Cornmeal is a common carb ingredient that is used in a lot of different types of foods from pizza crusts to things like polenta, crackers, and even pancakes.
However, much like the name suggests, cornmeal is made with corn and there are people who try to avoid this type of product.
If you’re one of those people, you need a good substitute for cornmeal that will produce similar flavor and results but will have different ingredients.
Whatever it is you’re making, and whatever your reason for needing a substitute, you need to know your options.
So what is a good substitute for cornmeal? The best substitutes for cornmeal are polenta, semolina, and even ground chips. These substitutes can generally be used in place of cornmeal for most recipes. Other possible substitutes include corn flour, corn grits, breadcrumbs, and ground flaxseed.
In this guide, we will share with you the 9 best substitutes for cornmeal, including breaking it down to let you know just what they are best for.
Whether you’re making pizza, corn dogs, or something entirely different, we’ve got you covered here!
Keep reading to learn the 9 best substitutes for cornmeal and more.
Choosing a Substitute for Cornmeal
There are a few things you should know before you just jump into choosing a cornmeal substitute. While there are a lot of different options, you should be familiar with what you are making and how it might affect your dish as well.
This portion of our guide is simply to share some valuable information with you so that you can make a fully informed decision in the end.
Let’s start with the basics. To choose a substitution for cornmeal, you really need to understand just what it is and what the purpose behind it is as well.
Cornmeal is made from corn, much like the name would suggest. It is made specifically with ground yellow corn.
Cornmeal comes in different consistencies as well. It can be coarse or it can be fine – it just depends on what your needs are or what’s available even at your local stores.
The reason many people look for substitutes is that cornmeal is traditionally made from dent corn. Dent corn has a high corn flavor and texture but also tends to be very high in starch.
Cornmeal is common for making things like cornbread but there are a number of bread and crust recipes that also call for cornmeal for that similar texture and flavor. It creates a flavorful and crisp crust layer that people really like.
Cornmeal Vs. Cornstarch
Cornmeal and cornstarch are not the same thing, although they are often mistaken to be the same.
They are vastly different and really have different purposes as well. They are both made from corn but that is where their similarities end.
Cornstarch is a gluten-free product and is primarily used as a thickener. Sometimes it is used with flour or as a substitute for flour.
This white powder is made from the endosperm of corn kernels. The primary use for cornstarch is to be a thickening agent. It is very fine in nature.
Cornmeal uses the full corn kernel. It is typically used to add flavor or even texture to a dish and is more often used for things like bread, crusts, doughs, and other similar items.
Its sole purpose is to add some texture or hearty flavor to a dish that might otherwise be a bit boring.
Takeaway for Substitutions
There are a ton of different substitution options out there so here are some final notes about choosing one.
The first thing you need to determine is what exactly is the purpose of cornmeal in your recipe? Cornmeal can be used for different things and might have a different responsibility in some recipes.
Cornmeal is generally used to either add flavor or add texture. Which of these is essential to the recipe you are making will ultimately define what your substitute should or should not be.
For example, if it is for the flavor, you will want another corn product for a similar flavor compliment.
Here are some great examples.
Best Cornmeal Substitute for Pizza
In pizza, cornmeal is primarily used for texture. So in this instance, you don’t need to worry as much about the corn flavor but rather about a similar build and texture.
You can use something like a flour substitute or even oats, nuts, or flaxseed as a reliable substitute here.
Best Cornmeal Substitute for Corndogs
Corndogs are obvious, where the name implies that corn is part of the flavor of the breading and not just the texture. Your substitutes here will most likely need to also have corn in them.
Try something like corn flakes, corn grits, or corn flour. You can even reduce the corn and mix it with another subsisted if you like.
Best Cornmeal Substitute on a Baking Sheet
When it comes to baking, pay close attention to what you are baking.
When you’re working on a baking sheet, you can most likely just use some form of flour to substitute for cornmeal, depending on what you are making. Try something like corn flour, wheat flour, or even ground flaxseed.
The 9 Best Substitutes for Cornmeal Reviewed
Now that you’ve got some background information, let’s figure out just what substitutes you can look for.
Remember that there are a lot of great options out there but you need to consider your recipe as a whole and first determine what the intention of the cornmeal is and then work from there to choose a suitable replacement.
Below, you will find our top picks for the 9 best substitutes for cornmeal.
1. Corn Flour
If you need a substitute that still uses corn but maybe not as heavily, you can try corn flour.
