Growing up on the islands pastelles were not on our hit-list for Christmas, as it wasn’t something made by our mom or dad. I do recall the lady who lived a couple houses across from us had a part time job around the holiday season where she assisted in making pastelles by the hundreds and that’s pretty much all I knew about this tasty Christmas treat. Made from beef, pork or chicken, I do crave pastelles in my adult days and it seems that by the number of requests I get every year for this recipe, it’s a must-have in many homes in Trinidad and Tobago. Very similar to recipes made in Venezuela and Latin America, our pastelle is a true refection of the diverse culture we proudly claim in Trinbago. As there are many variations today and one could even find vegetarian editions being made by suppliers.
One of the problems I encounter as a cook/chef outside the islands, is sourcing the right ingredients. So in the recipe below you’ll see that I encountered a problem with the corn meal, but with some creativity I was able to correct and tweak things. I do hope you appreciate the creativity.
For the filling
1.5 lb mixed ground meat (pork | beef | veal)
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoon thyme
1/2 habanero or scotch bonnet pepper
2 pimento peppers
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup ketchup
1 tsp Worcester sauce
3 tbsp capers (optional)
2 tbsp olives, chopped
½ cup raisins (I didn’t have any so I had to do without this time)
For the cornmeal outer layer.
2 cups cornmeal (I see my note below)
3 cups lukewarm water
4 tbsp cooking oil
1 ¼ tsp salt
Banana leaves for wrapping and about 2 tablespoon veg oil for brushing the leaves.
Note 1. I like the rounded flavor and texture of using the mixed grounded meats I mentioned in the ingredients list. The traditional way is to use beef or pork and maybe chicken and it’s not common to mix the meats. Most people stick to one type of meat.
Note 2. I was lucky to find banana leaves in the freezer section at the Asian supermarket. If you can’t source banana leaves, feel free to use aluminum foil to wrap them in. You may also want to check with Latin grocery stores for the banana leaves as I know they use it in many of their recipes.
Note 3. In 95% of the recipes you’ll see online and in cookbooks you’ll notice that they call for corn meal, I strongly believe they mean to say corn flour as I was told on the Facebook fan page.
The first thing we’ll do is to prepare the filling since we must allow it to cool before we can proceed with actually making the pastelles. In a large sauce pan (no oil needed) add the ground meats and proceed to brown on a medium heat. Please use a wooden spoon (I find this works best) to continuously break up the meat as it cooks. We don’t want any large lumps.
As the meat cooks, lets prepare the other ingredients for adding to the filling mix. Chop the onion, garlic, peppers and scallion… give the olives and capers a rough chop as well.
The ground meat should be fully cooked by now. I used lean ground meats so there’s residual fat in the pan. If you find that you have oil at the bottom of the pan, try to spoon it out. Now add the diced onion, garlic, peppers and scallion to the pan and on a low/med heat allow to cook until soft (about 3-4 minutes). Next up, add the capers and olives give it a good stir. Finally add the black pepper, ketchup, Worcester sauce and salt. If you have raisins, add them now as well. Allow this to cook for a couple minutes, then turn off the stove and allow to cool.
As the filling cools, lets work on the outer layer. Here’s where I ran into problems as the brand and texture of the corn meal I used wasn’t working for me. It was suggested by the group on Facebook, that I should use a brand called Promasa cornmeal flour.. next rongs I guess. Basically all you’re doing is in a large bowl, mix the water, corn meal flour, oil and salt to make a dough. After trying that I realize that the water and meal I was using was not binding. So I quickly placed it in a pot and on a low heat cooked it for a few minutes. But you must continuously stir.. that is if your corn meal gives problem as mine did. If you have the right corn foul as I suggested there’s no need for cooking as I did.
So after my issues with the dough.. I moved on. Make 12 equal balls with the dough, but as you make them.. be sure to cover with plastic wrap pr a damp tea towel or they will dry up.
Let’s prepare the green banana leaves for wrapping these packets of heaven. If you’re using fresh cut leaves you’ll have to pass them over an open flame to make them easier to work with. If not, they will not fold and will burst/crack on you. Since I was using frozen leaves which I found at the Asian store (also check Latin groceries as well) I didn’t have to pass them over any flame (make sure they’re thawed though). Cut them into 8 to 10 inch squares, wipe with a wet towel to clean off any residue and get ready to assemble.
I had a small bowl with vegetable oil and a brush handy. Brush some oil in the middle of each leaf, then place a ball of dough and worked it till I got a fairly large circle (make sure you have even thickness). If you have a tortilla press, it will make this step very easy for you. Now grab a heaping tablespoon (or more) of the cooled filling and place in the center. Using the sides of the leaf, fold until you get a small package (see video below). Now tie with some string and repeat for the rest of them.
You’ll find that some people choose to boil these, but I much prefer to have them steamed. Since I don’t own a steamer, I made one with what I already have. In a large pan, I put about 1-2 cups of water, brought that up to a boil, then placed a wire strainer on top (do not have the water touch the pastelles). I then I placed the uncooked pastelles on top, made sure the heat was set so I had a gentle simmer (to create steam) and I placed the laid of the pan over it to trap that steam. In the video below you’ll see what I mean. Steam for about 20-25 minutes and they should be fully cooked.
Well, after 20 minutes I was enjoying my pastelles with some good pepper sauce. If I find the time before Christmas, I’ll try to share a chow chow recipe with you all. That’s one of the main condiments to go with the foods we enjoy around the holidays.
Before you go I invite you to leave me your comments below.. even if it just to say hello. It’s always appreciated. And don’t forget to join us on facebook and do check out the cooking videos.
Hi Chris I definitely give this recipe a try it looks great
Some years ago, an American friend asked for the recipe for my black cake. I could not find the one that I had written out for my kids and I did not feel like trying to describe it again in print. I thought that the recipe must be on the internet somewhere. I looked and did not agree with any, until I came to your site. It was exactly how I have make my black cake and I said to myself “This guy has it right!”. I have been hooked on your site ever since – just that this is the first time that I am saying anything.
About the pastelles, you do have to cook the very fine corn meal (Promasa) which is actually the same as what is used for polenta. I find that I get a better flavor cooking it with butter rather than oil which I reserve for my hands when moulding and stuffing the “patties”. And like you, I use a mix of meats – turkey, pork and lamb – as an alternative for relatives who can’t eat beef. I find that the poultry only tends to be a little dry. And for vegetables, carrots, potatoes, petit pois and corn, do well but you have to ramp up the seasoning, maybe ginger and a pinch of masala. I have not quite worked that one out to my complete satisfaction.
Do keep up the good work.
I have miss your recipes and videos. Was living in Ireland just got back. I left those folks with so many recipes I have gotten from you. While I was there I cook for the folks at the job and watch the BIG smiles on their faces as they enjoyed the food. The girls said thank god your back we miss you lorrie. Please look up some more recipes from Chris and bring in the food when your start on Monday. So, Chris from Cal. to Ireland you your family and your recipes are a HIT. We all say THANK YOU.
Will try this recipe. Remember my aunt making this as a child and calling it Tie-a-leaf then..
Your video did not mention raisins ,which I love in pastelles . Your steaming and preparation of outer part was excellent advice.Can I freeze leftovers?Thank you
Made it for my husband for the first time. He loved the pastels
I’m not from Trinidad but he said ” the pastels brought him back home
To Port of Spain
Thank you Chris
I really enjoy all your Caribbean recipes, I live in Trinidad so I get some very good ideas from you. Keep up the good work.
I’ve been trying out some of your recipes and I’m quite pleased with the results. I must try this pastelle recipe…you make it look so easy….thanks for making feel at home away from home.
I’m new to your website and I’m glad you have the recipe for “Pastelles”! I have not had these for many years now and didn’t know the complete recipe. Being from Puerto Rico my family has always made Pastelles (Puerto Rican style with Pork for the filling) as one of our traditional meals along with Dry Pigeon Peas Rice and Pork. BTW my family uses Green Plantains for the outer layer of the Pastelles.
I’m very happy to find so many of the foods I’m familiar with and now I’m able to get not only the recipes but also,
if not certain as to the preparation, a Video that shows how to put it all together. Love your website and recipes!
I made these couldnt get the cornmeal folded over properly so rested them on foil and folded the foil steamed them. They are to die for the capers add a nice flavor. Definitely doing again.
Thanks for the idea. Will make some this weekend and surprise de hubby who is from Tobago. I have also made it with green banana like the Spanish do. Delicious. Thanks
hi, i’m seeing some awsome recipes on your site but the pastelles is savoury version to the bajan conkie which is popular at independance time in November. I must try this but tonight im making the cassava pone.
we have something very similar to the amazing Bajan conkies, called paymee.. I’ll try to get that recipe done soon.
Promasa is a pre-cooked cornmeal, so it works beautifully for pastelles. Most supermarkets carry pre-cooked cornmeal that Hispanics use. Try one of those brands. I believe one of them will work like Promasa.
Thank you for all the awesome recipes,I have my own versions of the recipes being one of the kids growing up in the kitchen of the parents. However, i have been trying your versions and I must say I do enjoy the twists you have with most recipes.
Most , meaning just about all, lol, after all we all enjoy the flavors we grew up with.
This year i’ll be doing my pastelles using the recipes you have posted. I know it’ll be great.
Wishing You and your Family Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all the goodies, enjoy and keep up the great work.
I’m so happy you made this. I haven’t had any in years. I’m from the Dominican republic and we cooked this for holidays often, minus the peppers. Although now i will add them since my husband is Jamaican and loves the scotch bonnets. We cooked the corn meal, just as you did but a little thinner then shown in your photos and then spoon it onto the leaf. The corn meal would stiffen in the leaf wrapped boiling process.
BTW i learned how to make the pepper sauce from your you tube videos thank you so much
glad you found it helpful.. our Caribbean culinary culture is rice and diverse.
Hey chris,just looked at your video.. Awesome stuff. I have a couple suggestions you can probably try if you’re making this year. You can add the Maggie Cubes to your corn meal (Vegetable, garlic – which ever you prefer). It adds a little more flavor to the corn meal.
And what I usually do with my meat is that after its cooked i give it a little spin in the Food Processor to smooth it out a bit.it helps with the texture and kinda combines the flavors of the capers, olives, onions etc nicely.
great tips..thanks for sharing. (btw, be mindful of the sodium in the cubes)
I enjoyed watching your video ,I always wanted to make pastilles ,you show how to do it ,thank you very much. I will make it for christmas .
Been meaning to make something authentically Trini for my friends in Vancouver since coming here. They will love this 🙂 Just a tip, I found that removing the meat from the pan after browning and then cooking the veg in the rendered fat allows them to fry instead of steaming giving them a fuller flavor. I would then combine the two once the veg are tender and proceed with cooling, prepping of the wrapping. Thanks a lot and seasons greetings!
Quite good. Happy New Year to you and yours
Chris, 20+ years ago I was introduced to a short cut. After you cook the meat, add 1 can cream style corn, evaporated milk, bring to a boil, lower heat, slowly add the cornmeal, so that it cooks but is moist, and comes together. Use ice cream scoop to serve in balls. Pastelle Balls, great for entertaining, less work, more to share.
Corn meal is not cornflower which is far too fine. Polenta is fine cornmeal which works well, but the best is medium cornmeal which gives the casing a nice texture.
Ilove pastelles very much. Will be making some soon.
Chris my husband and I will be attempting to make this today. I will let you know how it goes.
My family and I are in Atlanta GA and unfortunately did not get our Pastel orders in early this year in TnT. Since it is a must to have Pastels for the season we decided to venture into making them ourselves. I came across your video and must say you have laid it out the recipe and the process so very nicely and added a video for those who needs the boost of confidence in getting the task done. I will let you know how things come out on Christmas week!
Thank you for taking time to do this!
Awsome website thank you so much chris you made
My life so much easier
I have the mr Goudas brand of corn meal. Would that work?
What pepper can be used instead of pimento? I’m in Toronto but can’t find it in store or maybe it’s a different name in the Asian store? Please let me know.
Also you stated that foil can be used? Does it make a huge difference in the taste?
Sharon beni is sold as culantro . Pimento pepper is sold as seasoning pepper . easy to find in groceries like Danforth food market or sunny’is grocery or other Asian and/ or caribbean groceries
Masa harina is the corn flour of choice when we get together to make this. I have never had the complete recipe as my friends hold it close to their chests but I will be trying this out on my own this year as hey will be gone for Christmas.
