Mexican cuisine comes with a good number of delicacies that are loved by people from all around the world. Many of these tasty dishes have a common ingredient, masa harina. 

It stands for dough flour that is used in preparing tortillas, tamales, tacos, and many other Mexican food items. 

But the problem is, it is not an easy task to make masa harina. You don’t have to be bothered by these, as there are some excellent substitutes for masa harina that are easier to make. 

You need masa harina for preparing Latin American and Mexican food in general. As it is not available everywhere, you can use the following substitutes for filling in, without having to compromise with flavors and taste.

1. Ground Tortillas

Though masa harina is not available in all grocery stores, tortillas can be found anywhere. 

You can easily use corn tortillas for replacing masa harina in many dishes. The corn tortillas you can purchase in stores are made from masa harina, so grinding them will give you the basic ingredient.


Before you grind your corn tortilla, try to stale them at first to make the ground version as close as masa harina. You can also apply kosher salt to make it even better.

Depending on the dishes you are preparing, you need to adapt your cornflour. For instance, the flour needs to be coarser if you are making tamales.

2. Masa Preparada

Masa preparada can be used in a much simpler way compared to masa harina. You don’t have to follow as many steps as masa harina if you are using masa preparada as a substitute. It will help you to save a lot of time and labor.

Masa preparada is prepared dough, ready to be applied in your dish. As you won’t have to make the dough yourself, the complexity of the recipe gets reduced to a significant extent.

Like tortillas, masa preparada is also made from masa harina. Hence, it’s a perfect substitution for almost all the dishes. However, don’t preserve it in the refrigerator as it doesn’t have enough shelf life.

3. Ground Hominy

Hominy is the main ingredient for preparing masa harina. Its base is corn without the hulls. You have to preserve the soft inner kernels in cans or dry them before turning into a dough.

For using hominy as a substitute, grind the kernels and use it in dishes instead of masa harina. You’ll be able to replicate similar flavor and taste as the base of both the ingredients is the same thing.

4. Cornstarch

In a lot of Mexican and Latin American dishes, masa harina is used as a thickening compound. Cornstarch can give the same thickening effect if you are preparing sauces, stews, or gravies.

Cornstarch is made from raw corn’s endosperm. Before using it to thicken dishes, you need to make the slurry by adding liquid. If you put plain cornstarch in your food, then the meal will be lumpy. 


It’s one of the best ways to thicken different kinds of food at home, even in commercial kitchens.

You shouldn’t consider this as a masa harina substitute if you don’t know how to prepare the slurry.

5. Polenta

You will find polenta in any grocery store. Unlike the other alternatives in this list, polenta originates in Europe. The polenta you can buy from local stores basically comes in coarsely ground and dry form.

Only finely ground polenta can be a masa harina substitute. Properly ground polenta can be an even swap in most of the dishes that require masa harina.

As polenta is made from flint corn, its flavor and texture are quite extra-ordinary.

Though masa harina is widely used in preparing the dough, it has a diverse range of use in many different dishes. That’s why you shouldn’t go with any substitute that comes to your mind. Instead, you need to be sure of the use of masa harina in the dish you are willing to prepare and choose the substitute accordingly.

Many people believe that all-purpose flour can replace masa harina in dishes, which is obviously not the case. All-purpose flour is made from wheat, not corn. Using it in foods that require masa harina will totally change the taste and flavor. 

You can definitely try other breeds of corn-based flour as a substitute, be sure of the type of food you are preparing.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re making North American or Mexican dishes, masa harina is a staple ingredient that you need to keep in your kitchen.

However, since it’s not available everywhere, you should learn about the alternatives to sue them when needed.

The above-mentioned substitutes are quite suitable for most Mexican dishes and you can find them almost everywhere. So, keep at least one of them in your pantry to make sure you don’t fell short while making your favorite dishes.

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