Either you want to cut on your corn consumption or you just don’t have it right now in your pantry and a recipe calls for corn flour, here I bring you 8 easy to find substitutes for cornmeal.
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Is there a reason to avoid cornmeal?
Well, that’s a tough question to answer. First off, there’s what it’s made of: shockingly enough, that’s corn. Is there anything wrong with corn? Not exactly, no, but there are reasons that you might want to cut down on it. Corn comes along with a wide variety of health benefits.
It’s high in fiber, loaded with vitamin C, and includes a wide array of essential minerals like copper, zinc, magnesium, and iron. This means that corn is overall a decently healthy food, packed with good vitamins and beneficial for your digestion.
However, it’s not without its downsides. Corn is relatively high in calories, and more importantly, has a decent amount of sugar in it. What’s more, when we’re looking at cornmeal specifically, the calories increase and the amount of carbs in it goes way up.
If you’re specifically looking to lose weight, get your body looking slimmer, or gain weight in muscle, there are certainly more beneficial foods you could be eating.
So, where does this leave us? Should we totally cut out cornmeal from our lives? Not necessarily, but it’s not out of the question.
Cornmeal, like any food, can be perfectly fine when eaten in moderation. However, it is considerably high in carbs, and if you’re attempting to lose weight or bulk up in muscle, there are far better substitutes for you to consider.
On the other hand, let’s say you have no need or want to remove corn from your diet at all. There are still totally legitimate reasons you may want to try out a few substitutes for cornmeal. You may even want to look into alternatives for reasons that have nothing to do with health at all!
Cornmeal is notoriously gritty, and some people simply can’t bring themselves to enjoy the texture. Alternatively, you might just want to give yourself a challenge!
Cornmeal is such a staple ingredient that sometimes people just fall back on it. For an experienced chef, this might get boring after a while and maybe even feel too easy. What’s the harm in changing things up a bit? Whatever your reason for wanting to consume less of the stuff maybe, it’s perfectly valid. It can be difficult, however, to figure out where to begin phasing cornmeal out of your diet. Here are 8 substitutes for cornmeal to help you get started!
Best Cornmeal Substitutes
1. Corn Flour
So maybe when you’re just starting to phase out cornmeal, you still find yourself wanting some corn based foods. Maybe, you even find yourself craving cornbread!
While it sounds ludicrous to make cornbread without the classic corn ingredient, and of course we won’t be even close to corn-free with this recipe, it’s still completely possible to make delicious cornbread without needing cornmeal.
Using all-purpose flour as a base, a cornbread recipe mixed with sour cream, sugar, and of course, corn kernels, will retain that classic cornbread taste all without ever needing to use any cornmeal!
It may lack some of the texture of cornmeal, but the taste will definitely be there. This is a neat, elegant solution, and as a nice bonus, it utilizes an ingredient you probably had lying around already anyway. Maybe you could even use flour if you wanted to make cornbread, but found that you don’t have any cornmeal on hand. We don’t always feel like running out to the store, do we?
The downside to corn flour is that to be honest, it isn’t all too different from cornmeal. Now, this can absolutely be a good thing; maybe you are just looking for the closest possible replacement! If you’re trying to change things up, however, cornflour might not be what you’re after.
Sure, the texture is finer, but overall the taste is mostly the same as cornmeal, and of course, it’s still made of corn. It won’t be the biggest shake-up in the world for your diet, but for an easy, straightforward substitute for cornmeal, you can’t go wrong with corn flour.
2. Corn Grits
Corn grits serve as most likely the simplest substitute for cornmeal, as you would logically expect from two products made of corn. Who would’ve guessed? Corn grits are just about as simple and straight forward a substitute for cornmeal as you can get. However, there are some major drawbacks to it.
First off, the obvious: it’s still made of corn. If you were looking to remove corn in general from your diet, this solution obviously isn’t going to work out for you. It still carries all of the high carb headaches that come along with any corn product.
The other issue here is the texture. Half of the problems with corn grits come from the corn in the name; well, the other half comes from the grit. Some people can’t stand the grainy, gritty texture of cornmeal.
Well, if you’re one of those people, I’ve got some unfortunate news for you about these grits. Corn grits are about ten times as gritty and rough as cornmeal, so if you’re already not a big fan of the usual grittiness of cornmeal, corn grits won’t be the substitute for you.
Keep in mind how much heavier corn grits are than cornmeal. This might not be the substitute if you’re looking to make lighter, airier recipes. Instead, corn grits are well suited for foods that are naturally heartier and would actually appreciate a good bit of extra solid packing.
Some examples of this type of food might be corn bread or pancakes. In addition, grits must be cooked with more water than cornmeal would be to make up for being coarser.
3. Wheat Flour
Let’s look into a substitute that actually doesn’t have any corn in it, shall we? Wheat flour is a common, easy-to-find ingredient that you likely have in your kitchen already.
Quite frankly, it works in a very similar manner to the previously mentioned corn flour. They’re essentially the same product, just made with different base ingredients! Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Wheat flour will substitute cleanly for cornmeal in nearly any recipe that calls for it, especially cornbread.
