Cornmeal is a pantry staple. A bag of cornmeal in your kitchen will come in handy for a variety of cooking tasks. From baking cornbread to making a crunchy cornmeal coating, this simple ingredient results in the most delicious food. But it happens often that you run out of the ingredients you use the most.
What can you use instead of cornmeal? Whether you need a substitute to provide the taste or the texture of cornmeal, there are numerous options to choose from. That’s why I found and present you the best substitutes for cornmeal.
What Is Cornmeal?
If you are not too much into cooking, cornmeal may seem an intimidating ingredient. In reality, it is simply dried and ground corn. Yellow or white corn is used to make cornmeal.
The texture of cornmeal varies. It can be very finely ground or have larger and coarser granules.
The best part about cornmeal is that it keeps well for up to a year. The reason why cornmeal has a long shelf life is that it is typically milled with the germ and the bran removed.
If you want the cornmeal you are using to be more nutritious, look for whole-grain cornmeal. It contains the bran and germ and has a richer flavor in addition to a higher nutritional value.
Cornmeal is very cost-effective. And you can use it in a myriad of ways.
- Bake cornbread.
- Fry fish or chicken for the ultimate crust.
- Bake muffins, biscuits, and cookies.
- Make tortillas.
- Use it to achieve a thicker texture in dishes.
How to Choose the Best Cornmeal Substitute?
When choosing a cornmeal substitute a lot depends on the dish you are making. If the corn flavor in the dish is important, you should choose corn-filled substitutes.
If cornmeal is used in the dish for its thickening properties, you can go with substitutes that don’t have a flavor similar to cornmeal but perform the same function.
You may also need to substitute cornmeal with another ingredient in case you or the person you are cooking for has a corn allergy. Luckily, there are multiple non-corn cornmeal substitutes you can choose from.
11 Best Substitutes for Cornmeal
Whether you want a substitute that resembles cornmeal in texture or flavor, there are multiple options to choose from.
1. Corn Flour
Corn flour is the best substitute for cornmeal in terms of flavor. But the texture of corn flour is quite different. It is a lot finer than cornmeal which leads to baked goods being a lot lighter in texture.
You can substitute cornmeal with corn flour following a 1:1 ratio if the recipe calls for fine-milled cornmeal.
You can substitute cornmeal in almost any dish as these two are technically the same thing. What sets them apart is how finely the grain is grounded.
If you want an easy cornmeal substitute, you should certainly go with polenta.
Polenta is coarsely ground corn, i.e. almost the same thing as cornmeal. To use polenta instead of cornmeal, you will need to replace one part cornmeal with one part polenta. Simple as that.
3. Corn Grits
Corn grits are made with dried and ground corn. Corn grits can provide the same flavor as cornmeal. The texture, however, will be a little different.
Corn grits are coarser as opposed to finely ground cornmeal. When using corn grits instead of cornmeal, think whether the particular dish you are using it in will contribute from a grainy texture or not.
4. All-Purpose Flour
All-purpose flour is the most versatile ingredient you can have in your pantry. It doesn’t have a distinct taste, which can be a downside in cases when the flavor of corn is needed. But this problem can be solved in some cases.
For example, you can use all-purpose flour to make cornbread. But you will need to come up with the right combination of ingredients to create the needed flavor.
Mixing regular white flour with corn kernel will create the texture and taste you are looking for in cornbread.
All-purpose flour can be used as a thickening and binding ingredient and create texture cornmeal does.
Semolina, a type of flour made from durum wheat, is a good substitute for cornmeal as far as the texture is concerned.
You will need to use a larger amount of this high-gluten flour instead of cornmeal if you want to achieve a thicker consistency.
As for the flavor, semolina is nutty and earthy.
6. Ground Flaxseed
In some dishes, cornmeal is used for the texture. If this is the case for you, you can substitute cornmeal with ground flaxseed. But be ready for some flavor changes as flaxseed have a nutty flavor and can be faintly bitter.
The good thing about flaxseed is that it is incredibly healthy. If you want a substitute rich in fatty acids, ground flaxseed it is.
Use it to make cornbread and you will certainly not regret it.
7. Wheat Flour
If you don’t mind gluten, take wheat flour into account when looking for alternatives for cornmeal.
The winning point of wheat flour is that its texture is similar to that of cornmeal. The flavor, however, is completely different. On one hand, this narrows down the number of ways you can use this flour instead of cornmeal. On the other hand, the taste of wheat flour is not overpowering. You can play with sugar and salt to achieve the flavor you need in your dish.
8. Rice Flour
Rice flour is another flour option you can use instead of cornmeal. If the dish you are making doesn’t require the corn flavor, then rice flour is certainly a good option.
Rice flour and cornmeal are both gluten-free, which makes rice flour a great flour alternative for cornmeal.
Rice flour is good for baking. However, it can also be used to thicken the consistency of soups and stews.
9. Masa Harina
Masa harina is not something many of us have at home. But if you are someone that loves homemade tortillas and makes them often, it is certainly worth substituting cornmeal with masa harina at least once.
If you are wondering what masa harina is, it is dried corn dough that is also referred to as corn flour.
Because corn used to make masa harina is treated with a lime and water solution, the taste of tortillas made with it will have a slightly different taste.
10. Corn Flakes
Cornmeal and corn flakes taste the same. But they look so different that it is nearly impossible to imagine using corn flakes instead of cornmeal. But it can be done!
Crush cornmeal flakes using a rolling pin, add some seasoning and you will have the most flavorful and crunchy coating ready in just a few minutes.
Cornmeal is widely used to fry fish or chicken. It gives them a nice-looking golden crust. In this case, you can substitute cornmeal with breadcrumbs.
Breadcrumbs are something you most likely have at home at all times. You can buy breadcrumbs. But why spend extra money on something that is as easy to make as to put pieces of old bread in the food processor?
Breadcrumbs are ideal for creating the crispiest skin on fried food. Thus, go ahead and use them instead of cornmeal if you don’t mind the absence of corn flavor in the crust.