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August 13, 2022

Let’s Tacobout Making Tortillas 

All my life I had heard about nixtamalization, whether I understood what it was all about was another matter. 

It wasn’t until I arrived in Germany, when my need to eat Mexican food made me wonder why I didn’t “just” buy the maize flour (Maismehl) that I could find in any German supermarket. There were two things that stopped me:

  1. I had never made maize tortillas before
  2. Nixtamalization.

For the first few months of my life in Germany I refused to buy frozen maize tortillas. Although, fortunately, you can find a large supply of tortillas on the market, I was afraid that the taste would not remind me of my country. So, I started researching and came across an old acquaintance, the nixtamalization process. I’ve heard of it, didn’t realize how important it is for Mexican food, thus for tacos.

What is nixtamalization?

The word itself comes from the Nahuatl word nextli which means ashes and tamali which means unformed maize dough.

It turns out that it is precisely this traditional technique that not only allows the dough to be moldable and the tortilla can be formed, it also amplifies the nutritional value of maize as it increases the presence of protein, calcium and vitamin B3 in the dough, consequently in the tortilla or the many other products that can be cooked such as sopes, gorditas, tamales, etc. 

Nixtamalization process 

  1. Pre-cook the maize kernels in water with an alkaline substance (food grade lime or ashes, for example). 
  2. Let it stand for a few hours or overnight. 
  3. Rinse the kernels 

After this process, the maize kernels are ready to be crushed and while adding water, the maize dough is formed. 

The best case is to prepare our own nixtamal and maize dough to enjoy delicious tortillas that are the canvas for our tacos. The “worst” case is to find tortilla suppliers that use nixtamalized masa or nixtamalized maize flour. I put the second option as the “least bad” because today in a world as globalized and industrialized as the one we live in; it is difficult to find suppliers that use premium ingredients that can provide the nutrients that a maize tortilla would normally provide. Without mentioning fair trade of maize and good quality of alkaline substances. 

But we are not here to complain, we are here to share with you some supplies that I’d recommend: 

Taste the taco culture.