Thanks for the entire recipe!
I am a creative cook. So, I normally take a recipe and look at it, and change some things in it. This holiday, I plan to make some pastelles, but I will imcorporate the flavors of here in Louisiana. Basically it will be the same, but some things I will leave out, and incorporate some other ingredients.
I also, plan to make some Alcupurrias, but I will incorporate the flavors of Louisiana .
Hi Chris Am living in Curacao and people over here just love having this at christmas time so i will be making about 50 this weekend its a lot of work but i love doing it.
Did a dry run of your Pastelles recipe a few weeks ago….delish. Will be making some today, plan to hide them in the freezer for Thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing.
(I used Donarepa brand cornmeal. Sold in local grocery store).
I made these delicious.Could have added more pepper. I used the same cornmeal it dried out a bit before I flattened them maybe should flatten them first. Stuffed and wrapped in foil and boiled just partial water.The capers are essential.
Looking forward to trying this recipe, I grew up in Jamaica and we never had these but I just got back from visiting Belize and had similar! I have a great Hot mango sauce from Belize that I am sure will go well with the Pastelles!
Hi Chris, I finally tried making pastels, and I must say it came out just great!Thanks so much to you.
Can’t wait to surprise my husband with this recipe. I enjoy your videos, simple instructions and entertaining!! Thank you:)
Chris where can I find promasa corn I am in cambridge
I bought mine at http://www.amazon.com.
The item was delivered 3 days after placing the order.
I’m not sure if this was mentioned but the closest thing to Promasa (corn flour widely used in Trinidad) is a brand called Maseca. I see if everywhere in New York in grocery stores big and small. Hope this helps!
Hi, since I’m from Croatia and u cant find bannana leafs overhere is it possible to boil it inside aluminium foil??
Thanks and great recipe!
My mother-in-law lives in Trinidad and she uses aluminum foil all the time.
I was looking for a Pastelle recipe thanks I will try this today.
Authentic carribean pastelles is made with green bananas, green plain train, taro root, white yams and potatoes. While there are different combo variations these roots are more commonly used in authentic masa for the pastelles. You also need annato infused oil for the masa and to oil the leaf. This recipe seems closest to Mexican tamales but it looks good non the less.
How much does this recipe make?
I never tried this and I love Pastelles can wait to try it out.
I have been making pastelles for a few yers now and I find that it is unnessary to add any oil to the cornmeal or to oil the leaves. The banana leaf had oil that prevents sticking. So much healthier without and still has all the flavour.
You might also add a stock cube to the hot water used for the cornmeal as this enhances the flavour.
I use boiling water in my cornmeal and that give it a better texture for me
This is a wicked recipe 🙂 Your recipe reminded me of how much I love pastelles and how much I miss eating it. I just stopped over the years as my way was much more labor intensive. You make everything seem so simple. I’ll try it your way this year. Your problem with the cornmeal I think was because whatever brand you used probably needed less water. We get a brand called “Pan” at the Asian store which comes as white or yellow cornmeal. You can also use “Promasa” but I’ve only found that in Trinidad. Keep those recipes coming. I’ve started playing my Parang music in October, in Trinidad they start Christmas music in September. Do you remember that?
Hey Chris! Your recipe is the closest thing to the one I use, 4tbs. oil, 4ounces of melted margarine (1 stick) to the dough. 3c.flour to 3 3/4 cups of water. Dip the balls in a bowl of oil before pressing.This keeps the corn really soft even after it is reheated in the microwave oven. Also, try some cinnamon powder or shadon beni to the meat filling. Barbecue spicy honey sauce also gives it a delicious flavor. Try it. You’ll like it.
tried this but the casing came out too doughy. i tried it again but this time i rolled it out very thin using a rolling pin and it was perfect. Found it easier to use foil paper and boil, but add extra salt to the water when boiling (about half tablespoon)
Hi! Chris,can"t wait to try it…I love all your videos it is so amazing and easy to follow.
