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17 Best Masa Harina Substitutes [Must-Try Recipes for 2024]

By: Shivani Choudhary
Updated On: April 9, 2024

Masa Harina is a unique ingredient that adds a delightful touch to a variety of Mexican dishes. But, what do you do when this delectable flour is missing from your pantry or hard to find in your local grocery store? Fear not, because the culinary world is full of variety and substitutions. Introducing a list of Masa Harina substitutes that are not only easily accessible but can also put a surprising spin on your favorite recipes.

Whether you’re in a pinch or you’re feeling adventurous, these alternatives will bring an exciting, fresh twist to your cooking skills. Each of these options has its unique flavor and characteristics, guaranteeing an unforgettable culinary journey!

Also Read: Best Oat Flour Substitutes

17 Best Masa Harina Substitutes of 2024

Best Masa Harina Substitutes of 2024

Embarking on a culinary adventure means experimenting with rich flavors and textures, and sometimes, finding substitutes for key ingredients. The feel of Masa Harina is unique, but I’ve discovered 17 fantastic Masa Harina substitutes that can step in seamlessly and add a diverse palette to your favorite recipes. Interested? Let’s dive in!

1. Corn Meal

Corn Meal - Best Masa Harina Substitute

Derived from dried corn kernels, Corn Meal is a versatile ingredient often found in dishes across various cuisines around the world. Traditionally ground to a texture similar to that of sand, it adds the perfect crunch when used as a coarse coating for fried or grilled foods. One may rightfully ask, “Does it serve as a suitable Masa Harina substitute?”

Indeed, it does! While Corn Meal and Masa Harina are both corn-based products, the former can be used as a suitable substitute when you are unable to find the latter on your grocery shelves. Its use is not just limited to baking. With its distinct texture, it adds a wholesome dimension when it comes to making tortillas, enchiladas, empanadas, and many other Mexican dishes.

By incorporating Corn Meal into your cooking endeavors, you’re set to get a texture resembling Masa Harina but with a unique twist. Although it might not have the tangy flavor that Masa Harina is known for, Corn Meal more than makes up for it with its simple, starchy sweetness that can revolutionize your dishes.

You might also find that Corn Meal adds a more authentic, earthy touch to your recipes. So, if you’re feeling adventurous or if Masa Harina just isn’t your cup of tea, don’t hesitate to reach for Corn Meal. This substitute will not only surprise you with its rich experience but will also give you a reason to experiment more in the kitchen.

2. Arrowroot Flour

Arrowroot Flour - Best Masa Harina Substitute

On to another wonder of the gastronomical world – Arrowroot Flour. Extracted from a tropical plant, Arrowroot Flour is starch-rich, gluten-free, and light in texture which makes it a unique choice for a Masa Harina substitute.

Arrowroot Flour has a neutral taste, which allows it to seamlessly blend with other ingredients, highlighting their flavors instead of overpowering them. This attribute makes it an ideal thickener for soups, sauces, and gravies. It is also an excellent choice for those playing with gluten-free recipes.

It’s important to note that Arrowroot Flour doesn’t quite mimic Masa Harina’s unique flavor or distinct texture. Rather, it brings its qualities to the table, making your dishes more accessible for those with gluten intolerances.

The light and versatile Arrowroot Flour has a potential benefit in certain dishes as it tends to create a lighter, more delicate texture, making your tortillas soft and chewy. Moreover, this flour prevents ice crystals from forming in homemade ice cream when used as a stabilizer, which can definitely come in handy for dessert makers.

This substitute allows you more freedom to experiment in the kitchen. Whether you’re constrained by dietary restrictions or you just want a different take on your favorite dishes, Arrowroot Flour is bound to make your culinary journey more exciting and diverse. Give it a shot and taste the difference for yourself.

3. Dry Polenta

Dry Polenta - Best Masa Harina Substitute

If there’s a substitute that nudges close to the creaminess and texture of Masa Harina, then Dry Polenta is the one. Originating from Italy, Polenta is a course or finely ground yellow or white cornmeal that has been cooked with water or stock. When this cooked mixture dries out, it forms what we call Dry Polenta.

Using Dry Polenta as a Masa Harina substitute is quite simple, yet noteworthy. You just need to grind the dried polenta into more refined flour. This way, it mirrors Masa Harina’s fine and powdery texture. But keep in mind that Polenta has a slightly different flavor. While Masa Harina carries a bit of tanginess due to the nixtamalization process, Dry Polenta’s flavor is more neutral.

Even so, it’s a great option to fall back on when Masa Harina is unavailable. It can be used as a direct substitute in most recipes, especially in baking. When used in dishes like homemade tortillas or Mexican drinks, you may have to adjust the water content to get the perfect consistency.

4. Dried Hominy

Dried Hominy - Best Masa Harina Substitute

Hominy is made from whole corn kernels that have been treated with an alkali in a process called nixtamalization, just like Masa Harina. When dried, we get what’s called Dried Hominy. So, if you’re hunting for that perfect substitute that won’t compromise the authenticity of your dishes, Dried Hominy can be a good contender.

Dried Hominy has to be processed into flour to substitute Masa Harina. The process involves grinding the dried kernels into a fine powder, and while it may be a bit taxing, the result is oh-so-worth-it. The flour you get is coarser and chunkier compared to Masa Harina, but it lends a flavor very similar to that of Masa Harina, making it a great substitute. Plus, the coarse texture can bring a delightful feel to your dishes.

One point to note when using Dried Hominy as a substitute is that you may need to change up your cooking times. This is because Dried Hominy tends to take longer to cook as compared to Masa Harina. So, you may need to adjust your recipe accordingly to accommodate this difference.

All in all, through its complex flavor and authentic touch, Dried Hominy can get you pretty close to the real deal when Masa Harina isn’t within reach.

5. Masa Preparada

Masa Preparada  - Best Masa Harina Substitute

If you’re on the quest for the perfect substitute for Masa Harina, Masa Preparada might be your knight in shining armor. Made from a specific type of corn called maiz nixtamalizado, Masa Preparada is essentially a form of dough ready to be formed into tortillas, tamales, and more. It brings forward an exceptional flavor profile that is difficult to replicate, making it an easy swap for Masa Harina.

The magic of Masa Preparada lies in its preparation process where corn kernels are boiled with an alkaline solution, then thoroughly rinsed and ground. This process, known as nixtamalization, imbues it with a unique earthy flavor that can significantly elevate your dishes.

One remarkable aspect of Masa Preparada is its texture. It can be shaped and manipulated with ease, making it ideal for those tortilla or tamale recipes that call for Masa Harina. Its dough-like consistency ensures you have a similar cooking experience as if you were using Masa Harina.

Though Masa Preparada is an excellent Masa Harina substitute, it’s important to note that it’s typically sold fresh due to its prepared nature, meaning a bit of a shorter shelf life. Even so, don’t let this deter you from trying this versatile substitute that will put an impressive spin on your favorite Mexican delights.

6. Flaxseed

Flaxseed - Best Masa Harina Substitute

When it comes to a healthy and textured substitute for Masa Harina, Flaxseed takes the cake. This smart choice is packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, thereby adding a healthful spin to whatever you’re cooking or baking.

Flaxseed doesn’t only substitute on a nutritional level but also on a textural level. When ground to a flour-like consistency, it adds an appealing grainy texture to food, thus replacing that unique texture Masa Harina imparts to authentic Mexican dishes.

Using Flaxseed as a Masa Harina substitute is pretty straightforward. First, I recommend grinding whole flaxseeds into a flour-like consistency using a blender or spice grinder. This step ensures that you make the most out of their nutritional properties and texture. Next, you may substitute it in baking recipes on a 1:1 basis, just like you would with Masa Harina. However, due to its absorbent nature, you might need to adjust the liquid content in recipes to achieve the right consistency.

One thing to be aware of is that Flaxseed leaks a type of oil that can turn rancid if not stored properly. Be sure to store your ground flaxseeds in a tightly closed container in your fridge or freezer to maintain their freshness and nutritional content.

Whether you are after its unique flavor, health benefits, or a mix of both, Flaxseed can certainly boost the texture and nutritional value of your cooking, making it a substitute worth giving a try.

