Pasteles is a traditional dish that is prepared and enjoyed during the Christmas Holidays! It is very similar to the Mexican tamales and Venezuelan hallacas. The pastel is a dough made from grated starchy fruits/root vegetables and filled with seasoned stewed pork meat then wrapped in banana leaves. The dough absorbs the unique flavor from the plantain leaves, which provides that unique aroma and taste to the pastel.
The pastel consists of ingredients from all three ethnic groups that define the Puerto Rican culture. Some of these ingredients, for example, are: hot chili peppers (ajíes caballeros), tannier (yautías), culantro, ajíes dulces and annatto (achiote) – native to the Taíno Indians; garbanzos, raisins, olive, cilantro, onions, garlic, olive oil, capers and pork – native to Spain; and plantains and green bananas – native to Africa.
I use modern preparation and cooking techniques in making pasteles. For Instance, I do not grate the root vegetables manually instead I use a food processor. I also steam the pasteles as opposed to boiling them in a pot of salt water (traditional method). With the steaming method, you prevent water from entering the pasteles and you eliminate the water draining process. Furthermore, I do not use parchment paper and kitchen strings to tie the pasteles since I steam them. Therefore, I am able to reduce the preparation time in making pasteles.
A Little History From Author – Cruz Miguel Ortiz Cuadras
According to Cruz Miguel Ortíz Cuadras, author of “Eating Puerto Rico” – recipes for pasteles did not appear in any cookbooks prior to 1930 probably due to the long preparation process for this dish. However, it finally appeared in Dooley’s 1948 “The Puerto Rican Cookbook” as a Christmas recipe after many years of perfecting and standardizing the pastel recipe.
Let’s Start Preparing the Pork Filling!
Add water and pork in a saucepan. Cover with lid and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
For this recipe, I normally purchase pork boneless stew meat or Boston Pork Butt Roast. I trim the excess fat and cut the pork meat into ½-inch cubes.
Pour the annatto oil.
Click on this link to learn How to Prepare Annatto Oil.
Now we are ready to add our tropical ingredients – Sofrito and Culantro – for a unique flavor and aroma.
You can, however, subsitute the culantro with cilantro. Click on the link for more information on Culantro, Click on the links to learn How to Prepare a Large Batch of Sofrito and/or How to Make Sofrito for a Single Meal.
Add the salt, tomato sauce, capers and olives.
Let’s add the garlic, lean ham and raisins.
I grew up eating pasteles with raisins in Puerto Rico (Traditional recipe). However, if you are not fond of raisins, do not add them to the pork filling.
Yes, the last ingredients to add to the pork filling – garbanzo beans.
Stir all the ingredients until well blended.
Cover saucepan with lid and cook for 50 minutes over low-medium heat or until pork meat is thoroughly cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Let’s Cut and Peel the Starchy Fruit and Root Vegetable!
You will need green bananas, taro roots (yautías) and green plantains to prepare the dough.
Cut off both ends for green plantains and green bananas. Make a slit lengthwise from top to bottom with a knife. Insert a spoon or flatware knife in the slit between the flesh and skin, pressing skin backwards to peel the plantain or banana lengthwise from top to bottom. With your hands, remove the peel and continue this process until the skin is completely removed.
Cut both ends of the taro root (yautía) and cut the taro root (yautía) in half (across). Peel the skin with a knife.
Let’s Get Ready to Prepare the Dough!
Rinse and grate the starchy fruits and taro roots, using a food processor.
Some individuals prefer to grate the starchy fruits/root vegetables, using a box grater or a specialty machine for grating.
The consistency of the dough should be smooth.
Place dough into a large bowl.
Stir dough until all the grated root vegetables and starchy fruits are well blended.
Pour annatto oil and add salt to taste.
Stir dough until the color of dough is uniform.
Pour warm milk and stir until well blended.
The dough will still have an orange color after mixing the dough with milk.
Let’s Get Ready to Assemble the Pastel!
Purchase the banana leaves at the Latin Market. Cut each leaf into 9 x 12-inch rectangles. Clean each leaf with a clean wet kitchen towel on both sides.
In the center of leaf, place 3 heaping tablespoons of dough.
