Corn Husks – Not Just for Tamales

Corn Husks – Not Just for Tamales

We’re all used to throwing corn husks into the trash or compost bin, but did you know that corn husks have lots of uses? Whether you’re looking to explore new culinary adventures, reduce waste, or create some seasonal crafts, we have some alternate ideas for those corn husks.

Try something new with your husks

  1. Grill fish
    Use your fresh husk to wrap fish, like en papillote, and throw the whole thing on the grill. The husk helps keep the fish from drying out, which often happens when you grill more delicate fish. The end result is a smoky, tender fillet. (See below for our recipe.)
  2. Wrap sticky rice or Laulau
    Fresh husks make great wrappers for sticky rice, Chicken Laulau, or other Pacific Island dishes. Use them in place of Ti leaves or banana leaves, which aren’t always easy to find.
  3. Create harvest-style crafts
    Fall is a perfect time for adding more texture and richness into your surroundings.  Create chic-for-the-season crafts with inexpensive dried corn husks. They’re easy to trim and shape for simple autumnal decor. (See ideas below.)
  4. Add to stocks, soups, and chowders
    You can add washed, fresh corn husks to your stock pot for an extra-woody flavor–a nice addition in Mexican tortilla soup or corn chowder. (Remove husks before serving.)
  5. Use as fire tinder
    Corn husks burn easily when exposed to an open flame, so they are a great option for starting a campfire or a fire in a backyard fire pit fireplace. You can dry and store them in a plastic bag to bring on your next camping trip.
  6. Add to your compost
    Corn husks break down to produce a rich, moist compost. The fresh husks supply the same green material as grass clippings, fresh leaves, pea pods, manure, and fruit and vegetable waste that compost needs. They all supply nitrogen to the composting process and create a fast-decaying compost pile.

Corn-striped pumpkinsCorn Husk Pumpkins

Clean fresh corn husks and pat dry. Slice husks in half lengthwise. Starting with the bottom of the pumpkin, attach the slightly damp corn-husk strips at the stem and base with clear-drying gel glue or hot glue. Glue dots work great for holding in place while you glue. Trim at the stems for a nice clean edge.

Corn husk grilled fish

Preheat your grill to medium. Rinse and pat dry fresh husks. Place husks on a flat plate or rectangular dish, and rub olive oil over the leaves (any type of cooking oil will do). Season your fish with salt and pepper, and any other seasoning you’d like to add. Drizzle more olive oil and gently rub into on both sides of husk.

For small pieces of fish, wrap each piece in individual husks, starting with the fish on one end, then rolling the husk over itself and the fish until you reach the other end. Place the fish seam-side down on the grill (or grill pan). For larger pieces of fish, use overlapping layers of husks to make the bed for the fish, and tie the wrapped fish with string to hold it together.

Cover the grill and cook the fish until it is firm to the touch, about 8 to 10 minutes for the small fish pieces and 12 to 15 minutes for the larger filet. To keep the corn husks from burning, use a water spray bottle to spritz them every once in a while.

Serve the still-wrapped fish in the corn husks, letting your guests unwrap their dinner surprise.

You can also use this wrapping method for steaming fish. A bamboo steamer works great with small pieces of fish.

Corn husk luminariesCorn Husk Luminaries and Votives

Find clear jars and votives of various sizes.. Cut straight across the bottoms  of clean, dried fresh husks so that about ¼ to ½ of the tips extend past the tops of jars or votives. You may also want to trim along the top edge. Slightly moisten the  husks, then wrap each votive with 3-4 overlapping husks so that the bottoms of the husks line up with the bottom of the votive. (Secure with a rubber band to hold them in place while you wrap raffia ribbon around them several times.) Tie raffia or other natural string around the corn husks in a knot. Tuck a spotted guinea fowl feather or fall leaf between the husk and the raffia to add a flourish. Drop in your tea light candle and you are all set.

Working with dried corn husks: Buy packs of dried corn husks in the international foods section of a grocery store. Soak husks in water until they are pliable, then pat dry and shape.

Cornbread flowers with pancetta

These little cornbread muffins look like cheerful corn flowers using corn husks to make the petals. These muffins are so easy to make because you can use your favorite cornbread mix, like Jiffy or Marie Calendars, or make it from scratch with your favorite recipe.


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Place four ounces of diced pancetta in a small sauté pan over medium heat and brown until crisp, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Before mixing the batter, press a strips of corn husk into a muffin tin with tips sticking out 2-3 inches, until you have lined 12 cups. Be sure to press and crease in the corners to make sure the husks don’t pop out.

Mix batter according to package directions or recipe. Add 1/2 – 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, depending on how much batter you’re making. Fill tin 2/3 full and sprinkle pancetta on top.

Bake until firm, about 20 minutes. Use a narrow silicone spatula or dinner knife to remove the muffins from the pan and serve immediately, or slightly warm.


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