Also Read: Best Coconut Flour Substitutes

7. Corn Tortilla

Corn Tortilla - Best Masa Harina Substitute

While usually seen as a product of Masa Harina, you might be surprised by how aptly a Corn Tortilla can substitute it in certain recipes. It’s not a direct one-to-one substitution but rather a unique work-around that can solve your dilemma wonderfully in particular dishes.

Using Corn Tortillas as a substitute may seem odd considering that Masa Harina is used to make Corn Tortillas. However, repurposed Corn Tortillas can lead to delightful results in dishes like enchiladas or empanadas. All you need to do is toast the tortillas till they are crisp, then grind them into fine flour.

Keep in mind, however, Corn Tortillas carry an already-cooked flavor. This means, while using them as a substitute, the resulting dish may taste slightly different than one made with Masa Harina.

8. Canned Hominy

Canned Hominy - Best Masa Harina Substitute

Have you ever wondered what the base ingredient of Masa Harina is? Well, it’s hominy – corn that has been treated with an alkali in a process called nixtamalization. So, it’s no surprise that Canned Hominy can work as an excellent substitute for Masa Harina!

The process of making your alternative is straightforward. Just take canned hominy, rinse it well, and grind it to achieve the desired consistency. The beauty of using canned hominy as a substitute is that the flavor profile will be closely similar to Masa Harina as both originate from hominy.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is the moisture content. Canned hominy is wet, so you may need to adjust your recipe to accommodate this. Roasting the ground hominy can also help to dry it out, bringing it closer to the consistency of Masa Harina.

9. Corn Grits

Corn Grits -  Best Masa Harina Substitute

Now, some of you might be scratching your heads thinking, “Aren’t cornmeal and corn grits the same thing?” Well, while they are related, the texture and taste can significantly differ. Corn Grits are coarser than cornmeal, and in many ways, grits’ texture is similar to that of polenta, and the flavor is also stronger. Although corn grits may not directly replace Masa Harina, they can act as a fantastic substitute when it comes to texture.

The secret of using corn grits as a replacement for Masa Harina is in the cooking process. Soak yours in water before cooking to get that soft and pliable texture. This makes it almost like a dough, which can be great for making tamale wraps, for example. Now, keep in mind when using corn grits, you will have some difference in taste. The corn flavor is much more pronounced in grits than in Masa Harina, bringing a bolder flavor to your dishes.

10. Homemade Masa Harina

Homemade Masa Harina - Best Masa Harina Substitute

Making a Homemade Masa Harina might sound like a daunting task initially, but trust me, the resulting taste and texture make it worth every bit of the effort. Practically, it is not a substitute, but it’s a great way to create the same ingredient at home when you can’t get your hands on store-bought Masa Harina.

The process involves nixtamalized or treated corn, which is then dried and ground to form hominy. To do this at home, you simply have to soak dried corn in a solution of water and slaked lime or pickling lime. The kernels would then need to be rinsed and cooked until they’re soft. The cooked corn is then dried and ground to form fresh Masa Harina.

The great advantage of Homemade Masa Harina is that you can control the texture of the blend according to your preferences. In other words, you can go from super fine to coarse, depending on what your recipe calls for. And of course, the homemade version brings an unbeatable fresh taste to your dishes.

11. Corn Starch

Corn Starch - Best Masa Harina Substitute

This might come as a surprise, but yes, Corn Starch can also serve as a Masa Harina substitute in certain situations. It’s important to note that the texture and flavor profile of corn starch greatly differs from Masa Harina, so it won’t be the right choice for all dishes.

Corn starch is made from the endosperm of the corn kernel and is commonly used as a thickening agent. Its super fine texture and almost flavorless profile make it a good option for recipes that need thickening or binding.

However, while using Corn Starch as a Masa Harina substitute, you cannot expect an identical taste and texture in the final product. Given its difference in flavor and consistency, you may want to steer clear of this option for recipes where Masa Harina is a vital ingredient.

In the realm of Masa Harina substitutes, the options are varied. Whether you tap into the original source with canned hominy or use the thickening powerhouse Corn Starch, there is plenty of flexibility to keep you cooking up your beloved dishes even when Masa Harina isn’t available.

12. Flour

Flour - Best Masa Harina Substitute

Now, if you find yourself in a tight spot and can’t find any of the previous alternatives on hand, guess what, plain old flour could be your savior. Now, of course, I’m not saying it’s the perfectly fitting substitute, but sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, right?

Using wheat flour as a Masa Hariana substitute is handy when you’re so pressed for time and almost out of options. The texture of wheat flour isn’t as coarse as Masa Harina, but it can work for recipes that don’t require the distinctive corn flavor of Masa Harina. When mixed with some water, it can serve as a binding agent in recipes.

Keep in mind that the end product won’t taste the same as the original. Said that, don’t let this discourage you. Instead, think of it as curating a completely new culinary fusion by combining other spices and ingredients.

13. Cornflour

Cornflour - Best Masa Harina Substitute

Another readily available alternative, and a bit closer to Masa Harina, is cornflour. Being derived from corn as well, it does carry some of the traditional flavors. However, cornflour is not processed the same way.

The corn flavor in cornflour is much milder compared to Masa Hariana. This is because instead of nixtamalization, cornflour is created by finely grinding corn kernels. Nevertheless, this light, fine-consistency flour can work as a thickening agent in many dishes originally calling for Masa Hariana.

It’s worth noting that the dishes made with cornflour lack the deep corn flavor and the unique aftertaste that can only come from Masa Harina. However, cornflour is a suitable option if you are after texture rather than taste.

So, if you find yourself in a bind and need a Masa Harina substitute urgently, flour and cornflour can do the trick. Just remember, it’s all about adventurous and experimental cooking.

14. Corn Tortilla Chips, Taco Shells, and Tostada Shells

Corn Tortilla Chips, Taco Shells, and Tostada Shells - Best Masa Harina Substitute

Now, if you fancy a little more texture and don’t mind the occasional crunch, going unconventional with Corn Tortilla Chips, Taco Shells, or Tostada Shells as Masa Harina substitutes can be a delightful surprise.

Since these snacks are made from corn, they retain some semblance to the authentic corny flavor of Masa Harina. You might be raising your eyebrow at this suggestion, but trust me, when ground into a coarse mixture, these snacks can be used as a legitimate thickening agent in your soups, stews, or bread recipes.

The outcome is an interesting blend of flavors and texture in your favorite dish that’s an unexpected yet pleasurable twist. Therefore, if you ever run out of Masa Harina, just take a look at your snack stash! You might just find the exciting alternative you didn’t know you needed.

15. Prepared Polenta

Prepared Polenta - Best Masa Harina Substitute

Lastly, an Italian ingredient can work wonders when you are looking for a Masa Harina substitute: Prepared Polenta. An interesting detail to note is that polenta, similar to Masa Harina, is also made from cornmeal.

However, polenta’s cornmeal isn’t treated with an alkaline solution, which means it doesn’t offer that unique corn taste you find in Masa Harina. Nonetheless, prepared polenta can be a great backup ingredient when Masa Harina isn’t available.

It works well in certain recipes, providing a pleasant denseness and texture—something distinct and different, infusing a bit of Italian essence into your dishes. If you’re about experimenting with global flavors, merging Italian polenta with a traditionally Mexican dish could open up a carnival for your tastebuds!

How To Choose The Right Masa Harina Substitute?

Choosing the right Masa Harina Substitute can seem a little daunting, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the alternatives. What should you look for when faced with a shelf full of contenders? Here are a few primary points to consider:

  • Accessibility: Can you easily get hold of these substitutes? Some ingredients may either be readily available in your kitchen or are easily purchasable from your local grocery store. In contrast, others might require a special purchase, or perhaps a visit to a specialty store or online shopping.
  • Taste Profile: Does it complement the taste of your dish? Not all flour varieties are the same. Some might impart a distinct flavor to your dish, while others might be more neutral. Make sure to choose a substitute that complements the dish you’re preparing.
  • Textural Impact: How will the substitute affect the texture of your dish? Masa Harina has a specific texture that it imparts to dishes, especially those that are dough-based. The substitute you choose should ideally come close to replicating this.
  • Nutritional Value: Is the substitute nutritionally similar, or does it provide additional benefits? Some substitutes might come with their own set of nutritional benefits, which can be a significant deciding factor for health-conscious individuals.

Corn Meal Vs. Masa Harina: How Do They Compare?

