Cornmeal Substitutes You Didn’t Know Existed Before Today

Everyone has those moments where they get to prepare their meal and find that they are out of a certain essential ingredient.

There are lots of different substitutes for different food ingredients, and cornmeal is no exception to this.

There are many different ingredients that you can use as a substitute for cornmeal, and you might even have some laying around in your kitchen for you to utilize.

Cornmeal Substitutes You Didn’t Know Existed Before Today

We are going to run you through all of the different cornmeal substitutes in this article, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on your favorite meal if you have run out of it.

If you haven’t needed to use a substitute for this before, then you probably won’t even know about most of these easy substitutes for cornmeal, but you will definitely be well-informed by the end of this article.

There are lots of different recipes that use cornmeal as one of the main ingredients, and this way, you won’t have to miss out. 

What is Cornmeal?

Cornmeal is actually made from ground yellow corn, and it ranges in texture from fine to coarse grounds.

The majority of yellow cornmeal is made from what is called dent corn, which is high in starch content and has a corny texture.

Cornmeal is most commonly used for making cornbread, and it is able to form a tasty crispy crust on a variety of foods, like fish and chicken.

Cornmeal is processed through either a stone-ground that produces a coarser texture, or steel rollers that produce a finer ground. This is how we are able to get cornmeal of different consistencies. 

Is Cornmeal Different From Cornstarch?

Before we get into this article and explain all the different types of ingredients that you can substitute for cornmeal, it is important to know that cornmeal and cornstarch are two completely different things.

To avoid any confusion, we will quickly explain the difference below.

Cornstarch is actually a white type of powder that is made up of the endosperm of the corn kernel. It is more commonly used as a thickening agent in all different types of sauces and puddings, and it is much finer than cornmeal.

Cornstarch is a gluten-free product that is made only from corn, and it can be used as a substitute for flour in order to thicken the product. 

Alternatively, yellow cornmeal is a finely ground type of corn that typically uses the entire kernel. It is able to add flavor, texture, and body to a dish that is lacking in these things.

Cornmeal is used in larger quantities and has a completely different consistency and texture than cornstarch.

Things To Note When Substituting Cornmeal

Before you start substituting cornmeal for a variety of different other ingredients, you should know that the cornmeal actually has different purposes in different recipes.

Essentially, this ingredient has two different functions, and these are to add flavor or to add texture. If you are using a recipe that is using cornmeal for flavor, then you should substitute it with other corn products.

However, if you are using a recipe that requires cornmeal in order to change the texture, then you should look for a similar product that shares a similar consistency.

If you are substituting simply because you are allergic to corn, then you should obviously be looking for products that do not contain any corn at all. 

Cornmeal Substitutes

Now that any confusion has been cleared up, we can get into explaining all of the different substitutes that you can use for cornmeal.

There are lots of substitutes that can perfectly replicate the uses of cornmeal, making it seem as though there is absolutely no difference at all. 

Corn Grits

One of the best and most ideal substitutes for cornmeal is corn grits, and they are both corn products.

Grits are perfect for both cooking and baking purposes, and they are actually slightly coarser than standard cornmeal, which means that you will need to use a smaller amount than you would with cornmeal. 

This is especially important for any recipes that are liquid-based. If you are specifically looking for the texture, then you can grind the grits and this should replicate the texture of cornmeal. 

This is known to be one of the best cornmeal substitutes, so this should be the first thing that you look for in your pantry before you move on to another alternative.

They are essentially smaller bits of corn that are finely ground, and many actually confuse the two products due to their similar appearance. However, they are slightly bigger than cornmeal, which will slightly alter the texture, but not noticeably so. 

With this substitute, you will be getting both the flavor and texture that you are looking for, and your dish will be more or less the same as it would have been if you used cornmeal. 

Something else that you should note is that if you are using corn grits to make a batter, then you will need to use a lower amount than you would with cornmeal. This is so you can balance it out.


Another popular substitute for cornmeal is polenta, which is another ideal match.

It is coarse ground corn that is actually available in a wide variety of different grades that range from coarse to fine. 

This will allow you to choose a consistency that works well with your chosen recipe, depending on what it requires from you.

If you would have used coarse cornmeal for the dish, then you should instead use a coarse polenta as a substitute.

Something else that you should remember is that you can evenly substitute corn flour for polenta flour if you ever need to. 

In some places, cornmeal is actually still referred to as polenta, though they are two different things. This just goes to show how similar the two products really are in terms of use within recipes.

When it is being used as an alternative to cornmeal, the ratio will not typically change, though if it is coarse, you should use a slightly reduced amount.

Other Potential Substitutes

While these two are the main ingredients that are used for substituting, there are also some other things that you can try.

If it is just the texture that you are trying to substitute, you can try and use things like semolina, ground oats, and even breadcrumbs. These should provide you with the consistency that you are looking for.

However, if it is the taste and flavor of cornmeal that you are trying to replicate, then you might find the process a little more difficult. Though, other corn products should be able to do the job.

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