The Ultimate Substitute For Masa Harina You’ll Ever Need

Masa harina is the dough that came from finely ground corn flour that has gone through a rigorous drying process. The mixture called “masa” is usually for making corn tortillas. However, if you do not find any of this dough near you, I recommend that you choose from the many substitutes for masa harina.

Masa harina is traditionally for various Mexican dishes, like tortillas, tamales, and more. Making this dough could be a tedious task, which is why most people look for substitutes for masa harina. If you are looking for alternatives for this dough, then you came to the right place.


#1. Ground Tortillas - The Easiest Substitute For Masa Harina

Who doesn’t love to eat Mexican food? If you are a big fan of Mexican food, like I am, you might have some stash of extra corn tortillas in your pantry. Before your tortillas become stale, it would be best to turn them into masa harina.

Since tortillas are made of masa harina, it is one of the best and easiest to make a masa harina alternative. All you need are three to four large corn tortillas, warm water, and Kosher salt.

  • First, you put the tortillas in a food processor to grind them into a finely grounded dough.
  • Add the right amount of kosher salt according to the taste you need.
  • Pulse the mixture so that it will combine with the kosher salt.
  • Slowly put enough warm water to the mix until you can shape the dough.
  • Make sure you put the right amount of each recipe depending on the Mexican dish you are preparing.

#2. Fresh Masa Preparada – Simpler Substitute To Masa Marina

Masa Preparada is easier to make than masa harina since it takes out a few steps, which means you can save more time making this dough. Masa preparada translates to the prepared dough in Spanish. Masa preparada is made out of masa harina, which makes it one of the best substitutes.

One of the significant disadvantages to this substitute for masa harina is its short shelf life. Visit any Mexican or Latin American grocery store to buy masa preparada. You can even buy it online.

#3. Ground Hominy – A Shortcut Substitute For Masa Harina

Hominy is one of the main ingredients of masa harina. You can skip a lot of the drying process involved in making masa harina with this substitute. Hominy is kernels of corn that already has its hulls removed.

It means it no longer has its outer shell, and only its softer inner seeds remain. If you have dried hominy in your pantry, cook into the form you find in canned hominy products. You can buy this substitute for masa harina in ethnic grocers and various supermarkets.

To use hominy, you simply have to grind the corn in your food processor or grinder. After that, you can now use as a substitute for masa harina.

#4. Ground-Up Corn Taco Shells, Tortilla Chips, Or Corn Tostadas – Substitute For Masa Harina With Same Ingredients

Another wonderful substitute for masa harina is by grinding corn tortillas that have not yet been baked or fried. This item is a practical masa harina substitute since corn taco shells, corn tortilla chips, and corn tostadas are made of the same ingredients as their fresh corn counterparts.

Its primary ingredients are salt, water, and masa harina. The chips, the tostadas, and the shells have been baked or fried, which are American style preparations. These three corn products also have added ingredients for longer shelf life.

However, there are no reasons to be concerned, since it will not make any difference in taste. You can just ground them up using your hands. But of course, you can also choose to use your food processor to grind them into finer masa harina dough. It is advised that you go for baked versions than fried ones.

#5. Cornstarch – Best Substitute For Masa Harina For Thickening Sauce

Another major use for masa harina is to thicken sauces, stews, and gravies for Mexican dishes. The alternatives listed above are also great substitutes to thicken sauces. The best substitute for masa harina to thicken your sauce, gravy, or stews however is cornstarch.

Cornstarch is from the endosperm of corn, which makes it a suitable slurry. A slurry is another term for a thickening agent, which is mixed with liquid for gravy, sauce, and soup. However, it is important to take note that the cornstarch shouldn’t be added directly into your dish.

You have to transform your cornstarch into a slurry before you mix it with the food you are preparing. It will help you prevent turning your dish into something lumpy, which will result in a taste that you wouldn’t like.

Here is a video to guide you for using this substitute for masa harina.

#6. Grits – Cheap Substitute For Masa Harina

Grit is cheap and easy to make at home. I particularly love a delicious bowl of grits during breakfast, especially on a cold morning. Corn kernels are ground in industrial mills, which are then placed on a screen. The bigger pieces of corn kernels are turned into grits, while the smaller ones become cornmeal.

  • Boil water with butter on your stove before putting the grits and cook it for 40 minutes.
  • Use less water to cook your grits if you are planning to make a stand-alone meal.
  • When they become soft enough, you can now use them to thicken your stew, soup, or chowder.

#7. Polenta – An Italian Substitute For Masa Harina

Although Polenta comes from Northern Italy, it is still a great substitute for masa harina, which is from Latin America. You can buy this ingredient in any grocery stores. The polentas that you buy from a bag are usually coarsely ground and dry.

Make sure you find the finely grounded polenta for a great substitute for masa harina. You must use it the same way you would use masa harina for any recipe. The polentas that you can buy from a tube are better used as thickening agent for chowders and soups that need masa harina.

Polenta is made from flint corn, which is why I prefer to use it as a substitute for masa harina than grits. It is the best substitute since it has better flavor and texture.

#8. Arrowroot Powder – Tropical Substitute For Masa Harina

This powder comes from a tropical plant called arrowroot. Just like the cornstarch, I don’t directly mix this powder with the rest of the ingredient for thickening. Arrowroot powder must be transformed into slurry mixed with wine, water, or any other liquid.

The extraction process for arrowroot powder is more natural and doesn’t require many harsh chemicals, unlike other alternatives. It usually doesn’t have genetically modified ingredients. However, this alternative may get pricier than cornstarch.

Here is one piece of advice you shouldn’t miss. Don’t ever mix it with dairy products. I made that mistake once, and the result was a slimy muck.

#9. Cornmeal – Substitute For Masa Harina With Various Types

Cornmeal is made out of corn that comes in different kinds of colors and textures. This cornmeal comes in red, white, blue, or yellow depending on the corn that was grounded. Some cornmeals are coarse, fine, and medium grounded.

Although it is not the same as dried polenta, rough cornmeals are usually labeled as grits or polenta. The yellow cornmeal flour is the right substitute for masa harina. However, there are times when the coarseness of the cornmeal may not reach the standard you seek for your fine masa harina.

A Little Effort Goes A Long Way...

Mexican foods are irresistible, but sometimes you choose to use alternatives to prepare these Latin American dishes. Sometimes, using the option might get you off track. But you can follow the instructions in the list to make sure you get the right ingredients.

Preparing delicious food for your friends and your loved ones requires a little effort, but the results are undeniable. There are many other substitutes for masa harina, but I took the liberty to narrow down your choices.

What do you think of the list? Are there other alternatives that we missed to mention? Let us know in the comments below.

Jessica Leary

I’m Jessica, I’ve been a foodie since I was young. That explains my passion for the food movement and food blogs. In addition to being a content creator and recipe developer, I’m also into food photography and blogging. I’m an exercise enthusiast, wine aficionado, and green smoothie addict. The fact that I’ve tried countless recipes is what makes me passionate about food blogging. I write on anything related to food.

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