Corn kernels in a white bowl

The 7 Best Cornmeal Substitutes

Do you want to cook a Southern classic?

Then realised the only thing you can’t find is cornmeal? Don’t worry; there are lots of different substitutes for ingredients, and cornmeal is no exception.

There are many ingredients you might have lying around the pantry that might do the trick! It all depends on the recipe.

I’m going to guide you through all the different cornmeal substitutes so that you can continue with that recipe.

What is Cornmeal?

Cornmeal is a coarse flour made from corn kernels, and it can come in a few consistencies from coarse, medium and fine. The ingredient is the same for each, and the only difference is in texture. 

It’s a common ingredient in cornbread, biscuits, dumplings, fried foods, baking and desserts.

It’s made from different corn kernels, but the most common are corn kernels from yellow corn. Cornmeal is gluten-free and has a slightly sweet corn flavour.

What to Think About When Substituting Cornmeal

It’s essential to think about your recipe and the outcome you want before picking a replacement.

The two main functions of cornmeal are to give taste and add texture. If you are looking to add flavour, then you should substitute it for another corn product.

If you’re looking to add texture, you need a similar product with a similar consistency. It comes down to the type of grain used and how refined that grain is.

If you are replacing it for a corn allergy, you’ll need a product without corn that gives you a similar texture. 

Best for Flavour and Texture

There are a couple of excellent substitutes that can help replicate the use of cornmeal, at least in flavour! The best two are corn grits, cornflour and polenta; they’re all made from corn and have a different coarseness.

1. Corn Grits

Yellow Corn grits are the best substitute for cornmeal. Cornmeal and yellow corn grits are made from the same process and ingredient, and the only difference is corn grits isn’t as refined.

Use the most refined yellow corn grits available for the best results.

White corn grits are made from white corn; they have a similar corn flavour and texture. The significant difference is the colour. 

If you’re looking for a white cornmeal substitute, then white corn grits are the best. But if you want to add that orangey, yellow colour, then use yellow grits.

Yellow corn grits have slightly more health benefits than white grits due to beta carotene that turns into vitamin A during digestion. Other than that, there isn’t much difference.

If you’re cooking with liquid, it’s good to note that coarser grains absorb liquid slower. The best way to counter this is to use a slightly lower amount of coarser grains.

If you want a similar texture to cornmeal, blitz the corn grits in a blender or food processor a couple of times.

Recipes: Cornbread, Biscuits, Porridge, Desserts, and Baking

2. Polenta  

Polenta is a dish from Northern Italy, but it’s sold in supermarkets as coarser cornmeal, somewhat like corn grits but even coarser.

The flavours are identical; however, the texture differs. Polenta is ground corn with a slightly more gritty texture.

If you have polenta in your pantry, this is one of the best replacements you can get. The only difference will be in texture.

Similar grits, you can blitz the polenta in a blender or food processor to refine it. 

Recipes: Cornbread, Biscuits, Porridge, Desserts, and Baking

3. Corn Flour (Not Corn Starch)

In the United kingdom, corn starch is branded as cornflour. Corn starch is not a suitable replacement for cornmeal, and it’s a much starcher powder used for a completely different reason.

On the other hand, Corn flour is just refined ground cornmeal, and it gives you the same corn flavour but a different texture.

Corn flour is an excellent replacement if you plan to use cornmeal in a sauce or as a thicker for soups or stews. It’s a fine powder that will give you the same corn flavour.

Recipes: Cornbread, Biscuits, Dumplings, Desserts and Baking

Best Non-Corn Substitutes

Finding a cornmeal replacement for a corn allergy is slightly more complex. The flavour will be different, but you can have similar cooking results.

You may think it’s impossible to find a suitable replacement for cornmeal for a corn allergy, but I will give you some good ideas.

4. Coarse Wheat Flour

Coarse wheat flour is one of the best non-corn substitutes for cornmeal. It’s an all-purpose choice that can replace cornmeal in any recipe, and it provides the same cooking purpose with a similar texture.

Replace cornmeal with wheat flour by weight instead of volume. It will give you the most accurate results.

You can also use regular wheat flour; this is more refined but still has the same cooking purpose.

Recipes: All Purpose

5. Semolina 

Semolina is also an excellent replacement. It’s made from durum wheat and is high in minerals, and it has a slightly nutty flavour with a similar cooking purpose to cornmeal.

Semolina is the best non-corn replacement for gluten-free allergies.

Recipes: All Purpose

Other Potential Substitutes

6. Masa Harina

It’s a type of flour made from dried corn kernels cooked and soaked in a lime solution. It is used for the dough to make tortillas and even pizza dough. It’s very refined like wheat flour but can still be used as an alternative in specific recipes.

Recipes: Bread, Biscuits, Dumplings, Tortillas

7. Rice Flour

Rice flour is finely milled rice. It has a starchy texture and can be used as an alternative for thinking sauces and soups.

Recipes: All-purpose

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cornmeal the Same Thing as Corn Flour?

No, cornflour is sometimes confused as cornmeal, but they differ in use. Even though they are both made from milled ground corn, their texture varies completely.

Cornmeal feels gritty, whilst corn flour is fine and smooth. The flavour would be the same, but the texture would be slightly different.

Can you substitute cornmeal for cornstarch?

I wouldn’t recommend it. Cornstarch is the starch from corn, and its cooking purpose is to be a thickening agent. Cornmeal is a flour used to add a base to recipes, as well as flavour.

Final Thoughts

Just because you’re missing cornmeal, it doesn’t mean you can’t make the recipe. There are plenty of superb replacements when you get creative. I hope we’ve found a suitable alternative for you. 

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