When you say pasteles, most people think of the traditional pasteles de masa, but there are many different kinds. One of the most popular variants is pasteles de yuca. As the name suggests, these delicious pasteles are made with yuca (rather than the green banana/yautia/yuca mix) and they are incredibly delicious! And since we are making them using pre-ground masa, they are also super quick and easy!
2 lbs boneless chicken thighs (cut into small pieces)
½ cup sofrito
1 medium yellow onion diced
8 oz (1 can) tomato sauce
3 tbs vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic chopped
½ cup chopped green olives
1 tsp sazon
1 tsp adobo
6 lbs frozen “masa de yuca”/ grated cassava
½ cup achiote oil (check out this video for how to make this oil: https://youtu.be/KpJiECbHXbI?t=276)
1 cup chicken broth (1 cup water, 1 packet cubitos en polvo)
4 tbs vegetable shortening
4 tsp salt
Green Banana Leaves
Achiote Oil (https://youtu.be/KpJiECbHXbI?t=276)
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup achiote seeds (aka annatto seeds)
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
Let’s start by making the filling for our pasteles. Heat up a wide saucepan on medium high heat and, once hot, add your vegetable oil. Now add your chicken and begin sautéing it. As you sauté it, use a spoon or a heat-resistant spatula to move it around in order to ensure an even cook.
As you cook your chicken, you’ll notice a lot of liquid begins to accumulate in the bottom of the pan. Keep cooking your chicken, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates. Once your liquid has evaporated, and your chicken has begun to brown, add your onion and garlic and continue sautéing.
Once the onion starts looking translucent, add your sofrito and continue sautéing. Cook until most of the water from the sofrito has evaporated, then add your tomato sauce, olives, sazon and adobo and sauté for a couple minutes, allowing all of the flavors to combine.
After a couple of minutes, add a little bit of water, about ¼ of a cup, put the lid on, turn the heat down to low and simmer your chicken until tender, approximately 20-30 minutes. While the chicken is simmering, check on it every 5 minutes or so, giving it a little stir, and making sure that there is still liquid in the pan. If it looks like most of the liquid has evaporated, just add a little more water, in order to make sure it doesn’t burn.
With your filling simmering, let’s start working on the dough. As we discussed in the intro, we are using a pre-ground masa that comes frozen in 3 pound bags. Because you buy these bags frozen, the first thing you need to do is thaw them. If you have enough time, you can thaw them just by leaving it in the refrigerator, but that will take a couple of days. If you need to thaw them faster, just place them in the sink and run some warm water over them. Once they are completely thawed, dump the yuca out into a large bowl. You want to make sure the bowl is plenty large to hold both bags of yuca, along with the flavoring, and still leave you plenty of room to mix.
Add your broth, achiote oil, salt and shortening to the bowl. Then, using a whisk, slowly mix all the ingredients until you have a homogenous dough. You’ll notice that the dough has a deep orange color, which is the signature of pasteles de yuca.
Now onto rolling your pasteles. First, let’s get all of the supplies ready. This recipe yields about 18 pasteles so prepare your supplies for about 20, just in case. You’ll need butchers twine to tie together your pasteles, cut into pieces about 30 inches long. Then, you’ll need banana leaves, cut into squares approximately 9x12 inches long. You can find banana leaves in the frozen section of your local Hispanic grocery store. Once thawed, wipe your leaves down with a clean damp cloth in order to remove any dirt. Remove the stems in order to make it easier to use the leaves. Once you have removed the stems, cut the leaves into rectangles, approximately 9x12 inches, and set them aside.
You’ll also need some more achiote oil, which you can buy or prepare yourself. If you want to make it, check out our earlier video on pasteles (https://youtu.be/KpJiECbHXbI?t=276) for an easy recipe you can make at home.
With all of your supplies prepared, get your station ready for rolling pasteles. This process becomes something of an assembly line, so you want to make sure you have everything within reaching distance, and you can start just cranking out the pasteles once you get started. Here, you can see that I’ve set up my achiote oil, banana leaves and parchment paper on my left, with my masa and filing on my right. I then have left a clear space right in front of me, where I’ll actually do the filling and rolling.
Now we are ready to start rolling our pasteles. First, place a piece of banana leaf on top of a piece of parchment paper. Then, brush your banana leaf with achiote oil in a rectangle approximately 5x7 inches long. Then add about two thirds of a cup of your dough onto the rectangle of achiote oil and spread it out evenly, across the rectangle of achiote oil. Then add about ¼ cup of filling to the dough. Now, fold over your banana leaf, so the dough fully encompasses the filling. Now, fold up the sides of your banana leaf, and finish rolling your pastel. Once your pastel is rolled, set it aside.
Now let’s repeat the process with a second pastel. Paint your banana leaf with achiote oil. Add the masa and shape into a rectangle. Add your filing. Fold over your banana leaf so the dough encompasses the filling, press it down to make sure it’s evenly distributed throughout the banana leaf, and then roll your pastel.
With two pasteles wrapped, now we are going to tie these into a yunta. A yunta is the standard unit of pasteles and is simply what we call two pasteles that have been tied together.
To tie a yunta, place your pasteles one on top of the other, then lay your butchers twine on the table, and place your pasteles on top of the twine, with the loose ends facing inward. Then fold the twine over the pasteles lengthwise, turn your pasteles 90 degrees and wrap the twine around the pasteles width-wise. Once wrapped, tie your pasteles tightly, to ensure they won’t get loose later when you are boiling them.
Continue this process for the rest of your pasteles until you finish using the dough and the filling. This recipe yielded about 18 pasteles or 9 yuntas for us. We have been making a lot of different kinds of pasteles this season in our home, so a great practice is to label your pasteles by writing the type of dough and filling with a marker.
Once you are done, you can cook your pasteles right away or freeze them for later. To cook your pasteles, get a large heavy pot and fill it halfway with water and bring the water to boil. Once the water starts boiling add your pasteles, cover the pot and let them boil until cooked. If you boil your pasteles right after you made them, you’ll only need to boil them for about 45 minutes. But if you freeze your pasteles first, and then make them at a later date, you’ll want to cook them about twice as long after taking them out of the freezer, to make sure they have plenty of time to heat up.
Once your pasteles are cooked, remove them from the water, untie, unwrap and enjoy!
Check out our instructional video, showing how to make this recipe step-by-step HERE.