What is masa harina?

Masa harina is a corn flour made from dried and ground nixtamalized corn (corn that has been treated with an alkaline solution). It is commonly used in Mexican and Central American cuisine to make tortillas, sopes, tamales, gorditas, and other traditional dishes.

red, yellow and blue masa harina on a plate made of barro.
This masa harina is from Masienda, and it’s my favorite.

Masa is the Spanish word for dough.

How is masa harina made?

Masa harina is made from dried corn kernels soaked in lime water, a process called “nixtamalization.” This process helps soften the kernels and remove the outer hull, imparting a distinct flavor and aroma.

The soaked kernels are ground into fine flour and used to make tortillas, tamales, and other traditional Mexican dishes.

Masa harina different colors

White masa harina is made from white corn and has a pale yellow color.

Yellow masa harina is made from yellow corn and has a deeper yellow color. It has a slightly sweeter taste.

Blue masa harina is made from blue corn and has a blue-gray color. Blue corn contains antioxidants, essential vitamins, and minerals such as vitamin B3, magnesium, and zinc. Blue corn has a lower glycemic index than traditional yellow or white corn. It is environmentally friendly because it is drought resistant, making it a more sustainable crop option.

Red masa harina is made from red corn, a variety of corn with a red or purple color. It is also known as “maiz morado” or “purple corn.” Red corn has a higher antioxidant content than yellow or white corn, which may have some health benefits.

My favorite brands of masa harina

Some common brands of masa harina that are available in the United States include:

Masienda: This is my favorite masa harina ever. I love their product, their branding, and most of all, their mission to help Mexican heirloom corn producers. Order online.

Maseca: This is one of the most popular and widely available brands of masa harina. A Mexican company makes it, which you can find in supermarkets or online. Very easy to find.

Bob’s Red Mill: Bob’s Red Mill is a popular natural food company that offers a masa harina made from organic non-GMO corn. It can be found in many natural food stores, Latin markets, and online.

Three color tortillas on a plate made of barro.
Three different color corn tortillas.

Different types of masa

  • Fresh masa: This is the traditional corn masa made by grinding nixtamalized corn into a dough-like consistency. It is used to make tortillas, tamales, and other traditional dishes.
  • Masa harina: This masa is made by dehydrating fresh masa and then reconstituting it with water. It is used for tamales and tortillas, similar to the instant masa harina.
  • Prepared masa: This masa is sold pre-made and ready for making tortillas and other dishes. It is usually found in grocery stores or supermarkets and is commonly used to make commercial tortillas and tamales.
  • Masa para tamales: This is a specially designed masa for making tamales; it is thicker than regular masa and has a higher fat content, which makes it more moist and flavorful.

Frequently asked questions

Favorite recipes with masa

Alejandra Graf
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