Taking ground cornmeal (masa harina) dough from a large tin bucket in a tortilleria in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico
Food - Drink
The Difference Between Masa And Masa Harina
Masa Harina
Despite their similar names, there is an important difference between masa and masa harina. Masa harina, or “dough flour,” is made from corn kernels soaked in limewater, and turned into hominy which is finely ground and dried, and in order to use masa harina you must mix it with water to create a dough called masa.
Thus, masa is just masa harina that doesn’t have to be rehydrated and is ready to be used. If you come across masa in a Latin market, it will likely be labeled as "masa preparade,” or "prepared dough," which will have been made either by mixing masa harina with water or by simply grinding hominy that has not been dried yet.
Masa harina is a soft, powdery substance, somewhat like cornmeal but much more finely ground while masa is a dough, and because of their limewater soak, masa harina and masa have a subtle tart flavor. Like other flours, masa harina has a long shelf life, but once it is mixed into masa dough, it should be used fairly quickly.
Masa and masa harina can be used to make the same dishes, but if you’re using masa harina, don’t forget the crucial rehydration step. One of the best uses for both is to make homemade tortillas, or other classic Latin dishes like tamales, sopes, gorditas, or pupusas, which all rely on masa for their base.