Champurrado (vegan)

Champurrado is a traditional, pre-Columbian drink that is warm, frothy, sweet, and comforting. While today many people use milk to make champurrado (and atole) the original versions used no dairy. And, really, there is no need for milk.  The masa harina provides a thickness and the chocolate gets nice and frothy, almost like a cappuccino, when you whip it up.  If you are a person that needs milk, I suggest you use organic milk (to avoid the growth hormones) and use 16 ounces water and 16 ounces milk in this recipe. Vegans and people with lactose intolerance can enjoy this recipe without any milk at all.  So yummy!

This drawing, from Mayan Codices, shows a woman pouring a chocolate drink from one vessel to another. This was done to create an exceptionally frothy drink. (No need for Starbucks’ Frappuccinos!)

Old drawing of Mayan woman pouring dark liquid from one vessel into another


  • 32 ounces of water
  • 1/3 cup masa harina (organic if at all possible)
  • 1 disc of TAZA brand Mexican hot chocolate (I used their “salted almond” flavor)
  • 4 teaspoons coconut palm sugar (you could substitute honey, pilloncillo, or your favorite sweetener. I avoid refined white sugar.)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 stick of Ceylon cinnamon (heavenly)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 pinch chile powder (optional, al gusto)
  • slivered almonds for garnish (optional)


Directions: Combine all ingredients except cinnamon in a blender and process until smooth. Pour blended liquid into a pot. Add cinnamon stick and heat over medium high flame for about 15-20 minutes. Stir often. Use a molino (pictured above) or a whisk to whip up a nice froth. Serve with slivered almonds, if desired.

Serves 2 in big mugs or 4 regular sized coffee cups.


I give thanks to the ancestors who created this cup of comfort.

Chiles Poblanos Rellenos

With a brand-new grill, Luz is grilling up autumn fruits and vegetables.

Serves 2. 


  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 4 poblano chiles
  • 1 ear corn
  • 1/2 head radicchio
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese
  • 1 pomegranate

Grill corn, poblanos, and radicchio. (Or use broiler)

Peel poblano chiles and remove seeds. 

Remove kernels from cob. Dice radicchio.

Toast pine nuts. Combine quinoa, corn, pine nuts and radicchio and season with salt and pepper. Stuff poblano chiles w/ quinoa mixture. Top with goat cheese. Pop in oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Serve topped with pomegranate seeds.


This week our work was featured in an “audio postcard” on NPR’s  Latino USA! The story focused on the way we make our corn tortillas from scratch…. Check out the story here:

The story was based on an earlier blog post, where we provide detailed directions for making nixtamal, the basis of corn tortillas, tlacoyos, tamales, pupusas, and many other corn based dishes.  

Here’s a quick link, in case the story inspires you to try this at home:

We welcome listeners from Latino USA to our blog and invite you to follow us on FACEBOOK at:

Easy Way to Bake a Whole Pumpkin or Winter Squash

It’s October so we are starting to see many beautiful winter squash at farmers’ markets. We even have a few ready to harvest in our backyard. 

Don’t be afraid to buy a whole big squash. You don’t need a power saw to butcher the squash, you can bake it whole and then cut it (SO MUCH EASIER!)  Once baked, the squash is easy to cut into chunks for use in soups, stews, empanadas, pies, etc. 

Check out this gorgeous pumpkin! It would have been pretty difficult to cut it into chucks. It had a thick hard skin. 

To begin, you do want to puncture the pumpkin or squash with a sharp knife. Create 4-5 cuts. This will allow steam to escape. (Even this is challenging with some pumpkins so use your sturdiest knife.)

Take out the middle rack in your oven. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet and put in a 375 degree oven. Bake for 60-90 minutes. You want to be able to cut into the pumpkin easily, so check by stabbing the pumpkin with knife after 60 minutes. If it is still difficult to puncture, bake for an additional 30 minutes. 

