International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Pasteles Recipe (Puerto Rican savory cakes in banana leaves)

(Puerto Rican savory cakes in banana leaves)

Image Creative Commons by Whats4Eats

Average: 4.2 (159 votes)

Pasteles are Puerto Rican special occasion food. The whole family usually gets together assembly-line-style to make large numbers of these starchy parcels and get them ready for the boiling pot. No Boricuan Christmas is complete without pasteles.

Makes about 12 to 15 pasteles, enough for 6 to 8 people


Masa (dough)

  • Green bananas, peeled and chopped -- 5
  • Green plantain, peeled and chopped -- 1
  • Yautía (taro root), peeled and chopped -- 1 1/2 pounds
  • Russet potato, peeled and chopped -- 1
  • Salt -- to taste


  • Onion, chopped -- 1
  • Green pepper, seeded and chopped -- 1
  • Garlic, peeled and chopped -- 3 to 4 cloves
  • Oil -- 2 to 3 tablespoons
  • Pork butt or shoulder, cut into small cubes -- 2 pounds
  • Tomato sauce -- 1 cup
  • Water -- 1/2 cup
  • Cilantro, chopped -- 1/2 bunch
  • Oregano, dried -- 2 teaspoons
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste

For Assembly

  • Banana leaves, hard spine removed and cut into 12x6-inch rectangles -- 15 pieces
  • Parchment paper, cut into 12x6-inch rectangles -- 15 pieces
  • Kitchen string --15 (20-inch long) pieces and 30 (10-inch long) pieces
  • Achiote or vegetable oil -- 1/4 cup


  1. Masa: As you chop the bananas, plantain, yautía and potato, place the chunks into a large pot of cold, salted water to keep them from browning.
  2. Drain the water and puree the chopped ingredients in batches in a food processor. Add a little water or milk as needed to make a soft dough with the consistency of cooked oatmeal. You may have to let the processor run for a while, and make sure to scrape down the sides. Remove the masa to a large bowl and season with salt. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  3. Filling: Add the onion, pepper and garlic to a food process and pulse to chop finely.
  4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium flame. Add the onion-pepper mixture and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, adjust seasoning and allow to cool.
  5. Assembly: Get the masa, the pork filling and all of your assembly ingredients together in a workspace. Lay out a piece of parchment paper, then center a piece of banana leaf over it. Wipe the banana leaf dry and then brush the top side with achiote or vegetable oil.
  6. Scoop up 1/2 cup of the masa and place in the middle of the banana leaf. Spread evenly over the leaf, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of pork filling in the middle of the masa.
  7. Fold the top edge down over the filling. Bring the bottom edge up over this. Then fold in both sides to make a rectangular packages. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly or the filling will squeeze out. Flip the package over on the parchment so it is seam side down.
  8. Fold the bottom of the parchment up over the wrapped package. Fold in each side, then roll up, burrito-like, to complete the package. Tie one of the 20-inch pieces of string around the pastel lengthwise and then three 10-inch pieces across the short side.
  9. Bring a large pot of well salted water to boil on the stove. Drop in the prepared pasteles and boil gently for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  10. Remove from the water with tongs, remove the outer parchment and serve the pasteles with or without their banana leaf wrapping. Goes well with arroz con gandules.

Pasteles Variations

  • The recipe above is a basic pasteles filling. Additional items are often added to the filling when the pasteles are wrapped. Add 5 or 6 capers and 1 pimento-stuffed olive to the filling of each pastel. Or add 5-6 cooked garbanzos.
  • Pasteles can also be made with chicken, shrimp or ground beef. For vegetarian pasteles, substitute 2 (15-ounce) cans of drained garbanzos for the pork.
  • Stir a little of the sauce from the filling into the masa to give it extra flavor.
  • Puree 1/2 pound of peeled, chopped calabaza squash with the masa if you like. Or substitute yuca (cassava root) for the yautía.
  • If you want to avoid all the string tying, use aluminum foil to wrap up the pasteles instead of parchment paper.
  • Wrapped, uncooked pasteles freeze well for later use. Cook them directly from the frozen state.


