The Gluten Free Tortillaria: How to make Homemade Corn Tortillas

tortillas.jpgIn many ways, mexican food can be one of the easiest or the hardest cuisine for the gluten free diner. Because many Mexican restaurants in the US rely so heavily on flour tortillas and use flour to thicken sauces for enchiladas etc., restaurants like Jose Muldoons often give us few dining options. Even those items naturally gluten free like tacos made from corn tortillas or nachos made with corn chips can be cross contaminated by shared cooking surfaces or fryers, causing many of us to despair. Some restaurants are willing to work with their customers to reduce risks of cross contamination, but you can’t always count on them to provide you with a safe meal. However, at its heart, Mexican cuisine has a lot to offer the gluten free chef, including a rich array of corn based products from its Aztec heritage. As Wikipedia informs us, “when Spanish conquistadores arrived to the Aztec capital, they found that the people’s diet consisted largely of corn-based dishes with chiles and herbs, usually complemented with beans and squash.” This diet was modified by ingredients introduced by the conquistadores, along with “indigenous foods of pre-Columbian Mexico, including chocolate, maize, tomato, vanilla, avocado, papaya, pineapple, chile pepper, beans, squash, sweet potato, peanut and turkey.” These ingredients are ideal for a gluten free diet, and the corn tortilla is a wonderful staple. I’ve heard many recently diagnosed people basing their entire menu on the tortilla- using it for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese “sandwiches”, and other traditional sandwich fillings. Personally I’ve never been all that crazy about pre made corn tortillas, but the homemade corn tortilla is another thing entirely. Devoid of the preservatives present to increase the lifespan of the packaged tortilla, a homemade tortilla is soft and malleable, with a sweet, fresh flavor that surely rivals, if not surpasses, that of its wheat cousin. I recently purchased a bag of Maseca Corn Flour that has a lovely “Gluten Free” seal on the side and includes an easy recipe for tortillas. Of course it would be gluten free, as the ingredients are simply “selected corn treated with lime” – but it’s nice to have the extra reassurance.

I decided to make 16 tortillas, combining two cups of corn flour, 1 1/4 cup water, and 1/4 tsp salt and stirring/kneading for a few minutes. The dough was a bit dry, so I added one or two tablespoons of water. doughballs.jpgWhen I had a lovely ball of dough, I separated the dough into sixteen balls and placed them in a bowl, covering them with a damp cloth so that they wouldn’t dry out. Then I cut open a thick ziplock bag, quart sized, and used it to line my tortilla press, placing one ball of dough in it for each tortilla. After pressing out a tortilla, I placed it on a plate, then alternated cut open plastic bags between tortillas so they wouldn’t stick together. I heated my cast iron pan and cooked each one for 50 seconds on each side, setting a timer to avoid overcooking any one of them. I layered the cooked tortillas under a cloth to keep them warm.

tortbreak4.jpgNext, I got out some mixed shredded cheese and made quesadillas out of my homemade tortillas, filling them with cheese and cooking them on the cast iron skillet. When the cheese had partially melted, I cut them into triangles and put them back on the griddle surrounding the next whole quesadilla, to brown them a bit more. For side dishes, I made a black and pinto bean cake that I sauteed in a nonstick frypan, and made delicious pico de gallo. I garnished the quesadilla triangles and bean cakes with pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole, and DH pronounced them delicious. And, since I made extra tortillas, I had leftovers for the next night… Post to follow.

If you’re unimpressed by pre made corn tortillas, try making your own. The texture is entirely different, and the flavor of the fresh tortilla enhances any recipe. They are wonderful in homemade corn tortilla fajitas, enchiladas, simple tacos, of course in quesadillas, or simply eaten as a flatbread. I also recommend purchasing your own tortilla press- IMO, rolling out each tortilla takes way too much time, and I’d rather spend the time on some extra side dishes or sauces!

tortbreakcls.jpgquesadilla.jpg tortbreak3.jpg

Pico De Gallo Recipe
Ingredients
2 1/2 cups diced fresh tomato
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoons stemmed, seeded, and minced chili (I used serrano)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Directions
Combine ingredients and mix well, adding salt and lime juice last. You can leave at room temperature while you prepare the rest of your other food or put in refrigerator. Liquid separates over time so you may want to strain the pico de gallo before serving. But, don’t throw away the delicious, salty broth. It’s tasty!
Homemade Corn Tortilla Recipe
Bread  Corn  Mexican  
Ingredients
two cups of masa harina, corn flour for tortillas, (Maseca is a good brand, and labeled Gluten Free)
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

Will make 16 tortillas

Directions
Thoroughly combine ingredients, kneading or mixing for a few minutes. The dough was a bit dry, so I added one or two tablespoons of water. When I had a lovely ball of dough, I separated the dough into sixteen balls and placed them in a bowl, covering them with a damp cloth so that they wouldn’t dry out. Then I cut open a thick ziploc bag, quart sized, and used it to line my tortilla press, placing one ball of dough in it for each tortilla. After pressing out a tortilla, I placed it on a plate, then alternated cut open plastic bags between tortillas so they don’t stick together. I heated my cast iron pan and cooked each one for 50 seconds on each side, setting a timer to avoid overcooking any one of them. I layered the cooked tortillas under a cloth to keep them warm.