Mine came out perfectly! See the way the pumpkin meat is pulling away from the skin!?  

Gently scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. 

Here’s what remains: 

You can use this right away or cut into chunks and put in the freezer for use throughout the winter. I know you may only have one thing in mind: pumpkin pie. But I enjoy pumpkin in savory dishes, like soups and stews. Pumpkin pairs wonderfully with chipotle or roasted green chile. Put some chunks in a white bean, green chile stew. Or add small pieces of pumpkin to pozole. Pumpkin also tastes great as a filling for tacos, quesadillas, or tamales.  

And, don’t throw away the seeds. You can roast them for snacks.

Xocolatamal – Luz’s Award-Winning Chocolate Tamalli

About a month ago, our neighbor Eric told us about a tamale cook-off and fiesta, benefiting La Clínica de La Raza.

We are expecting around 200 attendees.  Each competitor will submit 200 tasting portions (approx. 5 doz tamales). You will prepare your tamales in advance and we can provide space to do final prep on site, if needed.  Prizes will be awarded for People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice for best Meat, Vegetarian/Vegan and Wildcard (creative) tamales. This fun event will provide a great way for you to promote your business.  Each competitor will be given $50 to offset costs.

The guidelines sounded challenging, but doable, so Luz decided to give it a try.

The organizers had planned that competitors would cut their tamales into four or more bite-sized portions so that they would have enough for 200 tasters, but Luz decided to make smaller “dessert tamales” so that each person could have their own tamal/tamale/tamalli.

Side note: Mexican@s have been known to make fun of Chican@s because we use “tamale” as the singular of tamales, when the proper term should be tamal. However, the Mexican word tamales comes from the Nahuatl word tamalli (singular) and so we think that the singular “tamale” is in the spirit of the original “tamalli”

Tamale-making is pretty adventurous in our familia. Even the form is a discussion: from Luz’s families folded Sonoran Classics to Catriona’s family’s rolled-and-tied New Mexican tamales. The content varies quite a bit as well: Luz’s family has been making vegetarian green-chile-and-cheese tamales for decades, and they often make a sweet tamal: sweet bean (pinto beans, canela, piloncillo) with raisins. This latter is a smaller tamal, perfect with a cup of coffee for desayuno.

Luz wanted to introduce the festival-goers to a Mexican hot chocolate inspired tamal, with cacao, canela, almond, and chile.

The great thing about this tamal is that it’s not too sweet, and that the sugar is balanced out by the corn masa, so it shouldn’t cause a dramatic blood-sugar spike.

So, the Saturday before the event, Luz set out to make 200 taster tamales. By making them alone, they could portion out the masa and filling, so that size was consistent, and there was enough filling for all two hundred.

The masa included organic tazo hot chocolate tablets and canela, and the filling was nutella inspired, made with almond and hazelnut butters and cacao.

Catriona described the texture as akin to a brownie. One festival-goer said it was like a chocolate doughnut, which made us laugh because Luz started the Decolonial Cooking Club because their CSUEB Ethnic Studies students were selling krispy kreme doughnuts as a fundraiser. So we prefer to think of this xocolatamal as the anti-doughnut.

Luz’s protegeé Adilia came to Oakland on Sunday to help work the event. They served the tamal on a bed of slivered almonds, with coconut creme and a sprinkle of chile and salt.


Luz’s Xocolatamal Recipe (2013 Judge’s Choice “Best Vegetarian Tamale”)

3 pounds masa para tamales (sin preparer) [Buy this from your local tortilleria]

1 cup organic coconut oil, whipped

2 circles Taza organic Mexican hot chocolate “Salted Almond,” grated

1 tablespoon Oaktown Spice Shop Ceylon Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Oaktown Spice Shop Pasilla Chile Negro

1 tablespoon Sea Salt

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)

3 dozen corn husks, cleaned and soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes


1/2 cup hazelnut butter

1/2 cup almond butter

¼ cup raw cacao powder

¼ cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon sea salt 
Knead masa well (for at least 15 minutes but preferably longer). Add in whipped oil and knead some more. Add flavoring and knead in until thoroughly mixed.

