I am somewhat confused about the difference between masa harina flour vs. cornmeal. Wikipedia says the process of nixtamalization needs to be done in order for the corn to be nutritional, kill toxins and make it more palatable. Basically they use burnt ash or lye to break up the hull of the corn when they are making masa. I always use cornmeal and I don't die from toxins and I assume it is just as nutritional as eating tortillas.

  • 1
    I've edited the question. I think it is worth reopening.
    – moscafj
    Commented Aug 8, 2020 at 21:49
  • I thought the tag nutrition and food science covered the topic. Sorry If I am mistaken. The topic was closed because it says nutrition is off-topic.
    – Sedumjoy
    Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 1:15
  • 2
    Asking for nutritional advice is off topic. However, understanding why corn is nixtamalized, and the nutritional reasons for that process is not only valid, but would be a helpful addition to the site. Unless I am mistaken, this has not be asked and answered on Seasoned Advice.
    – moscafj
    Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 2:18
  • 1
    I use pickling lime, CaOH, myself. Wood ash is messy and lye, NaOH, is overkill. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 0:46

1 Answer 1


Nixtamalization is a culinary process that begins with dried corn kernels (maize), and uses alkalinity to alter the chemistry of the corn. The process is thousands of years old, first recorded by the the Aztecs, but probably older and more wide spread.

This guide is very informative. Here the author describes the result of the nixtimalization process:

This practice accomplishes several things: soaking dried maize kernels in an alkaline solution makes it easier to remove the thin outer seed coat, or pericarp, that encases the kernel, either through grinding or by rubbing. Next, both alkalinity and heat treatment help to not only soften the kernel, but also chemically alter the endosperm and germ of cooked maize [...] (Bressani et al. 1958; Bressani and Scrimshaw 1958). Finally, nixtamalization flavors maize, altering the taste profile of the kernels, giving them a slightly bitter and earthy flavor (Briggs 2015).

...and of course, the added bonus is that it makes corn (masa) delicious!

  • [email protected] interesting topic indeed., thank you. I would then assume pound per pound masa contains more nutrients overall then corn meal or whole kernal corn fresh from the stalk....and thank you for including the "guide" The post is pretty much what I was looking for indeed.
    – Sedumjoy
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 1:13
  • Hi moscafj, the nutritional part is off topic here. I had to remove it.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 6:00
  • @rumtscho I disagree completely with your edit. Nutritional ADVICE is off topic. The science about what nixtamalization does to make the nutritional elements of corn accessible to the human body (and thus why it is an important process) absolutely on topic. Please roll back your edit.
    – moscafj
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 10:48
  • @moscafj I know this is very confusing and counterintuitive. Listing elements which are accessible to the human body is also off topic, with the only exception being made when the OP already named elements in the question (and then the answer has to restrict itself to only these).
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 10:50
  • 1
    I'm not confused at all, and don't find this counterintuitive. I am the first person to close posts asking for nutritional advice... I re-wrote this original question because that is what it sounded like. However, one cannot understand the importance of the nixtamalization process without realizing that it allowed the survival of millions of people because the process itself allows humans to access the nutrients (amino acids, B vitamins, and niacin) that they would otherwise not have available. This is scientific fact, not advice or conjecture. I disagree with your edit.
    – moscafj
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 10:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.