Pasteles in Banana Leaves

23 Dec

This is a very labor-intensive dish… the very same reason why most people in Puerto Rico buy their “pasteles” from someone who has the experience and the patience to make these.  In our yoga center, Mai, Mili and Katy are the pasteles experts.  They even make them to sell to anyone who’s interested in a delicious vegetarian version.

Pasteles hold the essence of the Puerto Rican holiday dinner…  a Xmas season without pasteles is like a day without sunshine, a beach without sand…  you have not eaten true Puerto Rican holiday food until you have one of these.

The whole deal is this MASA made from green banana and yautía filled with a soy-based stew.   Then it’s all wrapped in a banana leaf that will actually give the masa some of its flavor.  It’s very characteristic and you can find banana leaves in the refrigerated or produce section of a Latin supermarket.   Pasteles without at least a piece of banana leaf miss something.


This is a yautía… in Cuba, yautías are called malangas.  However, in Puerto Rico we call malanga a completely different tuber.  Do not confuse them.  I looked up in the internet and apparently it may also be called tanier = tannier = tannia.  Don’t know where, but if you can’t find them by the yautía name, any of other those might also work.  Yautías come in two varieties – white and purple.  You will need yautía blanca or white yautía for this dish.




12 green bananas
1lb white yautía
¾ cups milk
1 ½ tsp salt
2tbs sofrito
2 tbs annatto oil
½ cup textured soy protein – in cubes, soaked in filtered water for about ½ hour
1 small potato, cubed small
1 cup cooked chickpeas or garbanzo beans
2 cups mixed vegetables
½ cup raisins (optional)
½ cup sliced Spanish stuffed olives
3 tbs sofrito
2 tbs tomato paste
2 cups water
1 tbs olive oil
20-25 pieces of paper to roll pastels
Banana leaves – cut into rectangles of 10” x 8” approximately
Cotton kitchen twine


  1. Peel the banana and yautía and shred them using a food processor or a machine called Champion.  I have seen this machine also be used at Iron Chef America competition.
  2. Add the sofrito, salt, annatto oil and milk to the banana and yautía mixture.  Mix it all well to create a homogenous smooth mixture.  The annatto oil will provide a bright yellowy/orangey color to the mixture.  Set aside.

Now we make the filling…

  1. In a large saucepan, cook the olive oil along with salt, sofrito and tomato paste.    Add the garbanzo beans, soy protein, potato and water and cook everything for about 15-20 minutes. 
  2. Add the mixed vegetables and the raisins, if using.  Cook everything for about 15 more minutes.  Once everything is cooked, add the olives.

Now we assemble the pasteles…

  1. Place a banana leaf on top of the pastel paper (it’s similar to butcher’s paper). 
  2. Take a little bit of the sauce of the soy mixture and wet the banana leaf. 
  3. Take a large cooking spoon and spoon about a spoonful of masa in the center of the banana leaf.  Using the spoon, form a well in the center of the mixture and place about 2 tablespoons of the soy/vegetable mixture in the well. Carefully fold the leaf over, in order to cover the filling with masa on all sides. DO NOT over stuff them.
  4. Fold the paper like a letter and fold in the sides to create a compact package.  Tie them with cooking twine.  Be careful not to tie too tightly.
  5. Repeat this procedure until all the masa mixture has been used. You can now freeze or cook them when you are ready.  

When you are… 

  1. Place a large pot of salted water (as if you were to prepare pasta).  Boil the pasteles for about 45 minutes until the masa is cooked.  If you froze them, place them directly from the freezer onto the boiling water and boil for about 1 hour.
  2. Drain them well when you take them out of the water…  it’s not nice to have a puddle of pastel water in your plate when serving yourself the rest of the Xmas dinner.  Many people, including me, enjoy pasteles with a drizzle of ketchup on top.

12 Responses to “Pasteles in Banana Leaves”

  1. Tara Anderson January 27, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    My friends mother used to make pasteles all the time and we loved it. Now she dosent remember how to make them anymore. So thats why I’m writing to you, if you can send me some receipes in my email address which is: . It would make her so happy if i can make some for her.

    Thank you and have a nice day! 🙂

  2. Ricardo Cristóbal Colón March 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    Hi, I am a long time Pastele maker. I have been making Pasteles for more than 40 years. I started when I was a boy in Spanish Harlem with my grandmother and my aunts, all of whom moved here from Puerto Rico.

    I just want to point out that the Soy Protien part of this recipe is an addition I have not ever seen here in the states or in Puerto Rico. I have inquired since I read this message and have still not found anyone that has introduced “Soy Protien’ into their Pasteles.

    Nevertheless if you follow the provided instructions, you should come up with Pasteles like they make in PR.

    PS. Food processors are helpful and one can use them effectively but there is no Pastele make like when the Yautia is grated by hand. The Food processors leave the masa over wet and runny sometimes.

    This is a good recipe and I like the fact that you have simpified the process for those down to earth recipe seekers.

    Thank you for doing so.

    Ricardo Cristóbal Colón

  3. Zandra April 21, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    Hi, i’ve been searching online for a place in NYC that prepares authentic puerto-rican style vegan pasteles… can you help me??? I would love to buy 20-50 to keep in my freezer. Pls direct me if possible.
    Thanks a bunch!!
    -Zandra Badillo

  4. Atenea del Sol May 15, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    Hi – just a note. Yautia is the tuber of Xanthosoma saggitatum. In South American markets, it’s more likely to be encountered under its Quichua name, “Pelma.”

    These look so yummy! I know what I’m doing next weekend….

  5. omar September 20, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    no lo podrias tradicir al espanol

  6. nickiesha November 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    This looks tasty, but it’s a little different from the pasteles I know, instead of cassava, I use cornmeal…. WILL TRY IT…..

    • KarmaFree Cooking November 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

      but aren’t the ones made from cornmeal called TAMALES??? Cuban and Mexican tamales are mode from cornmeal…

  7. Tricia January 31, 2013 at 3:27 am #

    SO glad I found your blog. I searched for Vegetarian Pasteles and your blog is amazing. Thank you SO much for sharing your recipes!

    • KarmaFree Cooking January 31, 2013 at 9:29 am #

      You’re welcome… please visit often and share us with your friends too.

  8. Jorge Vilanova December 9, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    The ratio given on your recipe for pasteles masa, is it for 20-25 pasteles? how long a pastel turns out like 4-6 inches in length?

    Also you mention beside using banana leaves, pastel paper (parchment paper) so you wrap the pastel with the leave first and then wrap if the pastel paper, right?

    • KarmaFree Cooking April 22, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

      Yep… Pasteles turn out to be about 4-6 inches in length. You can only measure/guesstimate the masa in tbs when you’re assembling, but after they’re made into a packet, they measure about that. But can certainly make them as little or as large as you want. I have seen mini pasteles for parties.

      And for your second question, YES. You take a parchment paper and place a little piece of leaf over it. Place the masa over the leaf, the filling over the masa and when you fold the parchment the masa envelops the filling. It’s takes a few tries to finesse the wrapping technique… just like crepes, the first few ones are a little bit wonky. Good luck!!!!

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