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Island Bites: Puerto Rican Pasteles de Yuca

Island Bites is a Puerto Rican cook with decades of experience in the kitchen. She's an expert in Latin American cuisine.

What Is a Pastel?

Eating pasteles during the holiday season is a Puerto Rican tradition. Because they are labor-intensive, only some people make them. When the holiday season arrives, they make hundreds of these tasty treats to sell. Typically, pasteles are sold by the dozen.

A pastel is similar to a tamal, but the dough is mainly made with green bananas and yautia instead of corn. It is filled with pork, wrapped in a banana leaf, and boiled.

Although not as popular as a traditional pastel, pasteles de yuca are also a cherished dish during the holidays in Puerto Rico. The dough is made with yuca or cassava. Even though some people make pork-filled pasteles de yuca, they are commonly made with chicken filling.


To make the filling

  • 1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 2 tbs sofrito
  • 6–8 pimento olives, sliced
  • 1 roasted bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small box raisins
  • 2 tbs annatto oil
  • 2 oz tomato puree (or 1 tbs tomato paste plus 2 tbs water)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 oz canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • salt and pepper

Instructions for the filling

  1. Saute sofrito in annatto oil for two or three minutes at medium-high temperature.
  2. Add tomato puree and spices. Let it cook for a minute or two.
  3. Add the chicken, salt, pepper and water. Cover and reduce the temperature. Let it simmer for ten to fifteen minutes.
  4. Set aside 1/4 cup of the chicken sauce/broth. Then, add olives, raisins and pimento. Let it cook uncovered for five minutes at medium temperature.
  5. Let it cool completely.

How to Make Annatto Oil

Add annatto seeds to cold oil. Turn heat on and let it simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the seed and reserve the oil.

How to Make the dough

  • 4 lbs yuca, grated
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup reserved broth
  • 3 tbs annatto oil
  • 2 tsp salt
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Instructions for the Dough

  1. Remove excess liquid from the grated cassava.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until well combined.
  3. Adjust salt if necessary.

To Wrap Yuca Pasteles

You'll need:

  • yuca dough
  • chicken filling
  • pieces of parchment paper
  • banana leaf squares
  • 40-inch pieces kitchen twine
  • annatto oil
  • a brush


  1. Heat the banana leaf pieces to make them pliable.
  2. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a work surface. Place a piece of banana leaf in the center.
  3. Brush the leaf with annatto oil. Add a scoop of dough.
  4. Slightly flatten and spread the dough. Place a spoon full of filling along the center of the dough.
  5. Fold the parchment paper in half. Then, fold the edges to form a horizontal seam. Now, fold each end of the parchment paper.
  6. Tie the pastel with a piece of kitchen twine.

How to Wrap and Tie Pasteles

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How to Cook Pasteles

  • Boil pasteles in salted water for 45 minutes.
  • You can freeze raw pasteles. They will last up to 6 months in the freezer.
  • To cook frozen pasteles, boil in salted water for about an hour.

Questions & Answers

Question: How many pasteles for 3 pounds of sugar?

Answer: Sugar is not an ingredient.

© 2014 IslandBites

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