We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are Pasteles?

Dan Harkins
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

In Latin America, pasteles are a traditional snack that is similar in looks and composition to the Mexican tamale. A main distinction for the former recipe, however, is the use of green bananas, plantains and potatoes in the making of the dough, called masa, which surrounds traditional tamale-style ingredients like pork, garlic, onion, green pepper and Latin spices. Plantain leaves and parchment paper are then used to wrap these treats before being cinched with string and boiled — another distinction from tamales, which are customarily fried in oil.

Pasteles are popular in many Latin American cultures, from Colombia in South America to Panama and the Dominican Republic in Central America. The Caribbean island nation of Puerto Rico, however, has perhaps the proudest tradition of pasteles making. These hot pockets and their close cousin, the tamale, have been made for at least 3,000 years, starting with indigenous tribes and on through colonial conquest.

The masa used for making pasteles helps to provide its distinctively rich and slightly sweet flavor. Bananas, potatoes, plantains and even taro root are boiled and then grated. These shavings are mashed with some milk, salt and oil before cooling in the refrigerator. The result is a malleable skin for the meat filling. To get a workable dough, one chef used a combination of five green bananas from mountainous regions, one plantain from coastal areas, 1.5 lbs (about 680 g) of taro and one peeled potato. Just a little milk and oil are then used to soften and meld these ingredients.

The filling for pasteles, known as relleno, can be made in a range of ways, though certain elements are standard. It is usually prepared like a stew, only with less stock. This process starts with oil and meat like pork shoulder or ham. Once the meat starts cooking, all the rest of the ingredients are added. Items like garlic, onion, tomato sauce, beans, olives, and a range of spices like cilantro, oregano, salt and pepper go in, along with diced potatoes in some variations.

After the filling, a rather complicated construction process ensues. A plantain or green banana leaf and parchment paper is laid down, and some oil is put on top. Then a dollop of masa goes into the paper and is flattened, followed by a hearty portion of relleno. The wrapping and dough are then rolled up and cinched with string to encase the filling for a final simmering in saltwater, which can take as long as an hour to cook through.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dan Harkins
By Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his journalism degree, he spent more than two decades honing his craft as a writer and editor for various publications. Dan’s debut novel showcases his storytelling skills and unique perspective by drawing readers into the story’s captivating narrative.
Discussion Comments
Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.