Put filling ingredients in a food processor (or go old school and use a molcajete) and blend into a smooth paste.

Spread about one tablespoon of masa on each corn husk.  Add 1 scant teaspoon of filling. Fold tamale as desired. For these small tamales, I like to roll them like a cigar and tie each side.

Prepare a large tamale steamer. Add boiling water and then stack the tamales above the steamer tray. Put a damp dishcloth on top of the stacked tamales and tuck it in. Close lid. Turn heat to high for 10 minutes and then lower to medium high for 50 additional minutes. Check a sample tamal. If the tamal is done, it should be firm enough to hold its shape and come off the husk without sticking. If it seems raw, continue cooking in 30 minute increments until done. Many factors affect cooking time. Sometime my tamales cook in 1 hour, sometimes they take 2 hours or more! In general, small sized tamales take less time to cook.

Optional: Garnish with coconut cream, sliced almonds, or salt combined with chile (or all three). 

Nopales al Vapor Estilo Otumba

Last night I tested a recipe for steamed cactus and I must say it was damn tasty. The flavor of the nopales was bold and the texture a perfect “al dente.” No hint of slime. 

The recipe, “Nopales al Vapor Estilo Otumba,” comes from Diana Kennedy’s 1978 book, Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico. 

Kennedy, born in England, has lived in Mexico since 1957 and is considered by many to be the “Julia Child” of  Mexican cuisine. She has even received the Order of the Aztec Eagle from the Mexican government in recognition of her cultural work in honoring Mexican cuisine. Of course, Kennedy is not the only Anglo person who has positioned themselves as an expert in this field: In the US, Rick Bayless is arguably the best known chef of Mexican cuisine. 

On the one hand, I have a lot of respect for both Kennedy and Bayless and their broad knowledge of the range and complexity of Mexican cuisine. In some ways, they have used their privilege to study and promote Mexican cuisine, eating and gathering recipes from all corners of Mexico. In an ironic twist, Kennedy and Bayless become a resource to US Chicanos/as/oas as we try to decolonize our diets by reclaiming the food of our ancestors. Many of us did not receive these lesson from our parents or grandparents; so we are forced to investigate on our own and learn by combing through cookbooks and websites, in addition to talking to friends and elders in our communities. Such cookbooks are valuable sources of knowledge. 

However, I can’t help but feel some sense of injustice in the fact that Bayless and Kennedy are the ones to have achieved such expertise (not to mention fame and fortune) when so many Chicanos/as/oas have been deprived of this knowledge. It is important to acknowledge that many of Bayless’s and Kennedy’s recipes come directly from home cooks across Mexico. These women and men freely shared their cultural knowledge. Sometimes these cooks are acknowledged by name and other times they are nameless. Either way, their life circumstances become the “colorful story” that lends authenticity to the Anglo-penned cookbook. 

That said, giving acknowledgement of recipes is a tricky business. Most recipes are passed from one cook to the next, with each cook giving a slight twist. A 100% new recipe or technique is rare. In Mexican cuisine, many recipes date back thousands of years. How does anyone (including us) properly acknowledge their provenance? It’s tricky. 

In the case of this Nopales al Vapor recipe, Kennedy writes that she learned of this method of cooking nopales from an unnamed bus driver in Otumba, a village near the pyramids of Teotihuacán. Apparently this driver was also a cook who enjoyed making the noon meal for his fellow bus drivers in the bus garage where they gathered to eat. We never learn his name. 

Nopales al Vapor Estilo Otumba: A Diana Kennedy  Bus Driver’s Recipe

2 tablespoons oil 
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 pound prepared nopales, cut into small chunks
1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, diced
2 large sprigs epazote (I didn’t have so I used papaloquelite. YUM.)
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a heavy pan, then lower the flame and and saute the garlic, without browning, for a few seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover the pan and cook over a low flame, stirring the mixture form time to time, until the nopales are almost tender: they should be very “juicy” [read: "babosos"] at this stage. 

