Homemade corn tortillas (and tamales too): Masa harina two ways

“If at first you don’t succeed, and you happened to have accidentally ordered fours times the amount of masa harina that you meant to while clicking away on the Internet, try, try again.”


Homemade Corn Tortillas

My first attempt at making homemade corn tortillas was an inedible mess, but like I referred to in the quote above, I have a lot of masa harina on my hands. In my enthusiasm for trying to make homemade corn tortillas, I also impulsively ordered a tortilla press, so I would have never lived it down if these things went the way of some other impulsive purchases I’ve made over the years and never used: a mandoline, a huge bottle of fish sauce, a jar of some sort of vegetable paste, and a big bag of bulgur, to name a few.

Masa harina is a whole grain corn flour (not corn meal), so it was perfect timing to give it another try since the focus of Healthy Every Week this week was to eat more whole grains.

They were so worth the perseverance! Homemade corn tortillas are incredibly delicious and not that hard after all once I paid attention to a couple of tips.

Tips for making homemade tortillas (that I neglected to follow on my first attempt):

  • Let the mixture rest after first stirring it together.
  • Knead the dough like bread dough for a few minutes before forming the balls.
  • Use the recommended wax paper to make it easy to transfer them to the pan.

I served the tortillas with guacamole, refried beans, and salad.

I also made tamales for the first time. I read a few different recipes to learn the method, and then I worked with ingredients I had on hand to come up with this vegetarian recipe.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Tamales

  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 small green chilies, diced
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup vegetable stock (or water)
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or chili powder)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon group coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup cheddar, shredded

Cook sweet potato, peppers, onion, corn, and garlic until softened. Stir in the other ingredients through salt and pepper, and simmer about 20 minutes until thickened. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice.

Prepare the masa harina. (I followed the same directions for making the tortillas, linked above.)

To make the tamales: Arrange a flattened ball of dough on a softened corn husk. Sprinkle on some shredded cheddar cheese. Spoon some of the sweet potato mixture on top, and wrap up the tamale. Steam the tamales for about an hour.

I served the tamales with fresh guacamole and salad. They were really delicious too.

Now, what to do with that vegetable paste and big bag of bulgur?

P.S. I love this old blues song and think of it just about every time someone says “tamales”: Robert Johnson’s They’re Red Hot.

  1. I’m impressed! I’ve always wanted to make both my own tortillas and tamales – but I admit to being a little intimidated. I consider myself a pretty decent home chef but these are two dishes that have gotten the best of me. Your approach makes it look really accessible – maybe I’ll get a pair and make some.
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  5. Hello,

    I saw your post at Zesty South Indian Blog Hop and could resist to ask you if you add any kind of fat to the tamales dough.

    By the way great job with the tortillas.


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  7. if you still have the bulgur: I soak some bulgur in an equal volume of water for about an hour and use it in chili as a substitute for ground meat. I’ll saute the vegetables (onion, garlic, peppers, etc.), add the tomatoes/tomato paste, beans, spices and water first, rather than sauteing the bulgur like you would with beef, because the bulgur will stick to the pan! It’s delicious and you don’t miss the meat at all!

    As for the vegetable paste: i don’t know, what’s in it??? maybe you could use it as a base for soups? dressings?

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