How to Make Nixtamal: A Traditional Mesoamerican Recipe

Nixtamal is a staple ingredient in many Mesoamerican cultures, and it is used to make a variety of dishes such as tortillas, tamales, and pozole. Nixtamal is a form of treated maize that has been soaked in an alkaline solution, which helps to soften the kernels and improve their nutritional value. If you’re interested in making nixtamal at home, this article will guide you through the process.


  • 1 kilogram of dried corn kernels
  •  2 tablespoons of food-grade lime (calcium hydroxide)
  • Water


  1. Rinse the dried corn kernels in a colander and remove any debris or damaged kernels.
  2.  In a large pot, add the corn kernels and enough water to cover them completely. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the corn simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. While the corn is simmering, mix 2 tablespoons of food-grade lime with 4 cups of water in a separate container. Stir until the lime dissolves completely.
  4.  Once the corn has simmered for 10 minutes, drain the water and rinse the kernels with fresh water.
  5. Add the kernels back to the pot and pour the lime solution over them. Stir the mixture well to ensure that all the kernels are coated.
  6. Cover the pot with a lid and let the corn soak in the lime solution for at least 12 hours or overnight.
  7. After the soaking period, drain the corn kernels and rinse them thoroughly with fresh water to remove any excess lime.

The nixtamal is now ready to be used in your favorite recipes.


  • Use food-grade lime, which is also known as calcium hydroxide, and not quicklime or hydrated lime, which can be harmful if ingested.
  • You can also add flavorings like cinnamon or sugar to the lime solution to infuse the nixtamal with a sweet and spicy flavor.


Making nixtamal is a traditional process that has been used for centuries to improve the nutritional value and taste of maize. By following these simple instructions, you can create your own nixtamal at home and use it to make delicious dishes like tortillas, tamales, and pozole. Give it a try and taste the difference that nixtamal can make in your cooking.


  • López-Andrade, M. (2016). Nixtamalización: un proceso para mejorar la calidad nutricional del maíz. Revista Mexicana de Agronegocios, 38, 197-209.
  • Casas, A., Otero-Arnaiz, A., Pérez-Negrón, E., & Valiente-Banuet, A. (2007). In situ management and domestication of plants in Mesoamerica. Annals of botany, 100(5), 1101-1115.
  • Bressani, R., & Elías, L. G. (1988). The nutritional quality of traditional maize tortillas. Food and nutrition bulletin, 10(3), 24-32.

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