Pasteles – Dominican Style

Since Sam is on spring break this week, he had some time on his hands to step away from his books and studying.  Which also gave me some time away from the kitchen.  Sam has done all the cooking this week, and it has been awesome.  We invited some friends over for dinner who had stayed in bama for the break.  fried plantainshabichuelas (beans)manguroasted chickensThey were shocked to discover that Sam cooked everything that night.  It’s true what our guests said, that if we were to ever have kids, they would never eat out.  Both Sam and I grew up in a household in which going out for McDonalds or pizza was always a treat.  Not something eaten everyday.  And I would definitely do that for our kids in the future.

Along with the fabulous Dominican meal with friends one night, Sam decided to give it a shot at making pasteles.  Pasteles are a Latin American dish made of grated plantains, green bananas, root vegetables, and sometimes pumpkin, with a meat filling.  They’re then wrapped in banana leaves or parchment paper and boiled.  Very similar to tamales from South America.  Of course, different regions make pasteles with slightly different ingredients.  But the concept of wrapping and method of cooking are the same.

We always come home to his mom’s pasteles, which are our favorite!  Sam tries to help her in the kitchen every time she tends to make them.  So he has a good idea on how it’s done.  But this is his first attempt without his mom’s help, though we did call her a couple of times before starting to cook. =P

We made the pasteles with a shredded chicken filling.  Other meat choices are always an option.  Also, because I made the chicken, there wasn’t enough sauce after shredding, because the chicken soaked up all the liquid.  You must reserve some sauce to add to the masa for flavoring.  So, instead we used the leftover juice saved from the roasted chicken Sam had made the other day for dinner. leftover roasted chicken juices 1roasted chicken juices If you come across this problem while making pasteles, I would recommend heating up some chicken stock and adding the same seasonings used on the shredded chicken and make a chicken stock reduction.

The masa is the starch coating the chicken filling.  In this recipe, the masa is made of pumpkin, green plantains, unripe bananas, yuca, and yautía. masa ingredients The pumpkin in the masa gives the mixture its moisture. pumpkincutting pumpkin The plantains and unripe bananas attribute to the stickiness of the masa.plantainsgreen bananaspeeling plantains Yuca is a root vegetable, very similar to potatoes, though I find them to be a bit drier and flakier when boiled. yucacut yucacutting yuca Yautía is another root vegetable that is similar to taro.  This is my first encounter with yautía, so I don’t have much to say about it.yautiacut yautiapeeling yautiapeeled masa ingredients


Shredded Chicken Filling

2 lbs chicken, with bones (skin optional)

1/4 red onion, minced

1/3 red bell pepper, minced

4 garlic cloves, mashed with 1 tsp salt

1 tbsp canola oil

1/2 chicken bouillon cube

1 packet Sazón Goya con azafran

1 1/4 tbsp Goya adobo seasoning

1 tbsp ground oregano

1/2 can of 18-oz tomato pasteminced red bell pepperminced oniongarlic cloves and saltmashed garlicingredients for shredded chicken


1/2 – 1 lb pumpkin (calabaza – tropical pumpkin), peeled and seeds discarded

2 green plantains (plantanos), peeled

3 unripe bananas (guineo), peeled

1/2 lb yuca, peeled

1/2 lb yautía, peeled

20 banana/plantain leaves or parchment paper, cut into 8″x4″ sheets

20 pieces of kitchen twine/string, cut into 18″ lengthsbanana leaves packagedbanana leavescut banana leaveskitchen twine


Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Add all ingredients for shredded chicken filling in pot. ingredients in pot Add 1 cup of water.  Mix until well combined, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.  cooking chickenRemove chicken from heat and allow for it to cool to room temperature.  Reserve 1/2 cup of sauce to add to masa.  Then shred chicken and put aside.shredded chickenshredded chicken filling

In a large bowl, grate the pumpkin, plantains, unripe bananas, yuca, and yautía, alternating with each ingredient. grating masa The plantains and bananas tend to dry out, so grate them as soon as possible.  grating masa closeupWhen grating is completed, add the reserved chicken sauce and mix until well combined.mixing masamasa preparedmasa prepared closeup

For assembly, lay a banana leaf or parchment paper on work surface.banana leaf  Be sure that your banana leaf is not ripped, otherwise your pastele will leak out while boiling.  If using parchment paper, brush oil to prevent the masa from sticking.  Place about 1 – 2 spoonfuls of masa on the center of the banana leaf.  Flatten the masa with a spoon.flattened masa on banana leaf  Place a spoonful of the shredded chicken filling on the center of the masa. added chicken filling Using a spoon or your hands, coat the masa over the chicken filling until filling is covered.covering chicken filling 1covering chicken filling 2covering chicken filling 3covering chicken filling 4covering chicken filling 5

To wrap, bring the top edge and bottom edge of the banana leaf up so that the edges meet evenly over the top of the pastele. wrapping pastele 1 Fold or roll down the edges, forming a horizontal seam.wrapping pastele 2 Fold up the the ends of the banana leaf, then tie with kitchen string once around and once the other way to resemble a present, and tie a knot in the middle. wrapping pastele 3wrapping pastele 4tying pastele 1tying pastele 2tying pastele 3tying pastele 4 At this point you can freeze them and store for up to a month or boil them up to serve immediately.wrapped pastele

To cook pasteles, bring a pot water to a boil.  There should be enough water to cover the pasteles. preboiled pasteles If cooking right away, cook for 20 minutes covered.boiled pasteles  If cooking frozen, cook for 35 minutes covered.  Remove banana leaf and enjoy!unwrapped pastelepastele slicedpastelepastele closeup

Serve with tabasco sauce if you wish and definitely with a side of avocado!
Print Recipe Here!
Some tips are to mix the masa occasionally to keep moist because the top of masa exposed to air will dry out.  Same applies to the shredded chicken, mix occasionally since the sauce tends to settle to the bottom.  Also, Sam highly recommends using banana leaves over parchment paper due to enhanced flavors from the leaves.
Overall, the pasteles were a success!  We wound up making 28, that’s because our banana leaves were cut in different sizes.frozen pasteles  But the recipe above should make roughly about 20.  Of course they’re not as good as the way his mom makes it, but it’s close.  Sam doesn’t understand what his mom does that makes it taste different, because he swears that they use the exact ingredients.  I just think that nothing beats your mother’s home cooked meals. ;)

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