We all have those situations when we want to cook something and we notice that we are out of a specific ingredient. What are you doing in that situation? Going straight to the supermarket? Choose to cook something different? Or you try to improvise and find an alternative for that specific ingredient. If you’re from the last group, then I will give you a few cornmeal replacements.
If you haven’t looked for a substitute for cornmeal before, you can save this article for later. As a lot of recipes use cornmeal as a main ingredient, the chances that you will need it are high.
There are many different ingredients that you can find in your kitchen and you can use them as a cornmeal substitute.
What is Cornmeal?
Cornmeal is made from ground yellow corn and it may differ in texture from fine to coarse grounds. This ingredient is mostly used for making cornbread, polenta, or just to offer a crispy crust to a variety of ingredients like chicken or fish.
Cornmeal is flour that is made from the ground corn kernel. However they are both from the corn kernel, cornmeal has a larger grain size than cornflour.
Things to Note When Substituting Cornmeal
Before I will start to give a few alternatives to cornmeal, we need to understand that Cornmeal has three functions: 1. To add texture to the recipe. 2. to add a specific flavor to the dish. or 3, to thicker certain dishes.
If you are cooking a recipe where cornmeal is an important ingredient, then you should replace it with other corn ingredients to keep the corn flavor.
If in that recipe, the cornmeal is used only to give a coarse texture to the dish, then you can replace it with other non-corn substitutes that will give a similar texture and consistency. More on that, later.
What is the English Equivalent of Cornmeal?
In Europe, cornmeal is more commonly referred to as the polenta because of the popular Italian polenta recipe from northern Italy. Generally, the Polenta found in Europe is made from a more finely ground cornmeal than what you will found in the US.
How to Make Homemade Cornmeal?
As this is a little longer process, I will give you a detailed step-by-step guide on how to make your own cornmeal at home.
Now after we cleared up any confusion, let’s get into exploring what alternatives you can use for the Cornmeal based on your needs.
Corn Grits (Similar flavor and texture)
As Corn Grits are one of the easiest and best substitutes for cornmeal, we will start with it. Corn Grits are very popular in the Southern States as a side dish for the breakfast. It is also made from yellow corn but it has a grittier texture. They are made from dent corn which has a different level of starch firmness.
If you are looking for a cornmeal texture replacement, that this substitute, will not be the best alternative.
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So, you can use Corn Grits both in baking and cooking. Just keep in mind that the Corn Grits are a little bit coarser than the standard cornmeal so you should adjust the cooking time.
If you need a smaller texture, you can grind the grits and you will get a similar texture to the Cornmeal.
So, by using this substitute for the cornmeal, you will get a similar flavor, but a little bit bigger texture.
Polenta Flour of Cornflour (similar flavor, smaller texture)
Another popular alternative to replace cornmeal is Polenta flour. It’s basically a very finely ground cornmeal. If the texture didn’t matter to you, or you intentionally are looking for a fine cornmeal substitute, you can use the Polenta as a Cornmeal alternative.
It is available in a wide variety of different grades that vary from fine to coarse. In some places, you may found that that cornmeal is referred to as polenta, but they are not exactly the same. The polenta flour is thinner than cornmeal.
You can use the same 1:1 ratio in your dishes that call for cornmeal. As the grains are smaller and refined, you will get a slightly intense taste.
Just a quick note: When you will use polenta or cornflour, your dishes will be less dense, and because of the thinner texture, they will cook faster and you will need to reduce slightly the cooking time.
Corn Flakes (similar flavor, different texture)
If you will crush up the corn flakes, you can use them as a cornmeal substitute. You will get a similar result as tortilla or Corn Chips. The biggest advantage of cereals is that they come in a lot of variety that is very easy to find a similar one that will fit your recipe. Also, it’s a high chance that you have already at home.
Corn Chips or Tortilla Chips (similar flavor, different texture)
Didn’t expected this? As they are made from corn, they will serve us the same purpose to replace the cornmeal. Just pop them into your food processor and grind them. What can be easier?
Masa Harina (similar flavor, different texture)
Another type of cornmeal that is made from dried corn kernels literally translates to “dough flour”. It is cooked and soaked in a lime solution. This is what gives to the Spanish Tortillas their sour flavor.
Hominy Grits (similar flavor, coarser texture)
It is similar in flavor but has a slightly coarser texture than cornmeal. Just keep in mind that you should use approximately 3/4 of the amount of the cornmeal called in your desired recipe.
As I said earlier, if the only thing you’re looking for is how to replicate the texture, you can substitute the cornmeal with some of these ingredients.
Semolina (similar texture, different flavor)
This option will work great for you if you’re looking just to replicate the texture that you get from the Cornmeal. Semolina is one of the best options to replace cornmeal. It is rich in protein and high-gluten flour that is made from hard durum wheat middlings. Keep in mind that it is coarser than a typical flour also, you will need to slightly increase the amount called for in the recipe.
Ground Oats (different texture, different flavor)
Ground Oats also can be a great alternative if all you’re looking for is to get a similar texture.
Wheat Flour (different texture, different flavor)
Another option that you can substitute for texture.
Ground flaxseeds can be a great option if you’re looking for a low-carb cornmeal substitute. But you should be ready to sacrifice a little bit of the taste (the flaxseeds are a little bit bitter) of the dish in exchange for getting more health benefits. They are far rich in proteins, low in carbs and starch.
Keep in mind that for the best effect, you should eat flaxseeds alongside foods that are high in fiber content.
Rice Flour (different texture, different flavor)
This option can be great if you need cornmeal just to thicken the dishes. Rice Flour can be a great option to thicken the stews, sauces, or even the soups.
Can be a good option if all you need from the cornmeal is to give a crust on the outside. The breadcrumbs are best for a cornmeal substitute for fish or chicken.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to get the closest result, you should use another corn-containing ingredient to stay with the same corn flavor. So, my recommendation will be to go with the corn grits, just keep in mind that you will get a little bit of larger texture.
If you’re looking for a healthy cornmeal replacement for the cornbread, go with the ground flaxseeds. They are richer in nutrients.
To avoid sticking the dough to the pizza stone or to the baking sheet, replace the cornmeal with parchment paper, flour, or semolina.
Not really. Cornmeal is commonly used to get a specific texture and flavor to the dish, which you can’t replicate the same thing with the regular flour.
Both ingredients are made from the same yellow corn but they are two completely ingredients. They differ completely in consistency and texture.
If you’re looking only to thicken soups or sauces, then yes.
If in your recipe, cornmeal is using just to give a crust on the outside of the chicken or the fish, then yes. You can replace the cornmeal with breadcrumbs.
As you can see, all the substitutes, have their own pros and cons, but if you know exactly what effect is needed from the cornmeal in your specific recipe, you can pick the best alternative just for your case.