Corn Meal Vs. Masa Harina: How Do They Compare?

When it comes to comparing Corn Meal and Masa Harina, the lines may seem blurred, but the differences are distinct. Here’s a quick comparison:

  1. Taste: Corn Meal has a grittier flavor, while Masa Harina has a deep, slightly sweet taste often associated with tortillas.
  2. Process: Corn Meal is dried and ground corn, whereas Masa Harina undergoes a specific process called nixtamalization. This process infuses it with a unique flavor and results in a different corn absorption, profoundly impacting the final product.
  3. Usage: Corn Meal, coarse in texture, is often used in porridges, bread, and polenta, enhancing the dish’s rustic characteristic. In contrast, Masa Harina, with its smoother texture, forms the basis of staple Latin foods including tortillas, tamales, and pupusas.
  4. Substitution: Corn Meal can be used as a substitute for Masa Harina. However, it is vital to remember that it might not completely replicate the latter’s texture or taste. In certain cases, combining Corn Meal with another substitute, such as corn starch, might yield better results.

So, while Corn Meal can come to your rescue when Masa Harina is unavailable, it’s essential to consider your dish requirements and make a choice that best fits your needs and preferences.

Why Diversify Your Kitchen Pantry: The Benefit of Having Masa Harina Substitutes

Variety, they say, adds spice to life. This is especially true for cooking. Having a diverse pantry not only brings flexibility to your cooking experiences, but it also opens up an array of culinary explorations. In the world of cooking, one cannot always predict when an ingredient might run short. For critical ingredients like Masa Harina, understanding substitutes can save you in a pinch and keep your Mexican culinary rhythm flowing unhindered.

When you diversify your pantry with Masa Harina substitutes, you are indirectly broadening your culinary horizons. These substitutions are not mere replacements; they come with their own unique tastes and textures, bringing variation and creativity to your usual recipes. Furthermore, it’s always beneficial to have alternatives at hand, for times when dietary restrictions or allergies prevent the use of Masa Harina.

Exploring alternatives also expose you to a world of flavors you may have never experienced before. While Masa Harina is famous for its unique taste and texture, the substitutes, ranging from Corn Meal to Dry Polenta, each add their distinct flavors, taking your dishes on a new culinary journey.

Practical Substitution: How Dry Polenta Can Replace Masa Harina?

Practical Substitution: How Dry Polenta Can Replace Masa Harina?

Among the numerous Masa Harina substitutes, one that stands out is Dry Polenta. Dry Polenta is an Italian variation of finely grounded corn, similar to Masa Harina. When Masa Harina is not at your immediate disposal, Dry Polenta is a practical and accessible replacement.

In terms of texture, Dry Polenta has a relatively coarse feel, providing your dishes with a bit more rustic thickening and texture. Flavor-wise, it may not deliver the distinctive, tangy taste of Masa Harina, but its distinct propensity to absorb flavors makes it a viable substitute.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to using Dry Polenta as an alternative:
  1. Measure out the same amount of Dry Polenta as you would Masa Harina in your recipe.
  2. The Dry Polenta should be slowly added into your dish while continuously stirring to avoid any clumps.
  3. If your recipe involves baking, remember that Dry Polenta might require a bit of extra liquid compared to Masa Harina, so adjust your liquids accordingly.
  4. Finally, be patient and let your dish cook fully. Dry polenta takes a bit longer to cook than Masa Harina.

Adding A Twist: Why Corn Tortilla Makes a Unique Masa Harina Substitute?

Adding A Twist: Why Corn Tortilla Makes a Unique Masa Harina Substitute?

Let’s explore unconventional paths and discover why Corn Tortilla makes an exceptional substitute for Masa Harina. Traditionally, Masa Harina, the flavor backbone of many Mexican meals, is utilized to manufacture tortillas. So logically, the process can be reversed.

The “why” of it:

I can confidently say, Corn Tortillas are a convenient source for Masa Harina. They are readily accessible in most places and essentially contain the same base ingredient – corn. If you ever find yourself missing Masa Harina when prepping your laudable enchiladas or tostadas, fret not! Simply grind some Corn Tortillas, and voila – you have your Masa Harina substitute right there with you.

