Masa harina is the key ingredient in masa dough used to make some of our favorite foods such as tamales, pupusas, and tortillas. Created during a process called nixtamalization, masa harina is produced by soaking dried flint corn kernels in calcium hydroxide or another alkali, grinding for further refinement, and finally dehydrating the flour into the product sold in stores. This process has been around for thousands of years and allows the corn flour to rehydrate more easily than ground cornmeal. Look for masa harina in your local grocery store in the international food section.
Flavor and Texture of Masa
Depending on the color of corn used, masa harina can have a slightly different flavor. Overall, this ingredient has a warm nutty taste, but masa harina made with white corn is a bit sweeter than other varieties. Yellow and blue corn can also be used, however white corn is the most common variant sold in stores. In regards to texture, masa harina is ground more finely than cornmeal and is similar to the texture of an all-purpose flour. Once rehydrated, the corn flour becomes a pliable dough almost instantly.
Storage and Usage of Masa
For best results and the longest shelf life, keep unopened masa harina in a cool, dark spot such as the pantry. Once opened, it should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator or frozen. Most importantly, be sure to keep your masa harina dry as it will get clumpy if moisture finds its way into the mix.
Try using masa harina to make deconstructed tamales with our Braised Pork with Tamales recipe. Wow the crowd with a different take on shepherd’s pie by whipping up our Carnitas-Tamale Shepherd’s Pie. Or put on your cozy pajamas and make it a comfort food night with our White Bean Chili with Masa Dumplings.