10 Best Substitutes for Masa Harina

Substitutes For Masa Harina
Image credit: The Kitchn

In Spanish, masa harina translates to “dough flour.” The foundation of Latin American cooking is this traditional flour made from dried masa or finely ground maize flour.

Chefs frequently use it to make authentic tortillas, tamales, pupusas, and other Mexican specialties because of its nutty and subtly sweet flavor.

Masa harina is a versatile ingredient that gives a range of foods an intriguing taste and texture. Masa harina has long been a staple in Mexican cooking and is frequently used to make tortillas, tamales, and other Mexican foods.

Do you intend to provide a buffet with a Mexican theme this Christmas? You’ll need a bag of Masa Harina to make whatever recipe you have in mind for tortillas, tamales, tostadas, or tacos to come to life.

However, since you would need to buy the flour for masa harina from dried masa, which is also dough prepared from carefully treated maize, it might be challenging to create.

If you’re searching for a simpler version of masa harina or you want to try different combinations of ingredients, we’ll go over several substitutes for masa harina below.

1. Hominy

Hominy, subtly sweet and unapologetically earthy, refers to the main component of masa harina before it is pulverized. On the other hand, these kernels are flint corn, making them very difficult to eat straight off the cob.

The maize kernels soaked in a lime solution to remove the exocarp and give us the soft interiors for cooking are then referred to as hominy. You can substitute masa harina with canned goods more quickly. 

However, dry hominy needs to be boiled to soften the maize kernels. Hominy comes in two primary varieties: white and yellow.

Grits may now be made from white hominy because the whole husk has been removed. The sweeter, yellow hominy, on the other hand, is more commonly used in classic Mexican soups like pozole and Menudo. They are great substitutes for masa harina.

2. Grit

Grits are another corn-based product. They are created by grinding yellow or white maize kernels. Compared to cornmeal, grits are rougher in texture. Grits often originate from corn kinds that are less sweet and starchy. Thus, their flavor is relatively neutral.

The most typical way to prepare grits is to boil them with water, milk, or another liquid to create a creamy meal that resembles porridge and is perfect for breakfast.

However, grits function best as a thickening for soups, stews, sauces, and other dishes as substitutes for masa harina. However, remember that masa harina has a distinct texture than grits.

3. Corn Tortillas

Masa harina is used to make corn tortillas, which explains why it may be used as substitute for masa harina. Corn tortillas, manufactured from masa harina, will deliver the required taste.

But for the tortillas to function, you will need to grind them. Instead of using 1 cup of masa harina as directed, crush 3–4 corn tortillas.

You won’t have to forgo the entire recipe because you don’t have masa harina; it won’t function similarly, but it will still get the job done.

Therefore, check your kitchen to see whether you still have a few stale tortillas if you need substitutes for masa harina. As long as the tortillas are not moldy, using thick tortillas is acceptable. In actuality, it’s a valuable technique to finish them off.

4. Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot powder is a typical gluten-free ingredient used in baked products and as a thickener for sauces and jellies.

One of the healthiest substitutes for masa harina is this powder. It derives from a tropical plant’s root and offers several advantages. The resistant starch in arrowroot powder may help people lose weight.

Additionally, it is an excellent source of B vitamins, potassium, and iron. Even with all these advantages, arrowroot powder is not cheap.

Make a slurry out of the arrowroot powder before adding it to the dish if you’re replacing masa harina.

One part of arrowroot powder is combined with one part of a cold liquid. It might be wine, plant-based milk, water, or another beverage. 

5. Regular Flour

Since regular flour doesn’t have the same flavor and texture as masa harina, it is slightly different. The ideal application for it is as a soup or sauce thickener.

However, if you are self-assured and knowledgeable enough, some experimentation won’t hurt! Just remember that the consistency and rate of absorption of each variety of flour varies.

Use the type of flour you are accustomed to, and select the one that complements your selected recipe the best. Use the flour as usual if all goes fine!