  • Pasteles are a favorite Puerto Rican dish. They are special occasion food, and no Boricuan Christmas table is complete without them.
  • Don't worry if your first few pasteles look kind of funny. The work will get easier and you will get better at it as you make more of them.
  • Spread the work over more than one day by making the masa and filling up ahead. Chilled masa is much easier to work with. Then gather some family or friends and make the pasteles in an assembly line. The work is much faster this way, and it makes for good family fun.
  • The special ingredients for pasteles--taro root, plantains, banana leaves--can be purchased at most Asian or Latino markets.


Pasteles has been mistranslated. Pasteles are not "savory cakes". Puerto Rican wouldn't relate them to cakes or any desert.

Puerto Rican pasteles are similar to the Mexican tameles, and very delicious. Give them a try.

Pastel is the Spanish word for "cake." Calling them "savory" means they aren't sweet or a dessert item. The use of "cake" in this instance is in the sense of definition 1a in Merriam-Webster's dictionary:

"a breadlike food made from a dough or batter that is usually fried or baked in small flat shapes and is often unleavened."

In the case of pasteles, the cakes are boiled. Tamales are sometimes described as corncakes.

In Puerto Rico, Pasteles is a very traditional, creole recipe that has its own identity apart from any others. It is used for a tamale like specialty made from green bananas and root vegetables and filled with tasty, savory meat filling. In Puerto Rico we do not use the word PASTEL for cakes, we usually call them bizcochos, no matter what the dictionary says.

Please reread my previous reply. "Cake" has more than one meaning in English, just like "pastel." You don't think a cake of soap is a dessert do you? CrabCAKES anyone?

Who cares!!! Pastel, Cake, Tamale...they are simply delicious!!!

By definition a cake is a block of solid substance... it doesn't have to mean baked goods. I understand how the translation could cause controversy as some words have a lot of meanings but one usually is more popular than the others.

I was born in Puerto Rico. Ask any puertorican what's a Pastel. We don't call any cake Pastel, we call it bizcochos. When we think of pasteles, we picture a medium size rectangular shape, light brown looking, delicious green banana and stew pork Pastel.Hey,there's no Pastel without the famous olive in the center!. Thanks for the _receta_ and please people don't start commenting on the word receta, we used receta as -recipe- as well as in -prescription-. Enjoy your pasteles!

Feliz Navidad!

lol very fun to read and ur right i went to Florida and couldn't understand why cubans and Mexicans kept saying a pastles for a party and i seen no foils any where :( lol


I like your comment lol

We are Boricuas!! (Islanders) we're not from Mexico or south america,Nor are we from central America. Somos caribeños.
We are Carabeans) and we are taught our language from our parent grand parents Etc. Bizcochos are sweet cakes, Pateles are never ever to be confuse with sweet. Heck pasteles are unique and Puerto Ricans have the priviledge to know them well.
We are Boricuas!!

I'm Black, and lived in Spanish Harlem for over 40 years. I love food! My style of cooking is Southern/Spanish/Italian/Asian. I incorporate a little of each into my signature dishes. However, Pasteles (My FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD), I don't mess with, truly an authentic Puerto Rican dish!! Nobody does it like them. Mexican Tamales are very very different. It may use similar ingredients, but, the taste is not similar at all. I'm trying my first hand at Pasteles this weekend with a few friends and researching variations and happened upon this discussion. So trust me,leave the Pasteles to the PRs. Mexican food I like, but only from authentic Mexican chefs, and there is not very much variations of taste and flavor in their food. I also like dishes from the Dominican Republic. Enjoy all!!

This comment is oh so true. It's a traditional tamale like specialty made of grated green bananas etc, and filled with a meat filling and wrapped in green banana leaves, boiloed and it's the best thng that touches your palate.Once you've had it, you'll remember it for life. Good Eating........

Thank you.the word pastel when used to describe a cake-Sweet or not. It is not used by Puerto Rican's we use BIZCOCHO world wide.Same with car-we do not use coche we say carro.we are not central americans!!!!!!

