Homemade Corn Tortillas

Bean tacos with fresh corn tortillas is my favourite super-cheap meal. Embarrassingly, I only recently bought a tortilla press and learned to make these. It’s embarrassing because it’s just so easy; I had seen tortilla/chapati presses as a child; and because I’d been paying insane Canadian prices for corn tortillas.

I know that many readers may live in areas where you can easily buy cheap and delicious corn tortillas. But where I live both corn and wheat tortillas at the grocery store are really expensive ($3-5 for 10-12) and don’t even taste very good. And the gluten-free ones I require are often hard and prone to cracking.

Here’s the basic method:

1. Buy a tortilla/chapati press from your local Mexican or Indian store.

2. Buy the corn flour (not corn meal) labelled for tortillas. I buy it at Superstore.

3. Follow the instructions on the label, which involves mixing corn flour, salt, and water to make a soft dough. (The bag indicates 1 cup of flour makes 8 tortillas, but I make 6 with one cup.)

4. Roll the dough into balls, cover with a damp cloth until ready to press.

5. Line your press with plastic (I use a kitchen garbage bag) and press a tortilla.

6. Cook in an ungreased pan on medium heat for a few minutes each side, until slightly brown. No oil is required at all.

7. Cover the cooked tortillas with a cloth to keep them warm while you cook the rest.

8. Then assemble them however you want with whatever fillings you have. I use my standard spiced bean mixture, plus some combination of the following:

  • salsa
  • Mexican hot sauce
  • greens
  • tomato
  • cucumber
  • olives
  • cheese
  • avocado
  • green onions

These are also great for quesadillas – put the fillings between two and pop them back in the pan to heat — or for a healthy breakfast idea.

For leftovers I’ve tried leaving the rolled but uncooked dough balls in the fridge, then cooking the next day; and cooking extra tortillas and leaving those in the fridge. I find the second method works better – they stay soft when heated in the microwave the next day. The dough balls tend to dry out and get harder to cook the second day.

And how does the cost work out? Here’s a little calculator to figure out the cost per item.

For me it worked out to about 6 cents per tortilla. I eat 3 for a meal. For the fillings, depending on what you use it could be from $0.20* for just beans, to $1.20 if you use a whole avocado in Canada. So the total meal can range from about $0.40 to $1.40 per person – extremely cheap eating.

The press I bought was about $30 so pays for itself within the first bag of flour, and should last indefinitely.

Of course you can also make flour tortillas or chapatis this way. My next goal will be to find a good gluten-free flour tortilla recipe.