Recipe: Panamanian Corn Tortillas

Cooked hominy tortilla

If there is something that I have eaten the most in my life I can probably mention 5 main ingredients and one of them is certainly corn.  Both my grandmothers make tamales, bollos, empanadas and tortillas.  While growing up my traditional Sunday breakfast would consist of seasonal fruits, hot tea, two proteins and 2 fried foods, maybe one tortilla and an empanada, or a tortilla and a carimañola (fried stuffed yuca empanada).  The two proteins were either eggs and cheese, or cheese and meat.  The vegetarian/vegan options: beans and dairy-free cheese.  A good tortilla can be eaten on its own as it should taste like pure corn and a touch of queso fresco.

When I first came to DC many folks asked me why I talked so much about the Panamanian tortilla, why do I have to make it myself and can’t I just buy it at grocery stores.  I haven’t found Panamanian tortillas in DC or NYC, nor when I visited the West Coast.  I have found arepas (Venezuelan and Colombian corn dish) but the only ones that I’ve enjoyed are served at restaurants and not sold at grocery stores.  I enjoy the Central American and Mexican tortillas, which you find everywhere, but they are something completely different than what I look for when craving a Panamanian tortilla.

I thought making my own tortillas would be very complicated since I never made them myself in Panama.  My grandma visited (still does) during the weekends and would bring her tamales and tortillas so we never had to make them at home.  I did help my grandma many times to make tamales back in Panama and it was a full day of work (she made by the hundreds), more on tamales soon,  I really owe my grandma a tamal post!

I don’t own a food processor, but I borrowed one and then making the tortillas was then a piece of cake. Seriously, you HAVE to make these tortillas, if only for a one time brunch.

You can also grind the cooked corn in a traditional molino like this one, and I own one, but I wanted to experiment with the food processor, plus I don’t have the proper table to use a molino in my apartment.
molino para maiz panama

I have so much to share when it comes to corn and many anecdotes with my grandma’s corn dishes, but I’ll keep it short and go straight to the recipe.

maiz viejo cocido

Recipe for Panamanian Corn Tortillas
Makes 6-8 Tortillas

1 lb of uncooked Golden Hominy Corn (dried corn)
5 oz of queso fresco (creamy unaged cheese you can find even at Giant or Whole Foods)
3 tbs of unsalted butter (you could leave this out or use margarine/coconut butter)
Oil for deep frying (read notes for baking the tortillas instead)

1.  You can leave the corn overnight soaking in water and rinse thoroughly before cooking in the pot.
2.  I decided to make tortillas the same day I bought the ingredients so instead I rinsed the corn and then cooked it in a pot filled with water 2-3 inches above the surface of the corn. (Add some salt to the water like you do when cooking pasta).
3.  Cook at medium-high heat (simmer) 50 mins-1 hour until corn looks more plumped and breaks softly when you bite into it, but not too soft.
4.  You can get rid of the water once the corn it’s cooked or you could save it to make  Chicha de Masa (another upcoming recipe post)
5.  Once your corn is cooked and still warm, divide it in two parts to work it easier in the food processor, adding butter, cheese and salt.
6.  If your masa (dough) is too dry, you can add a bit of the water to make it softer. (I prefer my dough a little on the drier side).
7.  Taste the dough before you remove it from the processor, you need to make sure it has a touch of salt before frying them.
8.  Once all the corn has been ground with the cheese, salt and butter, work it with your hands and shape* balls with an amount of 1/3 cup approximately of the dough to end up with tortillas 2.5″x2.5″
9.  Once you have a few tortillas shaped it is a good moment to start frying them and serve immediately.

– It’s always better to eat the tortillas right after they’ve been fried, but you could also fry them all in advance and then reheat them at 425F in the oven for 3-4 minutes.
–  Baked Tortillas: you can bake the tortillas in the oven 3-4 mins per side at 450F, they won’t get very crispy but they will still be delicious and without any oil.
– Shape them thin to make a Tortilla Sandwich, it’s wonderful and a different way to eat the tortillas.
– It made a difference to use a food processor over a molino, but it was pretty practical and the dough was still a bit crumbly the tortillas held their shape and fried just fine.
– You can add other ingredients to the masa, for my upcoming empanadas recipe I added herbs and spices, so get creative!

maiz molido panama

masa para tortilla


tortilla dough fritura

* Shaping the dough: When forming your balls of dough, you can shape it several ways, with a ball in your hand and going around with the fingers until getting the shape that you like, or you could put the ball between to plastic sheets and rolled out flat with a rolling pin.  Once the dough is flat you can either push it forming it to look like a circle or cut with a big plastic container or anything that has a circle shape and an edge to use as a cutter.

tortilla masa shape

deep frying tortillas

Yuca and Corn Empanadas and Tortillas are among my most favorite fried foods.

tortilla panamena

This is how I had my tortillas fritas, as an open egg sandwich and a side of queso fresco and peaches.  Such a great brunch dish to start summer, highly recommended!

panamanian brunch tortilla


¡a comer!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!! I miss those tortillas sooooo much and can’t wait to try making these at home! :) Btw, where did find the dried corn?

