Nixtamalization is a Mesoamerican process that transforms the dry corn kernels into masa dough for the elaboration of tortillas, tamales, and many more Mexican dishes. It is the backbone of Mexican cuisine. Nixtamal derives its name from two Nahuatl words:
- Nextli - meaning ‘lime from ashes’, and
- Tamalli - meaning ‘cooked corn dough’.
During the nixtamalization process, the corn is cooked in an alkaline solution prepared with wood ashes or pickling lime. The alkalinity and cooking temperature removes the inedible husk and adds extra nutrients to the corn. After steeping the nixtamal, the corn is washed and stone ground into fresh corn masa dough. The process of Nixtamalization transforms the chemistry of the corn and makes it a super-food. In a corn tortilla you will obtain fibre, magnesium, iron, vitamin B3, and calcium.
Nixtamalization is a process used to prepare corn for making tortillas and other traditional Mexican dishes. It involves soaking dried corn in a mixture of water and lime (or ash) for several hours, which softens the corn and makes it easier to grind. The process also improves the nutritional value of the corn by making certain nutrients, such as niacin, more bio-available. The corn is then rinsed and ground to make dough for tortillas, tamales, and other dishes. In simple terms, nixtamalization is a process that treats corn with lime to make it more nutritious and easier to grind for making traditional Mexican dishes.
Nixtamalization is a traditional Mesoamerican method of preparing corn that involves soaking and cooking dried corn kernels in an alkaline solution, typically made from slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) or ash. The process has several benefits including making the corn more nutritious, tastier, and easier to grind.
The process of nixtamalization starts with the cleaning of dried corn kernels and then soaking them in an alkaline solution for several hours. The alkali causes a chemical reaction in the corn, softening the outer layers of the kernels and allowing them to be easily ground into dough. The soaked corn is then rinsed and cleaned to remove the alkali before being ground into masa (dough) for tortillas, tamales, and other traditional Mexican dishes.
Nixtamalization has several benefits in terms of nutritional value, taste, and texture. The process increases the bio-availability of certain nutrients, such as niacin, which is an essential nutrient that helps prevent pellagra, a disease caused by niacin deficiency. The process also removes the hard outer hull of the corn, making it easier to grind and yielding a more flavorful dough. The dough produced is also more pliable, making it easier to shape into tortillas, tamales and other traditional Mexican dishes.