Remove the lid from the pan and continue cooking over a slightly higher flame until all the sticky liquid from the nopales has dried up—about 20 minutes, depending on how tender the nopales are. The babas/slime totally evaporates leaving perfect nopalitos!

Kennedy suggests your serve these nopales in a hot corn tortilla with some queso fresco. I’m sure that would be delicious. You could also mix these nopales with scrambled eggs or chill them to use them in a salad. I added mine to freshly cooked frijoles (see below) and then served them with fresh corn tortillas, avocado slices, and some queso fresco. They got rave reviews. 

The tangy taste of the nopales was much bolder in this steaming method than when the nopales are boiled. In my rendition, the tang of the nopal paired especially nicely with the creaminess of the pinto beans.  I think the method of twice boiling nopales is great for beginners who are really not so sure about the taste and texture of nopales.  But for you nopales lovers out there, try the bus driver’s method!  It won’t disappoint. 


Researching the cactus

This summer Luz and I have been working on our book, Decolonize Your Diet. I’ve mostly been working on the cultural histories of the native foods that we focus on, and their health benefits. I’m reading so many scientific studies that sometimes it feels like my brain is spilling out of my ears.
A lot of the interesting stuff hasn’t made it into the actual writing: just little curious bits that I never knew before.

For example, this week, I was working on cactus. It turns out that cactus was taken from Mexico to Europe very soon after the Conquest, and it became so popular in areas like Italy and North Africa that it naturalized and some people thought it was native to those areas. In Italy, although they prize the fruit, they apparently don’t eat the paddles. ¡Qué curioso! And in Mexico I found reference to colonche, a fermented, fizzy, slightly alcoholic drink made from the fruit. And a thick candy called “queso de tuna.” It’s totally non-dairy, just the tunas cooked down thick like cajeta. I have no idea what that is like but the idea makes my mouth water.

Nopalitos are a folk remedy for diabetes and the scientific research backs that up. Eating nopalitos lowers blood sugar in both diabetics and non-diabetics. It also lowers cholesterol and protects the liver from Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, which afflicts many diabetics.

A lot of the scientific studies done on cactus tend to focus on the fruit, rather than the paddles. Tunas have so many amazing properties, my head is spinning. The fruit, its juice, or extract, have been proven effective against many different cancers (skin, prostate, colon, ovarian, and, to a lesser extent, liver and breast). The juice also helps your body recover from damage caused by alcohol.

All of my favorite image of cactus are by Carmen Lomas Garza. See these and other paintings at her website.

