If you’re into Puerto Rican unique cuisine, you’ll have to try the Pastelón! And if you’re not, you should try it anyway!
It’s one of the traditional meals in the country that will add an air of change to your kitchen while being relatively easy to make.
From its history and variation to the classic recipe, in this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about Pastelón.
So without further ado, let’s dive in!
What Is Pastelón?
Pastelón is one of the traditional foods that are served in Puerto Rico as well as some other Caribbean countries.
The classic Puerto Rican lasagna-like dish contains plantains, which are the star ingredient of the meal.
The dish is a nice mix between the sweet taste of the very ripe plantains and ground beef. Some regions use Picadillo instead of regular ground beef for the plate.
Pastelón is baked in a casserole dish and bound together using a handful of beaten eggs to help it maintain its block-like shape as it cools off.
History of Pastelón
Since the dish is heavily influenced by the Italian lasagna style, some people believe that the dish originated in New York City when Italians and Puerto Ricans came into contact and shared their cuisines.
After that, the dish had widespread popularity in the main island of Puerto Rico when Puerto Ricans traveled back to their island.
Puerto Rican Pastelón vs. Dominican Pastelón
Although Pastelón is mainly a Puerto Rican dish, it’s also extremely popular in other Caribbean countries. However, the most popular variation of the Pastelón comes from the Dominican Republic.
In fact, Pastelón, also known as “Banana Pastelón” in the Dominican Republic, is regarded as the second most popular plantain-related dish in the country after the Mangú.
One of the biggest differences between the Dominican and Puerto Rican Pastelón is how the plantains are prepared.
In the Puerto Rican version, the plantains are peeled, sliced, fried, drained, and layered in the Pastelón casserole dish.
However, in the Dominican version, the plantains are peeled and boiled as a whole in water and salt for about 15 minutes.
After that, the plantains are taken out and mashed while adding butter to it to give it a smooth mash.
The Classic Puerto Rican Pastelón Recipe
Here’s how you can prepare the unique Puerto Rican dish. Keep in mind that you’ll need to buy some special ingredients for the recipe.
However, you can still replace them with some alternatives that have acceptable similar tastes. For example:
- Adobo: you can replace it with chili powder, paprika, black pepper, dry oregano, and cumin powder
- Sazon: you can replace it with achiote, salt, and garlic powder
- Sofrito: you can prepare it by braising onion, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers in olive oil.
- 4 to 6 very ripe plantains
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil + additional 2 tablespoons for the meat
- 1 lb of ground beef (you can also prepare it with 1 lb of ground turkey)
- 1-1/2 teaspoon sazon flavoring
- 1 teaspoon of adobo seasoning
- 2 tablespoons of sofrito
- 1 cup of tomato sauce (about 8 ounces)
- 1 cup of yellow onion or more to flavor (minced or finely chopped)
- 1 cup of green bell pepper (minced or finely chopped)
- 5 to 10 green olives with pimento (quartered)
- 1 teaspoon capers
- 2 cups of mozzarella or cheddar cheese (optional for topping)
- 2 to 4 beaten eggs in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Salt and pepper (not too much because capers, seasoning, and pimento olives have a fair amount of salt and pepper)
- Depending on the thickness of your Pastelón, preheat a lightly greased casserole dish with cooking spray or butter. Ideally, a 10 x 10 casserole dish is good enough for Pastelón.
- Both ends of the plantains and peel them.
- Cut the bananas vertically (lengthwise) to create long and thin slices.
- Add the 1/3 to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil to a frying pan on medium heat.
- Fry the plantains until they’re golden brown on each side (usually takes about 30 seconds).
- Drain the plantains gently in paper towels and set them aside.
- Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in another pan and set it on medium heat on the stove.
- Add the meat to the pan and fry it while breaking it down to pieces with a wooden spoon.
- Add sazon flavoring and adobo seasoning to the meat and continue to cook it until it loses all the pink color (about 6 minutes or).
- Drain the meat of the greases and liquids and set it aside.
- Return to the empty skillet and add the oil on medium heat again.
- Add the bell peppers, yellow onion, sofrito, and stir until the onion softens. (about 3 minutes)
- Add the green olives with capers, and let them cook for 2 more minutes.
- Pour the ground beef to the skillet along with the tomato sauce, and bring the mixture to a nice simmer while stirring then take it off the heat.
- Bring your casserole dish and add half the amount of beaten eggs you have in the bottom.
- Line the bottom with one layer of fried plantains.
- Using a wooden spoon, add a 1-inch layer of the beef/vegetable mix. You can add an optional layer of cheddar cheese to the dish.
- Repeat the layering with another layer of plantains then beef mix.
- Finish the casserole with a final layer of plantains
- Pour the rest of the beaten eggs on the top of the casserole dish
- Bake the casserole dish for 25 minutes in the oven at 350 °F then let it cool for 15 minutes.
Nutritional Benefits of Pastelón
When it comes to the health benefits of Pastelón, it’s mainly due to meat and plantains. Beef is rich in proteins, which promotes healthy muscle growth. Beef is also rich in iron and fats as well as vitamins B6 and B12.
On the other hand, plantains are poor in proteins, but it’s rich in carbs, vitamin C, as well as large amounts of potassium and magnesium.
The fiber content also helps it improve digestive health by promoting the bowel movement regularity.
Lastly, peppers and tomatoes added to the mix are an excellent source of vitamins like vitamin C and B complex.
Can You Store Pastelón Leftovers?
Luckily, Pastelón makes great leftovers and you can always enjoy it as a quick snack or even serve it with some eggs for breakfast.
Just like most lasagna plates, you can keep the fresh casserole in the fridge and it’ll stay good for about 5 to 7 days depending on the temperature. Moreover, you can also freeze the Pastelón leftovers just like traditional lasagna.
To store Pastelón in the freezer, you should first make sure that the baked casserole has now cooled down. After that, wrap the casserole in some kind of foil or plastic wrapping and put it in the freezer.
You can also cut the Pastelón into individual servings and freeze them too after you wrap them in foil. Ideally, Pastelón would last up to 3 months in the freezer.
In fact, some people even cook them for the intent of freezing them and serving them as comforting food whenever they feel like it.
In that case, an expert tip here is to line the pan with parchment or foil before baking the Pastelón.
After you’re done baking, freeze it initially, so you can separate the casserole out of the pan by lifting the parchment, and leave the Pastelón free in the freezer.
There you have it. A complete guide that walks you through everything you need to know about Pastelón.
As you can see, the traditional dish might take a while to prepare, but it’s definitely worth the wait!
So what’s for dessert? Take your pick with, Puerto Rican Desserts: 12 You’re Sure To Love!
Our blog is all about sharing our love of Latin American foods & drinks. We will bring you articles and recipes of the very best Latin American & Spanish cuisine. Amigofoods was founded in 2003 and is the largest online grocery store offering a wide variety of hard to find freshly imported foods & drinks from all over Latin America and Spain.