Do you love Mexican food? We do! Burritos, tacos, tortillas, tamales, enchiladas…our list of favorites goes on and on!

If you’ve ever made any homemade Mexican recipes, you may have noticed one ingredient that tends to show up quite often. What are we talking about? Masa, of course!

Masa — sometimes called corn masa flour or masa harina — is a traditional type of flour used to make tamales, tortillas and many other Mexican favorites. Masa harina means “dough flour” in Spanish, because it’s made from dried masa.

To make masa, field corn is first dried and then soaked and cooked in a solution of lime and water (called slaked lime). This scientific process is called nixtamalization.

The slaked lime loosens the hulls from the kernels of corn and softens the corn. It also reacts with the corn to make it easier to digest.

After it has been soaked and cooked in slaked lime, the corn is then washed and ground into a dough that’s then called masa. When fresh masa is dried and powdered, it becomes the corn masa flour or masa harina you can buy in stores.

Some Mexican markets will sell fresh masa by the pound. Powdered corn masa flour or masa harina is a fine substitute, though, if you can’t find fresh masa. These powdered versions just need water added to turn them into dough to make your favorite Mexican dishes.

If a recipe calls for masa, don’t substitute corn meal or regular corn flour. These other products are made from different types of corn and processed differently. If you use them in a recipe that calls for masa, you won’t end up with the result you expect! For example, regular corn meal made from untreated ground corn will not form dough simply by adding water.

Masa is gluten free and nutritious. In addition to being low in fat, it’s also cholesterol free and a good source of calcium. Although it’s popular in Mexican cuisine, masa has a wide variety of uses in many other types of foods.

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    • HOORAY, we’re so happy that our Wonder Friends from Mrs. Atkinson’s Class are here today! Davey made us laugh, too! He was a great narrator! We’d love to hear about your very own masa cooking stories, Wonder Friends! We bet you had a great discussion in class!

      Thanks for sharing your guesses for tomorrow’s rocky Wonder! See you then! :)

  1. We liked learning about cooking masa (some of the people in our class already knew how to make masa. We thought Davy was funny. The two brothers made our class think of Mrs. Hess’ two sons at home!)

    Predictions: climbing mountains, rock climbing, earthquakes, equipment used to climb Mt. Everest, mountain goats, where does the phrase dumber than a box of rocks come from, rock, Rocky Mountains, other mountain animals, The Rock, people interested in rock climbing, Mt. Rushmore, how rocks are formed, rock concert, volcanic rocks, Easter Island Heads, meteorites, minerals.

    • We’re so glad you enjoyed today’s Wonder, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Hess’ Class! It sounds like Mrs. Hess’ sons are a fun couple of guys! :)

      Thank you so much for sharing your comment and guesses with us– we are very proud of you for using context clues to form your predictions! Nice work! :)

    • We’re hungry, too! Those tamales sure did look delicious! Thanks for WONDERing with us today, Ms. Bayko’s Class! We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… perhaps it will be all about exercise (like rock climbing) after eating all that masa! :)

  2. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We love mexican food, some of us have even made our own tortillas with masa.

    We think tomorrow will be about rock walls, mountain climbing, or even rock and roll.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Tillman’s 4th graders.

    • YUM! We think it’s super cool that some of our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Tillman’s 4th grade class have already made tortillas from scratch! YAY! We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s rocky Wonder will be… but it’s sure to be fun! Thanks for visiting us today! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Nelan! Masa is an ingredient found in many Mexican dishes, because it’s found in Mexico, Central and South America. Just like we use produce and grains that are local to our area, Mexican dishes feature masa, which can be found in the area! :)

    • Hi there, Gymnastics queen, we are glad you enjoyed our Wonder today! Davey did a great job narrating today’s Wonder video– we want to make our own tamales now! Thanks for sharing your comment with us– see you soon! :)

    • We’re getting hungry just WONDERing about tamales, masa and tomatillo sauce, Hailey! We hope your lunch just as delicious today! :) Thanks for WONDERing with us– we hope you can make tamales with your Wonder Friends and family members soon! :)

    • WOOHOO, we’re thrilled to hear that you learned something new with us, Chloe! We learned all about the process of making food with masa– how cool! We’re so glad you shared your comment with us, and we hope to see you soon! :)

  3. “Hi I’m Davey” haha that part was funny. I really liked this video because it was interesting and funny. I always wondered how to make tamales.

    • YUM, we are so glad you’ve been smiling with us as you Wonder today, Sierra! And you’ve learned something new, too! HOORAY! Let us know how your tamales taste after you make them– we bet they’re going to be delicious! :)

  4. This wonder was awesome!!!! Those tamales look really good. This is my 3rd favorite wonder so far. I’ll try to post tomorrow.