I love my culture very much, and find it very insulting when my puertorican food is compared with mexican food especially our pasteles. PASTELES ARE NOT SIMILAR TO MEXICAN TAMALES, THAT'S A FACT.

If you read the pastel recipe above you will find that the ingredients are not even close to a tamale, and not to mention the process is also not the same. I know this for a fact, because I make them every christmas season. Tamales are wrapped in corn leaves, pasteles are wrapped in banana leaves...I can go on and on describing the differences, but please don't compare our food to mexican food.

Isla de Encanto

So true, but there is some similarity. Both are steamed and the wrappings used are due to what is plentiful to the area. In Mexico, it is the corn leaves, and in the caribbean and south america, banana leaves. Of course different ingredients may be added according to region but the base of the recipe is the same. In any case, both are delicious!

Actually, my friends mother is from Oaxaca Mexico, and another friend is from Veracruz,Mexico. And in these places, they have the tradition to wrap their tamales in banana leaves as well. And the consistency is a lil bit more similar to pasteles as they use finely ground masa, as opposed to the sometimes thick corn masa.

And also, in República Dominicana, pasteles are made and eaten there as well. Just food for thought... ;)

I agree my mother is from Acapulco and she uses banana leaves, and my pops is from michoacan and they use corn husks. Any ways how the hell did this become a racial issue, first off Mexican, Central American, or Puerto Rican we are all the same. we have the same ancestors wether yall like it or not(african, indian, and spaniard). so get over it we all are the same just with different dialects, same foods but we just call it different. im chicana and from the westcoast but i married a puerto rican from the eastcoast and ive live in ny many years and sorry to burst all yall bubble but yes we are so similar and my husband being ny rican agrees. thats why we never go no where cuz of bull shit like this, stop the bitchin and join together cuz no matter what niether one of us is going anywhere, and america wouldnt be america without anyone of us

i love my culture too....and any other latin culture one spanish group is better than another.... so get over yourself and mexicanas make them the same way. pasteles and tamales are very comparable because we use banana leafs they use corn leaf's ....we make em with pork, chicken and so do they every recipe ingredients will vary but the out come is a yummy gift you have to unwrap add hotsauce and enjoy.

You are so right, Pasteles in no way, shape or form should ever be compared to Tamales, there is no comparison in any way.

Hi Im mexican... why do you feel insulted mexican food is great
so is puerto rican food.. mexican food is very exotic not like your food wich is only rice & beans.... very boring...
by the way tamales are great..I should feel insulted comparing
mexican food with puerto rican food..

Then what the hell are you doing on this web site looking at a recipe of our(puerto ricans)pasteles then???We have a ton of variety to our food,than just rice and beans lol.So before you run your mouth do some homework chica.You don't know how ignorant you sound!!!!

thats right!!!!!!!!!!!

yes is abig difference in taste and texture,honesly the mexican I dislike tell me what you call arroz guisado,rice cook in tomate sauce and plantillas for you tacos,now what you doing critisating PR.HONESTLY you race is nasty,you men's alcoholic so why you so proud of the tamales we PuertoRican back we eat funche con bacalao y habichuelas con arepas and to close what the heck you doing in America when istead of fighting for you country running,guapos,dejenerados y siempre se la dan de machos y a la verdad han venido al estado de Pennsilvania to live as roaches one in top of the other and the city not look as 30 yrs.ago go back and fight for you country and stop running as a guines pig

What? Mexicans come here to work, unlike PR's, alot of whom are on welfare and foodstamps. And we're proud of our tamales and ALL our food because it's famous worldwide! Puerto Rican food is garbage, that's why it isn't famous worldwide you nasty little welfare mama who can't spell or write!

Are you like five years old? You guys sound extremely ignorant with this Mexican/Puerto Rican crap!!! Why do you all just get over yourselves and grow the hell up already? Why can't we all just get along?!?

yo yo yo first of all mexican food taste the same the rice is boring and is full of tomato sauce come on sounds grose huh, i know. Plus puerto rican food is amazing stop hating because deep down you probably want to be us!!!, dont worry we understand why lol. PuErTo RiCo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! by the way im eating some right now DAMN im in heaven

Take it easy no one is bashing mexican food. I a fact that pateles can't be compared to tamales because it's not even made the same or cooked the same. tamales are not boiled nor does it take 1 to 2 days to prepare!