·      Eating nopalitos can lower blood sugar in diabetics (Frata-Munari 1989, Hahm 2011)
·      Eating Nopalitos lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels (Hahm 2011, Wolfram 2002)
·      Nopalitos are effective in protecting the liver from Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, the most common type of liver disease in the US, and one related to metabolic syndrome (Morán-Rámos 2012)
·      Daily consumption of nopales improves platelet function (Wolfram 2003)
·      Both nopalitos and cactus fruit are excellent sources of dietary fiber (Peña-Valdivia 2012).
·      Cactus fruit are a good source of antioxidants (Kuti 2004)
·      Animal studies show that a diet including cactus fruit can prevent against skin cancer (Lee 2013)
·      Cactus fruit can inhibit cancer cell growth (Zou 2005)
·      In an in-vitro study, the juice from cactus fruit were effective against colon cancer and prostate cancer cells (Chavez-Santescoy 2009)
·      Cactus fruit extract can be effective against ovarian cancer (Feugang 2010)
·      Cactus fruit juice was shown to be effective in healing alcohol-induced damage (Alimi 2012)
Works Cited
Alimi, Hichem, Hfaeidh, Najla, Bouoni, Zouhour, Sakly, Mohsen, and Ben, Rhouma, Khémais. “Protective Effect of Opuntia Ficus Indica F. Inermis Prickly Pear Juice Upon Ethanol-induced Damages in Rat Erythrocytes.” Alcohol 46, no. 3 (2012): 235-43.
Chavez-Santoscoy, R.A, Gutierrez-Uribe, J.A, and Serna, Saldivar, S. O. “Phenolic Composition, Antioxidant Capacity and in Vitro Cancer Cell Cytotoxicity of Nine Prickly Pear (opuntia Spp.) Juices.” Plan Foods for Human Nutrition64 (2009): 146-52.
Feugang, Jean M, Ye, Fei, Zhang, David Y, Yu, Yanhong, Zhong, Mei, Zhang, Sui, and Zou, Changping. “Cactus Pear Extracts Induce Reactive Oxygen Species Production and Apoptosis in Ovarian Cancer Cells.” Nutr Cancer 62, no. 5 (2010): 692-99.
Frati-Munari, A C, Del, Valle-Martinez, L M, Ariza-Andraca, C R, Islas-Andrade, S, and Chavez-Negrete, A. “[hypoglycemic Action of Different Doses of Nopal (opuntia Streptacantha Lemaire) in Patients With Type Ii Diabetes Mellitus].” Arch Invest Med (Mex)20, no. 2 (1989): 197-201.
Hahm, Sahng-Wook, Park, Jieun, and Son, Yong-Suk. “Opuntia Humifusa Stems Lower Blood Glucose and Cholesterol Levels in Streptozotocin-induced Diabetic Rats.” Nutr Res 31, no. 6 (2011): 479-87.
Kuti, Joseph O. “Antioxidant Compounds From Four Opuntia Cactus Pear Fruit Varieties.” Food Chemistry 85, no. 4 (2004): 527-33.
Lee, Jin-A Lee, Jung, Bock-Gie, Kim, Tae-Hoon, Lee, Su-Gil, Park, Young-Seok, and Lee, Bong-Joo. “Dietary Feeding of Opuntia Humifusa Inhibits Uvb Radiation-induced Carcinogenesis By Reducing Inflammation and Proliferation in Hairless Mouse Model.” Photochemistry and Photobiology (2013): 1-8.
Moran-Ramos, Sofia, Avila-Nava, Azalia, Tovar, Armando R., Pedraza-Chaverri, Jose, Lopez-Romero, Patricia, and Torres, Nimbe. “Opuntia Ficus Indica (nopal) Attenuates Hepatic Steatosis and Oxidative Stress in Obese Zucker (fa/fa) Rats.” J. Nutr.142, no. 11 (2012): 1956-63.
Peña-Valdivia, Cecilia Beatriz, Trejo, Carlos, Arroyo-Peña, V. Baruch, Sanchez, Urdaneta, Adriana Beatriz, and Balois, Morales, Rosendo. “Diversity of Unavailable Polysaccharides and Dietary Fiber in Domesticated Nopalito and Cactus Pear Fruit (opuntia Spp.).” 9, no. 8 (2012): 1599-610.
Wolfram, R, Budinsky, A, Efthimiou, Y, Stomatopoulos, J, Oguogho, A, and Sinzinger, H. “Daily Prickly Pear Consumption Improves Platelet Function.” Prostaglandins Leukot. Essent. Fatty Acids 69, no. 1 (2003): 61-66.
Wolfram, Roswitha M, Kritz, Harald, Efthimiou, Yannis, Stomatopoulos, Jorgos, and Sinzinger, Helmut. “Effect of Prickly Pear (opuntia Robusta) on Glucose- and Lipid-metabolism in Non-diabetics With Hyperlipidemia–a Pilot Study.” Wien. Klin. Wochenschr. 114, no. 19-20 (2002): 840-46.
Zou, Da-ming, Brewer, Molly, Garcia, Francisco, Feugang, Jean M., Wang, Jian, Zang, Roungyu, Liu, Huaguang, and Zou, Changping. “Cactus Pear: a Natural Product in Cancer Chemoprevention.” Nutritional Journal 4, no. 1 (2005):

Plum Paletas con Yerbanís

It’s plum season again! And this year, our own little Santa Rosa plum tree is producing more plums than we can handle (and that’s not even mentioning the neighbor’s plums that will be ripe next week.)

