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12 Substitutes for Corn Husks in Tamales

Tamales, tamales, and more tamales!

We just can’t get enough of those delicious, delicious treats.

But there’s one thing about them that has always vexed us: what do you use for husks?

Substitutes for Corn Husks in Tamales

If you don’t have access to corn husks, then you’re out of luck, right?


So, what’s the best substitute for corn husks in tamales?

The best substitute for corn husks in tamales is banana leaves. Like corn husks, they are a type of thick leaf. They stand up well to the wrapping process and do not break during boiling. In addition, they have a neutral flavor, so they will not affect the taste of your tamale.

Banana leaves are easy to find at most grocery stores that sell specialty items or international goods.

There are plenty of materials that make for perfect tamale holders.

Below, we list 12 substitutes for corn husks in tamales.

12 Substitutes for Corn Husks in Tamales

Corn husks are often used to steam tamales, but you may find yourself in a bind if you’re looking for an alternative. Never fear!

Here are 12 tamale wrapper alternatives:

1. Banana Leaves

Banana Leaves

First up: banana leaves!

Banana leaves—which come from the banana tree—are often used in Asian cuisine for wrapping foods for grilling or steaming.

They are delicate and have a flavor reminiscent of bananas, so using them as a substitute for corn husks will delight your taste buds.

If you’re using banana leaves, though, be sure to trim away the center rib.

Also, because banana leaves can be hard to find outside of Asia or Hawaii, try looking at a Mexican or Asian grocery store.

2. Corn Leaf Wrappers

Corn Leaf Wrappers

This substitute is quite popular!

The taste when using these is indistinguishable from using corn husks, but they have an added bonus: you don’t have to go through the effort of soaking them in water first!

Corn leaf wrappers only need a quick wipe with a dampened cloth before you can use them.

The same cannot be said for corn husks.

And like banana leaves, even if you do soak them in water before using, they still won’t split on you while you’re working with your dough and meat filling!

3. Cabbage Leaves

Cabbage Leaves

Cabbage leaves are a great substitute for corn husks because they impart a similar earthy flavor to the filling.

This makes them especially well suited to savory tamales, like the kind with pork or chicken.

If you’re using cabbage leaves as a substitute for corn husks in a sweet tamale recipe, simply add an extra teaspoon or two of sugar to the dough.

4. Grape Vine Leaves

Grape Vine Leaves

Grapevine leaves can also serve as a great substitute for corn husks in tamale-making.

They have a slightly more bitter flavor than corn husks, but if you soak them for at least an hour before using them, most of that flavor will drain out into the water.

Keep in mind that grape vine leaves are much smaller than corn husks, so if your recipe calls for four large corn husks, use eight or ten small grape vine leaves instead.

5. Aluminum Foil


Tamales are traditionally wrapped in corn husks, but aluminum foil is also used as an alternative.

This will not affect the flavor of your tamale, since aluminum does not have any taste or smell.

Aluminium foil can be reused several times before it needs replacing, making it more sustainable than disposable products like plastic wrap or parchment paper.

It’s important to note that some people are allergic to aluminum so if you’re unsure whether or not your guests might react negatively then consider using something else instead of tin foil!

6. Chards


Chards work well because they’re similar to corn husks, but they don’t have any gluten or corn.

The only difference is that they’re not as tender and they don’t come in a convenient package like aluminum foil does so you’ll need to cut them up yourself.

They also aren’t as easy to find at your local grocery store since most people don’t use them regularly which means ordering online might be necessary instead!

7. Parchment Paper

Parchment Paper

Parchment paper is a great substitute for corn husks because it provides a similar texture to the husks, as well as serving as an excellent barrier to keep the liquid from leaking out of your tamal!

To use parchment paper as a substitute for corn husks simply wrap your tamale filling in parchment paper before steaming it on the stovetop or traditional method of boiling water with the tamales submerged for about two hours until cooked through.

8. Saran Wrap or Plastic Wrap

Plastic Wrap

Saran wrap or plastic wrap is another great option for wrapping your tamales.

Although it’s not as easy to work with as parchment paper—it sticks to itself and can be difficult to unroll—it does have the advantage of sealing in moisture really well, which means that your tamales will come out super juicy and delicious!

