10 Easy Masa Harina Substitutes

10 Easy Masa Harina Substitutes 18 Rating(s)



10 Easy Masa Harina Substitutes – Healthy Recipes

Today’s guest post is from Lita Watson of Quick Easy Cook, and she’s sharing with us about easy ingredient substition options for masa harina, which is basically ground corn flour.

masa harina in bowl

In the past, it was created by drying corn kernels, cooking them in water slaked in lime, grinding them and then drying them again.

Once the flour was ready, it was combined with either water or oil to form a “masa,” which was commonly used to create corn tortillas and other Mexican recipes.

These days, however, masa harina is produced by grinding corn in food processors and adding lime and a little bit of oil. The resulting flour is finer than that produced by hand and grindstone.

The only downside is that the grinding process may remove some of the nutrients, but that hardly matters if you just enjoy the taste of Mexican food.

It’s also worth mentioning that although masa harina is commonly associated with tortillas, it can also be used to make other types of food, including pasta, cornbread, and various traditional Mexican cuisines.

In fact, because masa harina is basically corn flour, it can be used as an ingredient in any recipe that includes corn. So it’s important to remember that masa harina is a lot more versatile as an ingredient than most people think.

However, what many people don’t understand is that the flour itself is not that special. Although certain varieties of masa harina are made from unique varieties of Mexican corn, at the end of the day, it is still just fine corn flour.

So if you can’t find any masa harina then click here to know more information about Masa Harina substitute, or have a look at the ten examples listed below:

Corn Meal

Corn meal is probably one of the best substitutes for masa harina. It’s made of corn and it shares a lot of the same characteristics as masa harina.

The only difference is that corn meal is not as fine, so you may have to put it in a blender if you want to get the right texture.


Grits is another good substitute for masa harina. Like corn meal, grits are made from corn, so they both share the same general taste and characteristics as masa harina.

The biggest difference is that most types of grits are made from American corn, so they may not have quite the same taste or texture as real masa jarina made from Mexican corn.

Grits in a scoop

Regular Flour

The problem with regular flour is that it doesn’t have the same taste as masa harina. So if you’re going to replace masa harina with regular flour, try to make an experimental batch or two and see if it turns out well.

If these batches taste close enough to that made with regular masa harina then go ahead and keep using flour. If not, then you can either try a different substitute ingredient or tweak the recipe to get the desired taste.

Ground Corn Tortillas

If you can’t find any masa harina, then one option you can try is to place some corn tortillas in a food processor and grind them up into a fine flour.

The resulting material can be thought of as “recycled” masa harina, which you can then use as an ingredient for your recipes. One word of caution though. Don’t use flavored tortillas since their flavoring could overpower the taste of your food.

This mixture will, obviously, not quite work exactly as adding simple masa harina to your recipe since the tortillas will also have other ingredients in them; probably best to stick with this substitute primarily as a thickening agent.

Ground Up Corn Tostadas, Corn Tortilla Chips and Corn Taco Shells

Like corn tortillas, tostadas, taco shells as well as corn tortilla chips are (sometimes) made from masa harina. So if you grind them up in a food processor, you may end up with a mixture similar to masa harina.

To ensure that the tostadas, tortilla chips and taco shells are made from actual masa harina, check their ingredients. Only buy the ones that are made from actual masa harina or masa preparada.

These are best used as a thickening substitute rather than as a flour ingredient in another recipe.

Cornmeal in bowl with scoop and corn on the cob

Corn Starch

Like masa harina, cornstarch is created from corn kernels. What makes it a little different from masa harina, however, is that the cornstarch is finer, which is why it is often used in baby powder.

Corn starch is particularly useful for Mexican soup recipes that use masa harina since they have very similar tastes. However, it can also be used as a substitute in other recipes.

Fresh Masa

Fresh Masa is basically masa harina before it’s dried and ground into corn flour. So if you can’t find masa harina, you might as well get the next best thing: fresh masa. Not only is it a good substitute for masa harina, it also a better ingredient for making tamales.

Masa Preparada

Masa preparada is basically an upgraded version of masa harina. In many ways, it’s easier to prepare than masa harina, so it’s definitely a good substitute. The downside, though, is that masa preparada tends to cost more, so it may not be the most affordable substitute.

Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot powder is a rare product, but it’s still a good substitute option. This starch-like substance is made from a tropical plant called Arrowroot and can be used to thicken soups and sauces.

Compared to masa harina, Arrowroot powder has the same texture, but it does have a somewhat different taste. If you’re going to use this substance as an ingredient, make sure you will be okay with its different flavor.

wheat flour in bowl with wheat stalks


Polenta is an Italian dish that is similar to grits. It is generally made from corn meal, but it can also include farrow, millet, chestnut and various other ingredients.

What makes polenta a good substitute for masa harina is that it is easily available in many stores. It usually looks like coarsely ground corn, but also comes in finer varieties.

Also, using polenta is no different from using masa harina, so you should have no trouble using it if you’re already used to the cooking with the latter.


There are quite a few masa harina substitutes to choose from, but not all of them are the same.

Some don’t have the same taste as masa harina, while others differ in terms of texture, availability, and cost. So if you don’t have access to quality masa harina, consider your alternatives carefully, and don’t be afraid to try something a little different.

About Lita Watson

Lita Watson from Quick Easy CookHi there! I’m Lita, voice of and I’m absolutely in love with cooking blogs. I’m a beginner in cooking and I try my best to make it quick and easy. Even though, it’s not always quick and easy to keep up with fancy dinners. So I keep learning and blogging about quick and easy ways to create delicious and yummy foods for my two kids and wonderful husband.


June 2nd, 2017

Submit a Comment