Pastelon | There are a lot of dishes that make me think of home, but, there is no doubt that my favorite is Pastelon. It’s one of those dishes that I don’t get to enjoy often so when I do it’s a real treat. If you’re not familiar with pastelon, your life is incomplete. It’s basically a lasagna but, in my opinion, better in place of noodles you use sweet fried plantains.
pastelon vs. piñon
Some people may say that this is piñon and not pastelon. However, piñon typically will have a layer of canned green beans and the plantains maybe mashed. Over the years, I have come to realize that much like any country different regions have different preparations or names for similar dishes. Piñon is typically from the southern and west regions of Puerto Rico, and pastelon is from the east and northern regions.
Why is pastelon so amazing? Because it’s the ultimate marriage of sweet and savory. The beef filling is simmered in an aromatic, savory tomato sauce. I like to add olives and raisins to my filling for surprise bombs of brine and sweet. The filling is layered with sweet fried plantains and stretchy delicious cheese. It’s probably one of the most amazing things you will ever eat. Just sayin’.
Whenever I am introducing friends to Puerto Rican cuisine pastelon is one of my favorite recipes to prepare. I like to describe it as a Puerto Rican lasagna. And, who doesn’t like lasagna? But, it also introduces them to one of our most popular ingredients, plantains. I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t fallen in love with pastelon.
The most important thing to pay attention to is the ripeness of your plantains. It’s important that the plantains be sufficiently ripe otherwise the pastelon will turn our dry and dry pastelon is “no bueno”. You want plantains that are really ripe.
Truly ripe plantains at first glance will look like they have gone bad but, ripe plantains are supposed to look that way. You want them to be more black than yellow and tender to the touch. Ripe plantains are peeled similarly to green plantains but, much easier. If you don’t know how to peel a plantain check out this post on “How to Peel a Plantain.”
If you’re lucky you can find ripe plantains at your local Latin grocery or Asian market. If you don’t have either close by you can buy green plantains at almost any grocery store. Unfortunately, most local grocery stores will toss ripe plantains, which is very sad. On a few occasions, I have gotten the ripe plantains but just asking a store employee if they have any they are getting ready to discard.
Depending on where you live will determine how long it takes a plantain to ripen. Warmer temperatures will ripen faster than cooler temperatures. During the winter months, I place mine in a paper bag and put them in the oven. Just make sure you remember they are there, and you don’t turn the oven on with the plantains in the oven.
I have to warn you, it’s virtually impossible to have only one piece. You may try to implement some self-control but, you will you fail. I tell you this because I take no responsibility for enlargement of waistlines, the addition of dimples to the thigh and buttocks area or lectures from your cardiologist. Proceed at your own risk.
Wondering what to serve with pastelon? I recommend a pot of arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas). If you’re not in the mood for rice, which is just crazy talk, maybe try some arepas de coco (coconut fry bread). And, no meal is complete without dessert! One of my favorite Puerto Rican desserts is tembleque (coconut pudding).
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- 1 lbs ground beef
- 1 onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 green pepper, minced
- ½ chopped cilantro
- 2 tsp adobo
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 Tbs vinegar
- 1 envelope sazón
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 green stuffed olives, halved
- ½ cup raisins
- ¼ cup tomato sauce
- 4 plantains, peeled and sliced into strips
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tbs milk
- 2 cups white shredded cheese
- vegetable oil
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter square pan with 1 tbs of butter.
- Combine, beef, onion, pepper, garlic, cilantro, adobo, oregano, vinegar, and sazon. Mix well.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 Tbs of olive oil, add meat mixture.
- Cook beef until brown and of the juices bubble up, add bay leaves, olives, raisins, and tomato sauce. Mix and let simmer for 10 minutes, set aside.
- Heat a large frying pan with vegetable oil, just enough to coat the bottom. Fry plantains for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden and slightly crispy. Drain on a plate with paper towel, set aside.
- To assemble pastelon: Take your prepared square pan, start with a layer of plantains, then beef, then a fistful of cheese, repeat. You want to finish with cheese and plantains. Beat 3 eggs with 2 Tbs of milk, pour over the pastelón. Let it sit for a minute allowing the egg to soak in. Top off with just a bit more cheese.
- Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
- Eat like a pig, scarf it down, don't share with anyone and