Masa Harina or Maseca Substitution

Nothing is quite like real masa de harina (dough flour) made from hominy or nixtamal, but in a pinch, some substitutions can be made.  This is also important for those who may be celiac or avoiding gluten for other reasons.  If you need to have “pure” dough flour, you may not be able to depend on your supermarket shelves.

What kind of masa you should mix depends on what you’ll be making with it.  So I’ll list recipes and instructions for two different purposes.

Tamales/wet wrapped corn dumplings

You will need:
1 cup yellow or white corn meal
1 cup rice meal or wheat semolina
boiling hot water
an airtight bowl


Mix your ingredients in the bowl, and then stir in just enough hot water to make a stiff but sticky dough.

Cover the bowl and let set for 15 minutes.

Uncover the bowl, and if needed, wait until the dough is cool enough to touch.

Gently handle the dough enough to make it spreadable, and then proceed to make your tamales or dumplings.

Crispy corn tortillas

You will need:
1 cup white or yellow corn meal
1 cup quick cooking rice meal or wheat semolina
1 heaping tablespoon of sticky rice, oat, barley, or wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder or 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice
boiling hot water
an airtight bowl
lard, schmaltz, or palm oil
wax paper or a steady fast hand


Mix everything except the water in the bowl.

Add just enough boiling water to make a stiff dough.

Cover the bowl, and let set for 15-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to about 145 Celsius.

Knead the dough as best as possible, until it is somewhat pliable, and prepare your baking sheet.

Grease your baking sheet with the lard or oil.

Roll your tortillas out as thin as possible without risking tearing, between two sheets of wax paper.  Remove the wax paper gently, and place them one at a time on the baking sheet.  You will need to use multiple sheets or do batches of four to six tortillas depending on how wide you make them.

Bake for about 10 minutes until just dry and done, but not crispy yet.  When you see them threatening to make a bubble or something, they’re done.

Take them out, and let them cool on the pan for a couple of minutes.  Then transfer them to a plate and start the next batch.

You can store them this way in the refrigerator, but when you want them crispy, just fry them.

2 thoughts on “Masa Harina or Maseca Substitution

  1. Deb

    I tried the first recipe and used Yellow cornmeal and brown rice flour and boiled approximately 4 cups of water and then add chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder for some seasoning and it turned out great to me. I enjoyed my tamale creation!! Thanks

  2. FitMama

    I’ve been experimenting with treating cornmeal with a bit of baking soda or ash, but I haven’t found the right proportions yet. I’m very tempted to try a bit of washing soda or lye, but I want to consult with a professional food chemist beforehand.

    For the moment, the closest I’ve gotten to something like what’s really used to make tortillas is homemade hominy made with baking soda, put through a grinder. It’s not dried, and doesn’t fry well as tortillas, but it comes out the perfect consistency for making fritters or tamales.

    It has to be put through a grinder instead of a food processor or blender because they will make it too frothy.

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