This is a great option for things like cornbread or corn dogs when you really need that corn flavor as part of the mix. You can also mix corn flour with another type of flour to reduce corn if you need.
For a great example, you can alter a recipe like cornbread or pizza dough to use corn flower instead of cornmeal.
It’s not a huge difference but the key here is you are reducing the total amount of corn and the type of corn used in making the item.
In these cases, we recommend using a traditional all-purpose flour of your choice and supplementing corn flour in with it.
This way, you still get the flavor that you’re looking for but you use less corn and a better corn product overall as opposed to cornmeal.
Recommendation: Bob’s Red Mill Corn Flour
Bob’s Red Mill corn flour is made with whole grain corn and is stone ground to create a whole grain corn flour that is easy to digest.
The stone-ground process retains nutrients. The one and only ingredient here is whole grain corn so there are no additives or concerning ingredients to watch out for.
2. Corn Grits
If you want the simplest possible solution, turn to corn grits. This is another option if you need the corn flavor but also want that texture that cornmeal gives you.
It is again made from corn so you get the hearty corn flavor. This substitute is simple and straightforward and you can pretty much substitute in equal portions.
This won’t remove corn if that is your purpose of looking for a substitute so keep that in mind.
We do have several options without corn in them as well so keep reading for those. Corn grits are known for their gritty texture so you won’t be able to use it for just any recipe.
If you decide to use corn grits, be sure to use it in a recipe that the grittiness won’t bother you as it is even more gritty than cornmeal is. This is going to be best suited for things like cornbread or possibly corndogs.
Recommendation: Palmetto Farms Mixed Stone Ground Grits
These grits from Palmetto Farms use a combination of yellow and white corn that is ground to perfection for grits. They are stone-ground, using the most reliable grinding process.
The nice thing about these is they are wheat-free and gluten-free. They just use all-natural corn with no additives to be concerned about.
3. Wheat Flour
Wheat flour is a really great substitute for baking items and things like pancakes and waffles or pizza dough.
This is because it is a flour item with a similar texture and yet it doesn’t have any corn. So, if you don’t specifically need corn flavor, this is the way to go.
Wheat flour is very easy to find and you can use it for plenty of other things in your kitchen as well.
Wheat flour is typically made using things like wheat, grain, and flour. It’s going to be extremely similar to corn flour but it will be free of corn if you are working to stay away from corn in your diet.
This is flour in every bit of the way. It’s made with wheat specifically, rather than corn like corn flour is. This is probably our top substitute recommendation if you don’t need the corn flavor as part of whatever recipe it is you are making!
Recommendation: King Arthur Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour
King Arthur whole wheat flour is 100% whole grain and is part of the Non-GMO project verified. It is also kosher.
They use sprouted whole wheat and mill that so that it retains the nutritional value in the milling process. This is a quality company with a quality product.
If you need a good substitute to make breading but don’t want to use cornmeal, you can try breadcrumbs.
This is where texture comes into play. Cornmeal has a distinct texture that is just a touch on the gritty side. This is why it is used for breading so often – that and the flavor it adds.
If you don’t want to lose the texture in the breading, breadcrumbs can be the perfect alternative for you. If you are specifically looking for a substitute that won’t lose the texture you’re after, this is a really great option!
You won’t have any corn flavor but you will get the overall same texture results. You can add some cornflour if you’re looking for flavor as well.
Recommendation: Panko Bread Crumbs
Panko is perhaps one of the most popular breadcrumb options out there and these are a whole wheat offering. You can find Panko breadcrumbs in a variety of styles and flavors.
They come as traditional breadcrumbs or may come seasoned as well. In most cases, you will just want to use original or whole wheat unless you prefer a seasoned option.
5. Ground Oats
Ground oats are another substitute that is perfect when you’re looking for a similar texture. Again, you won’t have the corn flavor here but if you are after texture for a substitute with no corn, this is a really great option.
Ground oats can be used for just about any substitute of cornmeal, except for things where corn is an essential flavor.
Substitute for things like pizza, breading, and other similar items where the corn flavor is not a hearty part of the mix but the gritty texture it.
Again, this will not have any corn flavor so if you need that touch of corn flavor, you could add a small amount of corn flour.
This reduces your corn and gives you an overall similar result in the end without sacrificing the flavor too much. You will most likely need to grind the oats yourself if you don’t want them chunky.
Recommendation: Happy Belly Old Fashioned Oats
These are the Amazon brand of old fashioned oats and they are a great option.
