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The 5 Best Substitutes for Masa Harina

If you have some masa harina at home, you can create a variety of delicious dishes every day.

Though primarily used in Mexican and Latin American dishes, you can use it in other cuisines too.

Besides being flavorful, it adds uniqueness to any dish.

It may run out quickly if you use it frequently, and sometimes, the ingredient may not be available when you need it.

But the good news is you can use several other items in place of masa harina.

You are sure to have one of the items which we mention below.

So, keep reading this write-up to know the 5 best substitutes for masa harina.

You won’t have to panic anymore once you know which items you can use.

What is Masa Harina?

what is masa harina

In the literal sense, masa means ‘dough,’ and harina means ‘flour’ in Spanish.

It’s also known as Mexican flour, made from corn.

But it isn’t plain corn flour as there is a process involved that requires treating the flour in limewater.

It’s a valuable process for producing the flour’s distinct texture and flavor, unique in Mexican dishes.

Items like tamales, empanadas, corn tortillas all need masa harina to get their final shape.

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Masa harina is also a healthy flour as it’s gluten-free.

It can also curb hunger, relieve constipation, support white blood cells, and supply iron.

It also boosts calcium content which is necessary for bone health.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Masa Harina

The following are suitable alternatives you can use when you don’t have masa harina.

1 – Dried Hominy

dried hominy

Hominy is corn with its husk removed in a limewater soak.

So, it has a similar flavor to masa harina.

You can say it’s pre-ground masa harina also.

All you have to do is put the kernels in an appliance and grind it.

Once it becomes powder, you can use it to prepare any dish that asks for masa harina.

Apart from making the usual items, you can also add it to soups and other dishes if you want to thicken them.

Mexicans make a beverage called atole by mixing it with water and milk.

It’s also eaten as a whole in several dishes.

Dried hominy also offers several health benefits, just like masa harina.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 cup masa harina = 1 cup dried hominy (ground).

2 – Canned Hominy

canned hominy

Basically, it’s hominy conserved in a can or tin of water.

It’s also a suitable alternative when masa harina is not available.

Since it’s soaked in water, the kernels will produce softer dough but with the same flavor.

You can find different brands in grocery stores that sell Latin American and Mexican products.

You can take the kernels and grind them in a food processor.

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While mixing it to make your items pour a smaller quantity of water.

Apart from the usual Mexican and Latin American dishes, you can also use it to make casserole, soups and stews without grinding them.

It contains many nutrients, including vitamin B, fiber, and is low in sugar and fat.

It’s gluten-free too.

It maintains digestive health, maintains blood sugar, manages weight and even lowers cholesterol levels.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 cup masa harina = 1 cup canned hominy (ground).

Add less water in the beginning to get the right consistency.

3 – Corn Grits

corn grits

Corn grits come from two sources; milled corn or hominy.

It will have a similar flavor to masa harina if it’s made from hominy.

The dough will taste like cornmeal if it comes from milled corn.

However, you can use it in times of emergency.

Different recipes require different textures.

So, you can grind the grits in an appliance to make it smoother if a recipe demands it.

As with the other substitutes, you can make plenty of things with corn grits.

Corn grits also contain minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

So, they are good for the eyes and heart.

They may also help prevent cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Hominy corn grits retain most of the grits’ nutritional value because of the limewater treatment.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 cup masa harina = 1 cup corn grits .

4 – Cornmeal


Though masa harina and cornmeal come from the same source, the flavor is different because of the hulling process.

However, it can stand-in for the former when there is nothing else to use.

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The taste will change, obviously, but you will have a similar texture.

So, you can make most dishes with cornmeal that asks for masa harina.

You may not have the exact flavor, but it will be delicious if you follow the proper steps and ratio.

Cornmeal is also a gluten-free ingredient and, therefore, a healthy option.

It’s versatile, and you can use it to make tortillas, cornbread, muffins, flatbreads, and pies.

You can use the same amount of cornmeal for masa harina.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 cup masa harina = 1 cup cornmeal.

5 – Dry Polenta

dry polenta

Polenta is an Italian-origin porridge made from stone-ground yellow flint corn.

The ingredient is the Italian version of cornmeal, and it’s commonly called dry polenta.

Since it’s stone-ground, it has a similar texture to masa harina.

But the flavor will be slightly different as masa harina has a unique taste because of the hulling process.

But you can use dry polenta in place of masa harina in most dishes that require the latter.

However, the dry ingredient may also contain some other ingredients, and it can change the taste of a dish significantly though not the texture.

This Italian version of cornmeal is also gluten-free and contains several nutrients.

When using it for masa harina, take the same quantity.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 cup masa harina = 1 cup dry polenta or Italian cornmeal.


Masa harina is an ingredient with a unique flavor and grainy texture.

So, most flours may not give the exact taste.

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However, you can use any of the items mentioned above when unavailable.

Follow the correct ratio and instructions to create a tasty dish.

You can also use masa preparada (already prepared masa harina), cornflour, prepared polenta, corn starch, arrowroot flour, corn tortilla, and flour.

If you don’t mind a slightly different flavor, you can make lovely dishes using any of these ingredients at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What can I use instead of masa harina corn flour?

There are a few different options for substituting masa harina in your recipes. You can substitute cornmeal, polenta, all-purpose flour, or even tortilla mix!

Can I use cornmeal in place of masa harina?

Yes, you can absolutely use cornmeal in place of masa harina! Cornmeal is made from dried, ground corn and has a slightly coarser texture than that of masa harina.

Depending on the type of recipe you’re making, substituting these two ingredients may have different effects.

Can I make my own masa harina?

Yes! You can make your own masa harina at home by combining purchased nixtamalized corn flour with water and salt.

Nixtamalization is a process of soaking and cooking the kernels of corn in an alkaline solution to remove the husk, increase their nutritional value, and improve flavor.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Masa Harina

The 5 Best Substitutes for Masa Harina
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Dried Hominy
  • Canned Hominy
  • Corn Grits
  • Cornmeal
  • Dry Polenta


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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