Pasteles de picadillo
Type Dumpling
Cookbook: Pasteles  Media: Pasteles

Pasteles (Spanish pronunciation: [pasˈteles]; singular pastele) 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 other Spanish-speaking countries, pastele is a generic term for pastry. In Hawaii, they are called pateles in a phonetic rendering of the Puerto Rican pronunciation of Pasteles, as discussed below.


Colombian pasteles are called pastel de arroz cartagenero (rice pasteles) and are more of a tamale than a typical pastel. Is made up of rice that is seasoned and left out in the sun; a process referred to as orear (to air). The rice is then mixed with many ingredients. Pickled vegetables, chorizo, pork, chickpeas, olives, and potatoes are the most common. Chicken and beef are also used. Colombian pasteles are wrapped twice, once with a cabbage leaf, and again with a banana leaf. This is the typical meal of the Nochebuena Dinner (Christmas Eve), in the Caribbean Coast Region of Colombia since their humble beginnings. It's often confused with the tamal from the andean region which is made up with corn.

Dominican Republic

Known as Pasteles en hojas, Dominicans usually use three tubers plantains, malanga and squash are most popular. The tubers are grated into what is called masa. Masa is then placed on a banana leaf. The masa is then filled with meat. Different meats and seasoning from around the island can be used; ground pork seasoned with sofrito and ground annatto is the most common and traditional.

"Bollo de Guayiga" is made of a tuber called Guayiga and is available in southern beaches as a snack, but 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 stuffing of either beef or chicken with chopped potatoes and carrots. The stuffing is cooked separately so that the flavors mix. Once the stuffing is cooked, it is put into the molded flour dough, 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. It is usually served with curtido (a lightly fermented cabbage slaw.)


The common name for this food in Hawaii, pateles, is most likely 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. Many Puerto Ricans migrated to Hawaii at the dawn of the 20th century to work in sugar plantations. The singular of pasteles, pastele (often pronounced patele), has been constructed through back-formation. The usage of the singular can be seen in phrases such as pastele stew.[1]

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican Pasteles

In Puerto Rico, pasteles are a cherished culinary recipe. The masa consists of typically grated green banana, green plantain, eddoe (yautía), potato, and tropical pumpkins known as calabazas. It is seasoned with liquid from the meat mixture, milk, and annatto oil.[2] The meat is prepared as a stew and usually contains any combination of boston butt, ham, bacon, raisins, chickpeas, olives and capers, and is commonly seasoned with bay leaves, recaito, tomato sauce, adobo seco, and annatto oil, but the seasoning is not limited to these. Meat can be anything from poultry, fish, pork and game.

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, and a little annatto oil on the leaf. The masa is then placed on banana leaf and stuffed with the meat mixture. The paper is then folded and tied with kitchen string to form packets. Some people use aluminum foil instead of parchment and 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 holiday season. They are usually served with rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules), escabeche, roasted pork, and other holiday foods on the side.

Pasteles de yuca[3] is one of many recipes in Puerto Rico that are popular around the island and in Latin America. These are also known as "hallacas de yuca" or "tamales" in the Dominican Republic. 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 annatto oil. The filling may be traditional or it may be a stew of currants, shrimp, crab or lobster, 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, pork butt, chicken and crabmeat are the most common.

Pasteles of all varieties are commonly served with ketchup, tabasco-ketchup sauce or with pique criollo. Pique criollo is a hot sauce made from local hot chilies and other ingredients which are pickled in vinegar, sometimes with rum added.

Cuchifrito pasteles are done traditionally. 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. In this case cuchifrito 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.

Related to tamale, hallacas, and guanimes, pasteles are believed to have been made by natives of Borikén (Puerto Rico). Tainos made masa from cassava and malanga. The masa was then filled with beans, nuts, meat (Iguana, frogs or birds), fish and wrapped in malanga leaf. The pastel has also African roots. The African slaves incorporated the use of plantains, bananas and other root vegetables into the pasteles recipe. Puerto Rico has turned pasteles making into an art having hundreds of recipes and an annual pastel festival (Festival del Pastel)[4] on the island.

Trinidad and Tobago

Pastelles (steamed)
Pastelle (opened)

Trinidadian pasteles are small meat-filled cornmeal pies stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables seasoned with fresh herbs and flavoured with raisins, olives and capers wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf. They are traditionally prepared and eaten during the Christmas season. It is believed that they were introduced by Spanish colonizers who ruled between the late 15th and early 18th centuries.

They exist in some form or another throughout Latin America and are more commonly known in Venezuela as hallacas, pronounced hayacas. The origins of pastelles are unclear. One view is that Spanish colonists who settled in the region made them as a substitute for one of their favourite delicacies – empanada gallega. Empanada gallega and pasteles both have heavily spiced meaty fillings but pastelles are made with cornmeal while the empanada is more like a typical pastry as it is made with white flour.

A sweet version is called paime and is also a Christmas dish. It contains no filling, but the dough itself contains ground coconut and raisins.[5]

See also


  1. "Pastele Stew". Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  2. "Annatto Oil". Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  3. Meseydi Rivera. "Pasteles de yuca Recipe (with Pictures)".
  4. "Festival del Pastel". Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  5. The Multi-Cultural Cuisine of Trinidad & Tobago. Naparima Girls' High School Cookbook. 2. edition 2002, p. 165
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