    • Hi there, Baconator! Welcome back to WONDERing with us! We agree– those tamales looked DELICIOUS! We hope you can try out the recipe soon; let us know how they taste! :)

    • Hey there, Treyton! We are so glad you enjoyed our Wonder today… we Wonder if you have made tamales from scratch? It seems to take some time, but they sure do look delicious! :)

    • We’re so glad you learned how to make tamales with us today, Kenna! Isn’t masa cool to Wonder about? We hope to see you soon, Wonder Friend! :)

    • We hope you’ll try to make tamales now that you have WONDERed with us, Jess! Make sure you have an adult or parent help you– we bet they’re going to be delicious! :)

    • YUM, we are glad you have been WONDERing about masa with us today, Adam! We hope you can try some soon– it’s quite tasty! :)

  5. Today’s WONDER made us hungry and lunch is a long time from now. It was very cool. We thought the tamales looked good. It made us want to eat our Promethean Board! Now we know how to make food. We have learned about following a recipe in math.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be: rock climbing, monkeys climbing a rock wall, rock music, a person climbing a mountain.

    We LOVE Wonderopolis! We look forward to it every day.

    • We’re hungry from today’s Wonder, too, Wonder Friends in Miss Holden’s 2nd Grade Class! Thanks for visiting us today, we hope you’ve enjoyed learning about masa! We bet your recipe math will be a SUPER fun activity! Thanks for sharing your comment and guesses for the next Wonder… we always have a great time with you! :)

    • WOOHOO, we are so glad you’re WONDERing with us today, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Guerin’s 2nd grade! We bet you’re having a SUPER time with Mr. P in the Library! Davey really made us smile– he’s a great narrator! We learned that masa is found in Mexican and Central and South American dishes, but Indian and American-Indian food have a similar bread called naan. It’s a type of delicious bread that is made with flour, but it looks like a puffy version of a tortilla! :)

    • Hi there, Hunter! We’re so sorry to hear that your day is not going well. Once in a while, we have days that just don’t go our way, either. Sometimes it helps to talk to a parent or adult about how you’re feeling. We sure hope tomorrow is better! :)

    • Check out the video and the article to learn more about masa, Chance! We learned about the origin of the masa and how to make it! You’re right, Chance, it does resemble a pancake! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Kailee! We are so glad this Wonder made you smile! We hope you can enjoy a tamale in the future– YUM! :)

    • We are getting hungry from today’s Wonder, too, Kalen! Davey did a great job of narrating today’s Wonder video! Thanks for sharing your comment today, Wonder Friend! :)

  6. “Hi, I’m Davey!” I loved that part :3 it made me hungry, I didn’t eat this morning :D Tamales are SO good, I’m going to ask my mom to cook these tonight! ;D

  7. Mmmmm tamales sound good I had some yesterday at a Mexican restrant called Abuelitas that used to be called chile mercado tamales reminds me when I lived with my grandma, aunt, and uncle they were Mexican I’m half Mexican because my mom was American and my dad but my Grandma Diana was Mexican American but my great grandfather Pepo was full Mexican.

    • How cool, ilana/yolandeefuss! Your meal from yesterday sounds DELICIOUS! Thanks for sharing your comment with us– it is so cool to learn about your family history! :)

  8. I think that it was funny that every time he comes on the screen he says “Hi I’m Davey”… and when they were pouring the mixed thing into the pot on the stove it looked kind of weird… but I would try if I ever could… looks good!!!!!

    • Hi there, SaGe! We’re glad today’s Wonder made you smile, and piqued your appetite! :) We hope you can try a tamale recipe of your own soon– please let us know how it tastes! :)

    • Hi there, Samir! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about today’s Wonder– we hope you’ll come back to visit us soon! :)

  9. This wonder was awesome. We liked learning how to make masa and how to use it. Some of us wonder what it would taste like. Most of the class had eaten masa in a tamale and many readers had made tamales. Also, Davy was funny because he says “Hi, I’m Davy,” at each step. And sometimes he repeated the steps.

