Food & Drink

Use Your Own Homemade Masa With These Recipes


As Khushbu Shah writes in the July 2024 issue of Food & Wine, “You cannot talk about corn in Mexican culture without talking about nixtamalization, a millennia-old process in which kernels are soaked in an alkaline solution and then peeled. Nixtamalization not only transforms the hard corn kernels into a soft, pliable grain, but it also increases the nutritional value of the corn, freeing up essential nutrients. Masa, the dough made from ground nixtamalized corn, is the bedrock of Mexican cuisine, used in everything from tortillas and tamales to beverages like atole.”

With these recipes, learn how to make masa at home (it’s easier than you think!), and use fresh masa or masa harina to make sweet and savory dishes, from tamales and tacos to pancakes and pupusas. You’ll see how fresh masa imparts a distinct fluffy texture and sweet corn aroma, while masa harina from Masienda can support Mexican agriculture.

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Nidia Cueva

F&W 2021 Best New Chef Fermín Núñez shares the recipe for perfect tortillas — mildly nutty with a little bit of natural sweetness and a deliciously strong corn fragrance — from Suerte restaurant in Austin.

Bean and Cheese Pupusas

Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christina Daley


Houston chef Evelyn Garcia kneads masa harina with water and salt to form a soft, malleable dough for these fluffy pupusas, the popular street food from El Salvador, stuffed with beans and cheese.

Masa-Battered Fish Tacos with Citrus-Pickled Onions

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Julian Hensarling / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen


2023 F&W Best New Chef Isabel Coss of Pascual in Washington, D.C., uses masa harina for this corn tortilla and to coat tender, flaky cod in a crispy, tempura-inspired batter, fragrant with heirloom corn.

Crispy Fish Tacos on Achiote Corn Tortillas

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling by Barrett Washburne


Use masa harina and achiote paste for homemade achiote tortillas to top with battered and fried cod, a tart remoulade, and crunchy kohlrabi slaw.

Red Shrimp Snacking Tamales

DYLAN + JENI

Paola Briseño González encases finely ground dried shrimp in chile-seasoned masa preparada to cook in corn husks for this make-ahead holiday tradition.

Oyster Mushroom Tamales with Mole Encacahuatado

DYLAN + JENI

For this vegetarian recipe, González encases roasted oyster mushrooms and peanut mole in the masa and corn husks yielding savory, aromatic, earthy tamales.

Mango-Blackberry Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Julian Hensarling / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen


Fluffy drop biscuits are a simpler alternative to the rolled biscuit toppings of many cobblers, and these ones are fluffy with a sweet corn flavor, thanks to masa harina.

Masa Preparada for Tamales

DYLAN + JENI

Masa is the secret to perfect tamales, and a dough made from fresh masa has a sweet corn aroma and fluffy texture that you can’t match with masa harina. Here’s how to make the dough with duck fat in 15 minutes, thanks to Paola Briseño González.

Masa Pancakes

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Julian Hensarling / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen


2023 F&W Best New Chef Emmanuel Chavez uses masa harina to give these pillowy pancakes crispy, caramelized edges and a smooth corn flavor.

Xeni Atapakua (Three-Seed Pipián with Sorrel)

Photo by Felipe Luna

Atapakua is a term that refers to whole range of stew-like dishes thickened with masa from the Indigenous Mexican people, Purhépecha. Sorrel adds bright acidity to this one from Imelda Campos Sebastián (Doña Mela) and Michael Snyder.

Chilpachole de Camarón con Callo de Hacha y Chochoyotes (Shrimp Stew with Scallops and Masa Dumplings)

Victor Protasio

Paola Briseño González and Javier Cabral use freshly ground masa to make chochoyotes, dumplings or dough bits, for this seafood stew from Veracruz, Mexico.

Buttermilk Pancakes with Masa Harina

© Christina Holmes

Make light, fluffy pancakes that are full of corn flavor from masa harina in this 30-minute recipe from Empellón pastry chef Lauren Resler.

Homemade Fresh Masa

DYLAN + JENI

Though the process of nixtamalization may sound intimidating, it’s quite simple and requires only two key ingredients: dried dent corn and pickling lime, or cal, both of which are available at Latin markets and online. 


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