use it if it were me.

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Greg August 1, 2010 at 3:38 PM

AnnMarie

In part two, your instructions say to rinse the corn thoroughly. Other sites say to rinse and rub the outer shell away. I like the look of your Masa, can you explain why you leave the outer shell on?

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Joy April 6, 2012 at 4:45 PM

I had this same question. Please answer!

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Amanda April 22, 2012 at 9:56 AM

Yes, I want to know the answer to this question as well!

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cheeseslave April 22, 2012 at 12:07 PM

This is the way I was taught to do it by my former nanny from Guatemala. I just rinse.

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Dane February 21, 2013 at 12:40 PM

I think the extended soaking in the lime water disintegrates the husks so that they rinse away with no rubbing needed.

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jeff August 25, 2010 at 4:32 AM

I grew blue hopi corn in my garden last year and wanted to make tortillas with em. I’m gonna get some pickliing lime and give it a whirl. thanks for the info.

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Rachel February 4, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Do you use salt?

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cathy June 27, 2011 at 2:45 PM

rachel

I have seen dried nixtamalized corn for sale in bags. I would guess from that that you could dehydrate and rehydrate and cook later

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Rachel April 13, 2012 at 4:23 AM

Thanks, Cathy.

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LeahS July 11, 2011 at 8:59 PM

I am going to try making this next time I make tamales.

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Audrey October 29, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Mine did not turn out. :( The second I got them thin enough to be considered a tortilla the stuck all over the plastic. I also tried parchment paper and plastic wrap. Very sad after soaking the corn for a week. Any suggestions for sticky dough?

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JLB November 24, 2012 at 9:20 AM

I had a surprising discovery when making a large batch of masa. After making the fresh masa I freeze extra for later. One time after the soaking time was completed (10-12 days) I didn’t have time to grind the corn into masa. I tried something different by freezing all my soaked/fermented corn (cleaned and drained of course) until a later. When it was time to make it into masa I thawed my soaked/fermented corn and then ran it in the food processor. The masa came out to be the smoothest batch I have ever made! The freezing process does something to the corn that makes it even easier to grind up and very smooth. Anytime I’m going to need to freeze extra masa I will do it in this order instead. Enjoy!

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Lisa June 12, 2013 at 7:43 PM

So I would like to make southern-style white hominy grits.
Would you soak the corn the same? I assume you then have to dry back out and grind?

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Jane June 28, 2013 at 12:31 PM

I am going to give this a try. When i ferment things i always get a little scared that something will go wrong and i will go from fermented to just plain rotten. How do i know the diffrence. Is there a certain smell that i should look for?

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alex September 15, 2013 at 6:18 AM

Someone from, i think Sweden or maybe Norway asked about using popcorn. I just used popcorn and it worked great. if other corns are better, it should be illegal because the tortillas i just ate were great!

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