But if things don’t work out, you might want to experiment with various substitutes for masa harina or change the recipe.

6. Polenta

Italian cuisine is known for its polenta. To produce polenta, yellow corn is roughly crushed. Two variations of polenta are offered.

You may get pre-cooked, cubed polenta. But the dry version is more typical. Dry polenta transforms into a creamy porridge when it is cooked.

Masa harina and dry polenta can both be used interchangeably. On the other hand, pre-cooked polenta functions admirably as a thickening agent.

Polenta has a taste akin to masa harina since it is essentially maize. But pickling lime is not used in the preparation. As a result, the flavor will differ.

Polenta is regularly offered at grocery stores. Although it is normally coarsely crushed, the texture might vary from brand to brand. If you’ve decided to utilize polenta as a substitute for masa harina, you should get the best possible quality.

7. Flaxseed

You might be interested in finding that flax seeds are among the great substitutes for masa harina if you previously believed they were just used to sprinkle on multigrain bread or get stuck in your teeth.

Flaxseeds make up for the flavor profile’s slight bitterness and utter lack of the citrus notes of nixtamalized masa harina with various potential health advantages. 

Flaxseeds are frequently referred to as “functional foods” because they suit your health. According to some research, flaxseeds contain considerable antioxidants that may help prevent heart disease and Omega-3 fatty acids linked to suppressing some cancer cell types.

They contain a lot of fiber, which helps with digestion. Even funnier, you can start making flax apparel and dashboards if you have any leftovers after manufacturing flax tortillas.

You should use ground flaxseed instead of masa harina and, according to Bake It With Love, combine a half-tablespoon of it with two tablespoons of water to use it as a substitute.

8. Cornstarch

Cornstarch is unquestionably your most fantastic option when you need the best method besides masa harina to thicken mashed potatoes, soups, or sauces to put in your gravy boat.

It is lauded for cornstarch’s capacity to absorb water, which makes it an excellent thickening for stews, gravies, and soups.

A small amount of cornstarch, like masa harina, gives texture, viscosity, and a lasting mouthfeel to satiate your taste senses.

It would be best if you had an excellent strategy to get the most benefit out of this thickening. Cornstarch should be mixed with cold liquid to make a slurry rather than being added straight to the hot, boiling sauce. As a result, the starch molecules will spread uniformly inside the pot.

It is essential to preserve this flour properly if you intend to store it in your cupboard to keep it from spoiling.

Fortunately, it is highly sturdy if you maintain it fully dry and free of nuisance insects. It should work with an airtight container in a suitable, dry, cold environment.

9. Fresh Masa

One of the finest and most accurate substitutes for masa harina is said to be fresh masa. This is so because fresh masa is simply masa harina before it is dried and processed in a food processor to resemble corn flour.

Depending on the recipe you choose, utilizing fresh masa, which shares many similarities with masa harina and other components like corn tortillas, tostadas, and taco shells, can help ensure you have an authentic Mexican flavor and experience.

This makes fresh masa a superior ingredient to replace masa harina for creating tamales and other recipes that call for it.

10. Corn Tostadas Or Taco Shells

In the same way that corn tortillas may be crushed in a food processor to resemble masa harina, so can corn tostadas and taco shells.

Similarly, masa harina is sometimes used to make maize tostadas and corn taco shells. Be cautious of the ingredients before purchasing them at your neighborhood grocery store, though, since you’ll need to buy maize taco shells and tostadas that are already formed from masa harina or preparada.

Additionally, remember that maize tortillas, such as tostadas and taco shells work better as a thickening agent than flour. Therefore, you would need to determine whether this substitute for masa harina is suitable for the recipe you are using.


It’s thrilling and enjoyable to try these substitutes for masa harina made from corn and other ingredients. They might not be as excellent as the real masa harina.

Still, they will undoubtedly inspire you to start by looking around your kitchen and attempting to create original Latin American meals.

Remember that each substitution will affect your food’s flavors, textures, and consistency. Always consider your tastes as well as what the recipe calls for.

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