    • Hi there, Room 111 Readers, we’re so glad you’re here today! We hope all of you will have the opportunity to try masa in the future– it sure is delicious! Those tamales are making us hungry! :)

      Davey was a great narrator in today’s Wonder video, we’re glad you enjoyed him, too! :)

    • Thanks so much, Thomas! We’re so glad you enjoyed our Wonder today! What did you learn about masa and cooking today? :)

  10. Hey Wonderopolis,
    Hope you remember me. I was just WONDERing about what masa is. I got a little more info from you. Yesterday’s wonder was awesome. My friend Mushkale had a cool question for you.
    Sincerely,
    Gurtej

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Gurtej! We are so glad you have been WONDERing with us today! Masa is a type of flour used to tamales or tortillas! Thanks for sharing your comment with us, Gurtej! :)

    • YUM, we’re so happy you’re here today, Swizzy1999! Mexican food of all kinds is delicious, and we’re glad to Wonder about masa with you! :)

  11. Thanks for the knowledge. Masa sounds so good right now. You guys are making me so hungry. We don’t eat lunch until 1:00 at our school.

    • Hi there, Destani! We’re so glad you’re WONDERing with us today! Masa means “dough flour” in Spanish, and masa is a main ingredient in tortillas and tamales! We Wonder if you have tried masa? :)

  12. Hey Wonderopolis,
    Thanks for answering my questions yesterday. Have you guys visited our blog this year? If not the here is a link: http://mrstsgrade3sclassblog.blogspot.ca/?m=1. Did you know we skyped with someone in Germany somewhere near the Netherlands? It was so cool. Anyway I love spicy tacos. And I absolutely love spicy Indian food because my heritage is Indian. You should try it out guys. I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is going be about the Rocky Mountains in the USA. I have been to the Rocky Mountains (Canadian) on my way to Calgary. Anyway I have to go so 1 more question before I go. Do you guys know Wonder Barbara?
    From:
    Mushkale
    PS Can you do a wonder about Canada because sometimes I don’t know what something is, so please?

    • Hi there, Mushkale! We’re so glad you’re WONDERing with us– how lucky we are to have received another comment from you! :)

      We are glad you shared your classroom’s blog with us, we’ll check it out! Your skype adventure sounds really cool- we LOVE meeting new friends!

      It sounds like this Wonder was right up your alley– perhaps we’ll do a Wonder about Indian food in the future! We are glad you shared your Wonders about Canada with us– we have a lot of research to do! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

  13. Dear Wonderopolis, My stomach is growling because of today’s Wonder. Since you said something about climbing and rocks, the first thing that comes to mind is rock climbing.

    love,
    liberty

    • You’re not alone, we bet today’s Wonder made lots of Wonder Friends hungry! Thanks for sharing your awesome guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder, Liberty! We’ll see you soon! :)

    • Hi there, Hunter! We’re here, not to worry! We are lucky to have so many Wonder Friends who share their comments, sometimes it takes a bit of time to respond! We’re sorry if we overlooked a comment of yours– but we’re here and ready to Wonder! :)

  14. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Thank you for sharing the great wonder about masa. Some of our classmates are from Mexico and make great Mexican food using masa. Several of us have also visited Mexican Town, an area in Detroit, famous for its Mexican food. Yum!! We loved today’s wonder.

    We think tomorrow might be about mountain climbing, perhaps on Mt. Everest or even rock music.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th graders

    • Hi there, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th grade class! We think it’s so cool that you are all collaborating in your classroom and talking about what you have learned about masa! WOOHOO! Today’s Wonder sure did make us hungry, as well as your description of Mexican Town!

      We can’t wait to Wonder with you tomorrow! :)

  15. We LOVE TAMALES!!!!!!! We are lucky in Tucson because we have fresh masa. Our moms make tamales for Christmas. We like watching the video.

    • You sure are lucky, Wonder Friends in Mrs. C’s Class! Thanks for sharing your Christmas traditions with us– we bet tamales taste extra delicious then! HOORAY for WONDERing with you! :)

  16. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Hola amigas! Thank you for the yummy wonder. Jacob’s dad is from Mexico and sometimes he makes tamales for his family. We think that tamales would be very good. Has anyone in the Wonderopolis ever cooked with masa? Mrs. Johnson wants to try it. Actually, everyone wants to try it!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Mrs. Johnson’s 4th grade
    Hilliard, Ohio

    • Hola, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Johnson’s 4th Grade! We’re so happy we can Wonder with you today, and we’ve learned about Jacob’s dad’s awesome tamales, too! HOORAY!

      Some of our Wonder Friends here at Wonderopolis are excellent in the kitchen– so they like to prepare dinners from time to time. It’s very fun to share your skills, especially when masa is involved! We hope you can try cooking with masa soon! Please tell us how it goes!

      Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

  17. Good afternoon! We enjoyed listening to Davey and learning how to make tamales. We are learning about text structures and noticed that Davey and his mom used sequencing or chronological order to share with us. We were wondering if they used this text structure on purpose? Thank you!