Many thanks, Chris. You have a way of drawing us, so scattered, back to the home family roots! I have never considered using the three types of meat. Yep, it’s pastelles, all steamed, the Chris De La Rosa way!!
This recipe its excellent …i brought it to a party and it was a hit …thank you and its a forever recipe in my kitchen for gererations to come
Great job. U were very informative. This was my first time looking at your cooking clips and I am totally amaze. Keep up the good work can wait to view other clips.
May God bless you and yours.
this looks great!! Can't wait to try this. I was buying this from a friend for 24/00 a doz.
A thanks for the receipt. Step by step
Thank you. I will definitely try your recipe. I made some but was not impressed.
Many thanks for the pastelle recipe. Did my recipe a little different but everyone enjoyed. Keep those Trini recipes coming. Hope that you and the family had a blessed Christmas and all the best for the New Year. Your are doing a wonderful job, keep up the good work
Thanks Chris, great inspiration to all those trini traditionalist living outside Trinidad. I have justed finished off making mine with Harina PAN pre cooked cornflour(almost impossible to source Promasa here in England). Not as nice but did a great job. Here’s to having something close to trini christmas this year,pastelle, sorrell, black cake, yummie. Merry Christmas to all you trinis out there.
Thanks for the recipie. Seeing the picture brings back memories of seeing my Granny make hundreds of these things each Christmas and Easter. I think I will roll up my selves and try to make some tonight to bring to my parents for Christmas. Best wishes and Merry Christmas.
Hi Chris,thanks for the recipe, will get to making it this weekend, and I just bought you book, its great, here to me getting back into the kitchen, something I love doing is cooking but coming to NY and all the hussle and bussle there is not much time to cook. So enough of the ordering in and thanks to you I will be taking back my post back to the stove. LOL …. Merry Christmas and a very Happy Prosperious New Year.
Has anyone had any experience using the "PAN" brand of corn meal for making pastelles? I am unable to secure Promasa and time is running out for pastelle making.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Thanks Chris for this recipe, you are very detailed with your instructions. It's my first time here in Georgia trying to make this recipe. Have a great christmas with your friends and family.
Any suggestions as to where I can get some fig leaves? Any where close to Scarborough (Ontario) or Kitchener-Waterloo Region? Thanks!
I usually get banana leaves at:
Als West Indian Food Mart
7-1660 Kingston Rd, Pickering, ON L1V 5R2
Anyone in the Mississauga area can get the cornmeal and banana leaves at Charlies West Indian food mart!!
Thanks Chris great recipe. The exact thing happened to me the very first time I tried pastelles I didn't use the promasa and the cornmeal flour I used had a very sandy consistency I got so frustrated everything ended up in the trash, luckily my sister in law came over and brought me the promasa and told me never to use any other cornmeal flour in pastelles.
Here in Trinidad we use a Pastelle Press, it's something made of a very strong wood to press out our Pastelles… it helps to really flatten the dough so the dough cooks faster and when you bite into the pastelle you can be sure you would not bite into a mouthful of cornmeal minus the meats Lolz
Oh and although aluminium foil can be used as a substitute to the banana leaf, it's always better to try and source the fig (Banana) leaves as the steaming or boiling process marries the flavour of the fig leaves into the pastelles producing that true Caribbean taste… Thanks again Chris you always make your recipes so very easy to learn.
Wow, very interesting. I didn't know that pasteles were eaten in Trinidad. These are very similar to PR pasteles, which are considered a Christmas time necessity, except in PR the dough is made from either grated green cooking bananas or grated cassava – cornmeal ones like these are called guanimes in PR. Great recipe!
HI westside_chicago just came to make the same remark. Was raised in the virgin islands but my great gran is from PR, was so shocked and pleasantly surprised to see Pastelles made with corn-meal . I Know it to be made with grated green banana and I mean ALOT of green banana cause everyone had to pitch in, think we usually end up with two tubs full. The meat is made from shredded stewed chicken or shredded stewed pork and all the tobasco in the world lol.
Oh have you ever heard of Ducana. Its a sweet dish that's normally made from cornmeal( actual grated corn) still follow the wrapped in banana leaf and all that jazz
Chris! THIS LOOKS AMAZING. I will definitely be making these. I bet you guys eat awesomely every single day!
