Masa harina is traditional flour that’s used to make tamales, tortillas, and many other familiar and delicious Mexican dishes. It is a staple ingredient in Mexican cuisine. Not only that, but you can also use masa harina to prepare some more familiar dishes, such as the masa harina pizza, so maybe get your Pizza Pans, Pizza Peel, Pizza Cutter, and Pizza Oven before diving into the article.
If you’re a fan of Mexican food and would like to recreate the same culinary experience in your home, then you better have some Masa Harina.
Unfortunately, if you can’t get some masa harina, then it can be tricky to recreate some of the famous and delicious dishes that the Mexican cuisine is known for. Or at least that’s what you’d think. We know how tricky it can be to acquire masa harina, and for this reason, we’ve decided to show you five of the best substitutes there is.
In this article, we’ll explain what masa harina is along with how it’s made before diving straight into the five great substitutes you can use instead. Get your Flour Sifter, fill your Tea or Coffee Mug, and read on.
Masa Harina: What Is It & How Is It Prepared?
If you’ve tried looking up tortilla recipes and some other Mexican dishes, then you’ve probably come across the term masa harina. A lot of people don’t know that it’s a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine.
The term masa harina is Spanish, and it means “corn flour”. It’s usually used in spicy Mexican dishes: Tamales, tortillas, and many of the other Mexican foods that we’ve come to know and love use masa harina as an ingredient. Having said that, let us tell you a bit about how it’s made.
First, the grains used in masa harina have to be nixtamalized. This is a process that consists of drenching the corn grains in an alkaline solution and cooking them in it, so they absorb it. Usually, the alkaline solution is slacked lime, though it isn’t the only option. This process is what gives the masa harina its distinct taste.
After the nixtamalization process, the corn is washed then minced, next dried and powdered. That’s it! The resulting powder is masa harina, the unspoken hero of the Mexican cuisine.
With that said, now that you know what masa harina is and how it’s made, you can use this knowledge to figure out a substitute if you ever fall short (Don’t worry, we’ve done the research so you don’t have to).
As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve tried to use masa harina in your cooking, it can be quite tricky to get a hold of it. You might even be surprised to know that some chefs find themselves using masa harina substitutes every now and then. It can even offer a unique take on classic and familiar Mexican dishes.
Masa Harina: The Best Substitutes You Can Buy
It’s time to tell you all about the 5 best substitutes for masa harina. Now, they’re all good and add a very similar taste and flavor to your dishes. However, we’ll be diving into more detail about each substitute, so you know exactly what to pick for your own dishes. And now, without further ado, here’s the list
This is yet another Mexican ingredient, and even though it might seem counterintuitive to replace a Mexican ingredient with another Mexican one, hear us out as you’ll find out that we put it here for a good reason.
Masa Preparada is Spanish for “prepared dough”. As the name implies. Being already prepared is quite the advantage as it can save you a lot of time and help you put out dishes faster which is a huge bonus in comparison to the other substitutes we’re about to mention.
Another thing that makes such a great substitute is the fact that it’s already created from masa harina, so you can expect it to taste the same and feel the same.
Given that it’s pretty much identical to masa harina with the added benefit of already being prepared for you implementing it as a substitute in your dishes doesn’t require any new knowledge. You’ll be using it the same manner you’d use masa harina, which is cool.
One of the few negative things to note about masa Preparada is that it should be used as soon as you open the bag as it cannot last very long.
What is ground hominy? Well, it’s coarsely ground corn. Aside from its use as an ingredient in many Mexican dishes, you can also eat it whole if you so desire.
Following in the same trend as the previous substitute, ground hominy is not made up of masa harina but is one of the main components of masa harina.
With this in mind, it’s safe to assume that ground hominy shares many similarities with both masa harina and masa Preparada. This applies both in the taste, texture and how to use it dishes.
You’ve likely already tried hominy before, but you just don’t know it yet. If you’ve ever had polenta for breakfast or tried making it, then you’re probably familiar with hominy as polenta is mostly made from hominy.
Keep in mind that you’ll either need one of them Spice Grinders to properly implement hominy as an alternative of masa harina, mainly due to the fact that the corn has to be ground.
You can get hominy in two forms. You’ll either find it dried or Canned Corn. It’s mostly up to you to choose which one to incorporate in your dishes. However, if you prefer canned hominy but only have dried hominy, you can basically just cook the dried hominy, and you’ll get canned hominy. Too much hominy, we know.
Use a Different Type of Flour
As we’ve already mentioned before, masa harina is just a kind of flour, and there are plenty of other types. With that in mind, don’t hesitate to experiment with different kinds to figure out which one stays more faithful to masa harina in your dishes.
Of course, the texture and taste will most likely be different from masa harina, but you can use any type of corn-based flour, and you should get a pretty decent result.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the difference in taste or flavor won’t be nearly as apparent in dishes that don’t use masa harina for adding flavor. For example, normal and Canned Chili and several other broths and soups work just as well with any other kind of flour.
On the other hand, if you decide to use a different kind of flour for something like tortillas, you’ll find that the result can be a bit different from the original, depending on which kind of flour you use, of course. However, that doesn’t mean that the result won’t be tasty, it’s more of a matter of texture than it is about flavor. With that said, feel free to experiment and find the best kind of flour for each dish.
Grits are basically just pieces that have been broken off of corn. It can be considered as a cornmeal by-product in that regard. The bigger pieces of corn are used as grits, and the smaller ones are used for cornmeal.
Grits is a traditional corn-based dish that’s quite easy to make and is pretty common. You can find it in nearly any store. Its low cost and simplicity made it thrive in popularity, especially in the past. It’s probably why you often see orphans eating them in movies.
Nowadays, grits are still just as common and can be considered a great alternative for masa harina in the majority of dishes that need it. The reason we mentioned grits as a substitute and not cornmeal, even though they come from the same place, is that the texture and thickness of grits are much more similar to that of masa harina.
If you’d to know how to make your own grits, it’s actually quite simple. You can cook them in hot water from your Water Purifier and butter from your fridge or Compact Refrigerator on the Gas Cooktop for about 40 minutes, and voilà! You just made grits. You can either use it as an ingredient or – if you fancy yourself some grits as a standalone dish – you can just add some water from your Hot Water Dispenser, and there you have it.
Make Some of You Own Masa Harina
Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you find yourself with no other choice, you can always make some of your own masa harina. First, you’ll need to get dried whole-grain corn along with some calcium hydroxide or just some powdered lime. Getting these ingredients shouldn’t be a hassle as they’re pretty common.
After you’ve acquired the necessary ingredients, the real challenge begins. There are several recipes out there that show you how you can prepare your own masa harina; however, we can’t really elaborate on the whole process as it’s too long to be written here.
On the other hand, we’ll provide you with a good recipe so you don’t get overwhelmed. The process can be a bit tough and time-consuming, but the end result is sure to put a smile on your face. Nothing beats homemade food, especially masa harina.
As we’ve said before, you need to be creative and try to work with what you have and make the most out of it.
Never hesitate to find substitutes for ingredients you don’t have or better yet, make them on your own if possible.
Once you become familiar with the ingredients you’re using, you’ll be able to identify the perfect substitutes for those times where you don’t have it. Some chefs even use this as an opportunity to put their own twist on a given dish.
Hopefully, after reading this article, you should be able to make delicious Mexican dishes regardless of whether or not you have masa harina. Prepare your Baker’s Rack and happy cooking!
While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!