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(Puerto Rican savory cakes in banana leaves)

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.

Image Creative Commons by Whats4Eats

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.


  • 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.
Your rating: None Average: 4.2 (161 votes)


They look like Mayan tamales to me.



My Mother taught me how to make them when i was kid. My father was Puerto Rican My mother was irish. She live learned on the homeland She live there for three year. and leaned the ways . And spoke the langugue. There both gone now . I just recently made them for the first time since they been gone. It brought me back as little kid again. the favors the scents it was like going home. It made me think of her and the where part of me comes from. Food is like love , it has good memories it take you back to time when things were simple not so complcated. So I will always have those memories when i have this wonderful dish . And so will my children.

Storing cooked pasteles


I just made pasteles for the first time. they came out so good but I cooked extra's and need to know how best to store them and how long will they keep.

Pasteles (Puerto Rican Style)

My mother made Pasteles in the 50s to sell and buy our Christmas presents, she always made over 100 pieces and would freeze some for us to have later on. My brother and I would grate all the vegetables for her on a grater cause there were no foor processors back then. Those were the best tasting pasteles that you could ever have. My mother would add one or two potatoes for softness and add milk also to the masa. She would put achiote with oil to give them color and also add a little of the gravy from the meat for more flavor. She also added raisins, grabanzos, and pimento olives to each pastel as they pass the assembly line. Her pasteles had plenty of meat for the stuffing. We would make white rice or arroz con gandules and have a salad on the side. Te pastel was the main course. My brother and I would add Ketchup on top and my mother would get upset cause she spent many hours making these pasteles for us to top them with Ketchup. I wish she were alive and could make me some. I think I'm going to give it a try, I still remember everything she did with them and the quantities.

grating the bananas

so, I don't have a food processor and was planning on doing it the old fashion way, using a I was wondering, what size grater would be best to use to get it at the right consistency...I have this four-sided kitchen-type manual grater...I think the size I use to make hash browns might be too big but do you think the smaller size is too small? The other two sides are not for grating more like slicing...thank you for your time..and hope you get back to me before my bananas start to ripen..I've made this once, many many years ago with some of my Puerto Rican friends but all have passed and I wanted to share this with my children. Thank you so much for your time.

grating the bananas

so, I don't have a food processor and was planning on doing it the old fashion way, using a I was wondering, what size grater would be best to use to get it at the right consistency...I have this four-sided kitchen-type manual grater...I think the size I use to make hash browns might be too big but do you think the smaller size is too small? The other two sides are not for grating more like slicing...thank you for your time..and hope you get back to me before my bananas start to ripen..I've made this once, many many years ago with some of my Puerto Rican friends but all have passed and I wanted to share this with my children. Thank you so much for your time.

pasteles, puerto rican style

What a sweet story, it made me smile. I learn to make them from my mom also,till this day I always add ketchup to mines. In the old days all was grind by hand. Now we use the food processor for the masa. Pasteles are done in half the time. Give it a try. Form a line with love ones. Some one to do the packaging, the cutting,etc, an assembly line, its lots of fun. Brings back memories. Also dont wait for the Holidays, do it anytime.



As you already know these are

As you already know these are a lot of work to make. So making extras is always a good idea. Your best bet is to freeze them uncooked. When frozen they should be fine for 4-6 months.

If you boiled them already, they have to be eaten within a few days. I dont think it is a good idea to freeze cooked ones. Probably would not taste as fresh.

How to store and keep cooked pasteles


Please advise what is the proper storage method for cooked pasteles. Do I get keep them in the freezer or only refrigerate them and how long will they keep. Thank you.



Being fron Hawaii my Family only used the green bananas cause they were poor and chinese bananas were an easy crop to grow and made alot of pasteles from the bunch. I still say they are better than bluefields to make pasteles. We used to use when we were kids the top of a coffee can that my father made holes with a nail that was a little bigger than a brad nail all over the cover so it became like a grater to grind the green bananas to the right masa consistency. This I feel may be the reason the masa turns out so differently for everybody! If you use a food processor the masa will turn out differently than my method. Sounds crazy but true.
Also pimento olives were such a luxury and so exspensive that we used regular black olives and in those days they still had the pits in them!!!! They work well to me since that is how we ate them and my Mom used to put three olives in one or two of them and we would all wish that we would be the one to get it. Such good memories can a simple dish bring up.
We usually also use achote seeds in a little oil to color it and give it some taste then take them out and proceed to cook the vegetables and the diced pork in that before adding the tomato sauce. To me it really makes a difference to the depth of flavor to the pasteles. Also don't be afraid to add the sauce to the masa. And put enough filling cause too little and it will be dry and tasteless.
The basic recipe is a sound one and I hope my two cents of advice helps. Aloha and mahalo to all

Hawaiian Pateles

What memories. It seems my dad made it almost the same way. He used black olives and always 3 (I think to represent the Trinity). Since he was a baker, he used the meat grinder to process the green bananas. Thanks for the memories, now to make some the next time I'm back on Kauai. Aloha and Mahalo!

