Loading... Please wait...

Our Newsletter

About Pasteles

Pasteles (pronounced pas-TEL-les; singular pastel) are a traditional dish in several Latin American countries. In Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean coast of Colombia, and Panama, it is similar to a tamale. In Central American cuisine, it more closely resembles a British pasty or an Italian calzone.

In Central American pasteles, the filling is placed in the center of a disk made of dough. The dough is then folded over and the edges sealed and fried. It is often served with curtido, a type of relish resembling sauerkraut.

In Hawaii, they are called pateles, as discussed below.




Puerto Rico

 Puerto Rican Pasteles

In Puerto Rico pasteles are a cherished culinary recipe. The masa consists of a combination of grated green banana, green plantain, taro, and calabazas (tropical pumpkins), and is seasoned with liquid from the meat mixture, milk, and annatto oil (annatto seeds infused with olive oil). The meat is prepared as a stew and usually contains any combination of pork shoulder, ham, bacon, raisins, potatoes, chickpeas, olives, and capers seasoned with bay leaves, recaito, tomato sauce, adobo seco, and annatto oil. The pork shoulder can also be replaced with boston butt or chicken.

Assembling a typical pastel involves a large sheet of parchment paper, a strip of banana leaf that has been heated over an open flame to make it supple, a little annatto oil on the leaf. The masa (dough) is then placed on banana leaf and stuffed with meat mixture. The paper is then folded and tied with kitchen string to form packets. It can also be done with aluminum foil, minus the string.

Once made, pasteles can either be cooked in boiling water or frozen for later use. Because they are so labor intensive, large Puerto Rican families often make anywhere from 50-200 or more at a time, especially around the Christmas holidays. They are usually served with rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules), roasted pork, and other holiday foods on the side.

Pasteles de yuca is one of many recipes in Puerto Rico that are popular around the island and in Latin America. The masa is mostly yuca (cassava) and may contain potato, malanga and yam. The grated yuca and potatoes are squeezed through a cheesecloth. Some liquid from the stew is added to the masa with milk and annatto oil. The filling may be traditional or it may be stew of currants, shrimp, crab or lobster cooked in coconut milk, and seasoned with basil, sofrito, adobo, and annatto oil.

Another variety is pasteles de arroz where the "masa" is actually composed of partly cooked seasoned rice which is fully cooked as the pastel boils. Fillings are traditional, but pork, chicken and crabmeat are the most common.

Pasteles of all varieties are served with lemon (if seafood) and tabasco sauce or pique criollo; a local hot sauce made from local hot chilies and other ingredients pickled in vinegar (sometimes with rum added).

Cuchifrito pasteles are done traditional. The masa consists of grated green banana (pasteles de guineo) or green plantains (pasteles de plátano), liquid from the meat mixture, milk, and annatto oil. It is then filled with boston butt and served with a sauce. It should be noted that cuchifrito in this case refers to the establishment in which the pastel is sold; traditionally, cuchifritos are exclusively fried foods, though places selling them may also offer other types of foods.


Berta Cabanillas, author of Cocina a gusto, holds that slaves working at sugar mills invented pasteles.

Puerto Rican pasteles do however have their roots in Puerto Rico and are a mix of fufu and tamales.

Marina López, a culinary educator, was interviewed for a book named Puerto Rico grand cuisine of the Caribbean by José L. Díaz de Villegas Freyre. She says that a typical pastel takes green banana only, without tuber. "The green banana is from the mountains, the plantains from the coast".


Colombian pasteles are called pasteles de arroz ("rice pasteles") and are more of a tamale than a typical pastel. The masa ("dough") is made up of rice that is seasoned and left out in the sun; they call this orear ("to air"). The masa is filled with many things. Pickled vegetables, chorizo, pork, chick peas, olives, and potatoes are the most common stuffing. Colombian pasteles are wrapped twice, once with cabbage leaf, and again with banana leaf.

Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic they are called Pasteles en hojas. Making Dominican pasteles is strenuous work and the dish is usually eaten during the Christmas holidays. Pasteles are filled with a masa which consists of grated green plantains, Caribbean pumpkin, and other native root vegetables. The masa is filled with either ground meat sauteed with annatto powder, garlic, red onions, bell peppers, and tomato paste or sauteed beef that is cut in a food processor. There aren't any fixed recipes in seasoning the meat ,for many Dominican families have their own recipes and add their own flavor and additions;it is common for many Dominicans to also add grapefruit or sour orange and oregano or basil to the meat and for the pasteles, the meat filling may or may not include raisins and olives. There are several ways and ingredients for the filling around the island: from shrimp and goat meat to lobster meat and grounded conch in some places.

Once the fillings are prepared, banana leaves are boiled so they are more manageable. The masa is then placed in the middle of a banana leaf, then filled with meat folded, tied, and boiled or frozen. Because of the lengthy process and hard work that goes into making pasteles en hoja, they are frequently made in large batches. The dish is often eaten with ketchup and tabasco sauce and is a side dish paired with other holiday dishes like moro de gandules con coco ( rice with pigeon peas and coconut milk), russian salad, and a roasted meat or poultry and the like.

Another version is called tamales, and is made from cassava. "Bollo de Guayiga" is made of a tuber called Guayiga and is available in southern beaches as a snack, but limited to the region of San Cristobal and Najayo Beach.

El Salvador

In El Salvador, pasteles are a red tinted corn flour-based dish with a unique stuffing of either beef or chicken, and with chopped potatoes and carrots. The stuffing is basically cooked separately so that the flavors mix. Once the stuffing is cooked they are put into the molded flour, which is made by adding the mixture of boiled water and achiote powder, thus giving the flour the red coloring. Once the stuffing is in the flour turnover it is fried to a finish. This is usually accompanied by the curtido, just like a pupusa.


The Hawaiian name for this food, pateles, may be related to the absence of consonant clusters in native Hawaiian words, or it may be that the word was borrowed from Caribbean Spanish, which features weakening or loss of /s/ at the end of syllables: the pronunciation of pasteles as "pateles" occurs in Puerto Rican dialects, for instance.


Guayadora/Maquina para Pasteles Guaya-Force JAWS

Grater/Machine for Pasteles Guaya-Force JAWS