10 Ways You Can Substitute Masa Harina

Chris Starks
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What if you don’t have one on hand?

If you have ever baked a batch of tortillas without masa harina on hand, you probably recognized a void in your life. Don’t despair. There are plenty of good substitutes for masa harina if you don’t have it on hand — and a few bad ones to avoid.

Masa Marina is made from nixtamalized corn. It is basically corn that has been soaked with a slurry of water and powdered lime. This process removes the salon in, a naturally occurring but pretty abrasive compound and makes the corn more digestible. Essentially, it is treated as corn.

Don’t be alarmed. There is nothing else added to corn flour, and there is no artificial component in it. The process of preparing it is what makes it unique.

In a nutshell, it consists of dried corn that has been soaked to remove the “bittiness”. Then, it is dried again and ground into flour. That’s it!

Fresh Masa Preparada

Masa Harina, also known as fresh masa mass or prepared masa, is used in traditional Mexican food recipes like tacos, tamales, quesadillas, tortillas, and many other favorites. Masa Harina is made from corn that has been soaked in lime water and then ground to a dough flour consistency. Fresh masa is made with corn ground within 24 hours and mixed with fresh lime or lemon juice.

This fresh masa is combined with water and folded, which mixes the lime juice into the masa and causes it to swell—mixed with a little bit of salt, freshly prepared masa is sold and used immediately. If not used immediately or within a few days, fresh Masa Harina can freeze well. Masa preparada tends to cost more, so it may not be the most affordable substitute.

The difference between fresh Masa Harina and packaged Masa Harina is that fresh Masa Harina involves a shorter preparation time, needs to be used within a day or so, and needs to be eaten within a few hours. Fresh Masa Harina is only made in small batches, often on the spot, and will develop a doughy taste and texture if allowed to sit for too long.

Ground Tortillas

Tortillas are generally made from Masa Harina. So if you grind them in a food processor, you may end up with a mixture similar to Masa Harina that can be added in different recipes, especially as a thickening agent.

One thing to check here is the ingredients to ensure that tortillas are made from actual Masa Harina. Using the grounded tortillas as a flour ingredient in a recipe isn't an excellent idea.

Ground Hominy

Another option to substitute Masa Harina is ground hominy. This is a good choice because hominy is the main ingredient in Masa Harina. Canned hominy will substitute for Masa Harina after being ground to the proper consistency in a blender or food processor.


While Cornstarch looks like regular flour, its composition is different as it is made from corn.

However, this works as a substitute for Masa Harina because they are both made from ground corn. Both Masa Harina and corn starch are sometimes called cornflour.

Cornstarch is different from Masa Harina because it has more thickening power, almost double in strength. For this reason, the amount of cornstarch used in recipes that require Masa Harina should be reduced.

When Masa Harina is required in a recipe, you can use half cornstarch as the replacement.

And when used to replace Masa Harina as the thickening agent, two tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with water or stock should be enough to make a slurry. Adding this mixture to soups and sauces will make them thicker.

Corn Taco Shells / Corn Tostadas / Corn Tortilla Chips

Corn Taco Shells, Corn Tostadas, and Corn Tortilla Chips, baked or fried, don’t only make great snacks – they also work as Masa Harina substitutes. You might need to adjust the amount of salt in your recipe when using it as a substitute for Masa Harina since the snacks have salt in them.

All you need to do is grind chips and tacos in a mill or food processor to produce a consistent texture so that it can be added to soups and sauces as a thickening agent. No, it's not a good idea to substitute Masa Harina with ground Taco or ground tortillas.


Polenta is made using either corn grits or cornmeal – and both of these ingredients can substitute Masa Harina in a recipe. Therefore, you can also use Polenta to replace Masa Harina in recipes.

Arrowroot Powder

Are you looking for a corn masa flour substitute, and do you have arrowroot flour at home? Well, why would you go shopping for a gluten-free corn masa flour substitute when you already have one in your pantry?

The English name for this popular South American flour is arrowroot starch, and believe it or not, and it can be a good Masa Harina substitute. Simply replace the same amount of Masa Harina with arrowroot powder.

The consistency and texture of the arrowroot will be slightly different, so you may want to adjust the amount of liquid if you decide to use it as a Masa Harina substitute.

Also, you should keep in mind that arrowroot is a different flour from corn flour. It’s usually used in the baking process because of its binding and thickening properties, but it’s not quite as fine as cornflour.

You may also find other names for arrowroot flour, including arrowroot starch, arrowroot powder, arrowroot flour substitute, South American arrowroot, and even just arrowroot. In most countries, you’ll find it in the baking section of the grocery store.


Grits are made from dried corn kernels that have been coarsely ground. Yellow grits generally use corn from the field or dent corn, while white corn grits use a finer grind of flint corn. Either can be used in recipes.

When substituting Masa Harina for grits, use about 2 cups of grits for every 3 Masa Harina in the recipe.

While you can use corn grits to substitute for Masa Harina, note that this type of ingredient will only work well as the thickener in soups, sauces, and the like; using otherwise will ruin the dish.


Masa Harina is corn flour used in Mexican cooking. If you can't find Masa Harina in your local market, you can always substitute cornmeal in recipes calling for Masa Harina.

It comes in different textures – fine, medium, and coarse. Choose the type according to the recipe in which you want to replace Masa Harina.
Medium ground cornmeal has the texture of oatmeal, while coarsely ground cornmeal will be like grits – both are far from the texture of Masa Harina.

Finely ground cornmeal is similar to Masa Harina in taste, and you can safely use it as a substitute. Yes, not only as of the thickener but for other recipes that require Masa Harina as well.

Make It On Your Own!

It's not the end of the world if you don't have masa on hand, but there are tons of other things you can do with called-for cornflour or Masa Harina (ground cornmeal) to make the recipe work.

You can easily substitute masa with flour for making cornbread by using flour instead of cornflour in the recipe. Just bear with the cake-like batter that will result.

If you're cooking a Mexican meal and can't find Masa Harina, we have discussed easy substitutes and tips on substituting Masa Harina in a recipe.