How to Make Fresh Corn Tortillas
"A good tortilla is a mixture of very few ingredients and a highly developed natural instinct," says Food & Wine 2021 Best New Chef Fermín Núñez. At his East Austin restaurant Suerte, Núñez and his team have honed those natural instincts through constant practice: They make thousands of tortillas by hand each day.
The technique employed at the restaurant is the same one Núñez uses when making tortillas at home. His rules are simple: rely on the highest-quality store-bought masa harina, a touch of salt, and just enough water. Choose a heavy tortilla press; the weight of the press does all of the work and will help form the most evenly shaped tortillas. Núñez prefers the Doña Rosa x Masienda Tortilla Press ($95, masienda.com). "This is the press that will outlive you," he says. "It's like the tortilla press you find in any reputable place that does tortillas in Mexico, from fancy restaurants to markets." (Our testers also recommend the Estrella Tortilla Press, pictured.))
But the most important rule is to make tortillas again and again. Your hands will learn the right feel of the dough, and you'll more quickly spot the puff of the tortilla as it cooks each time you make them. Don't worry about the learning curve. Fresh from the hot comal or cast-iron skillet, even those first slightly imperfect tortillas are tender and tasty. The scent will fill your kitchen, making practice an enjoyable task. As for what to cook to go with that stack of fresh tortillas? Serve them with your favorite taco combination, or try Núñez's smoky Charred Chile–Marinated Grilled Chicken paired with a simple Tomatillo Salsa Cruda. —Kelsey Youngman
1. Mix and Knead Dough
Stir together masa harina and salt, gradually adding water and kneading, until dough is soft and smooth.
2. Divide and Roll Dough
Evenly divide dough into 12 portions. Roll each portion into a ball using your hands.
3. Prepare the Press
Set a plastic bag, cut open along sides, on bottom plate of press. Place 1 masa ball in center of plate between the 2 layers of plastic.
4. Press Tortillas
Close press, and apply gentle pressure to flatten dough. Open and gently transfer tortilla to a preheated comal or cast-iron skillet.
5. Cook the Tortillas
Cook tortillas over medium-high until they release from comal and edges lift, 20 to 30 seconds.
6. Flip and Finish
Flip tortillas, and cook until dry and matte white. Flip again, and cook until tortillas puff, patting with a damp towel to encourage puffing.