Use Parchment Paper To Make Tamales If Corn Husks Aren't Available

For those moments when cravings for homemade tamales strike and you don't happen to have corn husks at the ready, you have alternatives. Though wrappings of corn husks and banana leaves lend some of the dish's more recognizable traits, desperate times can call for creative culinary measures. Pieces of parchment paper can step up to the task and keep your mixture of fillings and masa dough tightly bound as the ingredients steam and solidify into shape. 

Like corn husks, parchment paper offers a thin, malleable material that can keep seasoned contents inside the folded envelope. Although parchment-paper-wrapped tamales may not offer the subtle flavor corn husks impart, the glossy paper can get a tamale-making task done. Pack the paper with your choice of ingredients and get steaming so you can quickly satiate your cravings unbothered. For example, you might want to incorporate a Mexican rice recipe, this red enchilada sauce recipe, or a fresh pico de gallo recipe. Using those quality ingredients, you may not notice a huge difference despite your use of parchment paper. 

Creative culinary substitutions with tamales

One advantage of using parchment paper is that it doesn't require the same prep work as corn husks do. While dried corn husks can require additional time to soak in water to become more pliable to use, parchment paper is ready to be put to work. Parchment paper can be cut or torn into the sizes of strips you want to fill, and the sides of the paper can be folded and rolled around the tamale and then tied with string or twine to maintain shape while steamed or baked. Parchment paper can even result in a cleaner workspace in your kitchen, as you won't have pieces of corn husks to sweep away once you've finished your tamale assembly. 

Worried that the absence of corn husks may render your tamales bland? This is where your knowledge of the difference between regular and smoked paprika will come in handy. Sprinkle in some smoked paprika or tuck in a few extra poblano peppers. Although you may notice a slight difference in texture between tamales made in parchment paper and those steamed in corn husks as the surface of the tamale will appear smoother without the imprinted ridges of a corn husk, the taste of the final product will make you forget any pending skepticism.