More Cookin', Eating and less arguing....

Ok, ok.... seems like "my pasteles can beat up your pasteles" scene is rampant here. My mom who is pure pake (Chinese) made the best pasteles. Not to mention her bacalao salad and gandule arroz were so very "ono". Yep, Hawaiian born borinqua here. I think sharing recipes, techniques and methods benefit all and everyone who appreciates good food. As a retired chef I've seen and tasted and cooked it all.... cuisines of the world so to speak.

Grew up in a Puerto Rican barrio (School St. Lanakila Park) and my uncle was the president of the Puerto Rican Civic Ass'n. for many years. So much for background. The consistency and texture of the masa can be so important, as well as the final flavor with the right combination of achiote oil, type of banana (not all bananas are equal?) I agree, the Chinese banana tops my list.

I find that using the Champion juicer machine has the closest consistency and texture of hand grated guineo's (green bananas). Using a blender or processor produces a too fine gelatine-like product. We used only a grated potato or two to maintain the right softness of the cooked masa. To my mind, adding too much of other root veggies (yautia, plantains, etc.) only mask the wonderful flavor of the green banana masa. Also, boiled green bananas (peeled of course) is deliciose with bacalao, onions, tomatoes and olive oil (we were poor so Wesson oil was what we got). Mom had standing orders for dozens and dozens (per person) of pasteles that financed her frequent junkets to 'Vegas. I won't go into how great her Chinese cooking was at this stage. Enjoy and have fun, people.

I would not call these 'cakes'

I have not read any of the comments. I just want to say I would not call these 'cakes.' Most native english-speakers who hear the word 'cake' or 'cakes' think of something sweet. Pasteles are not made to be sweet and they are definitely not dessert. They can be a meal in themselves. Most cultures seem to have some form of main-meal food-within-a-wrapping. The wrapping in some cultures/countries is made from pasta - things like raviolis (italian) and pierogies (polish) & the fillings can be different lunch or dinner foods. This is another version of that. It's just that the 'paste' used as the surrounding for the food is not made from the same stuff that pasta is made from so the texture is different.


Hi Missy,
We call our cakes bizcocho, not pasteles like some countries. I guess our aunt sisters called it pasteles because of the rapping, they use to be rapped in banana leave alone now we use the paper to make it easy. When we think of sweet we say "bizcochos" o "bizcochitos" if we're talking about sweets.
Pateles is the traditional dish in a puertorrican table for christmas, if we don't have pasteles on our table the puertorrican food is not complete. Even though I make all year round because my family love the way I make them, but my friend is a lot of work..and yes is a meal alone...have a wonderful day..!!



My husband would love to meet you, he is from P.R. and is missing all the food from when he was a kid. 214-207-9263 if interested in selling your food. Please call or email me. Thank You. Maria


Please read the word before cake. If a cake is SAVORY, it is NOT sweet and that explained it all. When you see that word again when reading a recipe...any recipe, please think salt and spices as opposed to sugars (even if sugars are used) will help you even in dessert recipes. It means it is not a 'traditional sweet' cake. Examples of the definition:

# Appetizing to the taste or smell: a savory stew.
# Piquant, pungent, or salty to the taste; not sweet.

Read more:

I agree. Not a "cake" at

I agree. Not a "cake" at all.
Silly people and their word usages.

thanks for the recipe


Thanks for the recipe! I grew up making these with my family, but the ones that know the recipe (all in their heads) are not around to give me the recipe. We had a gathering a few weeks ago and made a huge batch of these with pork fillings and a few modifications that I remembered and was able to get from my elderly grandmother on the phone. They turned out great. A little denser than I remember my mother’s being, but still very tasty. We will be making them again once we run out of the ones in the freezer. I am sorry that you are receiving so much criticism over your recipe and description. It your recipe and you took the time to post it, so I think you should be able to describe them how you see them.


I made the pasteles last night and the flavor was good but they came out too soft. What can I do to make them a little harder. I used yautia, calabaza and green bananas. My husband likes them to be a little harder in consistancy.

pasteles a little harder

add a little more yautia and more platano (1) because you don't want to make it toohard and boil for 45 minutes. the longer u boil the softer they get also.


they say that the platano makes them firmer and the potato makes them softer so 1 1/2 platano and either a medium potato or 2 small ones.

For pasteles to be of a firm

For pasteles to be of a firm texture, you must add green plantains.

mix up equal parts corn

mix up equal parts corn starch and corn meal, add a teaspoon at a time until the consistency is just about right, but not too dry. The corn starch will continue to thicken a bit and the corn meal adds a good texture and retains some moisture for cooking without making for soggy masa.


I think to make them harder you should add platanos and potatos not calabaza.Good luck.

