Classic corn dough: Masa de maiz

articles Food & Cuisine Recipes

Karen Hursh Graber

Metate and mano for grinding corn © Daniel Wheeler, 2009
Metate and mano for grinding corn © Daniel Wheeler, 2009

For those who want the experience of turning out the most authentic masa possible, it is necessary to begin with dried hominy kernels and calcium hydroxide — slaked lime — or wood ash. If you do not already have a source for dried kernels, try or go to for information on contacting the representative of a whole dried grain company. Allow two days preparation if tortillas made from dried kernels are to be served to guests, since the kernels need to be soaked for twenty-four hours before cleaning and grinding. This would be a good and real hands-on learning experience for classes studying early Mexican or Mesoamerican history.


  • 2 pounds dried hominy kernels
  • water to cover (about 3 quarts)
  • 2 tablespoons powdered lime (cal or calcium hydroxide)
  • warm water as necessary
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Place the dried hominy kernels in a stockpot with water to cover, add the lime and stir until dissolved.

Simmer the kernels for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the skins are loose. Remove from heat and allow to soak for 24 hours.

When the soaking time is completed, skin the kernels by rubbing them between the palms of the hands, making sure to remove the “eye” at the base of each kernel. This will not be as difficult as it sounds, since most of the kernels will have floated to the top of the soaking solution.

Rinse the kernels thoroughly in at least three changes of water, to be certain that the dough will not have the overly-yellow color that results when the lime has not been completely rinsed off. (Failure to rinse properly also means that the lime will interfere with a true corn flavor.)

Grind the kernels to a paste-like consistency, using either a traditional metate (see photo), a plate-style grain mill or a food processor.

Add the salt and enough warm water to make a sticky dough. Knead the dough with moistened hands until it becomes smooth and loses its sticky quality. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes before using it in a recipe for tortillas or other masa-based dishes.

Link to Source Article

Published or Updated on: January 1, 2006 by Karen Hursh Graber © 2008
Share This:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *