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In search of non-GMO corn tortillas – Part Two

My first round of GMO-free, organic home made tortillas were great. Bob’s Red Mill brand of Masa Corn flour worked well… but would soaking my own organic whole corn in lime – (undergoing the process of nixtamalization) produce an even better result?

It was time to find out.

I’ll share the story of how I found a source for a 25 pound bag of dried, whole organic corn in my next post – but until then – here are the first steps in making your own organic Masa Corn Flour:


Pickling Lime was easy to find – I purchased mine at a local hardware store. You might even find it in your grocery store with the other canning items.

I found instructions on this blog – (thank you, Cheeseslave!) – she made it look so simple.

I doubled her recipe, since I wanted to experiment, (and I’m Italian… I just can’t help making WAY too much food all of the time).


So here’s how it went:

3 pounds dried organic corn

3 tablespoons pickling lime

approx. 4 quarts filtered water

Cover corn mixture with filtered water in a stockpot (make sure it is covered by a few inches, as the corn will expand).  Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cover. Let soak/ferment in that cooked limewater for at least 24 hours – or up to two weeks. I let mine soak for 3 days.

After the soaking period, it’s time to rinse and get ready to make tortillas!

It took a lot of rinsing to get the slimy texture off… I rinsed and rinsed some more. Still a tad slimy, but that’s part of it.

Cheeseslave’s next instructions were simple: Just blend some of the corn in a food processor and add water until you reach the desired consistency. I added some sea salt to the mixture.

Here it is with some added water and blended some more:

It forms a lovely dough – and ends up quite smooth. You don’t want it too wet:

This dough definitely had more character than the Bob’s Red Mill brand had. Here are the two doughs side by side (home ground corn on the left):

Next, form into balls, press into rounds, and cook in the pan like my previous post explains. Again, I find it’s most successful to hold tortillas in a towel inside of a covered pot to allow them to steam and soften before serving.

I thought the result was great, not quite as soft and flexible as the Bob’s Red Mill flour recipe, though. A friend tasted them and said how much she loved the texture of them – “You can really taste the corn!”. I agree – a rustic texture with tiny flecks from the corn’s germ really added interest.

Conclusion: I would recommend the Bob’s Red Mill flour if you don’t have the use for a large bag of corn, but I will do the soak again since I have a lot to use up – and I liked the flavor and texture.

(* 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)

Because the whole reason I wanted to try making corn tortillas from whole corn was because of my grain mill… I still had ONE other option to try.  It’s quite ridiculously tedious – but I had to try.  I saved some of the soaked corn kernels, put them in my food dehydrator overnight (until totally dried) and then ground them in my grain mill. I’ll spare you the process… it wasn’t much different/better than any of the other results – and the corn kernels are a bit large for my grain mill, which made me nervous that it took the mill so long to grind them. I won’t do it again.

I’m also interested in making hominy from my dried corn (it uses the same soaking process) – I think it will be a fun addition to soups this fall.  Perhaps I’ll make hominy and tortillas at the same time.  Quite simple, and that $5 bag of pickling lime will go a long way!


  Leave a Reply

  • I wish I could import this easily into my PTE account!

    Meggan August 25, 2015 AT 3:36 pm
  • I have been searching as well and I have to say I understood exactly what you said as the change over for me has been exactly like that as well. MY question is Organic Vegetable Shortening for making Flour Tortilla’s. There really is no substitute that I have found and I do want it to be an all non-gmo product. Do you know of one? Thank you

    Karen January 20, 2014 AT 5:58 pm
  • Make tamales! They are so good and a geat way to use up your corn. Pork with red mole sauce, chicken with a green sauce or the sweet version, with sweetened cream of corn inside.

    Soccy June 20, 2013 AT 9:59 pm
  • You may not have simmered the corn long enough in the lime water for a smooth texture. I changed from 15 minutes (recommended by Diana Kennedy) to 30 minutes and saw a big improvement in the texture after grinding in the food processor. I only soak overnight.

    Veronica Salinas May 29, 2013 AT 10:43 am
  • I’ve been toying with two different ideas along this line. 1) Trying the nixtamalization process on sorghum, which in hot dry years can grow better for us here in the southern plains than corn, and 2) making nixtamalized cornbreads using culinary ash for the alkaline component. I found a recipe for the ash, tweaked it a bit and made some the other day out of oak, juniper wood, rosemary, juniper berries, sage and epazote. Several pounds of ingredients burned down to about 1/2 cup of ash. I promptly decided that the Pueblo Indians probably just scooped theirs out of the firepit.

    Judy On Big Turtle Creek

    Judy May 28, 2013 AT 1:37 pm
  • I was wondering how you were going to mill the corn. When I was in the Peace Corps in Guatemala, there were two options for milling corn once it was nixtamalized and washed. You could either grind it by hand with a set of stones, or you could carry it to a business that had a huge, noisy mill. The mill option was of course smoother and quicker (and easier if you had 10-15 people to feed like my host family usually did), although you had to pay a little bit to get it milled. I always enjoyed eating with families out in the outlying areas who ground their own corn because it really had a different taste and texture. I probably won’t be doing this myself anytime soon, but it’s nice to know I can.

    Jeanne G. May 28, 2013 AT 6:53 am
  • How many were you able to make?

    Becky May 28, 2013 AT 4:17 am
    • I could have fed an army with 3 pounds of dried corn turned into tortillas! I only ground up about 2-3 cups of the soaked corn and it made about 20 tortillas, I believe…

      Sarah May 28, 2013 AT 12:20 pm

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