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13 Responses to “The Gluten Free Tortillaria: How to make Homemade Corn Tortillas”

  1. Ah, you make it look so easy! Someday I will be brave and make my own torillas. It looks like it is worth it, your pictures are scrumptious!

  2. Still Learning GF Says:

    Please explain better how you cut the plastic bags to use in the tortilla press. I have a press that has sat on the shelf for years because I have never been successful using it. And, like you said, rolling out the tortillas is very labor intensive.

  3. Hi Karen! Thanks! It’s really not difficult, once you get the hang of it. And they’re so yummy!

    Hi Still Learning, Cut the freezer quality ziploc bags open at the sides so that the plastic is only joined at the bottom. It is essentially like a card, with the crease at the bottom rather than the side. It’s just a lazy way to line the tortilla press so the tortilla doesn’t stick to the press itself, but rather is on a smooth plastic surface. Then the tortilla can be easily peeled away from the plastic and moved. Some people use wax paper, and press the tortilla between paper- same principle, different material. Hope this helps!

    -Sea

  4. [...] After I made my delicious homemade corn tortillas and used half of them for quesadillas, I still had half of them left. Tragic, I know, but one can only eat so many quesadillas. So, the next night I wanted to transform them into something different- but still delicious. Inspired by an old favorite at the Cheesecake Factory, I decided to try to make a cheesy, grilled vegetable tortilla dish with a smokey, tomato based sauce. I took my recipe for Grilled Sesame Vegetables and changed it up a bit, using a mesquite seasoning blend instead of the paprika, chili pepper, and allspice, but still adding the sugar and salt. [...]

  5. [...] GF Quesadillas / GF Pizza / Cashew Cream Fruit Salad [...]

  6. Still Learning GF Says:

    Thanks for your additional comments on the tacos … very helpful

  7. [...] In the mood for Mexican food? Here are some more Mexican inspired vegetarian recipes we’ve had at the Book Of Yum: Dairy Free Cheesy Enchilada Recipe Instructions for making homemade corn tortillas and Pico de Gallo recipe Mexican Soup with Gluten-free Corn Dumplings Enchiladas and Kalamata Greens Enjoy! [...]

  8. [...] corn tortilla flour out (and was hoping to use it up!) I also couldn’t resist making a nice homemade pico de gallo recipe and pulling out some leftover cilantro chutney. Just squint your taste buds up a bit and it becomes [...]

  9. [...] Monday: Mexican Cheesy Arepas Refried Beans Pico de Gallo [...]

  10. [...] Book of Yum, Gluten Free Recipes [...]

  11. Michael M Says:

    There is a much easier way to make tortillas. My attempts using a tortilla press were pretty much worthless. The thing is too small. What I do is use a Pyrex pie plate on a flat surface. (make sure its a relatively flat surface,if there is a bump under it it could break the plate.I broke one once because I did it on a counter that had a seam in the particle board swelling up and it cracked the plate right in half.) Get a large plastic bag and open it down the sides with a pair of scissors. Now,make up the masa dough and make it a little on the wet side,you will probably need to experiment a little to get it right. Take a ball of dough,put it on the middle of one side of the bag,fold it over and press it to the desired thickness. Sometimes rotating the plate can help. If it wont get thin enough,make the dough wetter.
    The worst problem is,its very hard to get the tortilla off the plastic and into a pan,it always falls apart,so dont even try. Take the whole thing,plastic and all,and put it in the microwave from 30-60 seconds. When your done,take it out,let it cool for a little bit and it will peel right off and hold together. You can now throw it in a pan and you have a perfect tortilla.

  12. Interesting and elaborate instructions, but I never have trouble getting the tortilla out of the plastic bag and into the pan…. The tortilla press works great for me. *shrug* Your directions don’t really seem easier to me, although I’m sure they work and result in a possibly larger tortilla. :) I also don’t feel great about the idea of microwaving a plastic ziploc- that’s not recommended, is it? But maybe I’ve just read too much scare literature on BPA’s etc.

    -sea

  13. [...] Refried beans (scroll down, used black beans instead of pinto), and quesadillas with homemade gluten-free corn tortillas (dough mixed night before, saved in refrigerator covered with damp towel and then cooked in cast [...]

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