I feel like I'm insulting your culture when I say it (my hubby is PR and I learned to make pasteles for him)!

But it's the only way ppl here in San Antonio understand what the heck your talking about when asked what you are making for the holidays, since the dominant holiday treat here is tamales.


lol you guys have to stop fighting, we are all brown! JAJAJAJA I am boricua and I love our food and culture but I will tear up some mexican food as well... don't be hating people, just eat and enjoy

Savory cakes are just that--whether bread, fish, meat, etc.--they are non-sweet palm-sized shaped food items that are not of the dessert variety. If it was meant to be eaten for dessert, it would be styled a sweet cake. Cake doesn't just refer to a multilayer frosted sweet dessert--biscuits as well as cookies have been called cakes for ages. A square of grits that have been cooled, cut into "cakes" and fried are called grit cakes. Just about any food that can be presented by taking a bit, making it into a lump, flattening it and heating it in the pan so that it is warmed and browned on the outside is called a cake.
So, you can have your cake and eat it, too!

Pasteles are no cakes maybe in english just to try to compare it with another type of food! Its spanish the name does not even close to the word cakeas a definition!!!

Crab cakes too... don't try to explain too hard, most of the above commenters are ignorant. They don't know any better.

Pasteles are a very important dish to boricuas. We have them at every thanksgiving and every christmas. I love them. They are similar to Mexican tamales, but taste a whole lot better. And they are nowhere near tasting like a cake/dessert. More like a meat.

I agree with you . Maybe he should have asked a Puerto Rican what a pastel was. Mexicans use the word pastel for cake more than we do.

WOW... you'd think this were a police matter! If the word pastel is used more by Mexicans, then why does PR call their wrapped treat a pastelles (and note, too, for those a little slow: the compared Mexican treat is called a tamale - um, no 'pastel')?? No offense, but this is ridiculous to have such a trail of comments as seen here. How does food turn into bashing races? Really?? Since the day dawned of different languages, translations can skew the actual meaning of a word. Ever watch a Spanish movie with english subtitles?? The translation is skewed there, too... should we now start a fight with the translator of the movie because they didn't say it EXACTLY correct? And further, will you add a little more of one ingredient as opposed to another from this recipe - or will you follow it to the EXACT letter and make it precisely the same? If not, it becomes your own TRANSLATION of the recipe. Guess you then couldn't call it a pastelles or a tamale, huh - you'd have to come up with your own name. This thread really shows how we are all still so perplexed at why we can't get past racism. Somebody always has to make an issue from a simple topic and then immediately throws out the race card. The world is this way because people continue to make it this way. If you don't want issues, then drop your own issues and be proud of who you are, no matter where you come from - and QUIT HATING. We all share the same air. And, YES, pastelles and tamales are similar, but NOT IDENTICAL. They are unique to their respective regions - and both are delicious. Should we now discuss the difference between habichuelas and frijoles?? Yes, they are both beans, and frijoles are specifically refried beans, but when in the grocery store, you can buy beans in a can (that are not refried, mind you) labeled, guess what?? ........... frijoles! OMG!!! Maybe we should have them pulled off the shelf - they weren't named EXACTLY as the translation means. **SIGH** Moving on... as should everyone else!!

The genteman's translation is correct. If you have ever heard of "crabcakes" it's obviously not a sweet cake (bizcocho) but a flattened food consisting of a mixture of crab and breadcrumbs. Please make sure you know what you are commenting on before you misrepresent.Hispanics should work together more often. Not attack eachother so much !

Who ever said this is correct, I am P.R. and I love pasteles but they are not sweet nor in any way comparable to a savory cake. However, there is a big difference in flavor to Mexican tamales. Race is not an issue here nor it should have been. Also, pasteles are common in different countries..great article!
And one more thing, it is an acquired taste.

