Mexican Tortillas

Great served with the Mexican rice, Mexican beans, stir-fried or grilled Mexican vegetables, chili sauce and salsa.

This is a  difficult recipe but comes out really nice. It takes over 2 days so needs some planning – just as idlies or dosas  – to make the corn dough, called Masa Harini. The best way to enjoy the freshest and most authentic tortillas and tamales possible is by making fresh Masa Harini.


  • 1 kg dried high starch corn like the popcorn seeds/sweet corn grains.
  • 1/2 cup powdered “cal” calcium hydroxide (slaked lime, pickling lime or builder’s lime) (In India this is called chuna and is available with Paan vendors. In Tamil Nadu it’s called Shoonambu). Corn cooked with cal becomes nixtamal, which significantly increases its nutrition value, and is also considered tastier and easier to digest
  • 3 quarts (approximately 3 litres) water
  • salt


Rinse and drain the dried corn kernels, removing any debris or chaff.

In a large pot, add 3 litres water and dissolve cal by stirring slowly, unheated. Put on flame, add the corn and bring to rapid boil over high heat. Within a few minutes of boiling the kernels should begin to turn bright yellow. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and cool. Place the covered pot of corn in the refrigerator and allow to soak overnight or at least 8-10 hours.

The next morning the corn kernels will be swollen and many of the corn skins will be floating on top of the water. Skim off loose skins. Place the treated corn in a large colander/strainer. Under cold running water, rub kernels between your hands to wash and remove any remaining loose outer skins. Rinse thoroughly at least twice to remove all excess lime. Inadequate washing/rinsing can result in a bitter taste.

Grind the corn in an idli grinder with a little water for quite a while to get a nice dough with some texture. Knead the masa adding salt and a little water to obtain pliable but resilient dough that can be used for making tortillas, tamales, sopes and other foods. It is best to use fresh masa as soon as possible because the oil in the corn will turn rancid quickly. If you want to store the masa for later use, refrigerate in a sealed airtight container for 2-3 days or freeze well wrapped for up to a month.

To make the tortillas, shape the dough into balls and roll into a thin round shape between two sheets of thick metal plates. Cook on a thick cast iron pan or a non stick pan.

Serves 10