How to prepare banana leaves for wrapping pasteles and other foods

If using freshly picked banana or plantain leaves, cut off the central rib and trim off the edges.  Cut into the desired sizes.  To make them flexible for folding, wilt in single layers, or slightly overlapping, in a 200F oven for 5-10 minutes.  An alternative method of wilting is to place the leaves directly over the coils of an electric range on low heat, or pass them carefully over the low flame of a gas range.  Be careful not to burn them unduly.  Wipe with a damp kitchen cloth or paper towel.

Commercial banana leaves usually come in packages which are sold either by the package or by the pound.  They may or may not be already wilted.

The alternative to banana leaves, if these are unavailable, is parchment paper cut into the sizes indicated in your recipe.  In the case of recipes that ask for an outer and an inner leaf, you need use only pieces of parchment paper cut to the size of the larger leaf piece.

You may combine leaf and parchment paper, using the latter for the outer wrapping.





cups pork meat, trimmed of connective tissues and excessive fat, and diced into cubes--fresh ham, picnic or shoulder butt (about 7 pounds of boneless meat)


teaspoons salt

cup annatto lard or oil


cup uncooked condiment


large pressed garlic cloves


large sweet chili peppers, seeded and minced


minced large culantro leaves


cilantro sprigs, finely chopped


cup tomato sauce


teaspoon ground oregano


cup water


cup seedless raisins


16-ounce cans boiled chick peas, drained


ounces pimientos, sliced into strips


small pimiento-stuffed olives (optional)


hot chili peppers, pureed in a mortar, mixed with 4-5 tablespoons of the meat stew sauce, then strained (optional)



pounds medium size green bananas, peeled, and cut into 1 rings


large green plantain, peeled, and cut into 1 segments


salted water


pounds white yautia, peeled and cut into 1 cubes


cups annatto lard


tablespoons salt


cup sauce from the meat stew (see above)


cups warm milk



pieces of banana or plantain leaves, 12 x 12


pieces of banana or plantain leaves, 7 x 10




Pieces of parchment paper, 12 x 12


pieces of banana or plantain leaves, 7 x 10


Kitchen twine

Meat stew

  1. Season the meat cubes with 3 teaspoons of the salt and let stand while you prepare the condiments and the annatto lard for the meat and the mash.
  1. In a caldero or a chicken fryer large enough to hold the meat, heat cup of annatto lard over moderate heat and add the uncooked condiment.  Cook for 5 minutes.
  1. Add the garlic, sweet chili peppers, culantro leaves, cilantro, tomato sauce, oregano and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt.  Cook for 5 more minutes.
  1. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the meat and cook stirring for 5 minutes.
  1. Add the water and bring to a boil.  Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the meat is tender.  Set apart or refrigerate covered if not continuing with the recipe on the same day.


  1. Peel the bananas and plantain.
  1. Cut the bananas into 1 rings and the plantain into 1 segments.  Soak in salted water to cover.
  1. Peel the white yautia and cut into 1 cubes.
  1. Rinse and drain the bananas and plantain.
  1. Process the bananas, plantain and yautia in a food processor fitted with the steel blade only until finely grated but not mushy.  Do not over process.
  1. Put all in a large bowl and mix well.
  1. Add the 3 cups annatto lard and the 41/2 tablespoons of salt.  Blend well.
  1. Add the milk and 1 cup of sauce from the meat stew.  Blend well and set apart, or refrigerate covered if not continuing with the recipe on the same day.  Do not refrigerate longer than overnight, as it might ferment.


  1. If making some of the pasteles with the hot chili sauce, divide the meat stew into two parts and add to one part one tablespoon of the hot sauce per 12 pasteles, or more to taste.
  1. Lay a 12 x 12 banana leaf on a table.  Ribs parallel to you on top place one of the 7 x 10 leaves, long side parallel to you, the edges of both leaves nearest you flush with each other.
  1. In the center of the small leaf spread 6 tablespoons of the mash in a rectangle slightly smaller than 4 x 6.
  1. Put 2 tablespoonfuls of the meat in a narrow rectangle along the center of the mash, add one or two pimiento strips.
  1. Add some raisins, chick peas to taste, and one or two of the optional olives.
  1. Dribble with some of the meat sauce.
  1. Fold over the edges nearer you of both leaves to cover the mash and stuffing.
  1. Continue folding until you reach the edge of the outer leaf.  The pastel should be about 3 wide.
  1. Fold the ends of the leaves over the seam, for a length of about 6
  1. Pat lightly to flatten out to no less than .
  1. Put two pasteles together, seam sides facing each other.
  1. Tie with twine, package-like: two lengths of twine lengthwise; two, crosswise.  Do not tie too tightly as they swell when cooking.
  1. Add an additional bow or piece of string to identify those pasteles which have hot sauce.
  1. If not cooking immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to a year.


  1. Bring to a boil 6 quarts of water per 12 pasteles.
  1. Add the pasteles, bring again to a boil.  Cover, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 45 minutes, turning once.  If frozen, boil for an hour.
  1.  Drain the pasteles, unwrap and serve warm, two per person.  Serve two pasteles on one of the inner leaves placed on a dinner plate.

NOTES:  1.  If using a food processor, you may first slice the plantain, bananas and yautia with the serrated slicing disk, and then grate with the steel blade.

2. If grating by hand, leave the vegetables whole after peeling.

3. You may use any bottled hot sauce to taste instead of the hot chili pepper sauce.

4. You may combine parchment paper and leaves, if available.  Use the leaf for the inner wrapping, as this imparts a distinctive flavor and aroma to the pasteles.

5. If using only parchment paper, spread the mash about 3 from the edge nearest you.  Bring this edge over to cover the mash and stuffing.  Fold the side of the  paper nearest you over this, and continue folding until you reach the edge of the paper.  Fold the ends over the seam side and tie two pasteles together, seam sides facing, with kitchen twine.

Yield: 48 pasteles.