14 Best Cornmeal Substitutes That Are Exactly The Same

Cornmeal

You are here for the best cornmeal substitutes for various reasons. Like me, the buttery, golden-colored cornbread might be a favorite childhood evening snack for you as well. Even though adulting pushed our age higher, I guess we all still relish it. Then, I am sure you love cornmeal. 

But if you don’t have cornmeal, then surely you need to be aware of its substitutes. Got ideas? Some of the best cornmeal substitutes are cornmeal, cornflour, corn grits, polenta, corn chips, and corn flakes.

Cornmeal is a yellowish product obtained from grinding dried kernels of corn and is a staple ingredient in many cuisines. It is available in many varieties of texture and color. It finds its use in baking recipes to help get the product a crunchy finish.

Most famously, cornmeal is used as a major ingredient in Italian polenta and grits. You still have to know what cornmeal can be substituted with, right? Let us get into quick know-how of what cornmeal is before that.

Quick Peek: Cornmeal

Cornmeal

The following scribbles tell you what cornmeal is, its flavor, texture, culinary uses, and health benefits.

What Is Cornmeal?

Simply said, cornmeal is a ground version of finely dried corn kernels. It can be ground to either fine, medium, or coarse texture. It is also available in blue, white, and yellow colors, which is based on the color of the corn used for grinding.

Cornmeal Vs. Cornflour

Does it bug you the difference between cornmeal and cornflour? This is a million-dollar question that often leaves novice cooks perplexed. While the base of both is corn, the difference arises in their texture.

Cornmeal is usually coarse in texture with the presence of grains. If the corn kernels are ground finely, it becomes cornflour. (Was it this easy to understand?). Both of these have the same sweet, corn-filled taste, with cornflour having more of an earthy flavor.

Types of Cornmeal: Their Flavor and Texture

Cornmeal is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of dried and ground corn, which are called by different names. Cornflour is the finest type which has the corn kernel smoothly ground to a fine texture. Cornflour has a sweet, earthy flavor like corn.

Fine and medium cornmeal is commonly used in bread, cakes, muffins, and pancakes. They contain average-sized corn bits and have a mild corn flavor. Coarse cornmeal has a gritty texture and takes a long time to cook due to the coarse texture.

Polenta, Grits, yellow cornmeal, white cornmeal, and blue cornmeal are the other types of cornmeal. Yellow cornmeal has a profound corn flavor, while white cornmeal has a subtle, mild flavor. 

Uses of Cornmeal

Cornmeal has a variety of applications when it comes to cooking. Apart from making cornbread, it renders a crispy, crunchy texture in your recipes with a sweet taste of the corn. Cornmeal can easily substitute corn flour as well, and they can be used interchangeably.

Cornmeal is a gluten-free ingredient. You can use cornmeal to prepare muffins, pancakes, and special types of bread like tortillas or polenta and used to give a coating to meat or veggies before frying or roasting. 

Cornmeal on The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope

When it comes to health benefits, cornmeal offers us many. It is a rich source of many essential nutrients like fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, iron, and phosphorus. It aids a healthy bowel movement and reduces the risk of obesity. It is highly suitable for gluten-free diets as well.

Why Should We Substitute Cornmeal?

Although cornmeal is an easily available pantry item, being out of it can be detrimental to your recipe. Especially when you don’t have the time to run to the store, you need the help of the best cornmeal substitutes so that your cooking goes unhampered.

Also, who doesn’t love a little experimentation? If I tell you that you can emulate the flavor of cornmeal without actually using it, you are intrigued, right? That is where the best cornmeal substitutes come in.

With no more chit-chat on cornmeal, let us dive into the world of best cornmeal substitutes. 

14 Best Cornmeal Substitutes 

Now that you know everything you need to know about cornmeal let us discuss the fourteen best substitutes for cornmeal. For your ease, I have categorized the best cornmeal substitutes into two – corn-based and non-corn-based substitutes.

7 Best Corn-Based Substitutes For Cornmeal

The seven best corn-based substitutes for cornmeal are:

1. Corn Flour

Corn flour

It must be clear to you the difference between corn flour and cornmeal. Since corn flour is essentially a finer version of cornmeal with a smooth, fine texture, it is your best substitute for cornmeal.

You have nothing to worry about the taste. Corn flour has the sweet flavor of corn akin to cornmeal. You can easily use corn flour in places of cornmeal.

2. Corn Grits

Corn Grits

Corn grits, a popular breakfast menu in the Southern States, are made from less sweet and starch versions of corn known as dent corn. The most prominent of grits is hominy grit which can be used as a substitute for cornmeal.

Grits are ground versions of corn soaked in an alkaline solution. Grits have a creamy, soft texture with a mild flavor and can be used instead of cornmeal readily. You may not be able to use them in lighter or airier recipes since they are denser than cornmeal. Use it to prepare pancakes or breads.

3. Polenta

Polenta

Polenta is nothing but ground yellow corn with a coarse texture. Polenta has more sweetness than cornmeal and is a very good alternative for cornmeal. In fact, cornmeal is referred to as polenta in some places. Depending on the desired consistency, either use polenta as such or grind them to replace cornmeal. 

4. Corn Chips

Corn Chips

You might be thinking that I am joking with this. Believe me, corn chips can actually replace cornmeal if you are really in a ‘Code Red’ situation. Grind a few corn chips in a food processor or blender until you get the texture of cornmeal.

Coming to flavor, corn chips have an intense corn flavor, making them good alternatives for cornmeal. They may have added salt to it which can enhance the flavor of your recipes that call for cornmeal. If not desired, simply go for unsalted corn chips.

