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What is cornmeal?

What is cornmeal?

Cornmeal is a kind of flour or meal that is made from ground sweet corn. It comes in yellow, white, blue or red varieties, depending on the type of corn used.

Since cornmeal is gluten-free, fine and medium cornmeal is usually mixed with wheat flour to create a crumbly texture in baked goods like cornbread or corn muffins. Coarsely ground cornmeal is frequently labeled polenta or grits after the two dishes in which it is the main ingredient.

Cornmeal products are a native staple food in the Americas and today cornmeal is used to make tortillas, tamales, fry bread and popular Mexican drinks. Colonial settlers in the U.S. called cornmeal Indian meal and were fond of so-called cornmeal mush made from boiling cornmeal in water -- like the hasty pudding mentioned in the song Yankee Doodle Dandy. Italians have been making polenta -- yellow cornmeal boiled with water, stock or milk that is eaten as a porridge or cooled and cut into slices and grilled or fried -- since corn invaded Europe in the 1500s and Indian mush has has recently returned to fashion in the United States under an Italian name.

In some parts of Europe, cornmeal may be labeled maize flour. Although the term cornflour is sometimes used to denote the finest grind of cornmeal in the United States, elsewhere it may actually refer to cornstarch.

Cornmeal can also be sprinkled on a baking tray to help keep dishes like free-form galettes or turnovers from sticking in the oven.

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