Pasteles are a traditional dish in several Latin American countries. In Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

, the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

, Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles...

, the Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 coast of Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, and Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

, it is similar to a tamale
A tamale — or more correctly tamal — is a traditional Latin American dish made of masa , which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating...

. In Central American cuisine, it more closely resembles a British pasty
A pasty , sometimes known as a pastie or British pasty in the United States, is a filled pastry case, associated in particular with Cornwall in Great Britain. It is made by placing the uncooked filling on a flat pastry circle, and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge at the side or top...

 or an Italian calzone
A calzone Italian: , "stocking" or "trouser") is a turnover that originates from Italy. It is shaped like a semicircle, made of dough folded over and filled with ingredients common to pizza....


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
Curtido is a type of cabbage relish, lightly fermented. It is typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine. In Salvadoran cuisine it is usually made with pickled cabbage, onions, carrots, and sometimes lemon juice and resembles sauerkraut, kimchi, or cole slaw. It is commonly served alongside...

, a type of relish
A relish is a cooked, pickled, or chopped vegetable or fruit food item which is typically used as a condiment.In North America, relish commonly alludes to sweet pickle relish-like sauce that often condiments hot dogs, hamburgers and other types of fast food.-Description and ingredients:The item...

 resembling sauerkraut
Sauerkraut , directly translated from German: "sour cabbage", is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria, including Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. It has a long shelf-life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid...


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


Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

n 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
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

 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
Chorizo is a term encompassing several types of pork sausages originating from the Iberian Peninsula.In English, it is usually pronounced , , or , but sometimes ....

, pork, chick peas, olives, and potatoes are the most common stuffing. Colombian pasteles are wrapped twice, once with cabbage
Cabbage is a popular cultivar of the species Brassica oleracea Linne of the Family Brassicaceae and is a leafy green vegetable...

 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
Ground meat
Ground meat is meat finely chopped by a meat grinder or a chopping knife. It is called minced meat or more usually mince outside North America....

 sauteed with annatto powder, garlic, red onion
Red onion
Red onions, sometimes called purple onions, are cultivars of the onion with purplish red skin and white flesh tinged with red.These onions tend to be medium to large in size and have a mild to sweet flavor. They are often consumed raw, grilled or lightly cooked with other foods, or added as color...

s, bell pepper
Bell pepper
Bell pepper, also known as sweet pepper or a pepper and capsicum , is a cultivar group of the species Capsicum annuum . Cultivars of the plant produce fruits in different colors, including red, yellow, orange and green. Bell peppers are sometimes grouped with less pungent pepper varieties as...

s, and tomato paste
Tomato paste
Tomato paste is a thick paste that is made by cooking tomatoes for several hours to reduce moisture, straining them to remove the seeds and skin, and cooking them again to reduce them to a thick, rich concentrate...

 or sauteed beef that is cut in a food processor. There aren't any fixed recipes in seasoning the meat; many Dominican families have their own recipes and add their own flavor and additions. It is common for many Dominicans to also add grapefruit
The grapefruit , is a subtropical citrus tree known for its sour fruit, an 18th-century hybrid first bred in Barbados. When found, it was named the "forbidden fruit"; it has also been misidentified with the pomelo or shaddock , one of the parents of this hybrid, the other being sweet orange The...

 or sour orange and oregano
Oregano – scientifically named Origanum vulgare by Carolus Linnaeus – is a common species of Origanum, a genus of the mint family . It is native to warm-temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region.Oregano is a perennial herb, growing from 20–80 cm tall,...

 or basil
Basil, or Sweet Basil, is a common name for the culinary herb Ocimum basilicum , of the family Lamiaceae , sometimes known as Saint Joseph's Wort in some English-speaking countries....

 to the meat, and for the pasteles, the meat filling may 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 and peas
Rice and Peas also called Moros de guandules con coco in the Dominican Republic.-Dominican Republic:Moros de guandules con coco is a traditional coconut rice and pigeon pea dish served on Christmas. Moros in Dominican cuisine is very similar to Jamaican rice and peas...

 (rice with pigeon peas and coconut milk), russian salad
Russian salad
Salade Olivier is a salad composed of diced potatoes, vegetables and meats bound in mayonnaise. The salad is usually called Russian salad in Western European and Latin American countries, and Salad Olivieh in Iranian cooking.-History:...

, and a roasted meat or poultry and the like.

Another version is called tamales, and is made from cassava
Cassava , also called yuca or manioc, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates...

. "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
San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic
San Cristóbal is a municipality and the capital of the San Cristóbal province in the Dominican Republic. Within the municipality there is one municipal district : Hato Damas.-Sectors:*5 de abril*Canastica*El Pomier...

 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
Achiote is a shrub or small tree from the tropical region of the Americas. The name derives from the Nahuatl word for the shrub, achiotl. It is also known as Aploppas, and its original Tupi name urucu. It is cultivated there and in Southeast Asia, where it was introduced by the Spanish in the...

 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
Curtido is a type of cabbage relish, lightly fermented. It is typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine. In Salvadoran cuisine it is usually made with pickled cabbage, onions, carrots, and sometimes lemon juice and resembles sauerkraut, kimchi, or cole slaw. It is commonly served alongside...

