Puerto Rican Pasteles

Puerto Rican Pasteles

The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Drain Time: 3 hrs
Total: 5 hrs
Servings: 10 servings
Yield: 20 pasteles
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
755 Calories
26g Fat
111g Carbs
24g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 755
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 26g 33%
Saturated Fat 8g 39%
Cholesterol 82mg 27%
Sodium 2193mg 95%
Total Carbohydrate 111g 40%
Dietary Fiber 13g 48%
Total Sugars 22g
Protein 24g
Vitamin C 47mg 233%
Calcium 76mg 6%
Iron 4mg 21%
Potassium 1926mg 41%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Making and serving pasteles at Christmas time is a Puerto Rican tradition. Pasteles are a type of tamal made with pork and adobo stuffing encased in a green plantain masa and wrapped in banana leaves. Although time consuming and labor intensive, these pasteles are worth the effort. Traditionally made by the hundreds, then eaten during the holidays and frozen to consume up to the start of Lent, these savory treats are the product of a team effort. Each person in the family, even the youngest, is assigned a job of grating, mixing, stuffing, or wrapping. Make the plantain or yuca version for a delicious and filling traditional pastel.

Unlike Mexican tamales, pasteles are boiled and not steamed. They are made with green plantains—don't mistake them for unripened bananas. Both plantain and banana leaves are available from Latin markets.

Serve with pique criollo (Puerto Rican hot sauce), arroz con gandules (rice and beans), escabeche (seared and marinated cold meats or fish), roasted pork, and other holiday foods.

Ingredients

For the Pork Filling:

  • 2 pounds pork shoulder, diced

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 4 small sweet peppers, chopped

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons recaito, or Puerto Rican sofrito sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon adobo seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon ground oregano

  • 1 bay leaf

For the Masa Dough:

  • 4 pounds yautía , or malanga, peeled

  • 6 green plantains

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons recaito

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon achiote oil, or more to desired consistency

For the Wrapping:

  • 1 tablespoon achiote oil

  • Kosher salt, for boiling water

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Pork Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Puerto Rican Pasteles ingredients

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  2. Brown the diced pork in olive oil in a large nonstick skillet.

    pork cooking in a pan

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  3. Add the sweet peppers, chopped onion, recaito, garlic, adobo, oregano, and bay leaf, stirring well. Cook until the pork is no longer pink inside. Remove the bay leaf from the mixture and set aside to cool.

    Add the sweet peppers, chopped onion, recaito, garlic, adobo, oregano, and bay leaf to the pork in the pan

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Make the Masa Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    masa dough ingredients

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  2. In a large bowl, grate the peeled yautía and the green plantains (or cleaned and peeled yuca). Use disposable gloves, as uncooked plantains will stain your hands and kitchen towels.

    grate the peeled yautía and the green plantains

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  3. Blend the grated roots in a food processor until creamy.

    Blend the grated roots in a food processor

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  4. Place the masa over a cheesecloth or a fine-mesh sieve for at least three hours so the excess moisture drips out.

    Place the masa over a cheesecloth and remove moisture

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  5. Once the masa is ready, stir in the garlic, recaito, salt, and enough of the achiote oil to moisten the dough and add a little color. You are now ready to assemble and wrap the pasteles.

    Once the masa is ready, stir in the garlic, recaito, salt, and achiote oil

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Wrap the Pasteles

  1. Prepare a work surface to assemble and wrap the pasteles. If you have friends helping you, set up an assembly line. Prepare 20 (10 x 5-inch) banana leaves, 20 (8 x 4-inch) rectangles of parchment paper, and 20 (18-inch) pieces of kitchen string.

    Puerto Rican Pasteles ingredients

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  2. For each pastel, lay out a piece of parchment paper, topped with 1 piece of banana leaf. Brush achiote oil in a rectangular shape on the center of the banana leaf.

    Brush achiote oil in a rectangular shape on the center of the banana leaf

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  3. Spread 1 1/2 to 2 spoonfuls of masa onto the center of the leaf.

    Spread 1 1/2 to 2 spoonfuls of masa onto the center of the leaf

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  4. Add 1 spoonful of pork filling and top with another spoonful of masa.

    Add one spoonful of pork filling and top of the masa

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  5. Bring the edges of the banana leaf over the top of the pork filling. Then repeat with the other side of the banana leaf so that the masa completely covers the top of the filling.

    use the banana leaf to wrap the masa around the pork filling

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  6. Bring the edges of the banana leaf together and fold down over the top.

    Bring the edges of the banana leaf together and fold down over the top

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  7. Fold the edges of the banana leaf underneath the package.

    Fold the edges of the banana leaf underneath the package

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  8. Bring the top and bottom edges of the parchment paper over the top and fold or roll down the edges to make a horizontal seam. Tuck the ends under.

    wrap the banana leaf warps with parchment paper

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  9. Tie with a string in both directions. At this point, you can freeze any pasteles you are not going to cook and eat right away. Place them in resealable bags, date, label, and freeze.

    tie string around the parchment paper

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Cook the Pasteles

  1. Bring a stock pot of salted water to a boil. Place the pasteles in the water, making sure they are submerged. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

    Puerto Rican Pasteles in a pot of boiling water

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  2. Using tongs, remove the pasteles from the boiling water and place them on a plate. Carefully cut the string of each with kitchen scissors and very carefully open the banana leaves and parchment paper. Place the pastel on a serving plate.

    Puerto Rican Pasteles

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Tip

  • How to Cook Frozen Pasteles: When ready to cook, place the frozen pasteles in a pot of boiling water directly from the freezer. Cook for an hour, until tender. Pasteles keep well in the freezer for up to four months, so always label the freezer bags with the date when they were made.

Recipe Variation

  • You can substitute both the yautía and plantains with yuca.

What's the Difference Between Pasteles and Tamales?

Pasteles are a Puerto Rican type of tamale, with a masa made of plantain and yautía or yuca. Tamales are a popular dish throughout Mesoamerica that are typically made with corn masa.