Puerto Rican Pasteles

Pasteles

Leah Maroney 

  • Total: 4 hrs
  • Prep: 3 hrs
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 20 Pasteles (10 Servings)

Making and serving pasteles at Christmas time is a Puerto Rican tradition. Pasteles are a type of tamal made with pork and adobo sauce. The stuffing is then 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, as each person in the family, even the youngest, is assigned a job. Make the plantain or yuca version for a delicious and filling traditional pastel.

Unlike Mexican tamales, pasteles are boiled and not steamed. True green plantains aren't unripened bananas, and both plantains and banana leaves are available from Latin markets. Remember, unripe bananas you could eat, although tough and not too flavorful; green plantains need to be cooked.

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 (Puerto Rican sofrito sauce)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon adobo
  • 1 tablespoon ground oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • For the Masa Dough:
  • 4 pounds yautía (malanga), peeled
  • 6 green plantains (or substitute both with yuca)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon achiote oil, or more to reach desired consistency
  • 2 tablespoons recaito
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • For Wrapping:
  • 40 10-by-5-inch banana leaves
  • 20 8-by-4-inch rectangles parchment paper
  • 20 18-inch pieces kitchen string

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.

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

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney
  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.

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney

Make the Masa Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney
  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.

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

    pasteles
    Leah Maroney 
  4. Place the masa over a cheesecloth or a fine-mesh sieve for at least 3 hours, so the excess moisture drips out.

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney
  5. Once the masa is ready, stir in the salt, recaito, 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.

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney

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.

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

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

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney
  4. Add one spoonful of pork filling and top with another spoonful of masa.

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney
  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.

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

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney
  7. Fold the edges of the banana leaf underneath the package.

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney
  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.

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney
  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.

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney

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.

    pasteles
     Leah Maroney
  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.

    pasteles
    Leah Maroney 
  3. Enjoy!

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 4 months, so always label the freezer bags with the date when they were made.