Your eyes may have skimmed past it. The canned beans and canned vegetable aisle in the supermarket usually houses the small, medium and very large cans of hominy. With the look of wet mini marshmallows, you may wonder what exactly this stuff is.

Hominy is a product of field corn, called maize. Maize is dried and then soaked in an alkaline solution, usually lye or lime, to soften the tough outer hull. The kernels are then washed, which removes the outer hull, excess solution, and often the germ. This process is called nixtamalization. This not only causes the kernels to swell to at least twice their size, but it actually makes it more nutritious. It provides a source of dietary calcium and allows B vitamins, such as niacin, to be readily available in our gut. While a small amount of bran is lost in the nixtamalization process, it is still considered a whole grain. A half-cup serving provides 2 grams of fiber and just 59 calories.

Now that you know how good it is for you, you’re probably wondering what you should do with it. Hominy is an excellent addition to stew, such as in the Mexican stew, pozole. Use it cold in a salad or bake it crispy into corn nuts. If you coarsely grind dried hominy you get grits, and if finely grind it you get masa flour, which is used to make corn tortillas and tamales. Look for this Mexican staple in Hispanic markets or large grocery stores, and try it today!

Mexican Pozole

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 pounds bottom round or chuck roast, cubed

1 large onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 can (15 ounces) no-added-salt stewed tomatoes

2 ounces tomato paste

1 can (1 pound,  13 ounces) hominy, drained

¼ cup cilantro

In a large pot, heat oil. Brown beef on all sides. Add onion, garlic, pepper, and enough water to cover the meat. Cover pot and cook over low heat until meat is tender. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes. Drain hominy. Add hominy to mixture and continue cooking another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, over low heat. If too thick, add water for desired consistency. Garnish with cilantro.

Option: Skinless, boneless chicken breasts may be used instead of beef cubes. 

Nutrition facts (per serving): 370 calories, 19 grams fat, 360 milligrams sodium, 17 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 28 grams protein

Smith, a registered dietitian, is a nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.

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