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Jan 6, 2006 12:41 PM

masa verses masa herina

  • n

Anyone know the difference between masa and masa herina? Can one be substituted for the other?

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  1. masa is the fresh dough from the ground corn and is very perishable. Masa Harina is the same product but dehydrated which you reconstitute to make tortillas etc.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      Furthermore, masa harina can be used for all the same things that masa is (e.g., tamales, tortillas) by adding fat, liquids, and/or seasoning, but the end product will not be as good. Masa harina has a finer ground, which results in a denser and homogeneous final texture, and simply has less corn flavor than fresh masa. Always use fresh masa over dried if you have the option. Note that most places that sell fresh masa offer both plain masa, often called "masa para tortillas" or "masa regular," as well as masa that has been prepared for tamales, called "masa para tamales" or "masa preparada."


      1. re: nja

        Excellent explaination of it all!! They also sell the dry masa for "tamales' which is a courser ground than Masa Harina. This is the Dry Masa I have at home and use almost exclusively, even with Pizza stone! :)


    2. I didn't phrase my original question correctly. I should have specified dry masa flour verses dry masa harina flour. Can't put my finger on it, but I vaguely remember the distinction being that masa harina is bathed in some sort of line solution before it's dried and ground. I have a wonderful chili recipe. Somehow I lucked out the first time I made it and found dried masa harina in the store. Since that time I can't seem to find it. The subsequent tries at the recipe never live up. So I'm trying to track down the difference between regular dried masa flour and dried masa harina in the hope of tweaking the recipe with substitute(s) ingredients. The masa harina imparted a subtle lime flavor, and rich mouth feel ~ hard to explain, but unmistakable.

      3 Replies
      1. re: n

        As I mentioned, Masa Harina is finer and they do sell a Masa for Tamales which is more 'rustic' in corn taste so the lime that is in both would not shine through. The FINEST (as in finest ground) Masa Harina that is sold is Quaker Brand (Yes, as in Quaker Oats)... The Maseca Masa Harina is still a little 'clumpier'. My mother is a Quaker girl all that way...


        1. re: Dommy!

          In case it isn't clear, in this context 'lime' is slaked lime (in Spanish, 'cal'), calcium hydroxide, not the citrus. It is actually alkaline and bitter tasting, rather than acid. There may be some residual lime in the corn used to make masa, depending on how thoroughly the corn has been washed, and whether any of the lime loosened husk has been left on. Commercially produced masa harina should have little of this residual lime.

        2. re: n

          'harina' is the Spanish word for 'flour'. Masa means 'dough' or more specifically 'corn dough'.

          So I don't understand the distinction that you are making between 'masa flour' and 'masa harina flour'.

          Rick Bayless describes Masa Harina as:
          "fresh corn masa that has been force dried and then powdered. It is not at all the same as fine-ground corn meal [see the Southern cornbread thread], in either taste or application. It is certainly more readily available ... than the quick-perishing fresh masa, but the flavor is a little different...."
          Quaker and Maseca are to common brands.

          I do use masa harina (a tablespoon or two) as thickener in chili. As such it is going to contribute to the mouth feel of the chili, but I don't think it contributes much flavor.

          One dish where masa harina is a major ingredient is champurrado, a thick drink (or thin pudding) made with masa harina, and flavored with chocolate, brown sugar and cinamon. With other flavors it is called atole. Corn starch can also be used as thickener, but the result is much smoother.