[UPDATE – I am now the proud owner of a tortilla press, thanks to Craigslist. More tortilla goofery to come soon.]

I really like corn tortillas. We eat them all the time – in these black bean tacos, crisped into strips for tortilla soup, and lightly oiled and baked into chips (trust me, it’s not as weird as it sounds). Flour tortillas are also delicious, but much heavier and more caloric, due to the large amount of fat. Corn tortillas are relatively good for you (they’re just corn), and they’re technically a whole grain, if you’re into that sort of thing (I’m not really, but whevs).

Corn tortillas are made from dried, ground, and limed corn, which you can buy at the store in the form of masa flour:
masa flour

To make your own tortillas, you just mix the flour with a bit of water (2 cups of masa, 1 1/2 cups flour, and a half teaspoon of salt will give you 8 large tortillas). The cool thing about masa flour is that since there is no gluten, it’s pretty easy to work with. Just combine all the ingredients so they come together in ball, then let it rest for half an hour to finish hydrating.

When that’s done, split the dough into a bunch of little balls (I weighed mine -they are about 2.5 ounces each – but you certainly don’t need to do that):
ball o' dough

Cut three edges off of a freezer Ziploc bag so that you have a sheet of plastic with a fold in the middle. Place the ball inside the flap, close it, and take a big frying pan and evenly press down on top. Really squish it in there! When you’re done, it should look like this:

At this point, you can either cook them in a preheated, dry nonstick skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute per side…
tortilla in progress

…or you can fill them with queso Oaxaca and seasoned black beans and fry them in a bit of oil for a wonderful treat.


The dough is fragile once it’s flattened, so I found it easiest to fill them while still on the plastic, then use the bag to help flip the top over. It seems weird at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. Most of mine looked like this:

…but here’s a pretty one:

As you can see, they both fried up just fine:

…and here they are plated up, with a little quick homemade salsa (maybe a future post?):

Here’s a quick recipe, but really, this is pretty flexible. I just found some leftover tinga in the fridge, and I’m already getting ideas…

Tlacoyo Masa Pockets

from Serious Eats
makes 4 pockets (enough for 4 people, if you have a salad or other side)


  • 1 cup masa flour
  • 3/4 cup water, more if needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lard, bacon fat, or oil
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, OR substitute 1/2 cup your favorite salsa for the onion and garlic
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 oz shredded Oaxaca cheese (or substitute Monterey Jack)
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoons neutral oil for frying
  • Salsa for serving
  • Chopped onion and/or cilantro for garnish


Mix the masa flour, water, and salt in large bowl to form a dough. Let sit 30 minutes, covered.

In a skillet, heat the fat over medium high heat. Cook the onion for a few minute until soft, then add the garlic and cook a few minutes more until fragrant. Add the beans and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened. [For a shortcut, you could substitute 1/2 cup salsa for the onion and garlic. I learned this trick from my mom, and it works really well] Let cool and mash slightly with a fork or potato masher.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and flatten into disks as in the pictures above. Fill each with 1/4 of the bean mixture and 1/4 of the cheese and carefully close up and seal. Repeat with the other 3.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the pockets and cook, undisturbed, for at least 3 or 4 minutes, or until browned on one side. Carefully flip and cook a few more minutes on the other side. Serve, with salsa and other garnishes.


5 thoughts on “tortillas!

  1. Good morning Dan… this is John Olsen the Volunteer Chef at Shalom Ministries in Spokane, and now colleague with your dear mother and Ellerie… your blog is very nice… photo’s and all… One of my very favorite “venues” for my Volunteer cooking is at Holden Village and the best week there as a cook is the week of Abriendos Caminos… I had the good fortune to be a sous chef for Maria who was the Mexican woman who was Chef the first summer I served up there as an extern from Edmonds Community College Culinary program…. learned lots of nice little tricks with masa and animal crackers in the Mole’ sauce…. best regards J

  2. Um, YUM! I’ve got to make some of these. Plus, I think the plastic-baggie-frying-pan-smash is brilliant. Who needs a tortilla press? The plastic would make them easier to work with after anyway!!

  3. @ John – thanks for commenting! I’d love to talk mole with you sometime. I never understand how you and my mom can cook for hundreds of people at a time in those big kitchen!

    @ Jenni – yeah, the bag thing is pretty ingenious. Let me know if you give these a try!

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