I do not add annatto oil in the center of the leaf before placing the dough because I steam my pasteles and the pastel slides off with ease.
Now we can place 3 tablespoons of pork filling in center of dough!
With stainless steel spoon, fold the edges of dough towards the center, covering pork filling.
The pork filling is covered completely with dough.
Fold first the plantain leaf lengthwise over dough mixture.
Once the dough is covered with leaf lengthwise, fold each end gently toward the center.
This is how the pastel looks after it has been folded lengthwise and both ends.
There are several different methods of folding the leaf. Select your preferred method.
This is the other side of the pastel after it has been folded. Place the folded side down on top of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
I do not wrap the pastel in parchment paper nor do I tie them with kitchen string since I do not boil the pastel in salt water. In my cookbook, I do wrap the pasteles in parchment paper as well as tie them with the kitchen string. However, I realized later on that this step was not necessary since I steam my pasteles.
We Are Ready to Start Steaming the Pasteles!
Pour sufficient water into steamer.
Insert steamer basket, making sure that water is below the steamer basket.
You don’t want your pasteles sitting in water.
Gently place the number of pasteles the steamer basket will hold.
I normally use a steamer that has two steamer baskets – a bottom and top steamer basket. I am able to place pasteles in both baskets.
Here is an example of the top basket with pasteles! You can add more pasteles on top. Place steamer on stove and steam pasteles for 45 minutes. If they are frozen, steam them for 1 hour.
I can easily steam 8 to 10 pasteles with this steamer.
The Pasteles Are Done Steaming!
Remove a pastel from the steamer basket and place on a plate to unwrap.
Unwrap the pastel and enjoy every single bite!
By steaming the pastel, you eliminate the water draining process and you prevent water from entering the pastel, maintaining the edges of the pastel firm.
Once the pasteles are assembled, they are placed on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and stored in the freezer for several hours until frozen. When they are frozen, I packaged them in plastic gallon bags and place them again in the freezer for future use.
Click on the button below to watch my YouTube video on How to Prepare Pasteles!
Recipe and Nutritional Facts!
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is approximate only. Please refer to our Nutritional Facts Disclaimer for more information.Print
Pasteles is a traditional dish that is prepared and enjoyed during the Christmas Holidays! The pastel is a dough made from grated starchy fruits/root vegetables and filled with seasoned stewed pork meat then wrapped in banana leaves.
- 2 pounds pork boneless stew meat or boston butt pork roast, trimmed of excess fat, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½ cup water
- 4 ounces lean ham, diced
- 1½ teaspoon salt (low sodium) or to taste
- ⅓ cup annatto oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons sofrito
- 4 sprigs cilantro, chopped or 1 culantro leaf, chopped
- ¾ cup seedless raisins
- 20 pimento-stuffed green olives, halved
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, with liquid
- 10 green bananas, peeled
- 2 pounds yautía, peeled
- 2 green plantains, peeled
- 2 tablespoons salt (low sodium) or to taste
- 1⅔ cups annatto oil
- 2 cups warm skim milk
To Wrap Pasteles
- 24 banana leaves, cut into 9 x 12 inches
- Rinse pork meat and place in a large saucepan.
- Pour water and cook pork meat over low heat for 15 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients listed for the meat filling.
- Cover saucepan with lid and cook over low-medium heat for 50 minutes or until pork meat is thoroughly cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
- Grate the starchy fruits and root vegetables using a food processor.
- Place dough into a large bowl and stir until well blended.
- Add salt and annatto oil and stir until the color of dough is uniform.
- Pour warm milk and stir dough until well blended.
- Clean plantain leaves with wet cloth on both sides.
- In the center of plantain leaf, place 3 heaping tablespoons of dough.
- Spread dough evenly in the center of the plantain leaf.
- Place 3 tablespoons of pork filling in the center of dough.
- Fold edges of dough towards the center to cover pork filling with a stainless steel spoon.
- Fold the plantain leaf lengthwise over dough mixture.
- Fold each end gently toward the center and place folded side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Steam the pasteles in a large steamer for approximately 45 minutes. If the pasteles are frozen, they need to steam for 1 hour.
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: Puerto Rican