You’re going to love these vegan corn cakes for breakfast or brunch. They’re great on their own or with a tofu scramble on the side. Plus, they’re naturally gluten-free!
I received a bag of masa harina flour in the mail a few weeks back. (Such is the life of a food blogger.) I didn’t want it to languish away in the lazy susan, only to be forgotten, like the Island of Misfit Toys.
(Sorry, abandoned bag of gluten free flour & vegan jell-o. I’ll get to you someday…)
So I set about finding an easy way to use it.
A few possibilities popped immediately to mind – like tamales or homemade corn tortillas.
However, I know from experience that while, yes, tamales are delicious, they also require a lot of detail work. You have to make little parcels for the masa dough, and then there’s the time on task. Steaming them can take an hour or more.
And maybe I will take another go at homemade tortillas, but for now I wanted something that would be foolproof, easy, and wouldn’t require pulling out my heavy cast iron tortilla press.
So I decided to make vegan corn cakes, similar to arepas or pupusas.
These corn cakes are made with just six ingredients and come together in under 15 minutes.
They have a flavor that is reminiscent of popcorn, but in pancake form. The corn flavor is even more pronounced because of the whole kernels of corn inside the cakes.
They have a slightly nutty sweetness that works well with a slathering of non-dairy butter. David also likes to add a drizzle of maple syrup.
They are pretty filling on their own. I’ve been known to have one or two for breakfast without any additional accompaniment.
What is masa harina?
For these corn cakes, I used white masa harina corn flour.
This powdery flour is made from hominy or dried corn kernels that have been cooked and soaked in lime water. It’s then ground into a fine flour.
Because of the unique way it’s been treated and how fine it is, you can’t substitute cornmeal or polenta in recipes that call for masa harina.
However, you can use yellow masa harina instead of white, as it’s just made with dried yellow corn instead of white corn. The flavor difference is pretty minimal, except that the white is a bit sweeter.
You can find masa harina flour in most grocery stores that sell Latin American products or online.
How to make corn cakes
Start by sifting masa harina, salt, and nutritional yeast in a bowl. Then add non-dairy milk (or water) and fresh or frozen corn.
(If you don’t have nutritional yeast, you can easily omit it. It just adds a little cheesiness.)
Use a spoon and/or your hands to form it into a dough. The dough will be a little sticky but still workable. If it’s too wet, you can add a Tablespoon more of masa harina.
Divide the dough into four equal parts. Roll each section into a ball and then flatten it about a half an inch thick, like a burger.
Then lightly oil a non-stick skillet, bring it to a medium heat, and fry the vegan corn cakes for about 4 minutes on each side.
Serve with a pat of non-dairy butter and dig in!
Corn cakes can also be made on the grill or campfire
If you’re looking for a unique side dish for outdoor grilling, make them on a grill or campfire!
The cakes are made the same way. Then oil a cast iron skillet, and put it on a campfire or grill. Cook the cakes for 4 minutes on each side.
Pro tip: Using a cast iron griddle makes flipping that much easier.
Don’t be surprised if some of the corn kernels even pop while you’re cooking. It adds to the fun!
Vegan corn cakes
- In a mixing bowl, combine masa flour, salt, and nutritional yeast flakes with a fork. Add non-dairy milk (or water). Then add fresh or frozen corn to the bowl. Fully combine until you have a sticky dough, using your hands when necessary. (The dough should be sticky but not unmanageable. If it's too sticky to work with add an additional Tablespoon of masa flour and combine.)
- Divide the dough into four equal parts. Roll each part into its own dough ball. It will be larger than a golf ball but smaller than an orange. Then smash each ball with your hands into a burger shape, about a half inch thick.
- Put organic canola oil into a non-stick skillet and bring to a medium heat. Once the skillet is warm, place the corn cakes in it. (If your non-stick skillet is small, you may need to work in batches.) Allow the corn cakes to cook on one side without moving them for about 4 minutes, until each one is nutty brown. Once that side is cooked, flip each corn cake, and cook that side for an additional 4 minutes.
- Remove from heat and serve. The corn cakes are delicious with a pat of non-dairy butter and/or maple syrup.