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Puerto Rican Pasteles

Grab your loved ones and make these together!


For the Caldo de Jamón, or Ham Broth (Can Be Make 1 Week Ahead), Optional

6 cups (1.5 litres) cold water

1 2-pound (1 kilogram) smoked ham hock

1/2 large yellow onion peeled and cut in half

4 cloves garlic peeled

2 tablespoons (18 grams) kosher salt

1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns

4 large bay leaves

For the Meat Marinade (Can Be Made 1 Week Ahead)

1 large yellow onion cut in half, separated

1 cup (245 grams) sofrito separated

1/2 cup (120 milliliters) white wine vinegar or white distilled vinegar

4 cloves (3 tablespoons or 45 grams) garlic crushed to a paste

2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) olive oil

3 teaspoons (16 grams) adobo plus more to taste

1 tablespoon (10 grams) sazón

2 teaspoons (1 gram) oregano

1 teaspoon (1 gram) black pepper

For the Pork Filling (Begin Marinating 4 Hours Ahead)

2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) achiote oil or vegetable oil

3 pounds (1 1/2 kilograms) Boston butt (see note section for meat replacements)

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces or 350 mililliters) tomato sauce

10 olives sliced

1 tablespoon (15 grams) capers

For the Masa de Guineo (Green Banana Puree)- Can Be Made One Day Ahead

12 each (2.3 kilograms) guineos verde (green cooking bananas)

2 pounds (990 grams) yautía (or malanga)

1 pound (450 grams) calabaza (Kabocha squash)

1 large (365 grams) batata (boniato) or Russet potato

1/4-1/2 cup (60-120 milliliters) achiote oil plus more for oiling the banana leaves

1/2-3/4 cup (120-175 milliliters) ham broth

2 teaspoons adobo or to taste

To Assemble the Pasteles

18 prepared (or frozen and thawed) banana leaves see body of post for preparing the banana leaves

3/4 cup (175 milliliters) achiote oil

masa de guineo

pork filling

manzanilla olives optional

jarred roasted red pepper sliced, optional


Prepare the Caldo de Jamón (or Ham Broth)

Fill a 6 to 8-quart stockpot with the cold water.

Add the smoked ham hock, onion quarters, garlic cloves, kosher salt, black peppercorns, and bay leaves.

Bring the water up to a boil over medium-high heat. Don't stir the broth as it boils.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the broth to simmer for 20-25 minutes. 

Once the broth is done cooking, use a spider or slotted spoon to remove the ham hock, onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaves from the pot.  

Line a funnel with a few layers of cheesecloth or a clean tea towel. Place the funnel inside a 1-liter glass bottle that has a lid.

Carefully pour or ladle the broth through the cheesecloth to filter it into the bottle. 

The broth is ready to use right away or store. 

Prepare the Banana Leaves

Use your kitchen shears to remove the rigid rib on the banana leaf.

Wipe both sides of the banana leaves with a damp kitchen towel or paper towels to remove any dirt. 

Pass the leaves over your gas stove's high flame, holding them with tongs. The leaf will look like it's melting as the fire heats it, which is the wax in the leaf melting away.

Continue passing the leaves, on both sides, over the flame until all of your leaves are wilted. 

You can freeze your banana leaves overnight to soften them if you don't have a gas flame.

Cut the leaves into a rectangle that measures 7 1/2-inches by 6-inches. 

Prepare the Meat Marinade

Grate half of a large yellow onion into a large mixing bowl.

Add 1/4 cup (60 grams) of the sofrito, the white wine vinegar (or white distilled vinegar), garlic, olive oil, adobosazón, oregano, and black pepper to the mixing bowl, and use your hands or a whisk to combine the marinade. 

Cut and Marinate the Meat

Slice the pork into 1/2-inch thick slabs with a chef's knife, then dice the pork meat into chunks that are about a 1/2-inch.

Add the diced meat to the bowl and toss it in the marinade to coat it thoroughly.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.

Marinate the meat for your pasteles filling for at least four hours, but 24 hours (or even overnight) is best.

Cook the Meat Filling

Heat a caldero or dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Add achiote oil to the caldero and allow it to heat for 30 seconds.

Dice the remaining half of the yellow onion and add it, along with the remaining sofrito, to the pot and sauté for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. 

Stir the marinated pork and its liquids into the ingredients in the pot and brown it over medium-heat heat for 8-10 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, sliced olives, capers, and bay leaves, and bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the temperature to low.

Cover the pot and allow the meat to simmer for 20-25 minutes.

After the cooking time has elapsed, allow it to cool for 20 minutes, then use it to fill your pasteles.  

Soak and Peel the Guineos Verde

Use a paring knife to cut off both stem ends of each banana.

