Pasteles de masa (Green Banana Meat Pie)

For many Puerto Rican families, the quintessential holiday season dish is pasteles, which English-speakers often literally translate to "pies". Pasteles are not a sweet pastry or cake, but a soft dough-like mass wrapped in a banana or plantain leaf and boiled.

Photo by Jackie D.

PREP TIME

90

minutes

TOTAL TIME

150

minutes

SERVINGS

17

servings

PREP TIME

90

minutes

TOTAL TIME

150

minutes

SERVINGS

17

servings

Ingredients

  • FILLING:

  • 2

    pounds pork

  • 4

    sweet peppers

  • 4

    cilantro leaves

  • 2

    cloves of garlic

  • 2

    tablespoons salt

  • 1

    pound cooking ham

  • 1

    green pepper

  • 1

    onion

  • 1

    can chickpeas

  • 1

    tablespoon olives or capers

  • 1

    cup bell pepper

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • DOUGH:

  • 5

    pounds of white yam

  • 2

    pounds of yellow yam or potatoes

  • 1

    green plantain

  • 1/2

    pound pumpkin

  • 20

    green bananas

  • 2 1/2

    tablespoons salt

  • 2

    tablespoons warm milk

  • 1

    pound achiote oil, melted

  • 35

    banana leaves and paper

  • Salt to taste

  • Cord tie

Directions

DOUGH: Boil the green bananas for a few minutes until the peel begins to turns black. Then you can just pull off the peel and grate the bananas in the food processor. Make sure you don't leave them in the pot too long. Peel the rest of the vegetables, rinse them and grate in a food processor. Add milk, oil, and salt. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour. It is best to do this the day before actually putting the pasteles together. It makes for easier handling masa. FILLING: Heat the oil in a caldero or other high-sided pan/pot and cook the meat and ham for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low for approximately 25 minutes until the pork is completely cooked. Cool. WRAP: You can use either the banana leaves or aluminum foil. If using leaves: Use 10 bundles of plantain leaves. Remove the central ridge on each leaf. Divide leaves into pieces, about 10-inch squares. Wash and clean leaves with a damp cloth and blanch them (toast them slightly over gas stove flames). If you have just a few plantain leaves cut them in small pieces and add a piece to each pastel for more flavor. If using foil: Use aluminum foil with butcher paper or plastic wrap on top to make a wrapper. You may add a piece of banana leaf (if available) right on top. ASSEMBLE: Cover the kitchen counter with newspaper or parchment paper for easier cleanup time. Grease center of the wrapper - using the back of a spoon dipped in achiote oil. Use a ½ cup measuring cup to scoop dough (this helps keep the pasteles the same size). In the center of the wrapper place ½ cup of dough and thinly spread it not more than 5 inches long and about 4 inches wide. Keep a small ruler handy to determine size until you can eye-ball it. Use a 1/8 cup measuring cup to scoop the meat filling and fill just a bit over the brim. That should measure 2½ tablespoons. Place 2½ tablespoons of meat filling on the masa, a bit off the center. Fold the wrapper in half to close the pastel. If using foil, fold the edges over until tightly sealed. If using leaves just fold one over the other until completely sealed. Tie the pastel. (You may skip this part completely if you are using foil paper - simply make sure the folds are pressed securely.) Tie the pastel with string to hold it together. Make one run of string lengthwise and two runs crosswise. This will hold the banana leaves secure. Cook the pasteles for 1 hour, turning them once half way through cooking. Freshly cooked pasteles taste much better. If freezing for later, freeze before cooking.

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