Top 9 Substitutes For Masa Harina: You’ll Never Know The Difference (Oct, 2017)
Have you heard of masa harina? If you’re searching for advice about how to find a substitute for it, the chances are that you have. Masa harina, which means dough flour in Spanish, is a substance similar to flour that is used in many Latin American recipes. It’s made from a corn base, and it is the key thickening agent in many recipes in addition to being great for making tortillas.
Not everyone is able to find masa harina in their local store, or you might simply be out of it. While nothing can perfectly replicate masa harina, there are many great options that will still help you make a great final result.
#1 Cornstarch Might Save You
This substitution is at the top of the list not because it is the best substitution, but because it is the substitution that most people will have readily on hand at home. After all, cornstarch is a common ingredient in many pantries!
Cornstarch is usually used as a thickening agent in recipes. It’s great for making your gravies, soups, and stir-fries stick together as they are supposed to. If your ingredient that calls for masa harina also needs to be thick in a similar way, cornstarch might be the answer.
To use cornstarch, however, you need to do the following:
- Mix equal parts of cornstarch and liquid together. The liquid can be anything that will go into the recipe or water.
- Shake until thoroughly combined.
It’s important to combine the cornstarch with a small amount of liquid before adding it to your recipe to make sure that it does not get clumpy. There is nothing worth than biting into a mouthful of cornstarch!
#2 Corn Tortillas Are The Answer
Another great substitute for masa harina is corn tortillas. Since masa harina is one of the ingredients in corn tortillas, grinding them up to a very small consistency is one way that you can replicate masa harina in a recipe.
Here’s how to do it: Put three tortillas in a food processor. Grind to a fine powder.
Yes, that’s it! Depending on the recipe, you will want to grind your tortillas to a different consistency. Check your recipe for more information about what type of powder will be best for your substitution.
#3 Ground Tortilla Or Taco Chips Work, Too
A sibling to #2, hard taco or tortilla chips can also work as a substitute for masa harina when you’re in need. They contain the same ingredients (masa harina, water, salt) as corn tortillas, but they have been baked or fried as well. Some tortilla chips will have more ingredients, so keep an eye on the ingredient list before you make the substitution.
This substitution is best used when you are making:
- Thick soups
If you can, choose a baked tortilla chip rather than a fried one. All you need to do before using them is crumble them in your hand or use a food processor to get a finer consistency. Then, you’ll be ready to continue with your recipe!
#4 Flour, Any Flour!
Another substitute that is great simply because most people have it at home is flour. There are tons of kinds of flour in the world, and masa harina is just one variation. Depending on what you are making, flour might be the right substitute for you.
Ask yourself this question before using flour: Does the recipe need the taste of corn to come out properly?
Some recipes call for masa harina because of the taste and texture that it provides. If you are simply trying to thicken a chili, soup, or another dish, then you can use flour as a replacement.
Chickpea flour and arrowroot are two of my favorite substitutions. Unlike other flours, these both have distinct flavors that will add a unique touch to the final dish. If you plan to use regular flour, you will want to fry it first to get rid of the harsh, unwanted flavor that it can bring to a dish.
When adding any flour, it is best to combine it with equal parts liquid before adding it to the dish to ensure that you don’t end up with a lumpy end product.
#5 Get Corny With Cornmeal
If you want a solution that still provides some corny flavor to your dish, you can consider cornmeal as a substitute for masa harina.
There are many different types of cornmeal out there, and some cornmeal products are actually labeled as other things, such as grits or polenta. While both can be used as masa harina replacements as well, you will want to choose a yellow cornmeal flour.
While the taste won’t be the same as if you were to use masa harina, cornmeal makes a good substitute when you’re in a pinch.
#6 Masa Preparada Makes Life Easier
Some people choose to substitute for masa harina to save them time and some steps in a recipe. Just as you might buy a pre-made dough when making pizza, you might want to buy masa preparada when making something like tamales.
Latin American grocery stores will carry masa preparada. Masa preparda is prepared dough. It comes in both smooth and coarser consistencies, so you can use it for any recipe. For example, you will want to use the coarser version when making a classic dish like tamales.
Remember that masa preparda has a limited shelf life. Only purchase it once you are planning to make a specific meal that uses it. Otherwise, it will be wasted.
#7 Grits: The Southern Solution
If your house has grits in it, you already have the perfect replacement. Grits are a staple in many households, and they can save your recipe today.
Like masa harina, grits are made from hulled corn! The main difference is the type of corn that is used to make grits as well as the consistency of the powder. Grits are known to be much more coarse than masa harina.
For some recipes, that coarseness is okay. For others, you will want to put the grits in a food processor to become a bit smoother before using them.
Another way to use grits is to cook them! Once they become mushy, you can mash them up to make a dough. This dough can then be used in your recipe. This is best when making something that needs the doughy consistency of wet masa harina rather than the dry powder.
#8 Hominy: The Base Will Save You
Hominy is the base ingredient that is used when making masa harina. In fact, masa harina is simply ground hominy!
Hominy is a type of corn that has been treated with powdered lime to have the husks of the kernels removed. This hulled corn is used in a number of recipes, and it comes in both dried and canned varieties.
You can find hominy at the supermarket or online, but it’s a good ingredient to have on hand if you like to make Latin American recipes since it, or masa harina, are often used.
All you need to do is take the hominy and grind it with a grinder or food processor. If you want to feel really authentic, you can purchase a stone slab grinder known as a metate y mano!
#9 Get Authentic: Make Your Own Masa Harina!
This substitution is less for those in a hurry and more for those who want to try a new, fun experience. Making your own masa harina might sound like a lot of work, but it can actually be an exciting process.
Here’s what you will need to make masa harina from this recipe:
- 2 Pounds of dried corn
- 1 Tablespoon of Lime
- Filtered water, enough to cover the corn
Lime, in this case, is not simply lime juice. What you actually need is dried, powdered lime. This is how it is created:
This “slaked lime” is also known as cal. It has the very important task of loosening the corn husks from the kernel so that you can properly make masa harina. Without shelling the corn, you wouldn’t be able to grind it down as finely as need for masa harina.
After husking the kernels, they will be ground up to make masa harina!
Replace The Masa Harina Easily
Did you find the perfect substitute for masa harina that you can find at home? I hope so. It’s not hard to find other flour-like substance to replace masa harina until you can make it to the store. These substitutes all have their own benefits depending on what you are making, so choose carefully.
Do you have a masa harina substitute that you like best? Let me know. Then, share this with your friends who love Latin American food but don’t have masa harina at home - they’ll be sure to thank you!