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Yellow Cornmeal Tortillas (For Soft Shell Tacos)

Yellow Cornmeal Tortillas (For Soft Shell Tacos)

Last Updated on September 3, 2022 by Practical Cooks

There is nothing like the smell of a cornmeal tortilla freshly toasting on the pan to get your juices flowing in anticipation of whatever delicious dish is almost ready to serve.

The base of many Mexican recipes, the tortilla is a thin, versatile flat bread, usually baked, and served wrapped around a variety of fillings.

Tender and chewy, tortillas are easy, extremely versatile and they stay fresh for days.

Our recipe dry fries the tortilla instead, using a dusting of medium coarse corn meal for an extra nutty texture, resulting in a warm, soft, tasty taco, ready to be filled with whatever wonder we can create.

Wait. Are you wondering why is this recipe called ‘yellow cornmeal’ instead of just ‘corn’? Confused about the difference between corn, cornmeal and cornflour?

What is maize? ‘Corn’ and ‘maize’ seem interchangeable in some circumstances. Is ‘cornflour’ maize too? And when is a tortilla a taco? Let’s see!

Traditional American taco, served with ground beef, sour cream, iceburg lettuce, tomato and jack and cheddar cheese.

Cornmeal is course meal, ground from dried corn.

Corn flour, or corn starch, or corn maize is the much finer starch derived from corn grain.

Maize is also known as corn, the cereal grain, and is a staple food worldwide, with production levels exceeding any other grain .

Who knew corn is so complicated! Is the culinary confusion cleared up yet?

But what is the difference between a tortilla and a taco?

A taco is the name given to a dish with a filling, usually minced meat, veggies, or salad, with or without dressing, wrapped in a tortilla. The tortilla is the wrapper, the taco is the meal.

The taco is the finished product, the tortilla is the ingredient. Got it? Good!

smoky lentil tacos

Recommended with this recipe: Smoky Lentil Tacos

This recipe makes 10 medium sized tortillas which should be just about enough to scoop up all those delicious fillings and fresh toppings.

Just like pancakes, we always make too many tacos. Mainly because we always cook too much taco filling and its nice sometimes to have a lazy day of leftovers!

Uneaten rounds can be crisped up further on the dry pan, broken into tortilla chips and served with our quick and tasty hummus.

Or, why not transfer them to a baking sheet, coat them in a mixture of spices and bake for 5 minutes on high. Try smoky paprika, barbecue, salt and vinegar or sprinkle with vegan Parmesan before you bake.

Forget potato chips, these spicy homemade tortilla chips are the perfect snack for tv time!

Makes ten eight-inch rounds.


  • 0.35 lbs / 160g plain flour
  • 0.17 lbs / 80g medium maize meal
  • 0.28 lbs / 130g water
  • 0.11 lbs / 50g corn oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Coarse maize meal for dusting


Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, add the wet ingredients. Mix until a smooth dough ball is formed, first using a spatula, then using your hand.

Cover and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes (the dough, not you).

Divide the dough into even sized balls. Ours weighed out at 40g each. Once formed, let the balls rest in the fridge for a further 30 minutes.

Put a large pan on medium heat. Dust your surface and rolling pin with a large handful of rough maize meal. Roll out a dough ball to a round, around the same diameter as the pan.

If the heat is too low, or the tortillas too thick, they might not puff up adequately so take care to roll them thinly and uniformly.

Dry fry the round until lightly browned and bubbling, around 2 minutes. Flip and fry the other side until the bread is at the desired softness or crispiness to suit your taste and the recipe.

Serve the tortillas piled high on a warm plate.

Tortillas will keep fresh for days if wrapped well and stored in a cool, dry place, not exposed to direct sunlight.

Finally, the pièce de résistance! Top your tacos with our favourite Pico de Gallo.

taco meal with tortillas and pico de gallo

Tortillas are not just for tacos. They are a very versatile vehicle to carry all manner of sauces and stews, and a great way to make a packed lunch or picnic more portable.

This is where they gained their notoriety after all – in the 19th century in Mexico, as a portable meal for miners to take to work underground.

We don’t do much mining here in the west of Ireland but we do wrap almost everything, from curries and rice to three bean chili and any kind of salad.

Even leftover slow roasted vegetables, mashed potato and onion gravy get the tortilla treatment.

For a quick cold lunch, try slices of homemade seitan with a rocket, spinach and cucumber salad, wrapped in a tortilla, or a sprouted lentil salad with soy yogurt dressing.

Brush a tortilla with garlic butter, sprinkle with parsley and chive and you’ve got a fast garlic bread style snack, perfect for a black olive tapenade or flavored hummus dip.

black olive tapenade

Top a tortilla with tomato paste like a pizza or try a little cocoa spread and sliced banana for a sweet and speedy treat. Tasty and tempting!

Now the confusion is clear, there is really no need to explain any further. Corn is corn, meal is meal and maize is maize. A tortilla is more than just a taco, a taco can be soft and warm or cold and hard and Tacos are not just for Tuesdays.

Whichever word or phrase you choose to call this soft warm round of thin chewy deliciousness, we just want to fill it full of tasty toppings and chow down.

It’s tortilla time!