Make a slit down the front and back of each banana using the tip of the paring knife. 

Put the bananas into a large mixing bowl and cover them with very hot tap water.

Leave them to soak for 20 minutes to soften the peels while you peel and chop the other vegetables.

Once the guineo peels are soft, peel them, leaving them whole.

Dump the soaking water and return the bananas to the bowl. Cover them with cold water to keep them from oxidizing.

Peel and Prep the Other Root Vegetables

Use a chef's knife cut the calabaza wedge into 1/2-inch thick slices.

Next, use a paring knife to remove the rind of the calabaza wedge. Leave the unpeeled calabaza in strips or cut them into large chunks.

Add the chunks of calabaza to a large bowl of cold water.

Peel the skin from the yautía with a vegetable peeler, then cut it into long strips.

Add it to the bowl with the other vegetables.

Peel and cut the batata into 1-inch thick strips, adding it to the bowl as well.

Prepare the Masa for Pasteles

Fit your food processor with the grater attachment.

Grate the soaking veggies to make them smaller.

Remove the grater attachment and replace it with the metal blade attachment after all the root veggies are grated.

Next, add a quarter of the shredded veggies to the food processor bowl and puree for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Make sure to get into the corners of the bowl, too. 

Puree for another 30 seconds and stop and scrape again. Puree once more for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Continue pureeing the root veggies in 1/4 batches until you have a bowlful of masa.

Use a large spoon to stir the masa in the bowl together to combine it. The masa should be free of lumps, light, and airy, with a spongy consistency.

Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of achiote oil to the masa in the bowl.

Next, stir in 1/2 cup to 1 cup of the ham broth to add more flavor and soften the masa.

Assemble Your Pasteles

Cut parchment paper in 18-inch by 12-inch rectangles or buy pre-cut sheets of parchment paper. 

Taste-test your masa before assembling your pasteles: drop a spoonful of the masa onto a microwave-safe plate.

Lay a sopping wet paper towel over the masa and heat it in the microwave for 20 minutes.

See if you're happy with the seasoning; if not, adjust as needed. Don't make it perfectly salted because pasteles boil in salted water. Barely undersalt the masa.

To assemble the pasteles, first lay out your ingredients and supplies in this order: parchment paper, banana leaves, achiote oil, masa, meat filling, and add-ins like red pepper slices (mild and spicy), olives, and chickpeas.

You will also need a pair of scissors and butcher's twine for tying the bundles together. 

Measure 40-inches of twine per bundle, which is more than enough slack to tie the bundles (or yuntas) of pasteles.

Keep them nearby so you can reach them while holding the pastel in one hand.

Lay a banana leaf in the center of a parchment rectangle and spread a tablespoon of the achiote oil onto the center of the leaf.

Scoop 1/2-cup of the masa onto the center of the banana leaf and spread the masa into an oval.

Fill the masa with 1/4 cup of the pork filling, then spoon a tablespoon of the broth from the pork filling on

Top the meat with your add-ins.

Wrap, Then Tie Your Pasteles

Bring the two long edges of the parchment paper together over the pastel. Think of it like folding a bed sheet and bringing the edges together.

Next, make a 1-inch fold in the paper. Fold the parchment in half to form a band almost as wide as the pastel to encase the meat in the masa.

Fold the paper's short ends (sides) in 1/2-inch and use your nail to crease it.

Next, fold the "tails" or unfilled end of the paper towards the center of the bundle. It should land right about midway to the pastel. Repeat on the opposite side. 

Stack two pasteles with the folded ends touching each other.

Grab your cut piece of twine and hold the cut ends together, holding the string's loop in one hand and two loose ends in the other.

Slide the string under the stacked pasteles, ensuring the bundle's short end sits right in the middle of the two strings.

Bring the three fingers of the hand with the looped end up. Go through the loop with those fingers and grab the two strings in the other hand.

Pull the two loose ends through the loop and towards the sides of the bundle. 

Flip the bundle over and bring the string's edges under the two strands on the backside (formed earlier by the loop). Tie the two loose ends in a knot.

Store or Boil the Pasteles

Bring a gallon of water to a rapid boil.

Add a 1/4-cup of salt to the water and stir the water to dissolve the salt.

Add the frozen pasteles to the water and boil them for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.

Fresh, unfrozen pasteles only need to boil for 45 minutes. 

Use tongs or a carving fork to lift the cooked pasteles from the pot and set them in a colander inside the sink to drain.

Snip the strings off of the bundles with scissors and cut both ends of the paper off before unwrapping the pasteles and sliding them onto your plate. 

Remove and discard both the parchment paper and the banana leaf.

Pasteles are traditionally served with Pernil, Arroz con Gandules, potato salad, and a glass of coquito.

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