Steamed Pasteles



Pasteles is a traditional dish that is usually 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 viandas (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, olives, cilantro, onions, garlic, olive oil, capers and pork – native to Spain; and plantains and green bananas – native to West Africa.

I use modern preparation and cooking techniques in making pasteles.   For Instance, I do not grate the root vegetables manually with a box grater.   I prefer to use a food processor or you can purchase a machine grater online for pasteles.  Furthermore, I also steam the pasteles instead of boiling them in salted water, which is the most common cooking method.  With the steaming method, you prevent water from entering the pasteles, the pasteles retain their form and you eliminate the water draining process.  In addition, I do not use parchment paper and kitchen strings to tie the pasteles since they are steamed.  Therefore, I am able to reduce the food 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!

Pour ½ cup water and 2 pounds of pork boneless stew meat, trimmed of excess fat and cut into ½-inch cubes, into saucepan.  Cover with lid and cook over medium low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For this recipe, I normally purchase pork boneless stew meat or Boston Pork Butt Roast.  The pork boneless stew meat comes from the Boston Butt Roast (the shoulder) and the Picnic Roast (the arm) of the pig.  It is the same cuts of meat purchased whole to prepare the pork filling for our pasteles.

After 20 minutes of cooking, add 4 ounces lean ham, 1½ teaspoons Lite salt (or to taste) and ⅓ cup annatto oil.

Click on this link to learn How to Prepare Annatto Oil.

Continue with 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons tomato sauce and 3 tablespoons of sofrito.     

Click on the links to learn How to Prepare a Large Batch of Sofrito and/or How to Make Sofrito for a Single Meal.

Yes, the last ingredients to add to the port filling are:  4 sprigs fresh chopped cilantro, ¾ cup seedless raisins, 20 pimiento stuffed green olives (cut in halves) 2 tablespoons capers and 1 can (15 ounces) of garbanzo beans (chick peas) with liquid.  Stir all the ingredients until well blended and bring the liquid to a boil.  

I grew up eating pasteles with raisins in Puerto Rico (this is optional).  However, the raisins provide a touch of sweetness to the pasteles.

After boiling for several minutes, reduce heat to a simmer.  Stir the pork meat mixture and cover sauce pan with lid.  Simmer for 50 minutes or until the pork meat is thoroughly cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed.

Most of the liquid is absorbed and the pork meat is coated with the tomato-oil based sauce after 50 minutes of cooking.  If the pork meat still has plenty of liquid, remove the lid from the saucepan and cook over medium heat to thicken the sauce.  The pork filling is done.

Let’s Cut and Peel the Viandas to Prepare the Dough!

The term Viandas refers to root vegetables and starchy fruits.

This is a very, very green banana.  Cut off both ends with a knife.

Make three separate slits lengthwise from top to bottom with a knife barely touching the flesh. 

With your hands, remove the peel and continue this process until the skin is completely removed.  For this recipe, you will need 10 green bananas.

This is a Yautía known as Tara Root.  It has a brown and shaggy skin.  The flesh can vary in color from white, yellow or pink.

Cut off both ends with a knife.

Peel the skin of the Yautía with a knife or vegetable peeler.  For this recipe, you will need 2 pounds of yautías.

This is a green plantain.  Cut off both ends of the plantain. 

Make three separate slits lengthwise from top to bottom with a knife barely touching the flesh.  

With your hands, peel the plantain.  For this recipe, you will need 2 green plantains.

Let’s Get Ready to Prepare the Dough!

We just finished cutting, peeling and rinsing the viandas.  The next step is to grate the viandas.

After inserting grating blade and placing lid on food processor, grate the viandas in several batches.  Place grated dough into a large bowl.  

Some individuals prefer to grate the viandas with a box grater (use the side with the super fine blade) or with a specialty machine grater for pasteles that can be purchased online. 

Stir dough until all the grated viandas are well blended.

Pour 1⅔ cups annatto oil and 2 tablespoons Lite salt or to taste.   Stir dough until the color of dough is uniform – a bright orange color.

Gradually pour 2 cups of warm milk and stir until well blended.   The milk will give the dough a creamier texture.

The dough is done.  As you can see, it has a much creamier texture compared to the picture above before pouring the milk.

Let’s Get Ready to Assemble the Pastel with 12 x 12-inch leaf!

Regardless of the size of the plantain leaves that you prefer to use for the pasteles, clean each plantain leaf on both sides with a wet kitchen wash cloth.

Close to the edge of the plantain leaf, place 3 heaping tablespoons of dough.  Spread dough evenly on leaf.  Add 3 tablespoons of pork filling in center of dough.

Lift the edge of leaf to cover pork filling completely with dough.

Continue to fold into a pastel.

Turn over and gently fold each end towards the center. 

Once the pastel is formed, place pastel folded side down on a cookie sheet or baking pan.  Repeat this process for the remaining pork filling and dough.

You Can also Assemble the Pastel with 9 x 12-inch leaf!

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.

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 both sides of plantain leaf lengthwise over dough mixture.

Once the dough is covered with leaf lengthwise, fold each end gently toward the center.

Turn over the pastel and place the folded side down on on a cookie sheet.   