5. Corn Flakes

Corn Flakes

Have a pack of Kellog’s Corn Flakes in your pantry? Grab’em, grind’em and crush’em to wonderfully replace cornmeal in your recipes. Made from toasting flakes of corn, corn flakes have a great taste of corn and crunchy texture and can easily substitute for cornmeal. Go for normal corn flakes to replace cornmeal as flavored corn flakes may alter the taste of your recipe.

6. Masa Harina

Masa Harina

Masa harina means dough flour in Spanish. Grinding fine corn kernels, which are soaked in an alkaline solution, mostly calcium hydroxide, gives you masa harina. It can be white, yellow or blue in color.

Masa harina has a buttery, nutty flavor and a smooth texture, making it a good alternative to cornmeal. You can choose masa harina if you are not bothered with the textural differences, and all you are looking for is flavor.

7. Tortilla Chips

Tortilla Chips

Tortilla chips are made using coarsely ground masa from either fresh masa or dry flour. They have a light, crispy texture and a corn flavor as well. Although many flavors are available, opt for corn-based tortilla chips to replace cornmeal. Tortilla chips can be crushed or ground in a food processor to substitute for cornmeal in recipes.

7 Best Non-Corn Based Substitutes For Cornmeal

Let us talk about a bunch of non-corn based substitutes for cornmeal. The best seven among them are:

1. Wheat Flour

Wheat Flour

Wheat flour can primarily fulfill the role of cornmeal. It can give a crunchy, dense texture to the products in your recipe. It is very cheap, easily available and almost found in your kitchen anytime.

The only downside is that you may not get the corn flavor that you aspire for since wheat flour and cornmeal have different bases of grains. To get the taste of cornmeal, you may want to add sugar in your recipes.

2. Rice Flour

Rice Flour

Care to experiment? Use rice flour instead of cornmeal in your recipes. Rice flour can give you a smooth texture and like wheat flour, it shall not give you the taste of corn. Try adding any other ingredient with rice flour to emulate the taste and flavor of corn if you wish to emulate cornmeal in your recipes.

3. Ground Oats

Ground Oats

Ground oats can very much give you the crunchy texture that cornmeal gives in your recipe. Oats are a good source of soluble fiber and help in reducing cholesterol, along with other potential health benefits. Being a very healthy ingredient, you can use oats as an alternative for cornmeal. Make sure you grind the oats before using them as a substitute. 

4. Semolina

Semolina

Semolina is a flour obtained from grinding durum wheat. It has a dark color, with a coarse texture akin to cornmeal. It has an earthy, nutty flavor and can be used to make pizza dough, muffins and bread toppings. Semolina gives you the crunchy texture like cornmeal and it is pretty much an easily available ingredient.

5. Ground Flaxseed

Ground Flaxseed

Flaxseed has a mild earthy flavor and a crispy, chewy texture when ground. They can replace cornmeal in recipes but will give a different flavor. Flaxseed is rich protein and low in carbs making it a very healthy substitute for cornmeal. To overcome the bitter taste it has, add a sweetener of your choice when replacing cornmeal in your recipes.

6. Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs

You all know about this favorite coating ingredient – breadcrumbs! Breadcrumbs, as you know, are obtained by drying bread. They can be either dry or fresh crumbs. They have a coarse texture and have a pleasant, mild flavor.

In a pinch, breadcrumbs can be substituted for cornmeal in recipes for the characteristic texture of cornmeal that you wish for. They are not suitable for baking recipes as they can get burnt easily.

7. Nuts

Nuts

Nuts are vital for a healthy diet. They are loaded with immense nutritional benefits and have many culinary uses as well. Nuts are prominent ingredients in matters of substitution, and cornmeal is not an exception.

Nuts can be ground or mashed and used in lieu of cornmeal in any recipe. Slight flavor differences may arise, but texturally they are great, healthy substitutes for cornmeal. You can choose any type of nut-based on the nature of your recipe for substituting cornmeal.

Short Recap

That must have been an exhaustive read on the best cornmeal substitutes, right? Let me make it easy for you to remember the details with the help of some points.

Corn-based Substitutes: The best cornmeal substitutes based on corn are cornflour, corn grits, polenta, corn chips, corn flakes, masa harina, and tortilla chips.

Non-corn-based Substitutes: The best cornmeal substitutes not based on corn are wheat flour, rice flour, ground oats, ground flaxseed, semolina, nuts, and breadcrumbs.

Flavor: The best cornmeal substitutes in terms of flavor are corn grits, polenta, and cornflour.

Texture: The best cornmeal substitutes in terms of texture are corn grits, polenta, and breadcrumbs.

Final Musings

There you go. I made your job of finding the best corn-based and non-corn-based substitutes for cornmeal quite easy. Remember me when you have a quick bite of cornbread made using any of these substitutes. Don’t forget to let me know what worked the best. See you around!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the substitute for cornmeal for frying?

Any type of flour – wheat flour or rice flour – can be used as a substitute for cornmeal for frying.

Can I use cornstarch instead of cornmeal?

Cornstarch is not a recommended substitute for cornmeal due to the differences in texture.

Is cornflour and cornmeal the same?

Corn flour and cornmeal are not the same. Corn flour is the fine powder obtained from grinding dried and milled corn. Cornmeal is the same but has a coarse texture, and this makes it different from cornflour.

What can I use instead of cornmeal when baking bread?

Corn grits, breadcrumbs, semolina and ground oats can be used instead of cornmeal when baking bread.

What is a cornmeal substitute for pizza?

Semolina flour or flour is a good cornmeal substitute for pizza.

What is the UK equivalent of cornmeal?

In the UK, cornmeal is referred to as polenta. 

Can I use all-purpose flour instead of cornmeal?

All-purpose flour or wheat flour are good replacements for cornmeal.

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