I thought this was only made at Christmas b/c of the complexity but it looks fairly easy and straight-forward! We have a group coming to visit us on Aruba so I plan to make this as one of the Caribbean dishes I want them to experience! Thanks. I'm looking through the other recipes but will only make those that I know I will like before serving them to my guests! (I'm a finicky eater!) Some promising recipes though!
why just at Christmas??? Guess what i am having this week!!
I have just tried it and my entire family loves it. It’s hard to get banana leaves in Munich, so i simply used foilpaper and it worked. Keep up the good work.
Trini in Munich, Germany.
Hi Chris, have you ever tried this as a baked pie? It is the bomb!!
Hi Vanessa, how do I make the pie? I had it once and would like to try making it myself.
Roocoo definitely gives the pastelles that authentic flovor. Since I no longer live in Trinidad I am unable to find it elsewhere. Any suggestions as to where I can find some. Is it known by another name.
Roocoo you can find it in the hispanic store under the name achiote or annatto .You can get in powder or seeds
Roocoo (achiote or annatto) is also found in Sazon. Use the powdered flavor packets that come in the orange & yellow box. I believe the label on the Sazon box says "with Achiote". The packet is also used to give color to the spanish rice dish.
Great job Chris. I loved it. I bought chow chow from a green grocer, can you give us the recipe for chow chow so I won't need to resort to store bought version. Thanks again
This recipe for pastelles look amazing. I live in canada and am having a hard time finding pimento peppers. Is there another name for the pimento pepper here in north america? Is there a close substitute that i can use in replacement of the pimentos?
Hi the real taste is from the anatto also called roocoo, not kechup it gives the colour like ketchup.
this have to cook in heated oil until the water used to mix it dries up…..and all you have is the nice colour
Promasa corn is best for the pastelle, and you have to roll the corn in balls in the palm of your
hands to bring it together
raisins takes away from the taste.and it is better to season the meat beforhand and add some fresh
seasoning when the meat finish cooking.
everything elso .great
Hi Mr. Chris thank you for the wonderful video. This is my first attempt at making pastelles. One thing though I used a dry measuring cup and the amount just looked different to yours, so I just added 2 3/4 cups of water. The finished dough looked nothing like yours but I am still continued. Tell me did you use a liquid measuring cup for the corn flour? I would let you know how things turned out. Thanks again and happy New Year.
If you cant find banana leaves, you can use corn husks that's sold in the grocery. They're sold at your local grocers if you have any type of Mexican population close by. When I first came to the US, my Mom would use foil, and spray the foil sheets before using. I never ised it personally because I was afraid of metallic poisoning, though this was never verified.
Great video Chris, the best cornmeal to use is the "Promasa" brand
great job chris… i will definitely try this one…
I don't know where to find banana leaves. I'm in Georgia, please help Chris!
Hi Phoebe, You could go to Walmart has banana leaves in the section that sells frozen goya products and any spanish store, Indian store and Asian Store like Chinese, Korean. You could look it up online to find these stores, hope this will help you. Judy
Thanks Chris! This is EXCELLENT!!
Thanks for posting this one. I already browning the meat and my parang blasting away. Merry Christmas and all the best to you and your family.
Chris thank u so much for this recipe,you are a life saver, we are so far from home right now and with these Pastelles and Sweet Bread recipes bring us a little closer to home,, thank u and I hope and Pray u and your family have a great Holiday.
Personally I'm not a lover of capers so I'm going to opt out. The raisins might cut the heat a little and add a different flavour also. My daughter doesn't like them in savoury dishes, so I'll have to leave them out too!!
The rest looks delicious and if you get time, I'm sure we'll all be awiating your Chow Chow recipe with pregnant expectancy….Ahaaaa! Decorative speech!
It's too far a drive to get Banana or Plantain leaves, any suggestions as a substitute?
Thanks and have a restful, happy and safe Christmas
don't know where you are at but Nicey's Food Mart in Brampton, Ontario carries the banana leaves as well as the promasa (corn flour).
Chris, thank you so much for posting this recipe. We moved from California to the West Indies and miss our Christmas tamales. these look similar but definitely have a Caribbean flair. Will try to make them this week. Have a Merry Christmas!!!!!