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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Frugal Pantry: Hominy

Whenever we mention that we use hominy in soups and stews, we usually get the same response: what in tarnation is hominy? People know that it has something to do with grits, but that's misleading, as "grits" makes people think of corn mush, whereas hominy adds chewiness, texture, and a delicious tortilla-like flavor to any dish.

Even though we've been using hominy for years, we had to go to Wikipedia for an explanation, which we're sorry to say does not do justice to this wonderful ingredient. Nonetheless, in the interest of full disclosure:

Hominy or nixtamal is dried maize kernels which have been treated with an alkali.

Commercially available canned hominy may have a slightly stronger scent when compared to the traditional preparation. The traditional U.S. version involves soaking dried corn in lye-water (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide solution), traditionally derived from wood ash, until the hulls are removed. Mexican recipes describe a preparation process consisting primarily of cooking in lime-water (calcium hydroxide). In either case, the process is called nixtamalization, and removes the germ and the hard outer hullfrom the kernels, making them more palatable, easier to digest, and easier to process.

OK, that doesn't sound very appetizing. But the other night, using up our last batch of produce from this year's CSA box, we made a giant pot of vegetable soup. It included the usual suspects—onions, garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach—and even though it tasted perfectly serviceable, it needed something. Fortunately, our pantry contained a big can of white hominy, which we added to the simmering pot. Twenty minutes later we had something that tasted much more interesting than vegetable soup.

Most supermarkets carry hominy in their canned vegetable or "Hispanic" sections, and you can also find it at Hispanic groceries.


  1. Hominy is a staple in our turkey chili.

    We also keep an eye out at our supermarket sale bin; hominy (and other beans) are usually on sale as it's not a great seller in our area.

    In some larger Goya retailers, you can even find organic hominy (and other beans).

  2. We didn't know Goya offered any organic products! Thanks for the tip, JP!

  3. Never tried it, but will!