Pastele Stew with Plantains is a unique stew from Puerto Rico that brings together the rich and bold flavors of pork, bell peppers, tomatoes, and black olives. The addition of shredded plantains makes this a hearty stew that's totally comforting and warming on a cold night.
Ok, so most of the recipes on this blog are fairly simple to make. They don't take too long and use simple, easy to find ingredients. This recipe, while simple, is a bit more complicated and time-consuming than normal, but I promise it's worth it.
This stew was a new recipe for me and I loved learning about its origin, how to make it and experimenting with new ingredients. It takes a bit of time, but the process is not difficult, and I can totally see myself making this for something like a Christmas Eve dinner, or on a lazy Sunday, with the snow falling outside. Don't be scared off by these ingredients - they're plenty easy to find (I got everything from my local grocery store!). And the taste of this stew will have everyone coming back for seconds.
Why This Recipe Works
This pastele stew recipe offers a unique blend of ingredients that not only create a mouthwatering flavor but also a delightful textural experience.
- So unique. I'm not super familiar with Puerto Rican cuisine, so this was a new soup to me, and I loved making it. The different flavors and the use of plantains (or green bananas, if that's what you can find), made this a special soup that I'm sure I'll make again and again.
- A bit of spice. There's not much here, but there is a slight touch of spice, which you all know I love. Feel free to dial this up or down depending on your preference.
- Meditative. Ok, that may be a weird one. And if your goal for dinner is really just to get something on the table quickly (no shame - I'm there often!), then maybe this isn't for you right now. But if you have the time to invest, and are willing to be a bit experimental, I truly think it's so fun to dive into a recipe and learn all about it and how to make it. It's a great escape for those who love to cook! (If you know, you know.)
- Great for a cold evening. Those super cold nights are not completely here yet, but they're coming. And I cannot wait to curl up by a fire with a big old piece of crusty bread and a bowl of this delicious pastele stew. Yum!
What Is Pastele Stew
Ok, now that I've waxed poetic about how great this stew is, let's talk about what it is and where it comes from. Pastele Stew is a traditional Puerto Rican dish that bears some resemblance to tamales. This is because pasteles, which are very labor intensive to make, often look like tamales and are made of a masa, which is typically a mixture of grated green banana, green plantain, white yautia, potato or tropical pumpkins. They are filled with beans, fruit, chiles, nuts, meat and then wrapped in a corn husk (just like a tamale!)
Pastel stew is an easier take on Puerto Rican pastels (yes, I said easier!) since the masa is just made from grated plantains or bananas and can be thrown right into the stew. It's an "everyday version" of the traditional pastele.
Pastel stew is a delicious concoction of seasoned pork, hearty vegetables, and a unique dough made from grated plantains. This hearty stew is a celebration of Puerto Rican culture and cuisine, typically enjoyed during the holiday season (especially around Christmas!). It's a dish that brings families together, each member contributing to the preparation in their unique way.
Before we dive into the recipe, here's a quick rundown of the key ingredients you'll need (full ingredient list in recipe card):
- Pork butt
- Sazon. This is a popular Mexican and Puerto Rican seasoning used in many dishes. It typically contains a combination of coriander, cumin, achiote, garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper. You can buy this at the grocery store, or make your own.
- Garlic, white onion and green bell peppers
- 1 package achiote powder
- Crushed red chili flakes
- Tomato paste
- 4 cups chicken stock
- Green plantains
- Black olives (whole olives or sliced)
- Bunch cilantro, chopped
How To Peel Plantains
A big ingredient in this recipe is plantains, which may be slightly unfamiliar to you prior to making this. They were, sort of, to me. I'd had plantain chips from the grocery store and had eaten them as part of dishes in Mexican restaurants, but I'd never really bought one to prepare on my own before.
If this is you, here's a step by step on how to peel these suckers. They look like bananas, but you're going to want to buy green plantains, which are much less ripe and take a bit of strategy to peel (it doesn't come off easily!). Here's how to do it.
