Puerto Rico Travel Guide

Theme: Pasteles: Tips & Tricks  
Location: Your kitchen
Writer: Debbie Molina Ramos

Holiday Tour

This guide is about

“Pasteles”: Gourmet dish in Puerto Rico

Be creative by using your own "pasteles" recipe. Here is mom's tips and tricks on how to prepare Puerto Rico “pasteles”

"Must have "pasteles" while experiencing the culture of Puerto Rico as a local.

Debbie Molina Ramos, Tour Designer & Licensed Tour Guide since 1999

This blog is about...

...Puerto Rico's "pasteles"


Some historians inform that the origins of Puerto Rican “pasteles” are from the Tainos and others have written that is a combination of the Taino and African cultures. Well, based on my upbringing, I say it is a combination of all three races that forms a Puerto Rican: Taino, Spaniard and African. Why? The ingredients.

  1. Annatto (“achiote”) and casava (“yuca”) used by The Tainos.
  2. “sofrito” is Spanish heritage.
  3. the green bananas (“guineo verde”) and taniers (“yautía”) are from Africa.
pasteles ingredients
I consider “pasteles” a gourmet dish because all the steps are manual and fresh.

Choosing the stuffing:

The Puerto Rican "Pastel" is an adaptable dish because you can choose your own stuffing. Some prepare “pasteles” with chicken or only vegetables due to religious belief and medical conditions.

pasteles with pork
I personally prefer my “pasteles” with pork stew.

Choosing the pork

  • The hind leg (“pernil trasero”) of the pork provides more quantity and better flavor.
  • The picnic shoulder of the pork (“pernil delantero”) is also used when the budget is limited.
pork for pasteles
Puerto Rican pork farms follow strict guidelines set by the local and federal governments.
Thanksgiving Day tour Thanksgiving Day Tour
sofrito for pasteles
Highly recommend seasoning the stew and dough with Puerto Rican sauce known as “sofrito”.

Preparing the dough:

The dough includes green bananas and taniers. There are two (2) types of taniers: lilac and white. It recommended the white tanier (“yautia blanca”) when preparing “pasteles”. Some recipe adds pumpkin to soften the dough. Some dough are only casava ("yuca")

pasteles dough
My favorite dough have green banana (“guineo verde”) and white taniers (“yautía blanca”).

You will need plastic gloves when working with green banana. If your choice is casava ("yuca), you must squeeze the milk out from the yuca. You will get sick if you consume starchy milk.

Grater and pasteles
The grater is the kitchen tool to prepare the "pasteles" dough.
Flavoring the pasteles
Add color to the dough with annatto (“achiote”) and flavor with Puerto Rican sauce (“sofrito”)

Mounting the “pastel”

Green banana leaves are soften with heat. Skillfull cooks use the flames from a gas stove.

pasteles leaves
A smart and easy decision is to visit stores or markets that specializes in hispanic foods that sells the leaves ready to use.
Thanksgiving Day
Puerto Rican Style tour.
Thanksgiving Day Puerto Rican Style tour.
pasteles parchment paper
Another option is to use paper parchment (made for pasteles) when green banana leaves are not available or combine by placing a piece of leaf in the center of the paper.
pasteles banana leaf
Carefully clean the leaf with a wet paper towel.
pasteles with annato oil
Spread a small amount of annatto (“achiote”) oil on the green banana leaf, so the dough does not stick to the leaf.
pasteles annatto beans
If possible, prepare you own annatto oil.
pasteles dough
The amount of dough is according to the leaf's size.
pasteles pork stuffing
Pork stew is the traditional stuffing.
pasteles with Spanish pepper and olive
Add a slice of Spanish style red pepper and one stuff olive with no seed.

The final stages

pastel wrapped in banana leaf
Fold the leaf in a rectangular shape.

Kitchen Twine is use to tide the “pasteles”.

  • Read definition of twine
  • Kitchen twine, also known as butcher's twine, is a thick cottonstring often used for tying meat and other ingredients together.
pasteles twine strings
You have the option to tide single or double “pasteles”. Click for a youtube video of how to tide “pasteles”.
Thanksgiving Day
Puerto Rican Style tour.
Thanksgiving Day Puerto Rican Style tour.
boiling pasteles
  1. Boil water with salt.
  2. Add the pasteles and set timer for 30 minutes.
  3. Carefully place the very hot “pastel” on a plate, open and serve.

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¡Buen provecho!

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