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In search of non-GMO corn tortillas – Part One

One thing leads to another.

There’s that moment you realize diet can actually help heal your child’s chronic ear infections – and before you know it – you own a juicer, use coconut oil for everything, and find yourself making trips to different grocery stores in search of organic potatoes and non-GMO tortillas.  You barely dip your toe into the waters of ‘natural living’ and before long you are swimming in the deep end with fermenting sauerkraut and kombucha in the basement.

At least that’s the way it worked with me.

Leaving processed, convenience food behind has meant embracing some inconvenience: reading labels, planning ahead and a little more time in the kitchen.  Most days I love it, and I know it’s worth it.

I love a soft, warm corn tortilla. I have a tortilla press, but I never learned the right way to use it, and my first attempt at homemade tortillas was a thick, sticky failure.

Realizing that corn is one of the most commonly genetically modified foods, I began the hunt for organic, non-GMO corn tortillas – (good tortilla chips and corn tortillas – we can’t live without them).  The non-GMO tortillas I found were stiff as cardboard (even after steaming), and the chips were getting pricey.

A dear friend recently gifted me a grain mill (insert angels singing).  So I wondered…could I find some organic corn, grind it,  and make some from scratch?  Well, it wouldn’t be quite that easy…  corn tortillas aren’t made from simple ground corn, they are made from Masa Harina – the same thing that tamales are made from.

Masa Harina is corn meal made from dried maize (or field corn) that has been soaked in limewater, then dried again and ground.  The process is called nixtamalization, (the Aztecs used this process).  After being soaked – the corn releases it’s vitamin B3 content, increases in calcium and protein availability and reduces toxins.  Basically – it makes the nutrients available and gives the corn a smoother, creamier texture.

That whole process seemed a bit daunting, so I decided to just buy some organic Masa Harina and try that first.

I was satisfied (from reading up on the Bob’s Red Mill website) that their Masa Harina was indeed, organic and non GMO, though it’s not labeled…(something about the soaking in lime process can’t technically be certified organic – even though lime (calcium hydroxide) is a natural substance).

*We later received this note from a Bob’s Red Mill Customer Service Specialist: “Our Masa Harina is not organic. It is non-GMO as are all our products. This has been the case since the late ‘70s. We only purchase from farmers who do not use GMO derived seeds. This means the conventional, organic, and gluten free are all from non-GMO seeds.”

The recipe for corn tortillas (from the back of the package) was simple: water, masa & some salt.  I got the hang of it pretty quickly … Here’s what I learned.

You really just want it to come together to form a smooth dough, not too wet.  Next, cover your dough and chill in the fridge for an hour.  Don’t skip this.  I tried without chilling, (I’m not the best at reading the WHOLE recipe before I start) and had a hard time handling them.  They were falling apart before I could get them to the pan.

After the dough has been chilled, (amazing what you can do when you follow instructions!) form some of the dough into a 2-3 inch sized ball and get ready to press.

Use a plastic bag (recycled produce bag works well) to keep the dough from sticking to the press (aha! another important tip I was missing the first time!)

Get your skillet or pan nice and hot – and carefully unpeel the plastic, and flip the tortilla into the pan. Don’t worry if they tear or aren’t perfect – I tell myself the uneven edges give them a ‘rustic’ look.

When I took them off the pan at first – I was disappointed. They felt a bit stiff – not as soft as I’d hoped… but after they’d been tucked into a dish towel and kept warm in a covered pot, they steamed and softened nicely.  Whew!

(* As I’ve experimented with this recipe, I found that adding 1 tbs. arrowroot powder as a binder/thickener gives these tortillas an even softer, more flexible texture)

Success!  A delicious, organic tortilla, wonderfully warm and fresh off the griddle.  They tasted great for the meal, but I will admit, the leftovers were not great the next day.  Wonder what preservatives are in the store bought kind to keep them from getting tough…and maybe that’s why the organic store-bought ones were on the tough side as well.

Next… to attempt to find whole corn and see if the soaked, home-ground-Masa-made tortillas are any better.  I’m up for the challenge!  Especially when good food is the reward…


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Corn Tortillas

Source: The back of a Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina Corn Flour bag

Cuisine: Mexican

Main Ingredient: Rice & Grains

Yield: 12 6″ Tortillas



  • 2 Cups Masa Harina Corn Flour
  • .5 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1.5 Cups Hot Water
  • 12 Cup Cherry Tomatoes


  1. Mix the salt into the masa harina corn flour.
  2. Slowly pour the water into the dough to get a good consistency. The dough should be firm and springy when touched, not dry or sticky.
  3. Let the dough rest for an hour, covered.
  4. Preheat a griddle or flat surface.
  5. Divide the dough into 2 inch balls.
  6. Press dough between two pieces of wax paper, or flatten according to tortilla press directions.
  7. Place flattened dough on a hot griddle or flat surface and cook until the top of the tortilla starts to look cooked, about 1 minute.
  8. Flip to the other side and heat for a few second.

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