We made one batch of plum chutney. tangysaltysweetpicante!

Luz has a batch of plums dehydrating in the oven and I’ve got a small pot stewing with yerbanís with which I plan to make some very unusual paletas.

I was a little grouchy from the heat (as usual) and paletas are my usual treatment for the grouchies, but we were out. And then I remembered the paleta molds.

I cut the pits out of the plums. Put them in a pot (skins and all). tied together several springs of yerbanís (mexican mint marigold, mexican tarragon) and added it to the pot. Heated it gently until the plums started to break down. Added a couple of tablespoons of honey (still very tangy), covered teh pot, removed from heat and let it sit about twenty minutes. Took out the herbs. pureed the plums. poured into popsicle molds.

The yellow flecks are flower petals.
The color is even more intense, but in the time it took me to snap the photograph, it frosted over.

Making GMO-Free Corn Tortillas from Scratch: A Detailed Lesson in Nixtamal for Beginners

“Nixtamal” comes from the Nahuatl word nixtamalli which means “unformed corn dough.” Nixtamalization is the process  of soaking the corn in an alkaline solution, such as “cal” or wood ash.  This soaking process makes the corn more digestible and the nutrients in the corn more accessible to the body.  On a practical level, it makes the corn easier to grind and makes it easily form into a dough (masa) for use in tortillas, tamales, pupusas, tlacoyos and more.  To make posol (hominy), you skip the grinding process and simply boil the nixtamal corn in broth. 

Nixtamal has sustained our ancestors for thousands of years.  No one knows for sure when our ancestors first discovered the process of nixtamalization—the earliest evidence of nixtamal has been located in Guatemalan cooking equipment that is 3500 years old!  I think it quite powerful—at a spiritual and cultural level—to reclaim this practice by doing it yourself. 

Health benefits of nixtamal: 

  • Converts corn’s bound niacin to free niacin, making it available for absorption into the body.
  • Alkalinity improves the balance among essential amino acids, making more protein available.
  • Is rich in calcium, iron, copper, and zinc. After nixtamalization with cal, the corn has 750% more calcium! 
  • Eliminates certain carcinogenic fungus found in corn. 

Note: Industrially-produced tortillas no longer use the ancient process of nixtamalization and instead use an enzymatic process that produces a much inferior masa. There are still tortillerias in the US and Mexico that produce nixtamal but I fear their days are numbered. Blame NAFTA. 

Because it is hard to find organic, GMO-free masa in the Bay Area, I decided I would learn how to make nixtamal corn masa myself.  There are a lot of steps involved but it is not *that* difficult and totally do-able with a little practice and planning. 
And, nothing beats the taste of a tortilla made this way! It’s not spongy and sour like the fresher store-bought ones, nor dry and stiff like the older ones. The outside has a slightly toasted texture, the inside is tender but fully cooked. You can taste and smell the sweetness of the  corn. Plus, you are eating something that is entirely good for you, you are resisting GMO tortillas,  and you are connecting to an ancestral practice that is over 3500 years old.  

