About Puerto Rican Pasteles

Puerto Rican Pasteles, Pasteles de Yuca, Cuchifrito Pasteles

In Puerto Rico, Pasteles are a cherished culinary recipe that has become a Holiday tradition to make and eat together with family and friends. Puerto Rican Pasteles are much more labor intensive than any other. The masa consists of a combination of grated green banana, green plantain, taro, and calabazas (tropical pumpkins), and is seasoned with liquid from the meat mixture, milk, and annatto oil (annatto seeds infused with olive oil). The meat is prepared as a stew and usually contains any combination of pork shoulder, ham, bacon, raisins, potatos, chickpeas, olives, and capers seasoned with bay leaves, recaito, tomato sauce, adobo seco, 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 families often make anywhere from 50-200 or more at a time, especially around the Christmas holidays. They are usually served with a ketchup-and-tabasco sauce dip with rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules), roasted pork, 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) 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 milk and annatto oil. The filling is stew of currants, shrimp, crab or lobster cooked in coconut milk, and seasoned with basil, sofrito, adobo, and annatto oil. Pasteles de yuca are served with lemon and tabasco sauce.

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.