While wheat flour seems like a perfect substitute for cornmeal, being far lower in carbs and healthier overall, it does have a big downside. It simply doesn’t taste like corn; while functional, your recipes will turn out differently when using wheat flour. There are ways to recreate that corn taste, such as sugar, but you have to know going in that wheat flour will not result in the same taste as cornmeal would.
4. Ground Oats or Breadcrumbs
Ground oats and breadcrumbs serve a similar function in terms of cornmeal substitutions. The ingredients we’ve mentioned so far lack a key aspect of cornmeal: the texture.
Now, I know, I’ve talked about how a lot of people try to avoid cornmeal because they dislike the grittiness, so why would I bring the texture up as a positive?
Well, believe it or not, there are just as many people out there who enjoy cornmeal specifically because of the texture! Will wonders never cease? Ground oats and breadcrumbs serve as a basically perfect substitute for cornmeal in recipes that use it for the texture.
The texture is the big selling point here is key. While ground oats and bread crumbs do not taste like cornmeal, it tends to not really matter because the recipes where you would use this substitute aren’t using cornmeal for the flavor anyway. If you have a recipe that calls for cornmeal for texture and you’re trying to avoid using corn products, these are really a no brainer to use. Bonus points go to ground oats for being lower in carbs than bread crumbs!
5. Ground Flaxseed
Ground flaxseed is an excellent substitute for anyone willing to sacrifice a little taste in exchange for health benefits.
Ground flaxseed is significantly better for you than corn. It’s far lower than carbs; more famously, it’s great at preventing overeating.
The high protein content suppresses your appetite and keeps you from feeling the need to eat more than you should.
Keep in mind, though, that for maximum effectiveness, flaxseeds should be eaten alongside foods with a high fiber content. This might be the overall best substitute as far as health is concerned.
Flaxseeds are quite low on calories, and on top of that keep you from consuming more of them afterwards!
Unlike corn, flaxseeds are also wonderfully low in starches and carbs. As a nice bonus, the texture is super similar to cornmeal! The downside is that the taste isn’t all that similar; ground flaxseed can be kind of bitter. Don’t worry though, you can always fix that by adding a little sweetener!
6. Tortilla Chips
Crushed up tortilla chips can serve as kind of a last-ditch way of substituting for cornmeal. Generally speaking, it can function as a substitute for cornmeal when baking something that uses cornmeal as a base, such as pancakes or cornbread.
However, while it functions at this job, it may not excel at it. Tortilla chips are of course made with corn, removing the nutritional benefit of some substitutes.
They don’t really taste like cornmeal at all, and the texture is radically different; you would be able to pick out pancakes made with tortilla chips from pancakes made with cornmeal simply by looking at them side by side.
And quite frankly, having to stand in your kitchen and crush up all of your tortilla chips is a kind of funny and ridiculous task. If you feel up to doing that, by all means don’t let me stop you, but there are certainly more elegant solutions.
Cereal, when crushed up, can function as a cornmeal substitute in the same type of way tortilla chips and breadcrumbs can.
The big advantage with cereal, though, is variety. Cereal comes in so many different types, and it’s easy to find one that will fit the recipe you’re trying to make.
Corn based cereal, such as cornflakes, can function as an excellent direct substitute. The flavor will turn out very similarly to how real cornmeal would’ve tasted.
Other types of cereal may not taste quite the same as cornmeal, but they come in other flavors and textures that may in fact suit your meal better. Simply put, there will almost definitely be a cereal that you can mix up and use as a cornmeal substitute.
However, as a general rule of thumb, you’ll probably want to use more basic tastes like cornflakes as opposed to very sugary or chocolatey cereals.
Lastly, we have the always reliable nuts. Nuts are famous for their ability to swap in for other foods, and corn meal is no exception. The fun part about nuts is that they can be ground to match the consistency of cornmeal!
Combine this with the many health benefits of nuts, such as their loads of antioxidants, and you’ve got yourself an outstanding sub in for cornmeal. As an added bonus, nuts come in a wide assortment of tastes, and many of them are somewhat similar to cornmeal!
This variety has another benefit; a wide variety of workable nuts means a wide variety of possible health benefits. On top of being famously easy to crush and mold, almonds are especially low in carbs and are beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels.
Walnuts are a great source of fatty acids. Macadamia nuts are loaded with monosaturated fats. Hazelnuts have beneficial effects in terms of warding off the risk of heart disease. Pistachios can help lower blood pressure. No matter what benefit you’re looking for, there’s likely a nut that will fit the bill.
So as you can see, there are many more substitutes for cornmeal than you’d first think! Whether you’re looking to change up the texture, in search of a healthier alternative, or maybe even just want to challenge yourself to cook more creatively, there’s a cornmeal substitute out there that will suit you perfectly. Try them out!
I’m Maria and I love cooking—and mostly EATING—food from all around the world. I’ve been sharing my abuela’s secret Latin-American recipes for the last 7 years with the world on this blog. I’ve been a full-time food blogger for many years and I’m always trying new delicious meals that don’t require a culinary degree or a Michelin-star chef. I also love traveling, cats, and knitting.