There are several different methods of folding the leaf.   Select your preferred method.  I do not wrap the pastel in parchment paper nor do I tie them with kitchen string since the pasteles are not boiled 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 is not necessary since I steam the pasteles.

These are frozen pastels.  Once I fill the baking pans or cookie sheets with freshly made pasteles, I place them in the freezer overnight.  The next day, they are packaged in gallon bags (4 pasteles per gallon bag) and stored in the freezer for future use.

We Are Ready to Start Steaming the Pasteles!

I have different steamers that I use, depending on how many pasteles I plan to steam.  The 2 steamers (1 medium size and 1 large size) contain 2 steamer baskets.  The medium size steamer will hold approximately 12 pasteles.  The larger steamer will hold at least 20.  For this demonstration, I will be using the small steamer that is placed on the induction cooker. 

Pour sufficient water into steamer.

Insert steamer basket, making sure that water is below the steamer basket so that the pasteles are not sitting in water..

Gently place the number of pasteles the steamer basket will hold.  Cover steamer with lid.  Since the pasteles were freshly made, it will take approximately 50 minutes to steam over medium heat.  If the pasteles are frozen, they need to steam for an additional 15 minutes.

After 50 minutes of steaming, remove lid and wait until the steam has evaporated before carefully removing the pasteles from the steamer basket.

The Pasteles Are Done Steaming!

Remove a pastel from the steamer basket and place on a plate.

Carefully unwrap the pastel.

The tropical aroma from the steamed pasteles is extremely appetizing and it looks delicious!  The pasteles are served with Rice with Pigeon Peas and Roasted Pork Shoulder.

When watching my YouTube video for the steamed pasteles, please notice the steam coming out from the pastel while it is being unwrapped and when it is served on the plate prior to tasting the pastel. 

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. 


Baked Puerto Rican Pastel

  • Author: Aida's Kitchen®
  • Prep Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 Hours 5 Minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 24 Pasteles 1x


Pasteles is a traditional dish that is usually prepared and enjoyed during the Christmas Holidays! Pasteles are made from a dough that consists of yautias (taro root), green bananas and green plantains that is then stuffed with a pork filling and wrapped in plantain leaves.



Meat Filling:

  • 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

Dough Mixture:

  • 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 or 12 x 12 inches


  1. Rinse pork meat and place in a large saucepan.
  2. Pour water and cook pork meat over low heat for 15 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients listed for the meat filling.
  4. 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.
  5. Grate the starchy fruits and root vegetables using a food processor.
  6. Place dough into a large bowl and stir until well blended.
  7. Add salt and annatto oil and stir until the color of dough is uniform.
  8. Pour warm milk and stir dough until well blended.
  9. Clean plantain leaves with wet cloth on both sides.
  10. In the center of plantain leaf, place 3 heaping tablespoons of dough.
  11. Spread dough evenly in the center of the plantain leaf.
  12. Place 3 tablespoons of pork filling in the center of dough.
  13. Fold edges of dough towards the center to cover pork filling with a stainless steel spoon.
  14. Fold the plantain leaf lengthwise over dough mixture.
  15. Fold each end gently toward the center and place folded side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  16. Steam the pasteles in a large steamer for approximately 50 minutes.  If the pasteles are frozen, they need to steam for an additional 15 minutes.

  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Puerto Rican

Keywords: Pasteles

Nutritional Facts Disclaimer


Category: Meat Pies, Recipes

10 Comments. Leave new

  • Do you have to add milk to the masa?

  • What should I look for in a food processor to make pasteles? Which one do you use?

    • Hi Grisell, I have been using the same food processor for 18 years and it is a Braun Brand Model 3205. I don’t know if this model still exist. However, make sure the food processor that you purchase comes with a grating blade. The grating blade is very important in order to obtain the right consistency when you grate your root vegetables and plantains with a food processor. Enjoy your weekend.

  • Can I still boil the pasteles if I want to?

    • Hi Wanda, If you decide to boil the pasteles, you will need to wrap them in parchment paper and tied them as well. The pasteles need to be secured when boiling. These pasteles are only wrapped for steaming but once you prepare the pasteles with this recipe, just double wrap each pastel with a banana leaf and parchment paper, typing them with kitchen string.

  • Can I add calabaza to my masa?How much?

  • We made the pasteles and cooked them. The dough (masa) was hard. Is there way I can cook them to get it soft?

    • Hola Wanda, I am sorry to hear that they turned out hard. When I follow this recipe, the pasteles are always soft and creamy, even in my cooking class. In fact, these pasteles are known for their creamy texture when they are reheated in the microwave as well. Did you measure each ingredient correctly? Did the yautias measure 2 pounds after they were peeled? Were the green plantains super big because they tend to harden the masa? Did you add 2 cups of warm milk (milk will softened the masa)? The masa also has to be stirred constantly to soften when you add the ingredients to the masa. It is the first time anyone has informed me that my masa was hard. On the contrary, I always get complimented for the opposite. Since I was not there to see how it was made, I am unable to determine the problem. I don’t know if you steamed or boiled the pasteles? The steam will provide moisture compared to boiling them. Did you over cook the pasteles? Once the dough are filled with the meat, I don’t see how you can fix the dough. Again, I never had a problem with my dough being hard.


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