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Puerto Rican Tamales: A Taste of Island Tradition

Puerto Rican Tamales, known locally as “Pasteles,” are a culinary masterpiece that reflects the vibrant and diverse flavors of Puerto Rican cuisine.

These delightful parcels offer a unique blend of indigenous, African, and Spanish influences, creating a true taste of the island.

Key Takeaways

  • Who this meal appeals to: Perfect for those looking to savor the authentic flavors of Puerto Rico, with a love for savory and hearty delights.
  • Estimated duration: While the preparation demands time and care, the end result is a flavorful experience lasting around 3-4 hours.
  • Nutrition Facts: Puerto Rican Tamales provide a balanced mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, depending on the choice of fillings.

About this Recipe

Puerto Rican Tamales, or Pasteles, are characterized by the use of plantains and yautía (taro root) in the masa, creating a unique and savory taste. Filled with a combination of meats, olives, and raisins, these tamales are a true representation of Puerto Rican culinary tradition.

Equipment Required

  1. Large Steaming Pot: Essential for achieving the perfect texture of the masa.
  2. Mixing Bowls: For preparing the masa and fillings.
  3. Plantain Leaves: Traditional wrapping material for Pasteles.


  • Masa: 3 cups, a mixture of plantains, yautía, and green bananas, finely grated.
  • Meat Filling (Pork, Chicken, or Beef): 1 lb, cooked and seasoned.
  • Olives and Raisins: 1/2 cup each, for a sweet and savory touch.
  • Achiote Oil: 2 tablespoons, for color and flavor.
  • Chicken Broth: 2 cups, for seasoning the masa.
  • Plantain Leaves: 12-15 pieces, for wrapping.


  1. Prepare the Masa: Grate plantains, yautía, and green bananas. Mix with achiote oil and chicken broth until it forms a smooth, spreadable consistency.
  2. Prepare the Filling: Season the cooked meat and mix with olives and raisins.
  3. Assemble the Tamales: Spread a layer of masa on a plantain leaf, add a spoonful of the filling, and fold the tamale, securing the ends.
  4. Steam to Perfection: Arrange the tamales in a steaming pot and steam for 1.5 to 2 hours until the masa is cooked.

Side Dishes

Serve with a side of Puerto Rican rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules) for a complete and authentic Puerto Rican meal.

Storage Options

Store any leftover Pasteles in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to three days.

Ingredient Substitutes

Experiment with different meats or add capers for a unique twist on the traditional filling.

Alternatives to this Meal

For a vegetarian option, consider making Pasteles filled with a mixture of vegetables and beans.

For futher reading check out this comprehensive article on Regional Tamales. For similar tamales check out: Dominican Tamales and Oaxacan Tamales.


Puerto Rican Tamales, or Pasteles, offer a flavorful journey into the heart of Puerto Rican culinary traditions. Whether enjoyed during festive occasions or as a comforting family meal, these tamales are a celebration of the rich and diverse flavors that define the enchanting island of Puerto Rico.