How To Make Corn Tortillas Like A Maya

Maya Corn Tortillas

Corn tortillas are practically the main element in every Maya meal.  Not only are they healthy, but they are also comfort food when eaten hot.  It’s interesting to watch how the Mayas make their corn tortillas, as it gives you a glimpse of their past since the process hasn’t changed in centuries.

Here is the process on how to make a corn tortilla like the Mayas do:

1.  Harvest the corn and collect the dried corn kernels.

Maya Corn, Belize

2.  Par-boil the kernels with lime powder to soften the skin of the kernel.

3.  While still al dente, grind the boiled kernels either with a flat stone mortar and cylindrical pestle (like ancient Mayas did) or with a hand cranked processor (like modern day Mayas do).

4.  Take the course masa dough and turn it into a ball.  Add a bit of water to re-grind into a finer dough.  Repeat until the dough has a fine smooth consistency.

5.  Heat the comal griddle with logs and fire.  (The comal griddle has a flat metal pan held by a concrete base.  Wood logs are placed under the pan)

Maya Comal, Belize

6.  Place the dough in the center of a low table located next to the griddle to start making the tortillas.

7.  Place a circle cut plastic sheet on top of the working surface.  On it you will mold the tortillas into their circular shape.   The plastic sheets are flexible, smooth, and the dough peels easily off it.

8.  Collect a golf ball sized piece of dough and pat it down with your fingertips to form a flat thin disk from the center out.  Use the other hand’s edge to keep an overall circular shape as you rotate the dough. (see video).

9.  Grill the dough until golden on each side.  Turn over the tortilla with your hand.  If the tortilla inflates, deflate it by patting it with your hand, or with another tortilla on top to prevent burning.  The best texture the tortilla can have is a slightly crispy outside with a chewy inside. Comfort food is a hot tortilla.

10.  Eat and enjoy with your favorite meal or a traditional Maya meal like chicken stew and white rice.

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17 thoughts on “How To Make Corn Tortillas Like A Maya”

  1. This sure is a great recipe. Now you’ve got to come to Toledo, Belize , Central America and experience this first hand. We can take you to inland Toledo, where the majority of Mayas still live in authentic Mayan Villages and learn how to do more than just bake these tasty tortillas…learn how to make chocolate and much more ! E-mail us at [email protected] for more info

  2. Dear Globotreks,
    Niece piece about corn and tortillas and the village pictures from San Miguel. Do you know that the country is under attack of GMO corn? And that soon there might not be any local corn left?

  3. Nice article here, detailed and informational! The recipe looks simple enough that I will try sometimes. I’m just wondering what corn variety will work best for this corn tortilla? 🙂

  4. Haha! no worries Norbert… I’m just wondering if I can use the Japanese sweet corn which or the yellow corn which is widely available in our area. Thanks again! =)

  5. Everything sounds great except when you mention plastic. You should leave that out since Maya people did not have it. Yes Stone, Mano, Comal. They would not have had metal either. They used stones. Some Mayan groups in Guatemala still use the old fashion original method. Of course now there are easier ways, using the plastic, metal presses etc. which turns out the same result.

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