The “how” of it:

To turn your Corn Tortilla into Masa Harina equivalent, follow these easy steps:

  1. Take Corn Tortillas and let them air dry for a duration until they become hard. You can also choose to toast them lightly on the pan.
  2. Once they are dried and cooled, break them into small pieces.
  3. Use a coffee grinder or a food processor and grind the broken pieces to get a fine powder.
  4. Use this powder as you would use Masa Harina in your recipe.

The Health Advantage: Why Flaxseed is a Great Masa Harina Substitute?

Nowadays, health is just as influential in food choices. That’s why Flaxseed deserves a special mention as a fantastic, healthy substitute for Masa Harina.

All about Nutrition:

Flaxseed is a treasure trove for Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and dietary fiber among other essential nutrients. Not only is their ethnicity a delightful addition to your meal, but they also provide a significant health boost.

How to incorporate Flaxseed:

Here’s an easy guide to using Flaxseed as a Masa Harina substitute:

  1. Grind the Flaxseed into a fine powder. Ensure it has the consistency of a flour.
  2. Replacing Masa Harina with Flaxseed is not a straight swap, as Flaxseed has a stronger flavor than Masa Harina.
  3. A good rule of thumb is to substitute about a third of the Masa Harina quantity in the recipe with Flaxseed flour.

To reiterate, a twist in our ingredients is a fun experiment in our culinary adventures. Both Corn Tortilla and Flaxseed prove themselves not just as mere substitutes for Masa Harina, but as substantial contributors elevating a dish’s taste and nutritional value.

Remember, the heart of cooking is all about creating, enjoying, and sharing. And what better way to do that, than by giving these substitutes a try in your own kitchen?

Also Read: Best Substitutes for Dried Savory

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use ordinary Flour as a substitute for Masa Harina?

Ordinary Flour can be a bland substitute because it doesn’t carry the distinct flavor of Masa Harina. However, if you’re in a pinch, it can still alter the texture appropriately in some recipes.

How does Corn Meal feature as a Masa Harina substitute?

Corn Meal is one of the substitutes that can mimic the texture of Masa Harina. While it lacks the unique taste of Masa Harina, it is handy in adding an element of crunch to your dishes.

Where can I find these Masa Harina substitutes?

Most of these substitutes can be found at your local grocery store. In case you don’t find them there, you can always look for them on online marketplaces.

Is Dry Polenta a good substitute for Masa Harina?

Dry Polenta is a great substitute, and it is somewhat similar to Masa Harina in texture. Nonetheless, the taste might be slightly different.

Can Arrowroot Flour be used as a Masa Harina Substitute?

Although Arrowroot Flour has a different texture, you can use it as a Masa Harina substitute in recipes where the texture isn’t very critical.

Can I use Corn Tortilla Chips as a substitute for Masa Harina?

Corn Tortilla Chips, Taco Shells, and Tostada Shells add crunch to your recipe and can work in a pinch. Make sure to grind them to get a flour-like consistency.

Are there any health benefits if I use Flaxseed as a substitute?

Flaxseed offers an array of health benefits. It is replete with fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re looking for a healthier substitute for Masa Harina, Flaxseed is a good option.

Is Homemade Masa Harina a better substitute than the others?

If authentic taste and texture are what matter to you most, Homemade Masa Harina is the best substitute. However, it requires more effort to prepare than other substitutes.

How different is Corn Starch from Masa Harina and can I use it as a substitute?

Corn Starch is much smoother in texture than Masa Harina but serves as an effective thickener, a quality that Masa Harina possesses too. However, it lacks the trademark flavor of Masa Harina.


Navigating the world of culinary substitutions can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Discovering options for a Masa Harina substitute not only expands your cooking repertoire but also lets you put your unique spin on traditional recipes. Remember, every kitchen journey requires a little creativity and a willingness to experiment. So, embrace these Masa Harina alternatives and prepare to tantalize your taste buds with the rewarding discovery of new and unexpected flavor combinations. Here’s to a delicious culinary adventure ahead!

Food Lover and Storyteller 🍽️✨ With a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, Shivani brings her culinary adventures to life through evocative words and tantalizing tastes. Her love for food knows no bounds, and she's on a mission to share the magic of flavors with fellow enthusiasts.
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