7 Masa Harina Substitute Options

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Masa Harina Substitute Alternatives – If you are a big fan of Mexican cuisine, you probably know what masa harina is! Regarded as the Latin American cuisine’s traditional ingredient, the ingredient is common and essential for several Mexican recipes.

The word masa means dough and harina indicates flour. Still, masa harina is not a general flour as it is made up of corn unlike other general-purpose flours made using wheat.

This ingredient is in the form of finely ground flour of corn. Before converting into powder, the corn is dried, heated with the mix of slaked lime and water for ensuring a unique flavor, crushed, and is dehydrated again. When mixed with oil or water, the masa or dough aids in making tortillas.

masa harina substitute

Masa harina is the main ingredient in tortillas, tamales, tacos, and in other Mexican and Latin American dishes. So, if you love cooking these dishes regularly, you will surely need masa harina.

However, at times, you may run out of this ingredient. This is the time when you have two options namely make your own masa harina or go for its alternative. Well, making your own dough is cumbersome. Thus, it is best to use an equally or approximately effective masa harina substitute.

Masa Harina Substitute – Some Alternatives

It is a fact that many kitchens would not have this dough, as it is confined to Latin American recipes. However, looking for a masa harina substitute is perhaps easy, as there is an extensive list of the same.

Of all alternatives capable of filling in, there are a few that never make it easy to differentiate between them and the real flour. However, it is strictly recommended not to use a generic flour as an alternative. It can never be a proper alternative, as it is wheat’s flour. Here are the top seven alternatives to consider:

Tortillas Made Using Ground Corn

Oh! This can be your best bet if they are always there to occupy some storage space in your kitchen. You can now make use of the leftover corn tortillas as an effective masa harina substitute. This is because they are made using masa.

By reusing them, you are just converting them again into masa harina. All you need is a food processor, warm water, and kosher salt. Grind the stale or refrigerated three to four corn tortillas to fine evenness.

Now, mix kosher salt in the quantity that you feel is required in the dish you want to cook. Finally, add warm water gradually until you are able to shape the dough.

Stale tortillas are a better substitute. They will require some level of hardness to get crushed. You can even convert them into a thickener or even corn cakes, or simply as a thickener. Note, you may not get the same taste but the consistency will be quite similar.

You will need to decide regarding the consistency depending on the type of recipe you are cooking. This is because a few recipes will need a different flour consistency and will demand some adjustment. For example, tamales demand a coarser flour. So, if you are using them, you will end up with a coarser flour.

Ground Taco Shells or Tostadas

If you have taco shells or tostadas, crushing them using mortar and pestle can easily give you masa harina. You can even buy them from a supermarket. Most people find this option as the easiest masa harina substitute. You only need to crush the shells finely, mix water, and make a dough of it.

Ground Hominy

Frequently used in stews and soups, hominy is an ingredient made by dehydrating corn and soaking the hard grains in the same solution as masa harina. Finely grinding hominy gives masa that is again dehydrated and crushed to make masa harina.

Thus, both belong to the same family. Hominy is typically used as whole kernels, which means another procedure is required for making it a masa harina substitute. Removing the hulls gives only soft kernels inside, which is exactly what is required.

So, it is wise to store some dried hominy, which is an ideal alternative to masa harina. The outcome is also delicious!


This is a superb Italian option made from flint corn having better flavor as well as texture than masa harina. Most people like this boiled cornmeal in the form of soft porridge-style dish.

Go for this option if you do not mind a different texture for the Mexican dish you are cooking. Just make flat patties (almost tortilla) out of polenta and top it with herbs and veggies.

Grocery stores have polenta in a bag-like package in which it is dry and coarsely ground. A proper alternative to masa harina is finely ground polenta and it is possible to use it just as the masa in a recipe.

See also: Grits Vs. Polenta

If this form of polenta is unavailable, tube polenta can be used as a thickening agent in case of masa harina. This form of polenta is a better option for soups and broths.


This option differs in terms of consistency due to which it comes up with a different texture in tortillas if used in place of masa harina. However, it is a superb alternative as a thickening agent. This is where you obtain the same texture although with a different flavor. For a smooth texture, ensure that the cornmeal is finely ground. You can use this ingredient in stews and soups for thickening.

See also: Corn flour vs. Cornmeal

Masa Preparada

This ingredient is easier to use than masa harina, as it removes some preparation steps. It is made using masa harina due to which it is an ideal substitute for several recipes. However, it does not live fresh for long even in a refrigerator.


This one is another masa harina substitute to be used as a thickening agent. The consistency can differ a bit, as masa harina is coarse and cornstarch is ground.


It is essential to focus on the recipes so that you can find out how fine the alternative needs to be. Many of the aforementioned alternatives are likely to be your favorite and convenient options.

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Jenny Flatoue

I am a mom of 2 kids, and I have spent my childhood days with my three sisters and parents. Although my parents have helped to be educated, they have enabled me to become savvy in the cooking process. Read More