Masa Harina Substitute: 5 Simple Ingredients You Can Use

Anyone who’s ever had Mexican cuisine knows what tortillas are.

This flat bread has been around for over 10,000 years and while they’re still growing in popularity in other parts of the world, they remain one of Mexico’s most important foods.

In fact, tortillas are so important that they’re essential to Mexican cuisine, either as a side dish, part of the main dish itself or even as silverware.

Because tortillas are important, it pays to make an effort to have them around if you’re planning on making Mexican food.

Nowadays it’s not hard to get tortillas, as you’ll be able to find them in your local supermarket in a variety of flavors. Corn tortilla, wheat tortilla, cactus tortilla, flour tortilla… The list goes on.

If you’re looking to impress your family or friends, however, by making tortillas from scratch you’re going to need masa harina. But do you know what are the best masa harina substitute?


What is Masa Harina

What is Masa Harina

Masa harina, which roughly translates to flour dough, is dough made with tortilla flour and water.

Tortilla flour is, essentially, corn flour that’s been dried, mixed with slaked lime and water, ground again and dried once more. This process, though lengthy, gives tortillas their characteristic flavor.

Why Substitute Masa Harina?

First things first. When it comes to making tortillas, you can’t actually substitute masa harina, as masa harina is, basically, the uncooked tortilla.

What you can do, however, is substitute masa harina in other recipes that call for it, such as tamales and certain soups, like pozole.

If you’re looking for masa harina substitutes you can use the following options:

Masa Harina Substitute: 5 Simple Ingredients

#1. Corn Meal

corn meal

Cornmeal can be easily found in the baking aisle of your nearest supermarket.

While most Mexican dishes call for masa harina, cornmeal is an excellent option for when you’re all out of the real deal.

Corn meal is thicker than masa harina, no matter how finely you grind it, so you’re going to have to mix it with all-purpose flour to achieve the right texture. Consider using 2/3 cups of cormeal and 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour for every cup of masa harina.

Keep in mind that corn meal comes in white and yellow varieties so your choice will have an effect on the taste of your meal.

#2. Fresh Masa

fresh masa

Fresh masa is corn dough. In fact, it’s the corn dough that’s used in masa harina, except it hasn’t been dried out just yet.

While harder to find than masa harina, it works wonders for recipes such as tamales, tortillas, gorditas, tlacoyos and the like.

There are two types of masa harina, coarse and smooth, so choose wisely depending on the recipe you’re following.

The biggest advantage of using fresh masa instead of masa harina is the fact that fresh masa is ready to use so you won’t have to waste any time rehydrating it.

See How Fresh Masa is Made (Fresh Corn Tortillas):​

#3. Grits


While not an ideal choice, grits are the closest substitute to masa harina you’ll find. After all, Southern cuisine is heavily related to Mexico’s own cuisine.

While the taste is very similar, grits are considerably coarser than masa harina so you’re going to have to grind them even further to make them a better fit.

If you can’t do that, you can always cook your grits until they’re mushy and then mash them to form dough that you can then use to make tortillas, tamales and more.

#4. Cornstarch

replacement for cornstarch

One of the many uses of masa harina is to thicken soups, chilis and cream. This is achieved by mixing masa harina with cold water, which is then stirred into the liquid you wish to thicken.

This makes cornstarch a wonderful replacement for masa harina, but only when it comes to using it as a thickening agent.

Remember that to use cornstarch, you need to mix it with cold water before mixing it with hot liquids as otherwise it will form lumps.

Keep in mind that cornstarch is considerably finer than masa harina, so it won’t give the same texture to your meals.

#5. Corn Flour

Corn Flour

Just like cornstarch, corn flour can be used as a thickening agent instead of masa harina. In fact, it’s probably a better choice as corn flour is one of the main ingredients of masa harina, which means it can give your food a similar texture and taste.

There’s no exact replacement ratio to use corn flour instead of masa harina so don’t be afraid of experimenting until you find the texture you’re looking for.

And there you have it! Those are the 5 ingredients you can use to substitute masa harina in your recipes.

Corn Tortillas Substitute

If you do have masa harina and what you’re looking for is an alternative for corn tortillas then you’re in luck; Tortillas are becoming more and more popular every day so it’s easy to find all kinds of tortillas in your nearest grocery store.

To make flour out of the tortillas, throw three or four of them into a food processor or blender and grind them to a fine consistency.

Different recipes will require different consistencies of the ground-up flour, so keep that in mind and find the right consistency for your recipe. For example, tamales are usually made from harina or flour that is a little coarser than most.

Some of the most popular replacements for corn tortillas are:

- Nopal tortillas, which mix an edible cactus with masa harina, resulting in a strong flavored tortilla with anti-inflammatory properties.

- Amaranth tortillas, which mixes masa harina and amaranth flour, resulting in sweet tortillas with a high protein content.

- Blue corn tortillas, which are created with a different kind of corn that offer more protein while having a lower glycemic index.

  • Related VideoHow to Make Corn Tortillas

Now you know what you can use as a substitute of masa harina and what other types of tortillas you can include in your diet.

Do you have any questions? Do you know another masa harina substitute we should add? Leave a comment! We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading. Don’t forget to share if you found this article useful.

Emma Claire

I’m Emma, and I’m absolutely in love with food blogs. I’m a foodie at heart but being the mother of 3 kids, it’s not always easy to keep up with fancy dinners… so I rely on the support of other blogging moms like me to help along the way.

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