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Upgrade Your Chili: 5 BEST Substitutes for Masa Harina

Have you ever wanted to try Chili with a twist?

Masa Harina is a type of flour made from corn and is commonly used as an ingredient in traditional Mexican cuisines, particularly in various types of chili.

If you are hesitant to use Masa Harina in your chili recipes due to allergies or availability issues, there are options for substituting it for similar ingredients.

Here’s how you can use substitutes for Masa Harina and the top 5 options for substituting it with flavor-packed alternatives that will make your chili just as delicious.

Why Using Masa Harina in Chili?

why using masa harina in chili

Masa Harina is a traditional, fine-ground corn flour used to make dishes like tamales, tostadas, and chilaquiles.

It’s most commonly used in Latin American cuisine but can be found in other cultures as well.

This flour has several advantages when it comes to making chili.

It helps thicken the broth and infuses the chili with the flavor of corn, giving it a unique flavor that other starches lack.

Masa Harina is made from dried kernels of specially treated maize (corn), which is then ground on a volcanic stone mill and gained its name from its sticky texture when mixed with water (masa=dough).

Adding Masa Harina to chili gives it a nice depth of flavor and makes it extra hearty.

Aside from the great taste it imparts, Masa Harina also acts as a thickening agent, making the chili more substantial and satisfying.

If you are looking for that perfect bowl of chili with plenty of body and robust flavor, try adding some Masa Harina to your recipe.

As an alternative thickening agent for lesser flavored dishes like potato soup or macaroni and cheese, try using powdered masa harina instead of flour or cornstarch.

The texture difference is significant as masa harina does not clump like other starches; instead your dishes will have an additional layer of creamy texture—but still have that same pleasant shape when served.

When cooking with Masa Harina at home there are a few tips to keep in mind: Be sure to mix your masa harina thoroughly before adding it so that all lumps are broken up; whisking works best if you’re looking for total homogenization.

To achieve desired results quickly you should cook your sauce on low heat – this avoids overcooking or scorching which could ruin your dish; avoid boiling too long otherwise all the benefit from using Masa Harina may be compromised due to evaporation caused by boiling for extended periods.

Lastly, stirring regularly during boiling – especially towards the end – will help ensure even distribution throughout the dish without causing any lump formation.

Additionally, after cooking is complete it’s essential that any remaining masa re-agitated ingredients such hot milk or cream mixture before serving.

Doing so instills an even smoother sensory experience.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Masa Harina in Chili

Masa harina is a type of flour made from dried corn kernels that are cooked, ground, and treated with slaked lime.

While it is most frequently used to make tortillas and tamales, it can also be used as an ingredient in chili recipes.

However, if you don’t have masa harina or can’t find it in your local store, you can use one of the following 5 ingredients as a flawless substitute.

1 – Masa Preparada

Masa preparada, also known as masa instantanea, is a pre-mix of corn flour and baking powder used as a base for a variety of recipes.

It is often found in Latin American stores and can be used to make fresh tortillas.

Masa preparada can also be a substitute for masa harina in the preparation of chili.

This pre-mix will add texture and bind the chili together while allowing it to thicken at the same time.

To use masa preparada, mix 1/2 cup to one cup of boiling water into your chili recipe before simmering.

2 – Dried Hominy

dried hominy

Dried hominy is one of the best Masa Harina substitutes in chili as it has a very similar texture and taste.

It also has a nice balance of starchy and sweet flavors that pair well with tomatoes, peppers, beans, and other chili ingredients.

Preparing dried hominy can be done by soaking the grains overnight in water like you would with dried beans.

Then it can be added to the recipe shortly before serving time without needing to cook it again.

The benefit of using dried hominy is its long shelf life compared to fresh corn.

It’s an ideal choice for chili recipes that have an extended cooking time or that require slow-cooking in a crockpot or Dutch oven.

3 – Canned Hominy

canned hominy

Canned hominy is a great substitute for masa harina in chili as it has a mild corn flavor.

Hominy is made from corn kernels that have been soaked in lime or lye water and then ground to create a small, stone-like texture and nutty flavor.

Canned hominy is fully cooked and ready to use, and it can be easily found in any grocery store.

To substitute canned hominy for masa harina:

  • Drain the canned hominy before using it and rinse off excess liquid with cold water.
  • Roughly chop the canned hominy before adding it to the chili.
  • For every ¼ cup of masa harina required, put in 2 tablespoons of canned hominy. Note: The consistency will also be slightly different as the hominy tends to be smoother due to its long cooking time.

4 – Corn Grits

corn grits

Corn grits (not the same as hominy grits) are a fantastic substitute for masa harina in chili.

They provide corn flavor and texture to the chili, and also help thicken it.

Like masa harina, corn grits are easy to find and are easily cooked into chili.

There is, however, an important difference in preparation method – as corn grits are much more coarse than masa flour and thus need longer cooking times.

To prepare your chili with corn grits instead of masa harina, you should take the following steps:

  • Measure out the amount of corn grits needed according to your recipe and soak it in liquid for at least 10 minutes before adding it to the chili. This will cut down on cooking time since the material absorbs moisture quickly once it comes into contact with it.
  • Bring your pot of chili up to a boil and add the soaked corn grits, stirring constantly until combined thoroughly.
  • Reduce heat so that chili is simmering all throughout instead of boiling vigorously. Allow this mixture to continue simmering for about 30 minutes, stirring throughout so that equal parts of liquid cover every part of your mixture while still allowing steam to escape from the pot’s lid.
  • If yours still hasn’t reached desired thickness by this point, you can bring heat up again until boiling then reduce back down one more time and continue simmering for 10-15 minutes or until desired consistency has been achieved.
  • Let cool before serving or prepping meals ahead.

5 – Cornflour


Cornflour, or cornstarch, is the most popular substitute for Masa Harina.

Unfortunately, it won’t give the same flavor, texture, or color as Masa Harina.

It also won’t be able to stand up to lengthy simmering times like Masa Harina can.

Cornflour is made from finely milled corn, just like masa harina, so it’s easy to see why people opt for it as an easy substitution.

However, it doesn’t contain gluten or any of the other oils and starches found inmasa harina that make it an ideal thickener in chili recipes.

In order to use cornflour as a substitute for masa harina in chili recipes, whisk together 1 part cornflour with 2 parts cold water until you get a smooth paste and add about half of this mixture per cup of chili base when adding the liquids at the beginning of cooking.

Cook for about 15 minutes more than you would with normal chili recipes instead of simply simmered until done.

This will help thicken your chili and give a bit more body than using just water or stock would achieve on their own.


In conclusion, there are many great Masa Harina substitutes available to use in chili recipes.

Depending on the flavor and texture profile you desire, any of the above alternatives can make your chili flavorful and filling.

When making chili without Masa Harina, remember that the spice level may need to be adjusted or other substitutes may need to be added to create a comparable taste.

For a substitution option with similar properties, cornmeal can be used instead of Masa Harina.

Alternatively, crushed tortilla chips or breadcrumbs can also work as good alternatives in some recipes.

Any of these substitutions will provide similar results and make flavorful chili dishes.

substitutes for masa harina in chili

The 5 Best Substitutes for Masa Harina in Chili

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Substitutes


  • Masa Preparada
  • Dried Hominy
  • Canned Hominy
  • Corn Grits
  • 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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