Making Nixtamal (allow 18-24 hours)

  • 2 cups dried dent corn
  • 2 tablespoons cal (slaked lime)
  • 6 cups water
  •      Rinse 2 cups dried dent corn.
  •      Use a large non-reactive pot (stainless steel, glass, or clay are all good). Read about non-reactive cookware here:
  •      Add 6 cups cool water to the non-reactive pot.
  •      Mix in 2 tablespoons “cal” to the water to create a “slurry”
  •      Add rinsed corn to the slurry. It will look like this: 
      Cook corn on medium heat for 45 minutes. Ideally, you want the water to just *barely* begin to come to a boil at exactly 45 minutes. This is not as hard as it sounds. The first couple of times you do it, you need to watch carefully. If it starts to look like it is about to boil before 45 minutes, turn the heat down a bit. If at 30 minutes, it is not even close, turn the heat up a bit. 

After 45 minutes, turn off the stove and cover the pot. Allow the corn to soak in the pot overnight and preferably for about 24 hours.
      After 18-24 hours, your corn will look like this:
Rinse the corn thoroughly under cool water.

Fill a deep bowl or pot with cool water. Add the corn and using your hands, rub the corn vigorously between your palms. You are trying to remove the outer layer of skin (the hull)—it should fall off pretty easily. Do NOT attempt to clean each kernel one at a time. That would be insane. Just use your hands to massage the corn. It might seem like nothing is happening because the skin is pretty thin but you should begin to see little bits of skin floating in the water. 

Pour off the top of the water along with the little pieces of skin that have been removed. I repeat this step about 10 times, until the water I pour off is almost completely clean. Strain the corn one last time.

After rinsing several times, your corn should now look like this:

Now, you are ready to grind the corn. Put a pan under the grinder to catch the masa. Put the strained corn in your grinder. I run my corn through the grinder a second time to get a softer dough. 

This is what the freshly ground nixtamal corn will look like: 

Take your freshly ground nixtamal and add ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt (I add 1 teaspoon but other recipes say 1/2 teaspoon). Start working the dough with your hands and add about 1 tablespoon of water at a time. Work the dough and add water until you have a nice ball of dough that sticks together, is smooth, but is not pasty. Take care not to add too much water or you will have a mess. I think I add between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup of water.  I’ve heard if you add too much water, you can add some masa harina to get the masa back to the right consistency. But really, just add water in small increments and you will be fine. Your ball of dough should look like this:

Form balls about the size of a golf ball (or a wee bit smaller). I have found that this recipe (2 cups of dried corn) produces about 1 dozen medium sized corn tortillas.

Prepare your tortilla press and heat your comal (griddle). You want the comal hot when you put the first tortilla on. After the comal is hot you can turn the heat down from high to medium high. 

Line the tortilla press with two pieces of plastic. Thin plastic from a produce bag works best. Use scissors to deconstruct the bag into two equal pieces. Press the ball of dough between the two pieces of plastic. Push the lever down. Flip over and press again.


      Carefully peel the plastic off the top. Flip the tortilla so you are holding the tortilla on your left hand (if you are right handed) and the remaining plastic is facing up. Remove the plastic.

You now have a raw tortilla on your hand. (Kind of embarrassing that I used a Whole Foods plastic bag. I swear, I hardly ever go there. But their bags really work for this purpose. Ha!) 

Ever so carefully, place the tortilla on a hot comal. This is the part that I have found takes practice. Don’t despair. It gets easier with practice and over time you won’t even remember why you thought this was difficult. I think it might be easier with freshly ground corn than with the masa you buy at the tortilleria. You’ll develop your own technique for getting that tortilla perfectly placed on the comal. (I know some people are laughing at me right now. That’s OK. Decolonization is a practice in humility. I messed up a bunch of tortillas before I got the hang of it.)

After the edges of the tortilla start to turn up slightly, flip the tortilla. Continue cooking for a few minutes. You can flip the tortillas a few times until they look done.

Put the finished tortillas between a folded clean dish towel.  Don’t worry too much if you think the tortilla is still slightly raw in the inside. Make more tortillas and let them rest together in the clean towel. They will continue cooking on the inside. By the time you serve them they will be perfect. ENJOY!

Before bring trying this at home, I suggest you also read this informative blog post:

I welcome questions, comments, and suggestions. Find me at