Nixtamalization, a technique that gives substance to the Mexican diet.
  • Nixtamalization is a technique that originated in Mesoamerica.
  • It is chemistry applied to an ingredient to augment its benefits.

Simply said, it is the process most utilized to transform corn into masa and enrich its nutritional value. It starts with boiling the kernels of corn in water with some sort of alkaline substance, such as lime or ashes, which facilitates removal of their outer coating. The corn is left to rest overnight and then rinsed. 

This processed grain is used in different ways, although its most important function is to be ground to make the nixtamal dough from which tortillas and their many variations are made. It is also used to produce a wide range of dishes and products, from atoles to most Mexican appetizers.


The discovery of nixtamalization, which is a legacy of the ancient Mesoamericans, caused corn to move on from being just one more dietary item to being the main source of food. Even back then, our ancestors realized that the process gave enormous potential to the nutritional value of the corn. It permits optimum assimilation of its protein and contributes the necessary quantities of iron, calcium, and zinc, among other benefits. 

It also gives the corn the unique texture and flavor that have shaped Mexican cuisine.

Relevant Facts: 
  • The water left from nixtamalization is called nejayote.
  • Nixcan is what corn cooked with lime is called.
  • The oldest evidence of this process was found in Guatemala and dates from approximately 1500 BC.