HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


Where to buy banana leaves to make tamales?

Anyone know where I can buy banana leaves to make tamales? I live in Capitol Hill.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Asian groceries usually have them frozen.


    1. I hope by now you have found them but just to let you know the Super H Market on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring sells them. You can also try the Whole Foods Market on 7th and P Streets in DC! I am still searching for a place in Baltimore where I can get Tamales!
      Good Luck!

      4 Replies
      1. re: drcarter050

        > I am still searching for a place in Baltimore where I can get Tamales!


          1. re: Hal Laurent

            Several places in "Upper" Fells Point, most Stop Shop and Saves in the area, An Uh Run (sp) on the west side of town

          2. I would try one of the little bodegas on 14th St. There is - or was - a really good one on the east side, perhaps between R and S?

            1. I've always used corn husks when I've made tamales.

              but Canales has great ones already made at their deli counter.

              1. You'll be able to find Banana leaves at almost all Asian grocery stores and Latino Grocery stores. I would suggest buying the LAFE brand if that's available. the leaves are always very clean and very complete. Sometimes you might get lots of broken shreds of leaf with some other brands. I know Gavilan should have them. That's 16th and Columbia rd.

                1. Lots of Asian and Hispanic markets have them now. I think I even saw a Goya brand of banana leaf in a frozen package.

                  Though, you may want to consider corn husks, too. They are very traditional for tamales and you can get them in a lot of places, in dried form.

                  Of course, one of the things that we learned in the restaurant business was that tamale wrappers didn't do much more than hold the batter together until it hardened. I've seen people use plastic wrap (wound up like a Tootsie Roll wrapper) and even aluminum foil.

                  Good luck!

                  1. The Best Way market in Mt. Pleasant is my go-to place in DC (I live in Dupont)

                    And for those recommending corn husks, banana leaves impart a very different flavor. Worth seeking out!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: ikobi

                      What else can you use besides banana leaves or corn husks? Whenever I buy dried corn husks they seem to have meldew on them.I gross out and throw them out and just don't make the tamales.I live in Washington state, Spokane. Plastic wrap and aluminum foil just do not seem like they would receive the steam like when you use leaves or husks. I see so many recipes for the most delicious sounding tamales, not just the traditional ones using meats of some sort. The dessert ones also sound awesome. My oldest grandson has decided to go vegetarian with a couple of girls in his high school. I don't know how long this will last but I would like to work with him on some dishes they would like. I alread plan on showing him how to make sushi, not sashimi. But, since I am Hispanic, I feel the need to go that direction also with him. Thanks for any help that can be given to me. sandra

                      1. re: sam849

                        would parchment work - en papillote-style? I've used fresh corn husks with few problems.

                        1. re: hill food

                          Parchment paper won't give the flavor. Corn husks,banana leaves, hoja santa, even chard, basically any kind of wrapper that can let the steam permeate and give flavor is possible.

                          1. re: hill food

                            Thanks for responding to my call for help, I will try that. I just remembered that when I have bought tamales in the can for camping, they are wrapped in paper. Probably like a parchment. Good call. Like others have said, and I understand what they mean, the flavor won't be there that will otherwise be with the husks or banana leaves, but I really cannot see high school kids going out to get those. I will give my grandson a box of parchment when I show him how to make them. I can imagine that maybe if someone is making a fish tamale, they could use a sheet of nori to wrap it in. That is if they like the flavor you get from seaweed. Thanks again, Sandra/Sam

                            1. re: sam849

                              Hey Sam, I've seen several examples of professional chefs using both foil and plastic wrap. It seems to work pretty well. It's the heat from the steam (which conducts to the batter through the wrapper) that actually cooks the tamale. The only downside is that the tamale has less of the character marks that you would see with a corn husk or banana leaf. (Its smoother.)

                              1. re: sam849

                                I was thinking, isn't the mildewy looking stuff on the dried husks called corn smut and don't some dishes call for it?

                                1. re: hill food

                                  Hmmm...this is one area that I have no expertise in. I admit it...I'm a total mildew and smut novice. :)

                                  1. re: Sean D

                                    who'da thought one can learn about smut on the internet...


                                    ok I was wrong about what exactly corn smut is, but was right that some people treasure it. I'm intrigued.

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      There are a number of threads here and there on Chowhound about huitlacoche.