Flipping tradition: The tortilla adventure


Finished tortillas. Taken by Alejandro Zepeda

Tortillas are more than just a tasty addition to your favorite Mexican dish — they represent a rich cultural heritage dating back thousands of years. From the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, to modern-day Mexico, tortillas have been a staple food for multiple generations.

Today, these versatile flatbreads are enjoyed around the world for their delicious taste and nutritional benefits. Let’s explore the history of tortillas and show you how to make homemade Mexican corn tortillas that are sure to impress your family and friends.

The Aztecs made a type of flatbread called “tlaxcalli,” which is similar to the modern-day tortilla, but with a more bread-like texture. Corn was a primary ingredient used in these flatbreads, and it remains the primary ingredient in corn tortillas today.

After the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the 16th century, they introduced wheat to the region. Wheat tortillas became popular in Northern Mexico and are now commonly used in dishes like burritos and quesadillas.

Corn tortillas are an excellent source of fiber and complex carbohydrates. They also contain essential nutrients like calcium, iron and niacin. Corn tortillas are naturally gluten-free and low in calories, making them a great option for people with dietary restrictions, or those trying to watch their weight.

Normally you would need a tortilla presser, but I do not have one, so we shall be using two plates in order to flatten out the tortillas and get them nice and smooth. You can use whatever you’d like to flatten them out, make sure to have a nice sheet of plastic wrap so the tortillas don’t stick to unwanted surfaces.

Now that we know a bit about the delicious history of tortillas, let’s show you how to make some for yourself.

Corn Tortillas

Makes 19 one-ounce tortillas. 

Ready within 10 minutes.


  • 2 cups of Maseca 
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  1. You can find a packet of Maseca at any grocery store, I got mine at Safeway.

2. Pour 2 cups of the Maseca into a stirring bowl and 1 and a half cups of water and begin mixing with your hands until it’s nice and mushy,  similar to Play-Doh. Make sure it’s not too soggy or too dry, you want it to stick onto your fingers. If it doesn’t stick to your fingers either add more water or Maseca to get to the right consistency. I like to add a pinch of salt for flavor, but that’s totally optional.

3. Make as many balls as you like. I like to measure them by making an “OK” hand gesture and fitting them within my thumb and index finger. Make them as round as possible, the rounder the better. Take your time with each ball.

4. One ball at a time, put them on the plate with the plastic wrap underneath to make sure it does not stick onto the plate. You can use any other flat surface, just make sure it is clean. Once placed, press onto the top plate and hold for 5-10 seconds. 

5. Your tortilla should look like this. Nice and flat. Once you get it like this, you are ready to place it into a comal, which is a pan used to heat tortillas.

6. Make sure to preheat your stove before putting on your tortillas and have waited until it’s HOT.  Be careful flipping them as you may burn yourself, if you do not feel confident feel free to use a napkin or a utensil to assist you in flipping your tortillas. Flip them after 30 seconds on medium heat. BONUS: if you get your tortillas to start bubbling in the middle, you got yourself a perfect tortilla in the making.

7. After fully cooked, which should look crispy around the edges and be able to bend easily, add in whatever toppings you like. I like my tortilla with some sour cream and “queso fresco” which is just white cheese. After you add  toppings, you are finished. Congratulations! You’ve made authentic tortillas. Enjoy!

Alejandro Zepeda can be reached at [email protected].