, just like a pupusa
A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of thick, hand-made corn tortilla that is usually filled with a blend of the following: cheese , cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency...



The Hawaiian name for this food, pateles, may be related to the absence of consonant cluster
Consonant cluster
In linguistics, a consonant cluster is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word splits....

s in native Hawaiian
Hawaiian language
The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii...

 words, or it may be that the word was borrowed from Caribbean Spanish
Caribbean Spanish
Caribbean Spanish is the general name of the Spanish dialects spoken in the Caribbean region. It closely resembles the Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands and Andalusia....

, 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.

Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico pasteles are a cherished culinary recipe. The masa consists of a combination of grated green banana
Guineos usually refers to a green banana. The term guineo is sometimes used in reference to its ripened counterpart: the yellow banana...

, green plantain
Plantain is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa. The fruit they produce is generally used for cooking, in contrast to the soft, sweet banana...

, taro
Taro is a common name for the corms and tubers of several plants in the family Araceae . Of these, Colocasia esculenta is the most widely cultivated, and is the subject of this article. More specifically, this article describes the 'dasheen' form of taro; another variety is called eddoe.Taro is...

, and calabaza
Calabaza is a term that can be applied to a variety of gourds and melons grown throughout the world.-Etymology :The word calabaza is derived from the Persian term for melon . The French term "calabasse", and hence "calabash" is based on the older Spanish...

s (tropical pumpkins), and is seasoned with liquid from the meat mixture, milk, and annatto oil
Annatto, sometimes called roucou or achiote, is a derivative of the achiote trees of tropical regions of the Americas, used to produce a yellow to orange food coloring and also as a flavoring...

 (annatto seeds infused with olive oil). The meat is prepared as a stew
A stew is a combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy. Ingredients in a stew can include any combination of vegetables , meat, especially tougher meats suitable for slow-cooking, such as beef. Poultry, sausages, and seafood are also used...

 and usually contains any combination of pork shoulder, ham, bacon, raisins, potatoes, chickpeas, olives, and capers seasoned with bay leaves, recaito
-Preparation:Recaíto is mix of onions, garlic, ajicitos, green cubanelle pepper and lots of cilantro and culantro. All of the ingredients are put in to a blender and blended until smooth...

, tomato sauce, adobo seco
Adobo is the immersion of raw food into a preparation, in the form of a stock , of different components, including paprika , oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar — mixed according to the place of origin and the food with which it is intended to be used—primarily to preserve and enhance the flavor of...

, 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
Puerto Rican people
A Puerto Rican is a person who was born in Puerto Rico.Puerto Ricans born and raised in the continental United States are also sometimes referred to as Puerto Ricans, although they were not born in Puerto Rico...

 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
Arroz con gandules
Arroz con gandules is a combination of rice, pigeon peas and pork, cooked in the same pot with Puerto Rican-style sofrito. This is the signature dish of Puerto Rican culture and also has become very popular throughout Latin America and the Caribbean....

), roasted pork
Pig roast
A pig roast or hog roast is an event or gathering which involves the barbecuing of a whole hog...

, 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
Cassava , also called yuca or manioc, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates...

) and may contain potato, malanga
- Plants :* Xanthosoma, also known as Malanga, a tropical and sub-tropical edible or ornamental plant* Eddoe, also known as Malanga, a tropical vegetable- People :* Gerard Malanga , poet and photographer* Steven Malanga, author...

 and yam
Yam (vegetable)
Yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea . These are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania...

. 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
Ribes is a genus of about 150 species of flowering plants native throughout the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is usually treated as the only genus in the family Grossulariaceae. Seven subgenera are recognized....

, shrimp, crab or lobster cooked in coconut milk, and seasoned with basil, sofrito
Sofrito is a combination of aromatic ingredients which have been cut in very small pieces, and slowly sauteed or braised in cooking oil for 15-30 minutes....

, 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-ketchup sauce or pique criollo
Pique criollo
Pique criollo, also known as Pique boricua de botella or Puerto Rican Tabasco is a hot condiment used in Puerto Rican cooking. It is made of Caballero hot peppers and/or Habanero peppers, pineapple , vinegar, oregano, peppercorns, garlic and/or onions....

; a local hot sauce
Hot sauce
Hot sauce, chili sauce or pepper sauce refers to any spicy sauce made from chili peppers and other ingredients.-Ingredients:There are many recipes for hot sauces - the common ingredient being any kind of peppers. A group of chemicals called capsaicinoids are responsible for the heat in chili peppers...

 made from local hot chilies and other ingredients pickled in vinegar
Vinegar is a liquid substance consisting mainly of acetic acid and water, the acetic acid being produced through the fermentation of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria. Commercial vinegar is produced either by fast or slow fermentation processes. Slow methods generally are used with traditional...

 (sometimes with rum
Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane by-products such as molasses, or directly from sugarcane juice, by a process of fermentation and distillation. The distillate, a clear liquid, is then usually aged in oak barrels...


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
Fufu, , is a staple snack of West and Central Africa. It is a thick paste usually made by boiling starchy root vegetables in water and pounding with a mortar and pestle until the desired consistency is reached...

 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".
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