1) Most People like Mexican food
2) Puerto Rican food has not become popular like Mexican food because it isn't as good. Period.


a) Most people like Mexican food
b) Most Puerto Ricans dislike Mexican food and can't say so without also being insulting.

It's obvious Puerto Ricans simply hate and envy Mexicans. How flattering.

To me the word pastel means "cake" in the english language, in the puertorican language it means "pastel";Both words means the same, the only diference its the way puertorican make the "cake" for cake they add arina de trigo,or corn meal and sugar and for the patel they add masa de platanos o banana o cualquier otro vegetal; not sugar.

Lets the puertorican make the cake they way they want it,to me pastel its bether than cakes.

Are you a moron or a racist. First off there is no such thing as the Puerto Rican language. It's SPANISH maybe a different dialect but it is Spanish. Hence the reason why in some Latin countries it's called pastel or torta or bizcocho or what ever the local dialect calls it. Second you must not be Puerto Rican because you would know that adding Harina (the proper spelling for this word) de trigo or FLOUR! Means you're making bread. Third Harina de Maiz or Corn Meal is used to make Tamales de Mexico. Do all Latinos a favor especially Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. STAY ANONYMOUS.

Tu tampoco pareces puertorriqueño por tu estilo en hacer comentarios sobre una receta que alguien ha querido compartir. Los puertorriqueños son por naturaleza muy dulces y cariñosos. Tu sin embargo pareces un troglodita y definitivamente no de la isla del encanto. La vida es muy corta para estar amargado. Y tu, nunca te equivocas? Suerte!!!! y que encuentres a alguien que te aguante.

I really agree with the puertorican that commented in spanish! I am also Puerto Rican of course or I wouldn't be commenting, Born in Puerto Rico but raised in the United States and also proud to be an American! I will say that no matter if you are raised on the island or in the states we are a diversified culture and we stick by our culture as we are all very proud individuals. I myself come from a very mixed family of all latin cultures from all origins and other cultures as well, but no matter what we never forget who we are or were our parents came from. I cook all types of foods from Puertorican,Mexican,El Salvidorian,Cuban,Soul Food, American Cuisine and Traditional,German,Indian and many other cultures, but I never forget who I am and where I come from! For someone to down grade anothers culture it only shows the mentallity of the person making the comment, so for those proud Latins of all cultures and contries out there keep your head up and forget the negative, just keep doing what your doing and always be proud of who you are and where your roots come from and pass the culture on! I love you all...(And by the way you are all correct the word pastelles is confused as it means other things for other cultures!)

I soo agree with you because Im from Senegal west Africa and our pastelles is made differently from yours. Our is made with "Para Empanadas " stuff with savory ground meat or fish and then deep fried. Some people from my country make with a very spicy hot sauce. This is to show that out of many culture we are one. We may have more things in common that differencies. So let embrace each other cultures.

With a name like Carlos, no wonder you sound so ignorant, too many of you name Carlos...Puerto Rican food equals high cholesterol, diabetes and arteriosclerois. The food sucks, everything is grease and more grease... but the plantains are really good though!

Yes am a racist...

Oh, the food is greasy but you stuff your face with plantins...hypocrite....racists...go shave your head.

Are you kidding me?? They say they are racist but they are on our sight looking at our foods! I am neither mexican or Puerto Rican I am Dominican and African American and I cannot believe that someone here has went so low as to even comment on our foods!! While we enjoy our dishes made from scratch and enjoy the beauty of our countries that YOU want to visit. I will see you in the line at taco bell because you dont know any better! LOL you are so not educated and for that you must keep quiet because you sound really stupid! If our food is bad for us then what the hell is the american food doing to us AND YOU! PUTTING ALL THAT STUFF ON THE FRUIT TO MAKE IT GROW FASTER AND GIVING OUR CHICKENS STEROIDS! lol im just saying. your so smart answer that.

I could not have sad it better. THANKS. I wonder what ilness that person will get from eating fast foods, or so called American foods.

So you're a racist "PLATANO" EATER What a hippocrit Don't get clogged up with the Platanos you say you are GOOOOOOOOD!!!