There is an unparalleled joy in the making of things that have the purpose of making other things. There is the satisfaction of making a jig to bend wire for a project. The pride in making a tool to perfectly complete a difficult task. Then there is a specific delight in making something that can be used to make food.

One of the most delicious foods I’ve ever eaten was a fresh tortilla made and cooked by my mother-in-law Amelia from Mexico City. The entire kitchen had been transformed for a massive tortilla production event, and at the center was a humble tortilla press. My father-in-law Gabriel made it years ago and it has been producing fantastic tortillas since. 

Taking a look at the press, it is evident how to use it. And with a few photos and simple steps, I am thrilled to teach you how to make your own tortilla press. The best part- you can make your own incredible tortillas with it for years and generations to come.

This tortilla press uses scrap wood and reclaimed hardware. Because the tortillas will be made in between heavy layers of plastic, the surface of the wood needs to be smooth and flat, but it can be raw, or stained and painted.

Gather Materials

The construction of the press is simple. You’ll need:

1. Two hinges, some screws and nails, a 6” bolt with washer and fly nut, two matching pieces for the top and bottom of the press, a “U” shape to hold the handle, a handle, and a small scrap of wood to help create pressure through leverage. (Ours has feet, but they aren’t necessary). 

2. Our plates for the press measure 9” x 12”, 1.75” thick. 

3. Our “U” shaped handle holder is 5.5” square, 1.75” thick, with a space cut out from the middle that measures 3” long and 1.75” across. 

4. The handle itself is 15” long and just wide enough to fit inside the “U” to rotate freely- 1.5” wide. The small piece attached to the top plate of the press is 3” x 2.5”.


After cutting the wooden pieces, assembly is quite simple. 

5. Use short nails or screws to secure the small leverage piece to the center of the top plate, .25” from the 12” edge. 

6. Stack the two pieces of the press together, line them up nicely, and then connect them together with the hinges so they open like a book.

7. Drill a small hole for the bolt through both arms of the top of the “U”. Center your hole 1” from the top of the “U”. Drill a hole through the center of the handle- ours is about 1” from the end of the handle. Make sure there’s plenty of clearance. Use a washer and a fly nut to attach them all together- loose enough for the handle to swing freely.

8. With screws or nails, mount the handle assembly to the center of the bottom plate of the press. If you want, now you can attach the feet to the the bottom of the bottom plate as well. To use the press, close the plates together and then bring the handle down, applying pressure to the leverage point.

Make Tortillas

To make the best possible tortilla:

9. Center the ball of dough between two sheets of plastic. Ours are cut from a heavy-duty ziplock bag.

10. Close the press and apply a few seconds of steady, even pressure to flatten the masa. The bigger the ball, the wider and thicker the final tortilla.

11. Cook the pressed tortillas in a pan or a griddle for 90 seconds, flipping the tortilla every 30 seconds

The masa dough is very simple to make. 

12. Add 1.5 cups of water to two cups of masa harina and half a teaspoon of salt. If the dough is a little too dry, add water a tablespoon at a time. The goal is to achieve a texture like wet sand. Roll the dough into 1” balls and press away.

13. Buen Provecho!

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