Semolina Vs Cornmeal: Differences, Uses & Similarities

People often ask if they can actually substitute semolina for cornmeal for dusting pizza peel. The answer is yes, both can serve as a dusting for pans or surfaces.

But they have a lot of differences which range from source to uses, taste, nutrients, and more. A major difference is that semolina is obtained from durum wheat while cornmeal is ground dried field corn which can be fine, medium, or coarse.

Inclusively, semolina is high in protein or gluten. Cornmeal on the other hand is gluten-free. Funny enough, semolina and cornmeal look so alike that it’s easy to confuse them for each other.

This article points out the differences between semolina and cornmeal as well as the little similarities that they have.

What is semolina?

Semolina is a coarse, pale-yellow flour obtained from a type of wheat called durum wheat. Durum wheat is the hardest species of wheat found predominantly in the middle east. Its milling process is difficult and time-consuming and it contains a high level of protein and gluten.

The result of ground durum wheat is a coarse semolina flour that’s sand-like. Its texture makes it suitable for making porridge, bread, and pasta especially. Also, semolina is darker and golden in color than cornmeal or all-purpose flour and it has a mild, earthy aroma.

Uses of semolina

Because of the amount of gluten content present in semolina and its coarseness, it’s the perfect flour for making pasta or couscous. People refer to semolina for making pasta because it requires tough dough that can hold up well into shape.

If you’ve ever asked yourself how they make macaroni or pasta in different shapes and sizes and how come it doesn’t fall off while cooking, that is because semolina is the major recipe.

Semolina originated from Italy, but it has become a common food across the world. For instance, in Nigeria, semolina is a staple food that’s mixed with boiled water to form a solid and eaten with soup or stew.

In Morocco, semolina flour is referred to as Smida. It’s a major recipe for making Khobz which is an oven-baked round flatbread.

Other countries around the world also use it to make couscous which is simply moistened semolina that is mixed until little balls form.

Aside from couscous, or pasta, Europeans make semolina into a sweet pudding or porridge. Additionally, semolina could serve as a recipe for cakes, bread, and pies. Most times, bakers use semolina to attain a certain type of texture.

Semolina can replace cornmeal for dusting pizza peels. When you sprinkle semolina at the bottom of your pizza tray or pizza stone it sticks to the bottom of the pizza dough and prevents it from sticking to the pan.

In other words, it acts as little balls which make the pizza slide.

What is cornmeal?

Cornmeal is ground dried field corn that has a fine, medium, or coarse texture. The texture is dependent on the milling process that it undergoes.

In America, degermed yellow cornmeal is the most common variant found in stores. Degermed yellow cornmeal is rid of its germs and hulls and is ground into fine powder in steel rollers.

It loses a lot of nutrients during milling which can be added back after processing. The good thing about steel-ground yellow cornmeal is that it is free of gluten and has a shelf life of a year or more.

An absolute opposite to degermed yellow cornmeal is the steel ground cornmeal. It’s ground on big stones and doesn’t have its hull and germs removed.

As a result, stone-ground cornmeal is coarse and retains most of its nutrients after processing. It also adds a more predominant corn flavor to food compared to others.

White cornmeal is mostly found in Africa and is used for making cornbread in Southern America. It could be fine, medium, or coarse in texture.

The last specie of cornmeal is the blue cornmeal ground from whole blue corn and is common in Mexico and the Southern United States.

SEE: Meaning Of Degermed Yellow Cornmeal

Uses of cornmeal

Cornmeal has a wide range of uses across many parts of the world. Medium or coarse cornmeal is used for making polenta a popular Italian dish. Masa harina, a Spanish dough flour is ground from moist cornmeal. It has a very fine texture and is used for making tamales and tortillas.

Coarsely ground yellow or white cornmeal is the key ingredient for making grits. Cornmeal can be made into cornbread, spoonbread, jonnycakes, and the like. In Nigeria, it is used for making Tuwo macara a popular food for the Hausas.

Cornmeal porridge is a popular meal in Jamaica and in other parts of the Caribbean. Cornmeal is also useful for coating fish or meat before frying for a crispy finish. You can also put it at the bottom of pizza crust just like semolina.

SEE: Is Cornbread Good For You

Differences between semolina and cornmeal

While cornmeal is a product of corn, semolina comes from durum wheat. Durum wheat is hard and difficult to mill. As such, the flour is really coarse. Cornmeal on the other hand can be fine, medium, or coarse depending on the milling process.

As aforementioned, semolina is high in gluten and protein which is why it is perfect for making pasta. Conversely, cornmeal is free of gluten.

Semolina has a mild, earthy aroma while cornmeal has a prevalent corn aroma and taste. Coarse cornmeal however adds a more pronounced corn taste to medium or fine variants.

When it comes to dusting pizza peel, both semolina and cornmeal can serve the purpose. However, is a better option because it doesn’t burn in the oven as easily as cornmeal.

Pizza requires high heat temperature and cornmeal doesn’t have the capability to withstand the heat. Burnt cornmeal can add an unpleasant taste to your pizza crust, hence, semolina is your best bet for baking because it can withstand high heat.

Moreso, semolina has a mild taste, while coarse cornmeal can add corn taste to your pizza crust.

SEE: Can You Substitute Cornmeal For Cornstarch

Semolina substitute

Perhaps you don’t have semolina flour handy, here are some substitutes that you can try out in your recipe:

1. All-purpose flour

If you do not have semolina in your pantry, and all you have all-purpose flour, then it can definitely complete your recipe. However, the result while delicious may not turn out so perfect in texture.

Semolina has about 13% gluten content while all-purpose flour has around 8 to 11%. Generally, the higher the gluten content the better it can substitute for semolina.

SEE: Is Harina de Trigo The Same As All-Purpose Flour

2. Bread flour or whole wheat flour

Lower gluten flours, like cake flour, for instance, will not yield similar results. But with bread flour or whole wheat flour which both have a higher protein content, you’re sure of a result that’s almost exactly like what semolina would give you. 

SEE: Differences Between Whole Wheat Flour And Bread Flour

3. Cornmeal or corn flour

If you are using semolina as a dusting to top keep your pizza dough from sticking to the pan, a finely ground cornmeal or corn flour will work well to replicate the texture.


Is polenta the same as semolina?

No. Semolina is wheat while polenta is corn.

Is Farina the same as semolina?

No. Although farina is made from hard wheat it is different from durum wheat.

Is semolina better for pizza crust?

Yes. Semolina makes sense for pizza peel than cornmeal or even pizza flour because it is coarser and thereby slow to hydrate or burn.

Does Domino’s use cornmeal or semolina?

If you visit Domino’s website, they mentioned that they use cornmeal for pizza preparation.

What does semolina do in pizza dough?

When sprinkled at the bottom of the pan before placing the dough, it sticks to the bottom of the pizza dough and prevents it from sticking to the pan.


Cornmeal and semolina are both golden in color, and it can be difficult to spot the difference between them, especially if it’s coarse cornmeal. Oftentimes, the question is whether you can substitute cornmeal for semolina and vice versa for dusting pizza peel.

As mentioned in this article, they are excellent substitutes for each other for preventing pizza from sticking.

Apart from this, they are not interchangeable in any way. Corn is the source of cornmeal while durum wheat is for semolina.

Semolina is so high in gluten which makes it perfect for making pasta. Cornmeal is gluten-free and cannot hold up well in water. So, it’s basically used to make cornbread, polenta, grits, and the like.

Finally, you may read this article to know if you can substitute water for milk in cornbread.

I hope this article helped. Thanks for reading.