    • Hey there, Wonder Friends in Ms. Fulenwider’s Class! We think Davey is going to be a great chef (or announcer) in the future– we had a WONDERful time watching today’s video. We’re so glad you pointed out sequencing and chronological order– way to go! We think it’s helpful to present a recipe in chronological order, so we bet that’s why they used that structure! Great job using your awesome imaginations today! :)

  18. Whenever it was cooking it looked gross. But afterward it looks good it made me hungry even though I just ate lunch. So what other Mexican food are you guys going to put on WONDEROPOILIS!?!

    • Sometimes things that are delicious take a while to look appetizing, Sophie! We’re glad you shared your observation about the food as it was being prepared… sometimes the look of something doesn’t reflect how delicious it will be! We LOVE WONDERing about food, and who knows what other food Wonders will pop up in the future!? :)

    • The green sauce, made of tomatillos, doesn’t look very appetizing at first, Kaytlyn! However, we hope you’ll give it a try in the future– you might LOVE it! :)

    • WOOHOO, we’re so glad today’s Wonder really inspired you, Skyelar! We bet you’ll be a great and creative chef! :)

    • We’re so glad today’s Wonder made you smile, T’Shawn! We LOVED WONDERing with Davey, and you, too! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

  19. I am in Mrs. Hess’s class. I think this video is funny because Davey makes me chuckle and smile! I was thinking about Mrs. Hess’ two little sons!

    I think tomorrow’s WONDER would be about taking lessons for climbing deep snow in the mountains, tools for climbing, Rocky Mountains… and HAPPY THURSDAY!

    • Happy Thursday to you, Kathy! We are smiling because you have been WONDERing with us today! You, your classmates and Mrs. Hess have been doing a great job of WONDERing– we look forward to finding out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be! See you soon! :)

  20. I still cannot belives it was masa. Then my classmates were talking about food which then makes me hungry, but look at how the tamales it make me feel like asking him to make me some.

    • Hi there, Joseph, today’s Wonder made us hungry, too! We hope you can try masa soon, perhaps you can make a tortilla or tamale with your family or friends! :)

    • We Wonder if you have tried it, Colton? Masa is found in tortillas and tamales, so perhaps you didn’t even know what it tastes like! Thanks for sharing your comment– we appreciate it! :)

    • Hi there, Sathija, we’re so happy that you’ve been WONDERing with us! We hope you will have some masa soon– this Wonder made us hungry! :)

    • Hey there, Tony! This masa Wonder made us hungry for delicious Mexican food, too! We hope you’ll try cooking with masa in the future– perhaps you and your family can plan a dinner and use masa as a main ingredient! :)

    • YUM! We think that is a great way to start your day, with a healthy and delicious breakfast, Aniyah! Have a SUPER day! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your comments, Wonder Friend Jenn! We’re glad Davey made you smile, and you learned something new with us, too! Have a SUPER day! :)

  21. Today in class we were learning about Mexican cuisine and my class and I got to make masa, and we did a lot of our research on wonderopolis. Thank you for a yummy snack!!!!!! ;)

    • WOW, we are so glad that you and your Wonder classmates made your very own masa today, Leena! What a cool connection to our Wonder! It sounds like it turned out to be a delicious activity! Thanks for telling us all about it– we are glad you had a SUPER day! We hope to see you soon, Wonder Friend! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is masa?
  • Can you substitute corn meal or regular corn flour in a recipe that calls for masa?
  • What can you make with masa?

Wonder Gallery

MasaVimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to learn more about masa? Join forces with a friend or family member to try one or more of the fun activities below:

  • Take a field trip to the grocery store. Find the aisle with Mexican foods and look for masa harina. What other ingredients and types of flour can you find? If you’re up for a challenge, buy some masa harina to use in the recipes below.
  • Is there a Mexican restaurant nearby? Take a trip for lunch one day and ask the manager if you could get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the cooks in action. Can you see the masa they cook with up close? Does it look like you expected it to? How many different ways do they use the masa? Pick a couple of your favorite Mexican dishes that have masa to try!
  • Pick out a recipe or two below to try at home with your friends and family members. Be sure to check the list of ingredients, as you’ll probably need to go to the store first to get a few items.

When you’re finished, upload a picture of your creation to Facebook for all your Wonder Friends to see. We can’t wait to see what you cook!

Still Wondering

In Science NetLInks’ Ready, Set, Let’s Dough! It’s a Matter of System lesson, children look at a complex system when they create their own play dough by taking several parts and creating a whole.

Wonder What’s Next?

Ready to climb? Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day totally rocks!

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