Monday, January 5, 2015

Vegetarian Puerto Rican Pasteles

If you are Puerto Rican you already know that Christmas is not Christmas without pasteles. They are one of the staples of our holiday season, along with Lechon Asado (roast pork) and Arroz con Dulce (Puerto Rican rice pudding). If you aren't Puerto Rican, then you will surely want to add this delicious dish to your holiday (or anytime) cooking.

Preparing pasteles takes a bit of time. It is an involved but satisfying endeavor. I recommend making a few batches in one session so that you have extra to freeze for a later day(s). In Puerto Rico, it is a social activity, as (generally) women will get together and make a day of preparing them. So gather your friends and family around the kitchen table and spend a few hours cooking and laughing (perhaps while sipping on a cocktail or two).


Achiote Oil
-1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
-3 tbsp annato paste or about 6 tbs in seed form

1. In a medium saucepan heat oil on medium high.
2. Add annatto and simmer approximately 10 minutes until the oil turns a beautiful dark red.

-3 3 lbs bags of frozen grated Yuca
If you can find already grated Yuca, get it! It is a lifesaver and will cut hours off prep time.
If you can't get your hands on some, you will need to buy fresh or frozen yuca and grate it yourself.
-1 cup Sofrito
-1 veggie bullion cube
-1/4 tbsp oregano 
-1 tbsp onion powder
-1 tbsp garlic powder
-4 tbsp water

1. Two days prior to preparing the pasteles, defrost the frozen grated yuca in the fridge overnight.
2. The next day remove them from their packages and place over cheesecloth (If you forgot to pick up cheesecloth, a clean old concert tee that no longer fits will also do, Prince in my case) over bowls and place in the fridge to drain overnight. I did mine on the same day, but had to do a few hours worth of squeezing water out of the yuca.
3. On the day you prepare the pasteles, take the masa out of the fridge and let it get to room temperature. Squeeze out any excess water. Now you are ready to season the masa.

Masa Seasoning:
1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, use 4 tbsp of the achiote oil to simmer 1 cup of Sofrito for about 6-7 minutes then remove it from the heat. 
2. In a large bowl (I used a mixer) combine the masa and the simmered Sofrito. Add 1/2 cup of the achiote oil and mix well until the masa turns a golden color.

-24 oz. Beef substitute of your choice. I used Lightlife crumbles.
-1 packet Goya Sason with Culantro & Achiote
-3 tbsp Goya Sofrito
-3 tbsp Goya Recaito
-1 cube veggie bullion
-1/4 tsp oregano
-2 tbsp Goya Adobo Light (or to taste)
-8 oz tomato sauce
-1/2 cup water
-chopped pimento stuffed green olives (as many as you like)
-capers (as many as you like)
-1/2 finely chopped onion
-2 finely chopped garlic cloves
-1 can (I used 2, however) Goya garbanzos

1. Saute onions and garlic on med-high heat using 4 tbsp of achiote oil until the onions become clear.
2. Add all filling ingredients except for the olives, capers and garbanzos. 
3. Add 3 tbsp of the Recaito and 3 tbsp of the Sofrito. Stir to blend well and cook 5-10 minutes.
4. Add remaining filling ingredients and stir. If mixture begins to dry add a few tbsp of water as needed.
5. Cover and let stand.


-Banana leaves (1 package seemed to do the trick. They come frozen and can usually be found in Latin or International markets. If you can't find them, aluminum foil can be used in their place. I very much prefer using leaves as they add to the flavor of the end product.)
-Butcher string

1. Defrost and clean leaves by soaking in tepid water and gently wiping them. 

Assembling Your Pasteles

This is the fun part! Well, not funner than eating them, but it's pretty fun if you enjoy cooking.

1. Cut leaves into squares approximately 10 inches square. Get rid of the central ridge so the leaves are easy to bend and fold.
2. From the leftover achiote oil, spread about a tbsp onto the center of the leaf. Approximately 4" x 6", but you will find the right size for you as you get the hang of things.
3. Take about 3 tbsp of the seasoned masa and spread it over the oil in a rectangle. The exact amount of masa is something that will also "come to you" as you get some practice.
4. Place 3 tbsp of filling slightly off center of the masa and spread it. I find it works best if you place it a bit off center closest to you and don't spread it all the way to the side edges. Remember, you want the masa to envelope the filling to keep it from spilling out.
5. Fold the leaf away from you towards the other long end so that as the masa rolls forward it encloses the filling. Press down slightly to secure the edges.
6. Fold both edges back towards you, creating a crease at the far edge.
6. Fold it once again away from you then fold the sides toward the center of the pastel. 
7. Put two pasteles together, folded edges facing each other and tie each pair together using the butcher string.
8. Put what you are not immediately cooking in the freezer. I got 20 pasteles out of this recipe.

If any of this seems a bit complicated...DON'T WORRY, it's easier than it sounds and you get to be a pro at it in no time.

Cooking the Pasteles

1. Bring enough salted water to cover the pasteles to a rolling boil in a deep pot.
2. Place pasteles in the water and boil for 30-45 minutes.
3. Take care when unwrapping the cooked pasteles as hot water will drip from the leaves. You can also set them aside to cool a bit...but I just can't wait. 
4. EAT UP! I love mine with a few drops of hot sauce.


  1. Love your blog. Soon to be vegetarian here and I'm focused on keeping my Boricua traditions alive.

  2. I love you! I can't wait to make these!!!!!

  3. I'm confused about making the masa. Where does the oregano, garlic powder, water, etc come in??? I thought masa was dough? I'm really confused because it mentions these ingredients under masa but doesn't mention them in the steps. I'm very confused as to where the veggie bullion comes in as well.