Nixtamal – Preparing Corn for Tortillas, Tamales, and Posole

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I’ve been wanting to share this post now for a good 4 or 5 months.  Not having a dry/wet food mill has prevented me from making my own corn masa for tortillas or tamales.  However, I’ll be sharing a post on posole shortly and knew I could prepare my own corn in a lime solution and make my own hominy.  Nixtamal is a traditional way of making your own corn masa or hominy by first boiling field corn (not popcorn) in a lime solution and allowing it to soak for a period of time depending on it’s use.

By soaking your own corn and making your own masa or hominy you’ll have a fresher tasting taco, tamal or posole.  Your masa or hominy will also have more nutritive value and you’ll also have the added benefit of being able to find organic field corn.  I’ve been able to order this through Azure Standard.  A natural/organic buying club that anyone in the nation can take part of!

The process of nixtamalization removes the germ and the hard outer hull from the kernels, making them more palatable, easier to digest, and easier to process.  Although this process decreases some of the vitamin levels, soluble starch and corn protein it improves the availability of amino acids, phosphorous and calcium.  By soaking this whole grain, you are also decreasing the phytic acid content, thus improving the absorption of minerals.

To properly prepare Nixtamal, you need to soak the corn in a lime water solution. I have been able to find lime or cal at my Mexican grocer.  However, pickling lime can also be used.




  1. 2 quarts organic field corn
  2. 5 tbls Lime/Cal
  3. 4 quarts filtered water


  1. Rinse corn and remove any chaff.  Drain through a colander.
  2. In a non-reactive pot, mix water and lime over high heat until lime is dissolved.
  3. Add the corn and bring to a boil for 15 – 20 minutes.
  4. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let soak overnight.
  5. The next day, drain the corn through a colander and rinse.  If making hominy for posole, remove hulls at this time. The hulls are the little brown tips which can be rubbed or picked off.
  6. Place corn in a bowl and cover with water.  Allow to soak for 5 – 10 minutes moving the corn kernels with your fingers and then rinse again.  Repeat this process one more time.  This will ensure all traces of lime are washed away.
  7. Drain the corn through a colander and your done.  Homemade nixtamal!

Once your nixtamal is completed you can now use the corn in your posole recipe or you can grind it to make homemade tortillas or tamales.  As soon as I get a grinder I’ll make sure and post on tortilla’s and my tamales!!  Don’t you just love learning how to better nourish ourselves by traditional techniques πŸ˜‰

Buen Provecho!

21 Responses to "Nixtamal – Preparing Corn for Tortillas, Tamales, and Posole"
  1. girlichef says:

    Awesome post! I'm actually just getting ready to go through my posole making process, as well!! And YES, learning traditional techniques is (I think) vital in todays world…it will help us get back to our roots and back to healthy πŸ˜€

  2. Chow and Chatter says:

    you so creative, all worth the effect i am sure

  3. WizzyTheStick says:

    This recipe is just what I was looking for! Awhile back I blogged about making green corn dumplings. I wonder if the mill that I used is the kind you are looking for? Anyway I was interested in making my own cornmeal with the lime because my youngest is gluten intolerant. I am super excited by this post – all I need now it to find me some lime. Thanks and Happy New Year.

  4. Vegetable Matter says:

    Great post, and so interesting. We've cooked with Masa from the bag, but never thought much about what it was or where it came from. Yours must taste amazing, definitely worth the effort. Happy New Year! Robin

  5. dessert girl says:

    Love the shot with all the corn kernels! Gorgeous!

  6. Fresh Local and Best says:

    This is such an informative post! I started to make my own corn tortillas earlier this year, and was just thinking about how great it would be to have fresh masa.

    I was wondering, how would I store nixtamal how long does this store for? Thanks!

  7. My Little Space says:

    I wonder I can make my own cornmeal too! Can't easily find cornmeal over here.

  8. Miranda says:

    You are so fantastic! This is an amazing post!

  9. Ruth says:

    Wow, thats what I call true passion!

  10. Anncoo says:

    Happy New year and wishing you & your family all the best for the coming year.

  11. Sanjana says:

    This is amazing- I would love to have a go at doing this, I bet the end products taste so fresh!

  12. Abby says:

    Excited! I love posole (I am looking forward that recipe) and hominy. I am going to have to order some corn. I have pickling lime on hand-is the amount the same between cal and that?

  13. Amber @ Native Food and Wine says:

    How very ambitious of you Diana – but of course I would expect that! I've never had fresh hominy. My mom always bought soaked from the carniceria. But maybe that was fresh? It definitely wasn't organic though.

    I would like to explore the concept of soaking grains more to remove the phytic acid. In Cali I could always get bread and cereal made from sprouted grains but I can't seem to find them while traveling.

    Great post. Happy new year!

  14. Tasty Eats At Home says:

    I am so impressed with your desire to start from the VERY beginning to make good posole. Great job!

  15. Linda says:

    I read about soaking corn with lime.. at first I thought people were talking about the fruit (as in: the green not-quite-lemons) *lol*

    I've seen native Americans use ashes with their cornmeal for the same use.. I don't know how well that would work.. or taste..

    Greetings from the Netherlands!

  16. Arabic Bites says:

    I love this post diana… I always see this corn in nuts Shop
    they sell it as a snack, but they added a large amount of salt to it….
    I will try to search for in the grain store to be able to try your stew recipe :)

  17. huckleberry says:

    This is almost the post I was looking for! I guess I'll be waiting to see your results of further work. I am nixtamalizing the Painted Mountain field corn I grew, and looking for pictures of the kernels after rinsing and hulling for tortillas. Like some other commenters, I've been making my own tortillas for the last year (tamales for several years) and been working up the gumption to start from the beginning, as I don't trust masa from mexico (though it is what I have) and can't afford Bob's Red Mill Masa or organic (somebody must make that). Anyway, I've got lots of dark brown bits rinsed off the kernels, but there's still a little pointy but soft light brown part at the cob end, and some dark brown on the sides that I can scrape off with my fingernail. And the harder beige moon, like the moon of your fingernail, at the cob end is also intact. Interesting to note is that the color of kernels (red, orange, pink, blue, yellow, white, green, purple…) is still there – I thought it would go away. I have noticed that my recipe said to just bring the tortilla-corn to a boil and let sit over night, but other recipes, including yours, mention a minimum time, 20 to 45 minutes, getting to the boil. Mine probably didn't take longer than 15 minutes. I will go ahead and grind the hominy and try to make tortillas, and if it doesn't work I'll try to make tamales with it (assuming the corn needed more cooking). Thanks for being here and sharing! I am a follower of Nourishing Traditions also. I look forward to future posts!
    – a fellow oldways explorer in Oregon

  18. Armando says:

    Nixtamal is the best for toryillas and tamales.
    Armando Silveyra

  19. nikki says:

    Wow, loved your post. I was wondering if you were to make lots of corn (Nixtamal) is there anyway to can it. If so how?? or would you were I could get an answer?

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