  2. Thank you JC!! :D Btw, what are the chances you happen to have a yummy recipe for Bocado de la Reina???? All I ever seem to find is Tres Leches :/

  3. Hello, I am so excited about trying this recipe . My parents are from Panama and I grew up on tortilla ….love them …I also love to cook..My children love corn tortilla also . I have family in Panama still so if some one travel there from the states I can get my family to send some for me. But everyone getting older and I don’t want to lose this good food tradition … So time to step up my game. I will let you know how they come out thanks so much

  4. Hi, Cocinerita. From now on you’ll be for sure within my favorites cooking web sites. I’m living in DC as well and that was one of the first thing I noticed after I visited a hispanic market. I almost died when I realized there is no place where you can find a panamanian tortilla. Thanks for the recipe.

  5. Gracias por la receta you know I saw these tortillas one on GA ave close to Howard U about 6 yrs ago in a bodega but I was just there to get water and keep dancing in the DC Caribbean carnival. Sadly I forgot which bodega it was and never found them again

  6. Thank you for sharing this receipt, I missed eating my tortillas con queso deretido in top of them with coffe in the morning. Every time that a family member goes back to Panama to visit, we all ask that person to bring tortillas and empanadas. I will try to make some this weekend, specially since I have some of my family coming to visit, I am going to surprise them.

  7. Hi Oscar! I really love making/eating tortillas. I haven’t made them for months now and I’ve never seen them available anywhere I’ve lived in the US for now :(

    My dream is to have a fonda with 100% Panamanian & Caribbean food! I hope you get to try some soon again :)

  8. So excited to tell you that I finally got around to making these and they were wonderful! Thank you so much! Btw, I managed to find a super old Panamanian cookbook with the recipe for Bocada de la Reina if your ever interested

  9. Muchas gracias por tu receta, solo quisiera saber cual es el famoso QUESO FRESCO, tantos quesos que hay a la venta que no se cual sea el correcto,, te refieres a Riccota, Mozarela o Tuma Queso, de verdad no se cual te refieres, gracias.

  10. Hola Jenny!

    Queso fresco no es màs que un queso blanco nuevo, no es ricotta, ni mozarella, sin embargo las tortillas se pueden comer con cualquiera de esos quesos! =D
    En qué supermercados frecuentas y asì podré ayudarte más a conseguir mejores sugerencias?

    Gracias por visitar mi blog!

  11. This weekend I tried making empanadas with the corn masa and it was an epic fail. Now that I’ve found your blog and tortilla recipe I will try my hand at it again. Thank you for keeping the tradition alive. Viva Panama!

  12. Thanks for this recipe!!! I’ve been looking for one forever. My masa came out a little wet… I think I may have let the corn cook too long. So when I fry it the outside is brown but the middle is a little undercooked. I’ve tried frying them on lower heat but the result is the same. Do you have any suggestions as to what I should do?

  13. My wife is from Panama, and I have been there twice and we both enjoy these tortillas. I’ve been searching for how to make these for a long time and thankfully stumbled upon this post. I made these today and when my wife ate the first one she started to cry because these are the real Panamanian tortillas. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  14. I have been telling my kids about these as a kid in Pamana , and I want to make these for them.
    Closest i have come was frying polenta. which I got at Trader Joes and Giant.
    Granted I tell my kids Panamanian food can be a labor of love. lol. is there a short cut? maybe using the Goya pre-cooked corn meal?

  15. Thank you so much. Never been happier. Soaked overnight, came home from work and simmered for 50 minutes. Didn’t add the cheese, since I never ate this with cheese. Used my hamburger press lined with cling wrap to make 6 tortillas. The mixture tasted exactly like what I remembered. Can’t wait for breakfast tomorrow to fry and eat. Will make more and freeze them. Though I’ll try with one first to see how it comes out

  16. Thank you for this! I will be trying your recipe very soon. My fiancé is Panamanian. At all his family gatherings there is always tortillas, hojaldras, and carimanolas! (*sp) We don’t live near his family so hopefully I can recreate the dishes he loves so much! :)

  17. I am so happy to find this recipe! My grandmother made these for me and they were my favorite when I visited her.

  18. I am also from panama and they sell these already made up except for the frying part, in almost all grocery stores in the egg section.. Its called Jaxon corn mush and it is sold in a tube.. Its smaller then normal size tortillas and you have to slice them and fry them.. They are delicious and you cut them as thick as you want..

  19. Girlfriend thanks for the recipe my dad was station at the military base in Panama I used to eat Panamanian food all the time ,it made me feel at home when
    I do ,noting better then tortilla and carimanolas , chicheme.cocadas … thanks so much Jennifer Haroldson.

  20. I haven’t been able to find dry corn but I did see several kinds of corn meal and corn flours. Can any of these be substituted for dry corn?

  21. I would rinse it a lot and try it, maybe if it’s too wet you can add a little bit of corn flour, I should test with Harina PAN, my Venezuelan friends use it to make their arepas and I think it is pre-cooked so it might be easier to start with that one mized with the canned hominy, I might test it myself!

Leave a Reply

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