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Jun 24, 2007 10:50 AM

Masa harina vs. Goya's "Masarepa"?

My humitas recipe calls for masa harina, but all I could find in my lame Pathmark was something called Masarepa, by Goya, which is also labeled Pre-cooked Harina de Maiz Amarilla. It's just fine ground corn meal enriched with thiamine/niacin etc. There is a recipe on the back for arepas that uses just this corn meal, salt, and water.

Can I use this for the humitas, or should I go searching for real masa harina?

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  1. What's the nationality of your humitas recipe? Ecuador, Peru, other?

    I'm familiar with the Ecuadorian ones, but haven't tried to make my own. Most recipes call for field corn that is fresher than that used for Mexican tamales. There is also a distinction between the finer masa harina used for tortillas, and a coarser one intended for tamales.

    In any, my gut sense is the masarepa is too fine for humitas. It is intended for arepas, the corn cakes popular in Columbia and Venezuela.

    However, my package of masarepa from Venezulas says it can be also used for empanadas, hallacas, bollos pelones, tamales, papusas, tortillas, etc,.


    4 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      It's a recipe I got in Mexico. It calls for corn kernels in addition to the masa harina, plus queso fresco, eggs, etc. This masarepa is finer ground than regular corn meal, but it's not quite the consistency of flour--a bit grainier.

      1. re: travelmad478

        You are right. Masarepa isn't quite a fine as masa harina. It is grainy like a fine sand. My Ortiz book also says that arepa corn has a larger, starchier kernel. Bayless recommends using a mix of quick cooking grits and tortilla masa harina to get the coarser texture of tamale masa harina.

        Your recipe using corn kernels along with masa harina seeks to copy the coarsely home ground corn that is traditional for humitas. One Ecuadorian recipe calls for grinding the corn fresh off the cob (rather than treated hominy), but the Ecuadorian corn is starchier than American sweet corn.

        I've found frozen butter tamales from El Salvador that remind me of the Ecuadorian ones.


        1. re: paulj

          Looking through the 'Latin &Caribbean Grocery Stores Demystified' book, I realized that the precooked nature of the masarepa may be as important as texture and corn type. That is, the corn is boiled, dried, and then ground. In contrast the masa harina is hominy that is ground and dried. The hominy treatment involves soaking, but not cooking. Mixed with water masa harina is supposed to produce a dough similar to that produced by grinding freshly made hominy - the dough that is used for tortillas.

          Tamales or humitas, depending on nationality, can be made with the starchier masa, or with fresh corn kernels (our cream corn?). I suspect that a dough could be made with masarepa, adding some oil or lard and egg, and steamed in a leaf or husk. The result could be good even if it wasn't what a Mexican or Ecuadorian grew up with.


          1. re: paulj

            Well, I made the humitas two days ago using "Masa for Tamales" that I found in one of my neighborhood Mexican groceries. It didn't say masa harina on the package either, but I figured this was as good as I was going to get. In the event, they were excellent and got raves from all my diners. These humitas are much, much lighter than tamales--they involve a lot of eggs, baking powder, and pureed corn kernels, so it's really like steamed corn pudding rather than a tamale. I like tamales, but I can only ever eat one at a meal because they're so leaden. In fact, I think I am going to adapt this humita recipe for Thanksgiving and make it as a corn pudding--it really is the non-sweet corn pudding that I have been searching for lo these many years.

    2. These are totally different products; what you bought is most used for making arepas. I don't know where you live, but masa harina is fairly widely available.

      1. If you have a health food store in town they may carry masa harina in bulk or packages, if your regular grocery doesn't.

        1. I tried to make tortillas and tamales using Areparina. Not possible! You need masa harina.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            sam How did your tamales come using masa harina? I went the clovis adult school
            to learn how to make tamales, I was taught by this Japanese girl, who`s best
            friend`s mother was from mexico, and she had been using this lady`s recipe,
            I was the only guy with 24 lady`s. I was in heaven. and they turned fantastic. and
            we used both the bought masa and the masa we made ourselves.

            1. re: bigjimbray

              bjb, great using Masa Harina, other than I have to bring the stuff from Mexico or the US. We learned to make tamales from the southern Mexican woman who cooked during the peach harvest and packing season (when Alluvial off of Herndon was all agricultural in the 50s and 60s). Are you from Clovis or Fresno?

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Sam, I am origanlly from Traver south of Kingsburg. I just sold my house in
                fresno, I lived ther about 12 yrs. east of the air port. I like going to the clovis
                adult school, I have taken 4 computer classes two cooking classes( tamales
                and soup) and a geneolgy class. I have all my relatives back to 1500 I cant
                go any farther. I love it the peach harvest with my dad when I was a kid
                in the 50`s.