Masa harina is one of the most famous ingredients in many Mexican cuisines. It is an ingredient used to make tamales, corn tortillas, and much more. With a refined and powdery texture, masa harina has become the go-to product for making dishes in Mexico.
Still, no food ingredient is perfect at all times, and you might want to get a substitute to stand in for masa harina.
So, what is the best substitute for masa harina? Fresh masa is usually the ideal substitute as it provides a similar flavor and is relatively easier to work with when making some famous Mexican dishes. Despite a few differences in ingredients and thickness, fresh masa does a rather good job.
An Overview of Masa Harina
As explained earlier, masa harina is a staple in Mexican cooking. It is a type of flour that helps in processing many Mexican dishes, and while it appears to have originated from Spain, it has since become a popular flour variant across the world.
Masa harina is usually the product of combining dough corn and dried masa. It helps to provide additional texture to your meals, and it also offers an exceptional taste palette that you can enjoy. With a versatile operation, masa harina works for various types of dishes and can easily integrate itself into them. Of course, you can make modifications as you would like when working with it.
Why Replace Masa Harina?
- Lengthy creation process: In itself, making masa harina can be a relatively long process. You don’t want to go through all of that stress, and you might get a substitute instead.
- Non-availability: If you can’t find masa harina and don’t have the time to make some for yourself, then a substitute will come in handy.
Options for Masa Harina Substitutes
Best Overall Substitute for Masa Harina: Fresh Masa
As the name probably tells, fresh masa is one of the primary ingredients you use to make masa harina. Here, you have a dough that has been adequately dried and ground, and it is usually applied in making masa harina corn flour.
Compared to masa harina, you won’t need to do much preparation when working with fresh masa. So, it is even easier to work with when you’re adding it to recipes. Many also know fresh masa to be “masa preparada” – a word that means “prepared dough” when translated to Spanish.
Fresh masa has a generally similar taste to masa harina. It isn’t quite as thick, and its flavor isn’t as intense. Still, it works relatively fine when it comes to substitute for the latter.
Interestingly, fresh masa could work better than masa harina when you consider it in some recipes. For instance, it works better for tortillas and tamales. You will need to rehydrate masa harina to form a dough, but fresh masa is already a dough. So, all you have to do is roll the latter out and cook it.
All in all, substituting masa harina for fresh masa generally means that you will have to eliminate some preparation steps. However, fresh masa still delivers a lot, especially when it comes to taste and refinement. So, you’re not missing much.
Best Substitute in Crunch Time: Ground-Up Corn Tortillas
Corn tortillas are another substitute with close links with masa harina in the first place. However, they work incredibly well as a substitute for the latter because they are readily available. It’s almost impossible to find a kitchen that doesn’t have corn tortillas ready. If you make things like tacos and burritos regularly, you probably have tortillas.
Even while stale, tortillas can work as excellent substitutes for masa harina. As long as you don’t find any mold, the tortillas are good and ready to go. You can quickly grind them up and use them in related recipes just as you would with masa harina.
Most people only use ground-up corn tortillas as thickeners for soup. However, as substitutes for masa harina, you can add some hot water and kosher salt, and rest assured you’re on the right track.
Keep in mind that most experts will recommend using baked corn tortillas instead of fried ones. Also, you can choose to crumble the tortillas in your hand or use a food processor to grind them if you want an even finer consistency.
Also, consider that the mixture of corn tortillas with kosher salt and water won’t entirely be the same as adding just masa harina to your recipe. Still, it works relatively fine. Experts will also recommend that you don’t use flavored tortillas. You can find that their flavoring will greatly overpower your food, and you might not like the taste so much. So, stick to the natural tortillas, and you should be fine.
Best Substitute for Stews: Cornstarch
One of the primary functions of masa harina is to act as a thickening agent for different soups. When mixed with cold water, you get a slurry that you can mix and stir into a soup. From there, it simmers and can thicken more slowly.
However, if you have overly thin stew and there’s no masa harina, you can use some cornstarch. It doesn’t provide the same taste or flavor, but it is an ideal substitute if you’re in a time crunch and you need to thicken your soup. Cornstarch has a finer texture than masa harina, so the soup will have less of a gritty texture. Still, when it comes to thickening, nothing works better as a substitute for masa harina.
All you need to do is mix the cornstarch with one cup of cold water, then add the mixture to the hot soup.