Made with whole grain rolled oats, these are small so you can use them whole but you can also grind them further easily as well, depending on what your recipe needs are.
If you want something that has a similar flavor as well as a similar texture, take a look at polenta.
Polenta is made with ground up corn kernels so it uses corn but polenta uses yellow corn, rather than white corn, which sets it apart from cornmeal distinctly.
Polenta tends to be just slightly more coarse than cornmeal but it is perhaps the substitute that will be most like cornmeal in every way.
In the end, you might notice more of a yellow hue and possibly a slightly sweeter flavor but these will not be huge differences.
If you choose to use polenta, we do recommend that you grind it up just a little bit more in order to get your consistency more similar to that of cornmeal.
This will also help you out a bit when you are measuring so you can measure equal amounts rather than trying to guess how much you should substitute to get similar results.
You could also use polenta flour here as well. It will taste similar to corn flour but will be just a touch grittier to give you a texture more similar to cornmeal.
Recommendation: Colavita Polenta
Colavita is a great polenta option that is made in Italy. It is perfect for baking purposes and will do well as a cornmeal substitute. This polenta is gluten-free, made with natural yellow corn.
Polenta also has a lot of other uses, particularly if you like authentic Italian dishes so this will be the perfect time to try some new things!
7. Ground Corn Chips
You may have thought of using ground up corn chips for breading and other similar uses. Perhaps you’ve used them for casserole toppings and things like that as well.
Ground corn chips can be the perfect substitute for cornmeal, particularly for breading or possibly even your pizza dough alternatives.
Just grab those corn chips in your pantry or a new bag from the store if necessary and grind them up to a semi-powder consistency.
They don’t have to be ground perfectly because you will want them slightly gritty to maintain that texture like cornmeal.
Just grind them until they reach a similar consistency to cornmeal and they make an almost identical substitute for just about any dish that calls for cornmeal.
If you grind them right, you can just substitute them in equal proportions with cornmeal.
We’re not going to make a product recommendation on this one. You most likely already have some in your pantry or have a quick go-to at your local grocery that you use.
If you are concerned about the salt, look for lightly salted or just original corn chips that don’t have extra salt.
Semolina produces a similar texture but a uniquely different flavor than cornmeal. If you’re looking for flavor and texture, you can always add a touch of polenta or corn flour to even out the differences.
Semolina sometimes is known for having a slight hint of earthiness to the flavor so this will be something to be aware of. However, the texture is coarse, which makes the texture more similar to cornmeal than a traditional flour.
Semolina is flour but they grind the wheat kernels up in a different milling process so this is what creates the coarser results in the end that are more similar to cornmeal in texture.
This gives you a suitable alternative that does not contain corn but is not quite as fine as wheat flour.
You can use this in equal proportions to substitute for cornmeal for any recipe. If you need the corn flavor, add a small amount of corn flour.
Recommendation: Naturevibe Botanicals Semolina Flour
This is a great option for Semolina flour as it is made with 100% pure Semolina. It is made in India, which is the traditional locale for this particular type of flour product.
It is high in both fiber and protein and is also an excellent source of iron. They produce in such a way that it retains valuable nutrients.
9. Ground Flaxseed
Finally, we leave you with one more option that has a similar texture to cornmeal but is different in flavor.
However, it makes a really great substitute, and just like with the other options, you can always mix in a touch of corn flour if you really want that corn flavor as part of your recipe.
Ground flaxseed can be used for any type of substitute, from pizza to breading, and anything else as well and it will do really well because of the texture comparison.
The flavors here do vary quite a bit but flaxseed is known for its nutritional values so it is a great healthy alternative.
There are some recipes out there for cornbread made with ground flaxseed and you might just be impressed at the results if you give it a try.
Again, if you’re reducing corn but want the flavor, add a touch of corn flour for a closer comparison.
Recommendation: Viva Natural Organic Ground Flaxseed
If you already have flaxseed on hand, you can always grind it on your own. However, this ground flaxseed is a great option if you don’t want to be stuck doing your own grinding.
It is both smooth and fresh, so it works perfectly. The only ingredient here is cold-milled ground flaxseed as well.
We hope that this guide to finding the best substitute for cornmeal is a valuable resource for you.
There are several options out there but we made every effort to narrow it down to the top options and also share how they might compare or differ as well.
Don’t be afraid to step out and try new things. You just might be surprised!
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