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Savory Tweaks: 5 BEST Masa Harina Substitutes

Have you ever wanted to add an extra South of the Border flavor to your chili?

Masa Harina is the perfect way to spice it up, but what if you’re out of this specialty ingredient?

Don’t worry – there are plenty of substitutes that will work just as well.

You’ll never have to miss out on amazing chili again.

What’s Masa Harina?

If you’re searching for a traditional Mexican cuisine, chances are you may have come across the term “Masa Harina”.

This remarkable ingredient is used for cooking a variety of dishes and holds an essential place in Mexican cuisine.

It is a special type of corn flour made from dried corn that has been cooked and soaked in water in order to soften it before being ground into fine or coarse dough.

Often compared to regular dry cornmeal powder, this grainy flour is far more valuable as it imparts an earthiness that adds unique flavor to recipes.

It’s perfect for making authentic tortillas, empanadas, tamales, pupusas, gorditas and many other specialties found in Mexican restaurants around the world.

To top it off, Masa Harina is also rich in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals – making it a great addition to any diet.

Why Using Masa Harina in Chili?

Masa harina (also known as Maseca) is a type of corn flour made from dried, cooked, and ground corn.

It is most commonly used in Latin American countries to make tortillas and tamales but can also be used for other dishes such as chili.

Masa harina has a distinctive flavor that adds depth and richness to your chili recipe.

Chili recipes that call for masa harina can often be adapted with substitutes if you do not have masa harina on hand or cannot find it at your local grocery store.

Some common substitutions for masa harina are cornmeal, hominy grits, or polenta.

To give your chili the same flavor profile, however, it is recommended to use any combination of these substitutes in the same proportions as you would use masa harina in the original recipe.

Although masa harina is primarily used as a thickener for chili recipes, it also provides certain nutritional benefits.

Masa harina contains high amounts of Vitamin A and iron which helps promote better overall health by boosting energy levels and supporting metabolism.

Additionally, using masa harina as an ingredient in chili also provides dietary fiber which helps keep digestion regular while promoting weight loss when eaten with other healthy ingredients like vegetables and lean proteins.

5 Masa Harina Substitutes to Use in Chili

While some are accustomed to the distinct flavor Masa Harina adds to their recipes, it can be replaced with an alternative solution of equal consistency and taste.


1 – Masa Preparada

Masa preparada is the closest substitute to masa harina in chili.

It is a pre-made corn tortilla dough containing lard, corn, and salt.

It will give your chili an unmistakable flavor.

Even though using masa preparada will produce superior results compared to other substitutes, it can be challenging to find outside Mexico and Latin American countries.

However, if you get your hands on some masa preparada, shape it into a ball before adding it to your chili.

The ball should be big enough so that its favor gets distributed throughout the whole dish without getting lost in its depth of flavors.

2 – Dried Hominy

Dried hominy is a great substitute for masa harina in chili.

Made from dried white or yellow corn kernels, hominy is soaked in a lye solution and ground into a coarse flour.

It has a very mild taste and is used to thicken soups and stews, as well as being used as an ingredient in some Mexican dishes, such as tamales, tortillas, or tacos.

When you’re looking for a dried hominy substitute for masa harina in chili it’s important to make sure that you buy the right product.

Dried hominy is not the same as corn meal or polenta, which are much finer grinds of corn.

Instead of finely ground corn meal, look for large cracked pieces of hominy that can be easily ground at home with a food processor or “molino de maiz” (Mexican stone grinder).

The texture should be coarser than flour but not too chunky when cooked in chili.

3 – Canned Hominy

Canned hominy is another wheat-free ingredient that can be used as a substitute for masa harina in chili.

Hominy is made from dried, hulled corn kernels and is packed with nutrition including high levels of zinc, magnesium and iron.

Use it in place of masa harina in chili to get a texture similar to what masa would provide.

However, it’s important to note that because canned hominy is highly processed it has a more intense flavor than traditional masa harina and the canned variety may not absorb spices as well as the fresh version.

To use this substitute, drain and rinse the hominy before adding it to the dish.

4 – Corn Grits

Corn grits, also known as hominy grits or hominy corn, are made by finely grinding dried maize.

Compared to coarse and medium-ground cornmeal, flour is finer.

This makes it an ideal substitute for masa harina because it has a texture thats more like flour than cornmeal.

When cooked in chili, the corn grits will soften and become creamy like masa harina does, though it doesnt have the same corn taste that masa harina does.

Corn grits are a good source of fiber, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

they are low in fat and cholesterol free which makes them an excellent option if you want to cut down on fat and cholesterol while still getting the thick and hearty consistency that you would get with masa harina.

5 – Cornflour

The next substitute for Masa Harina in chili is Cornflour.

This ingredient is made from finely ground dry corn kernels which are then made into a powder.

It is often used to make foods like tortillas, tamales and other Mexican dishes.

When it comes to chili, Cornflour can be used to add texture and provide extra body to the dish.

Just combine the Cornflour with stock, stir until thickened and simmer until the flavors come through.

Be sure to adjust your seasonings accordingly as this ingredient can affect how spicy or flavorful your chili will be.


Overall, masa harina offers a unique flavor and texture to chili that few other ingredients can truly replicate.

If you aren’t able to get your hands on it or don’t want to use it baked into a dish, look for some of the best substitutes for masa harina in chili.

From crushed tortilla chips to ground cornmeal, there is an excellent alternative no matter what flavor and texture you’re looking for in a chili.

Plus, they are much easier to find since they are more widely available at most grocery stores.

Give them a try the next time you make chili.

5 Masa Harina Substitutes to Use in Chili

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Substitutes


  • 1 – Masa Preparada
  • 2 – Dried Hominy
  • 3 – Canned Hominy
  • 4 – Corn Grits
  • 5 – Cornflour


  • Choose your preferred substitute from the list of options.
  • Organize all of your ingredients.
  • Use the proper substitute to cook your recipes.
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