If you’re having trouble finding this item at your grocery store, try looking in a specialty kitchen store or online.

9. Turnip Leaves

Turnip Leaves

These are flexible and similar in shape to corn husks. This makes it easy to roll them around the masa, so you can close off your tamale on the ends and steam it like you normally would.

You’ll need to blanch turnip leaves before you use them, however, because they are too bitter otherwise.

10. Wax Paper

Wax Paper

Wax paper is another great alternative that’s easy to find at any grocery store or dollar store.

It doesn’t need soaking either, so it’s even quicker than turnip leaves!

You can buy wax paper at any grocery store or dollar store and it’s usually very cheap—a pack of 100 sheets costs just $1 at my local dollar store.

11. Coffee Filters

Coffee Filters

Coffee filters are an excellent substitution for corn husks because they have several key qualities that corn husks have.

For one thing, they are similarly shaped—long and rectangular—and have a similar texture.

They also can be laid flat on a table and wrapped tightly around your food’s filling without tearing or cracking.

Finally, because of their light color and texture, they take up any color or flavor that comes into contact with them, just like corn husks do.

12. Tofu Wrappers

Are you a vegan or vegetarian who wants to enjoy the soft, moist deliciousness of a freshly cooked tamale without breaking your dietary restrictions?

Tofu wrappers are perfect for you!

These wrappers are super easy to use and give you that soft texture you’re looking for without any animal products at all.

Why Consider Using Substitutes for Corn Husks in Tamales?

Corn husks are the traditional wrappers for tamales, but they’re not always easy to find.

And while they’re absolutely delicious, they can be a little annoying to work with.

They tend to have sharp edges on them, and there’s no good way to get rid of them without wasting some of the husk.

And don’t even get us started about tearing up the kitchen and getting corn husk fragments all over your clothes (yes, we’ve been there).

Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider using substitutes for corn husks in tamales:

1. Corn Husks Can Be Hard to Find

Part of the fun of making tamales is going down to your local Mexican market and rummaging through the corn husks, picking out the ones that look just right for your tamales.

But those markets aren’t everywhere, and if you don’t have one near you, you’ll need to find a substitute for corn husks in tamales.

2. Corn Husks Can Be Expensive

Even if you do have a Mexican market nearby, corn husks can cost a lot—more than you might be willing to spend on wrapping a batch of tamales.

3. Corn Husks Make Cleanup Difficult

Soak them too long, and they get soggy and fall apart; soak them too little, and they’re still stiff and hard to remove from your tamales once they’re cooked.

If you’d rather have an easier time cleaning up after your tamale-making adventures, it’s worth looking into alternatives to corn husks for wrapping your tamales.

How to Make Tamales without Corn Husks


Make your tamales in a flash with this simple technique for making tamales without corn husks.

Many traditional Mexican recipes call for the use of corn husks, which are often difficult to find or unavailable.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to create homemade tamales that are still soft and delicious by using paper instead of corn husks. 

  1. To make this recipe, first heat a pan on medium heat and add a little oil to it.
  2. Next, add one pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts and cook until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Then, remove from the pan and let them cool slightly before chopping into small pieces.
  4. Finally, place the chopped chicken in a blender with half cup of milk, two tablespoons of butter or margarine, one beaten egg yanger microwave-safe bowl that has been greased with nonstick cooking spray and microwave on high for five minutes.
  5. Then turn the bowl over onto another plate so that all sides get cooked evenly until golden brown (this should take another five minutes).

12 Substitutes for Corn Husks in Tamales

Can’t find corn husks for your tamales? No problem!
We’ve got you covered.
In this post, you’ll find several different substitutes for corn husks, so you can make delicious tamales without the hassle of finding the right ingredients.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 4 people
Calories 145 kcal


  • Banana leaves
  • Corn leaf wrappers
  • Cabbage Leaves
  • Grape Vine Leaves
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Chards
  • Parchment Paper
  • Saran Wrap or Plastic Wrap
  • Turnip leaves
  • Wax paper
  • Coffee Filters
  • Tofu wrappers


  • Pick any of the alternatives from this list to use as your tamale wrapper.
  • Prepare the rest of your ingredients.
  • Be ready to munch in no time!
Keyword Substitutes for Corn Husks in Tamales, tamale wrapper alternatives