Nixtamalization: a traditional method to Supercharge Your Grain Flour

Nixtamalization (lime treatment) is a ancient method, used for centuries in Mexico and Central America, involves cooking corn kernels in a special solution.  It might sound strange, but trust us, it totally transforms the corn ! 

Nixtamalization makes corn dishes taste amazing, but it also boosts the corn’s nutrition and texture.  

Get ready to dive into this secret weapon and unlock the true potential of corn dishes. 

Now its turn to apply this ancient method of lime treatment on Pearlmillet (Bajra) flour. Two Indian Women Scientists used this process and maked pearlmillet flour more nutritioinal and healthy. 

The research was carried out at Central Food Technology Research Institute, Mysore, Karnataka (India) by and published their innovative research work in Journal of Cereal Science  a leading Science Direct published journal in March 2024. 

What is Nixtamalization?

This word comes from the Nahuatl words “nextli” (ashes) and “tamalli” (unformed corn dough). The process involves cooking dried corn kernels in a solution of water and calcium hydroxide (also known as lime or cal).

What does Nixtamalization do with food?

This process results in softened kernels with several advantages over unprocessed grains like 

Softening the Kernels:

Lime treatment also leads to structural, physical, and chemical changes within the grains, resulting in softened kernels that are easily pulverized.

Improved Nutrition: 

It helps release bound niacin (vitamin B3), making it more accessible to our bodies and preventing niacin-deficiency diseases like pellagra. It also improved protein quality and higher calcium content in the flour. 

Enhanced Flavor:

The alkaline environment during this process creates a complex, almost nutty flavor profile in final products that’s absent in unprocessed products

Steps used for pearl millet Nixtamalization

The lime treatment process used in the research study (Source: Gopika, M. and Joshi, S., 2024)

You can also find the traditional method of corn nixtamalization from CIMMYT Maxico website

Findings of new research

In this study, the researcher did nixtamalization treatment in pearlmillet by cooking pearl millet grain in a 2% calcium hydroxide (Ca (OH)₂) at 75 ± 5 °C for 30 min and followed by steeping for 4 hour. 

The researcher found that this process makes the pearl millet flour more nutritional in terms of higher content of ash, soluble and insoluble fiber, and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and sodium. The Free Fatty Acid (FFA) content was also increased in 60 to 69% as compared with untreated pearl millet flour (PMF).

You May also like our other blog post: Scientists developed a new method to determine the mode of plant reproduction

Nixtamalization at Home

Ready to try this at home ? You can use dried pearlmillet or corn grains with food-grade lime (calcium hydroxide) for this process before preparing any food products. This little additional efforts make your food more healthy and tasty. it’s a culinary legacy that has nourished civilizations for centuries.

Nixtamalized products

Here are some widely available products that result from the lime treatment process

Masa Harina (Dried Nixtamal)

Masa Harina

Masa Harina is a flavorful flour made from nixtamalized corn (corn soaked in limewater). It is a must-have ingredient for traditional, homemade corn tortillas and tamales.


Hominy is a food produced from dried corn kernels that have been treated with an alkali

More Information:

Gopika, M. and Joshi, S., 2024. Elucidating the effect of nixtamalization on the functional, nutritional, and microstructure properties of pearl millet flour. Journal of Cereal Science, p.103891.

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