Corn Tortilla Tutorial


Corn tortillas can make me angry. They can also make me quite happy. It depends on what kind they are.

Wikipedia says the following about corn tortillas: In North America, a corn tortilla or just tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flatbread, made from hominy. In Guatemala and Mexico, there are three colors of maize dough for making tortillas: white maize, yellow maize and blue maiz.

THIS IS A LIE! In North America, most commercial tortillas have many more ingredients including additives and preservatives. This makes me angry. Here are the ingredients in some popular commercial brands:

Corn masa flour, water, cellulose gum, propionic acid (to preserve freshness), benzoic acid (to preserve freshness), phosphoric acid (preservative), guar gum, amylase.

Corn Ground treated with Lime , Water , Cellulose Gum , Propionic Acid ( To Preserve Freshness ) , Benzoic Acid ( To Preserve Freshness ) , Phosphoric Acid ( Preservative ) , Dextrose , Guar Gum , Amylase

La Banderita Corn Tortilla
Corn (Specially Ground Corn Treated With Water And Time (Calcium Hydroxide)), Water, Sodium Propionate (Propionic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide) Methylparaben And Propylparaben, Cmc.

Cellulose gum? Propionic acid? Benzoic Acid? Phosphoric Acid? Guar gum? Amylase? Dextrose? Sodium Propionate? Methylparaben? Propylparaben? CMC? What’s CMC? They don’t even tell you what CMC is. It stands for Carboxymethyl cellulose, “a sodium salt derivative of cellulose. Unlike cellulose, it is water soluble and can function as a suspending agent, stabilizer, film former or thickening agent.” These ingredients are not food. They are additives to “preserve freshness” or add softness. We don’t need to consume any of these ingredients and they may actually do harm to the body. “Preserving freshness” means the product can stay on the store shelf a long time without refrigeration. The FDA considers these ingredients safe but I don’t. On a whole food, plant diet, I don’t want to put anything in my body that has been created in a lab to increase profits. I want to consume foods that nourish my body and mind and contribute to my health, longevity and quality of life.

There’s also something hidden from these labels. It’s very likely these products are made from genetically engineered corn. If you go to the Mission website, their FAQ page states: “Are Mission products GMO? We currently have both GMO and Non-GMO products. The labeling on the package will say Organic and state Non-GMO.” In other words, if the corn is GMO the label will say nothing. The only way to be sure if your corn tortillas do not have GMO corn is to buy organic or if non-GMO is printed on the label.

There are some tortillas available that are REAL corn tortillas, like Vista Hermosa made with Organic & Non GMO Corn, Water, Lime. But these tortillas are often hard to find. Without preservatives, they should be refrigerated. We have bought organic tortillas a number of times and sadly discovered when we got home that a few of them were moldy.

Just because the tortillas are organic doesn’t mean they don’t have unnecessary ingredients. Take the Mi Rancho brand for example made with Water, Organic Whole White Corn, Organic Yellow Corn Masa Flour, Trace Of Lime, Organic Guar Gum. Why is the guar gum added? Clearly I am not the only person who has asked this question because Mi Rancho has the answer on their FAQ page: “Guar is a natural derivation from the Guar plant, which is commonly added to tortillas as a way to improve flexibility and increase shelf life. Organic Guar Gum is readily available, and is approved by FDA Standards, the USDA guidelines for Certified Organic Products and the Non-GMO Project Standards. Guar is not considered an allergen by the FDA and is considered GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe). We use Guar sparingly in our corn tortillas to improve texture and flexibility with improved customer experience.” We’ve tried these tortillas when we couldn’t find an organic brand without guar gum. There was no noticeable “improved texture” or “flexibility”.

I am not knocking Mi Rancho. We are grateful for companies that make an effort to use all organic ingredients. Their product is practically perfect and guar gum is not really bad, certainly nowhere near as bad as synthetic preservatives in other tortillas. To make industrial food it is often necessary to put in additives to make foods flow through the assembly line. These ingredients may not be health promoting. We pay a price for efficiency and convenience: we pay with our health.

If you eat corn tortillas that come with a Mexican style dish in a restaurant it’s very likely the tortillas you are getting come with lots of additives and preservatives. I have been to one restaurant, Luna Mexican Kitchen, in California, that proudly advertises that they make their own tortillas. In addition to saying that they use no additives or preservatives the website explains, “The foundation of our food is the masa we make using the ancestral method of nixtamalization. Our corn is soaked in alkaline overnight, rinsed and then ground with stone in a labor-intensive process very few kitchens attempt. We do it daily to create grains that are better flavored and better for you.”

It’s so frustrating that our food system has sunk so low. And it makes me angry. It’s not just with corn tortillas, but most prepared foods today. It’s all about making the biggest profits, not about making the best quality product that is delicious and nourishing. But we have allowed this happen. There are many organizations fighting for better quality food. Governmental organizations that are designed to protect us are either under funded or led by corrupt officials interested only in the bottom line. Chronic diseases are soaring and one of the causes is the cumulative effect of consuming so many refined processed foods with additives and preservatives.

What can we do? A lot! We can buy organic. We can shop from local farmers that we get to know and trust. And we can prepare foods we love at home, like corn tortillas. Corn tortillas are so easy to make! Stop buying those commercial brand tortillas and start rolling your own. Or even easier, use a tortilla press. YOU CAN TASTE THE DIFFERENCE.

We recently purchased Bob’s Red Mill Organic Masa Harina. The recipe is on the bag. You mix together 2 cups of masa harina with 1 1/2 – 2 cups of warm water making a dough. Salt is in the recipe but it’s not needed. Leave it out. Let the dough set for about an hour. Then make 2 inch balls of dough. You can roll them out between two sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper or use a tortilla press. I’ve done both. The press is worth it. It makes the process easier and faster. Then you cook each tortilla for about a minute on each side. That’s it. You can serve them immediately or refrigerate or freeze them. These are the very best corn tortillas.

I love corn tortillas, when they are made in the traditional way, with organic corn, lime and pure water. This makes me happy.

Get all our tortilla recipes for Corn Torillas, Sweet Potato and Cassava Tortillas and Potato Tortillas HERE. They are all gluten-free.

Watch how to make your own tortillas. Can’t view the video below? Click here instead.


  3 comments for “Corn Tortilla Tutorial

  1. So glad to have this information, recipe, recommendations, and to know TWO restaurants near me where I can enjoy healthier, homemade, authentic tortillas.,Muchas gracias, Caryn!

    • I meant to ask…any concerns about tortilla presses? I think the ones I have seen are cast iron.

      • Ours is cast iron. We line them every time with baking paper so there’s no concern there. Some people use zip lock bags but we avoid plastic. I am not concerned about cooking in cast iron.

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