Frozen pasteles

Question: Can anyone tell me, how long can pasteles stay frozen before expiring or going bad?



for at least 6 month in freezer before they start getting freezer burn.

How long can you freeze pasteles.

The answer is up to around six months.

Making pastele

aloha, thank u for your recipe. am ready to make pastele w)the bunch of bananasfrm my yard. am not puertorican, but love the food frm your country. have made some w/recipes from friends, all of which, put together, came out know how it is..trial & error..not bad.will let you know how it came out. thank you so much for your recipe. I'm confident it will turn out really well, now that I have an autentic recipe. Much Aloha

Homemade Pasteles

My mother makes them and sells them by the dozen. They are so delicious she cannot keep her freezer filled due to the high demans yr round. And some of us think it's just a traditional dish eaten around the holidays. Not in VEGAS! Call 702 456-0331 to give them a try.

Homemade Pasteles

I really wish to try my hand at making pasteles. Does your mom make them the way the Puerto Ricans make them? I them.

Is it alright to call you at the above number? How much does she charge for a dozen pasteles with shipping and all?

Plese e-mail me at the above e-mail before I make a call and thanks. I really hope this is my chance to get good pasteles wrapped in banana leaves,parchment paper etc. Thanks again and hope to hear from you.

Pasteles por docenas y al por mayor.

Hola resido entre Georgia y Alabama.... y tengo un negocio de pasteles por docenas y 100 unidades de masa tradicional de guineos.. etc. de cerdo y de pollo.. si estas interesad@ puedes contactarme al 706.405.5737... Feliz Navidad!



I am grateful to have found a PUERTO RICAN PASTELE RECIPE.

puerto rican pork pasteles

hello this is tony i really really reallly love to eatpork pasteles so i really really want to learn about how to makepork pasteles i ampuerto rican i am deaf guy i live in dallas nc now i try to ask somepuerto rican people that is hard to find any one who know how to makepork pasteles i really want to get recipe i want to learn about that i am chef smile i love to cook all the time that why i want to learn aboutpasteles i need to get recipe thanks have nice day smile



perfect recipe my man is puerto rican and he loved it... I am white but you would never know just by eating my food lol thanx again


Sounds good! I'm Puerto Rican and my boyfriend is white. I plan on making them for dinner tonight - hope he enjoys them as much as I do.

pastele color


can someone tell me why some pasteles are brown while others make them and they look orange in color?

The reason for orange

The reason for orange pasteles is simple. There are pasteles made with green bananas and plantains, and then there are pasteles made out of yuca (casava). Different texture and taste but just as yummy! For the masa, you use grated yuca salted to taste, and for coloring, you use achiote oil.

Pastele color

It all depends on how much achiote you use....I usually add some achiote to veg or olive oil and let it cook a little...then only use the oil that is red/orange in color to put on the parchment paper before you add the masa mixture.
Maybe some are brown because some folks don't use achiote...
Good luck and don't forget the hot sauce!!


I've seen orange looking Pasteles and that's the Yuca ones with no meat.
The brown looking ones are the ones from this recipe.. They're both great..

i just had my first pasteles

i just had my first pasteles and i loved them. the sister at the church where i had them made hers with butternut squash in them as well, which also contributed to the color along with the achiote boiled in the oil.


they could be made of yuca they are like an orangey yellow color

looking for recipe on how to

looking for recipe on how to make yuca pasteles.Forgot my mothers recipe from P.R......

It has to do with the aciote

It has to do with the aciote in the masa

because you need to use

because you need to use achote seeds and boil it in oil and thats how you get the orange color.

These are the brown ones,

These are the brown ones, where there made mainly from bananas and plantains, the yellow ones are made with cassava; my fav ; )



This receipe is the same as my Mama Juanita's with the capers and olive.I live in Alaska and banana leaf is not available so I will use paper instead.I have not had pasteles in over 20 years.

Thank you

yes i live in alaska and

yes i live in alaska and make pasteles all the time and i get my banan leafs frm the red apple market in mt vierw.

wow you came to my rescue


wow you came to my rescue because my girlfriend wanted me to make her pasteles and I have not made them in over 10 yrs. and wasnt sure if I could remember on my own so I found your recipe and it was a exact duplicate of the way I was shown while in Puerto rico. Thank you so much

Clarification on Tamales and Cakes

The Chef that created this recipe is trying to justify his use of the work 'cake'. In this recipe he/she uses 'cake' to describe the pasteles which is a mistranslation and clearly demonstrates the person's lack of awareness to the culture. Instead of continuing to justify yourself by comparing your description to 'crap cakes', just respect the cultural food you are providing a recipe for and 'DELETE' the work cake. Also, those that persist in comparing this to tamales are also showing a disrespect to the puertorican culture. my husband is from mexico and his first time making pasteles with us (my puertorican family) and his first time trying pasteles was a very different culinary experience for him. They are 'not' tamales no matter how you try to make the shoe fit folks.