This always happens right when you’re getting ready to make something. You look in the pantry, sure there was some cornmeal in there somewhere, but there isn’t. You don’t have any cornmeal on hand. So what is a good substitute for cornmeal is your next thought.
Cornmeal is the key ingredient in cornbread, cornmeal pancakes, and cornmeal scones. It’s not something you think about needing for every day cooking, but is a staple that you often have in the pantry for when you want to mix up a batch of cornbread.
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If you don’t have any on hand, that’s okay because there are a number of good cornmeal substitutes, and you can even make your own. So read on to find out all the details.
What is Cornmeal?
Cornmeal is made by grinding yellow, white, or blue corn with a grinder or roller. It produces a ground corn that ranges in texture from fine to coarse grounds. The texture of cornmeal can range from fine, medium to course.
Because it’s made just by grinding dried corn, it doesn’t contain any gluten or additional ingredients, unless the manufacturer chose to add it, which is very rare.
It’s used in recipes like bread and cakes, but also is used to make a crispy crust or breading on fish, chicken or corn cakes.
The Best Cornmeal Substitutes
If you’re looking for cornmeal substitutes that are both flavorful and tender, there are a few different options. Having a few of these substitutes on hand will come in handy in a pinch, plus each of these ingredients can be used for various other recipes.
There are two ways you might need to substitute cornmeal. You might be replacing the corn flavor, or you might be replacing the texture of the cornmeal. Knowing what you need it for will help a lot in determining which substitute is the best option for your recipe.
#1 Corn Flour
Corn flour is a very finely ground corn. More so than corn meal. It’s one of the best substitutes for cornmeal in breads and cakes because its texture won’t take away from the light and soft texture of a cake, like grits or another courser substitute will.
You just need to be sure not to confuse corn flour with cornstarch, which is very find white powder made from the starches in corn. Cornstarch can be used as a thickener for soups, but it can’t be used as a substitute for corn meal.
#2 Corn Grits
Corn grits are a courser version of cornmeal, so it’s not the best choice for lighter, airier recipes, like cakes, but pancakes and cornbread are fine to make with corn grits. They’re made from dried and ground corn, like cornmeal, though grits can also be made from hominy, which is corn that’s been treated to remove the hull.
Corn grits is good substitute for putting on the baking tray to keep pizza dough from sticking. It shouldn’t be used in breading because the grind is too big and hard. It needs to cook and rehydrate to become soft.
Polenta is coarse ground cornmeal that tastes sweeter than grits. Polenta is made solely from corn, primarily eight-row flint corn from Italy, which contains a hard starch center. It cooks up creamier than its counterparts, but can be used successfully as a substitute for cornmeal.
#4 Semolina Flour
One of the best substitutes for cornmeal, for texture, is semolina flour. Semolina is a coarse flour that looks and feels a lot like cornmeal. It’s made from durum wheat and has a course texture, and yellow color, but it’s also high in gluten.
You can add it to breads and cakes and use it as a breading for fish and chicken, just the way you would cornmeal. It adds a similar crunch, though it doesn’t have the sweet corn flavor.
#5 Corn Flakes
Do you have a box of Corn Flakes in your pantry? If so, then you’re in luck! You can easily crush Corn Flakes and use them as a substitute for cornmeal in a recipe requiring crunch and corn flavor.
Corn Flakes are a breakfast cereal made from toasting flakes of corn. Corn is the main ingredient, although malt extract, sugar and salt are added as well for additional flavor, though they aren’t overly sweet. Grind them up in a food processor or blender to use them as a corn meal substitute.
#6 Tortilla Chips
What could be simpler? It may sound odd, but don’t knock it til you try it. Corn is the main ingredient in tortilla chips, though they also contain salt and oil. As long as those extra ingredients won’t throw off your recipe too much, tortilla chips can be a great substitute for corn meal. in a recipe that needs crunch, like breading fish, or flavor, like soup.
Cornmeal: How To Make It At Home?
Cornmeal can also be made from popcorn, fresh corn, or frozen corn! Depending on the recipe, you can choose yellow or white corn. If you don’t have a dehydrator to dry out the corn, it is best to use plain popcorn.
- Cook the corn to almost done, then cut it off the cob. Place the kernels on a dehydrator tray lined with parchment paper. You can also place pre-cooked frozen corn directly in the dehydrator.
- Set your dehydrator to 135°F (57°C) and let it dry for 8 – 12 hours, if you’re using fresh or frozen corn.
- Check the corn at about six hours, break up any large chunks, and shake or flip it to ensure even dehydration.
- To grind your dehydrated corn or popcorn, use a spice grinder, food processor, or grain mill. Grind until you reach the coarseness you require.
Is it possible to substitute corn flour for cornmeal?
You can use cornmeal and cornflour interchangeably in recipes, but they will produce slightly different results. For example, cornmeal produces a grittier, coarser texture than corn flour. However, you can make use of cornflour when making pancakes or muffins.
What is the difference between cornstarch and cornflour?
Since cornstarch is primarily starch and does not contain fat or protein, it cannot be used in baking in the same way as cornflour. However, a crispy finish can also be achieved by adding cornstarch to breaded or fried foods.
Can I use wheat flour instead of cornflour?
If you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, you shouldn’t use wheat flour to replace cornstarch since it is not gluten-free. However, you can use wheat flour to replace cornflour if you don’t have a reaction to it. The best results can be achieved using twice as much flour as cornflour.
Cornmeal is often used to make cornbread, and it forms a delicious crust on a variety of foods, including fish and chicken. If you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute with the various options we’ve laid out above, depending on the requirements of the recipe.
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Laura is a home cook who loves making new recipes and finding new favorite things to eat, whether at home or abroad. She also runs a popular travel blog and spends a lot of her time traveling for food.