Corn flour is a corn product that can be used for everything from baked goods like cornbread to breading for fried chicken and fish. It is different from the British cornflour (one word, not two), which Americans call corn starch. It is not always easy to find. If you need some corn flour in a hurry, here are some substitutes that you may already have in your kitchen.
Your best bet: Cornmeal
Both cornmeal and corn flour are made by grinding corn kernels. Cornmeal is a coarse grind while corn flour is fine. There is no difference in composition, so the flavors of both are the same. The two also look alike.
The big difference has to do with texture. Baked goods made with cornmeal tend to be gritty while those made with corn flour are smooth. For example, if you make cornbread with cornmeal instead of corn flour, it may be more crumbly than one made with corn flour; however, the flavor and appearance should still be the same.
Cornmeal may not be as effective as corn flour for breading, but it can still work with a little help. Mixing it with cornstarch or wheat flour may help it stick to the exterior of meat or vegetables. You can also try sifting the cornmeal through a fine sieve to get the finer grains, which you can use like corn flour.
A decent second choice: Masa harina
Sometimes referred to as masa, masa harina consists of corn kernels that have been soaked in limewater (a dilute calcium hydroxide solution) and cooked before having their hulls removed. Like corn itself, the process of making masa originated in Central America. After being processed, the grains are dried for later use or used fresh.
Masa has different properties from regular corn flour, but many of those differences may be considered improvements. For example, the processing makes it possible to use masa to form a dough. It is not possible to make dough with regular corn flour alone.
More benefits come in the form of improved nutrition since masa is considerably richer in various vitamins and minerals than regular corn flour. Masa also offers a more robust and more distinctive flavor than unprocessed corn flour. The taste is a strong nutty one that you might recognize from corn chips.
In a pinch: Masarepa
Often confused with masa harina, masarepa is a different kind of corn flour. Unlike masa harina, it has not undergone the process of being soaked in limewater. Instead, it has been cooked, made into a dough that has been dried and milled back into the flour. Masarepa has a flavor similar to regular corn flour and functions a lot like it in most recipes.
The name means dough flour and indicates that it was previously made into a dough. Masarepa is most commonly identified with South American cooking, particularly dishes from Venezuela and Colombia. It is used to make arepas, a kind of dough pocket stuffed with meat and other fillings and sold as street food. Masarepa is sometimes used to make empanadas, which are small deep-fried pies filled with meat or cheese.
Whole wheat flour is made from wheat, which means that it has a different flavor profile and nutritional profile; however, it has a similar texture as corn flour and can be used in many of the same baked goods and dishes.