Latin American Foods – Maíz – Masa and Using Corn Tortillas

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Want to boost your Spanish vocabulary, comprehension, and expression? This series Latin American Foods includes interesting facts and practical food tips in both English and Spanish. This is the perfect way to expand reading, listening and speaking skills while you share food with others. Learn More!

Corn Tortillas Masa Maiz SpanishCorn, the Best Kept Secret of Latin America – El maíz, el secreto mejor guardado de América Latina

Masa and Nixtamalization – Masa y nixtamalización

Interesting Facts – Datos interesantes

Preparation of Corn Tortillas –  Los esenciales de la tortilla de maíz

How to Warm and Uses

Comparison of Methods 

Ways to Serve

Buying  Corn Tortillas – Comprando las tortillas de maíz 


Corn, the Best Kept Secret of Latin America

Before the colonization of the Americas in the fifteenth century, corn was exclusive to the Aztec, Maya, Inca and the smaller groups in Latin America. Today corn is cultivated around the world and is a major commodity on the stock exchange. Corn is used to make glue, cardboard, soda aside from food.

Today, the traditional foods of Latin America use corn in nearly every meal.

El maíz, el secreto mejor guardado de América Latina


Antes de la colonización de las Américas en el siglo XV, el maíz era exclusivo de los aztecas, mayas, incas y los grupos más

pequeños de América Latina. Hoy en día, el maíz se cultiva en todo el mundo y es un producto importante en la bolsa de valores. El maíz se utiliza para hacer pegamento, cartón, soda además de los alimentos.

Hoy en día, los alimentos tradicionales de América Latina utilizan el maíz en casi todas las comidas.

Healthy Masa

Mesoamerican people invented the process of nixtamalization. After corn kernels are dried, they are boiled in mineral lime and then have their outer skin removed. This process makes the corn super nutritious. Afterward, the corn is ground into a paste called masa. Masa makes a lot of different foods – tortillas, tamales, tacos, sopes, pupusas, atole, chilaquiles, tostadas, huaraches, arepas, tortilla chips and more…

The world can thank Latin America for the many uses and cultivation of corn today for food and everyday use.

Masa saludable

El pueblo mesoamericano inventó el proceso de nixtamalización. Después de que los granos de maíz se secan, se hierven en cal mineral y luego se les quita la piel externa. Este proceso hace que el maíz sea súper nutritivo. Después, el maíz se muele en una pasta llamada masa. Masa hace muchos alimentos diferentes: tortillas, tamales, tacos, sopes, pupusas, atole, chilaquiles, tostadas, huaraches, arepas, chips de tortilla y más …

El mundo puede agradecer a América Latina por los múltiples usos y el cultivo de maíz que se usa hoy en día para la alimentación y el uso diario.


Preparation of Corn Tortillas

The often neglected basics of how to warm corn tortillas (OR the things most non-Latino Americans don’t know – at least that was my experience):

How to Warm


1. Stovetop Open Flame – The Official Method

Place tortilla directly over medium flame onto burner grate. Tip: use tongs to flip.

Heat individually or several at one time. Flip to char both sides.


2. Griddle – Comal


Warm up the griddle, 30 seconds on each side of the tortilla.

Add a touch of oil to the griddle to soften tortillas. Flip to toast both sides.


3. Microwave – The American Method

Wrap tortillas in cloth, 30 seconds. More time for more tortillas.

This essentially steams the tortilla. Once they cool they will be chewy and steamy.


4. Freshly homemade

Get connected to receive my future post about Homemade Flour and Corn Tortillas. These are yummy!!!


Comparison of Methods

This picture shows the differences between the different methods. A tortilla must be heated to be eaten. The unheated tortillas are stacked on the left.

In the middle are the ones from the griddle (nice rhyme:). Notice how they have even moderate toasting. On the right, look at those nicely roasted spots.

I can tell you that microwave is fast, but it makes the tortilla chewy and steamy.

Which method do you prefer? Tell me in the comments below ↓

My favorite is freshly homemade. I had the best in Ensenada, Mexico from the local tortillería and the taco stands. The runner up is the open flame method. Those roasted spots add to the flavor of the food, so good!



Ways to Serve Tortillas

Tortillas are versatile and delicious. They can be a main dish or be part of an easy snack. I always have tortillas available in my refrigerator because they are so handy.

  • Side Dish – Wrap your warmed tortillas in a cloth. Serve with mole, birria…
  • Tacos – Fill with meat, chorizo, potato, avocado, beans, eggs, a combination…
  • Quesadillas – Warm on the griddle with your favorite cheese, fold in half and flip. Heat until cheese melts
  • Soup – Tear a tortilla into pieces and add to soup.
  • Chips – Snack with salsa, avocado, dips… Make nachos, chilaquiles… Add to soup.
  • Tostadas – Top with seafood, beans, eggs, sour cream. A great side for posole.
  • Nachos – Fried tortillas. Top with beans, sour cream, cheese, chorizo, chilis, eggs…
  • Enchiladas – Fill and bake in salsa. Or the real ones are called enfrijoladas.
  • Taquitos –  Fill with meat and fry.

Buying Corn Tortillas

1. Fresh Tortillas

In larger cities, there are places you can purchase freshly made corn tortillas. Some authentic restaurants have their own tortilla maker. Even if they don’t sell them, have a meal with fresh tortillas and see the difference in taste and quality. Some Latin American grocery stores sell their tortillas, masa, and corn chips made in-store daily. Some bakeries called panaderías also are tortillerías too.

2. Grocery Store

One of the modern conveniences we enjoy is ready-made food. Large international companies provide prepackaged tortillas. They have preservatives to be shelf stable for longer periods of time. I suspect some use fillers too. I plan to investigate the brands and recommend the best for ingredients, preservatives, quality, and taste. Get connected for the latest posts. 


Comprando Tortillas De Maíz

1. Tortillas Frescas

En ciudades más grandes, hay lugares donde puedes comprar tortillas de maíz recién hechas. Algunos restaurantes auténticos tienen su propio fabricante de tortillas. Incluso si no los venden, haga una comida con tortillas frescas y vea la diferencia en sabor y calidad. Algunas tiendas de comestibles de América Latina venden sus tortillas, masa y chips de maíz hechos en la tienda todos los días. Algunas panaderías llamadas panaderías también son tortillerías.

2. El supermercado

Una de las comodidades modernas que disfrutamos es la comida preparada. Las grandes empresas internacionales ofrecen tortillas envasadas. Tienen conservantes para que sean estables durante más tiempo. Sospecho que algunos usan rellenos alternativos también. Planeo investigar las marcas y recomendar lo mejor según ingredientes, conservantes, calidad y sabor. Conéctate para los últimos mensajes.

¿Los has comido recién hechos?
Receta de tortilla de maíz casera próximamente

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