- Cut off the ends of the plantain.
- Create a slit on each side of the green plantain. Be careful to not cut yourself.
- Use your thumb to create a wedge between the skin and the plantain and carefully peel the skin from the plantain. Tip: Use a room temperature plantain to make it easier.
- Gently scrape off any excess skin residue on the plantain.
If you have trouble peeling the plantain, take it under water to make it a little easier.
How To Make Pastele Stew
- Brown the pork. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat vegetable oil or the avocado oil for about 1 minute. Add the diced pork, season with salt and Sazon, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pork is nicely browned. Do not drain, leave the natural juices of the pork in the bottom of the pot.
- Add some flavor. Add the garlic, white onion, achiote powder, and crushed red chili flakes to the pork. Continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and broth. Prepare the tomato paste, broth, and water in the Dutch oven. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Prepare the plantains. While the stew simmers, prepare the plantains by peeling and grating them with a fine grater. Add the grated plantains to the pot and cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add some fresh ingredients. Finally, incorporate the green bell pepper, black olives, and bundles cilantro into the stew and cook for an extra 10 minutes on medium high heat. Taste the stew at this point and add and add additional salt if needed.
- Serve. Serve the pastele stew over a bed of white rice and savor the delicious flavors of this incredible dish.
Variations And Substitutions
While this traditional pastele stew is already a delightful experience, you can explore some variations to suit your taste.
- Change up the meat. You can experiment with different cuts of pork, like chopped pork belly. Or, while not traditional, try a completely different type of meat like chicken or beef, or even make a vegetarian version by using tofu.
- Adjust the spice. Adjust the level of spiciness to your liking by varying the amount of chili flakes, or adding hot chili peppers to the stew.
- Sub in tomato sauce. If you don't have tomato paste on hand, sub in 2 cans tomato sauce for the tomato paste and 2 cups of broth.
- Use achiote oil or seeds. I used achiote powder here, but can also use achiote oil or even achiote seed if you can find it.
- Add in different veggies. There are a million different versions of pastele stew out there, each with its own unique take on the dish. Add in some different veggies, like chopped celery, or Hawaiian chili peppers, for some different tastes and textures.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Yes, you can make the grated plantains in advance and store them in the refrigerator until you're ready to add them to the stew.
Achiote is a popular spice in Mexican and Caribbean dishes, and is made with a combination of annatto seeds, cumin, pepper, coriander, oregano, cloves and garlic. It's known for its vibrant red color and flavor.
The chili flakes provide a mild kick, but you can adjust the spice level to your preference, and even add things like hot peppers to amp up the heat.
Plantains and bananas, while often confused due to their similar appearance, differ in how they're used and how they taste. Plantains are starchy and typically cooked before consumption, often fried, boiled, or baked, and are a staple in many savory dishes, especially in African and Latin American cuisines.
On the other hand, bananas are sweet when ripe and are usually eaten raw as a snack or in desserts, making them a bit more versatile.
Yes! While it won't be as authentic as using plantains, you can use bananas as long as the are not ripe. (The skin of the green bananas should be very green and tough.) Grate the bananas the same way as you would the plantain.
Alternatively, you can create little balls of bananas using some chili oil and the cooked mashed bananas. Combine cooked bananas with chili oil, then press banana mixture into olive-size balls and add to the stew. As the stew simmers, you'll have cooked banana dumplings.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Yes - pastele stew freezes beautifully and is a great meal to have on hand for busy nights when you just want to warm something delicious up quickly. Simply store in an airtight container ( a freezer bag works nicely) and freeze for up to 3 months.
When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator over night, then heat over the stovetop on medium heat, or in the microwave.
My family loves this delicious Puerto Rican recipe and can't wait to try more dishes from the region. The combination of ingredients like bell peppers, tomato paste, black olives, and savory pork, in addition to the hearty cooked plantains make this a hearty dish that tastes amazing.
If you try this Pastele Stew, let me know what you think in the comments below! And don't forget to tag me @frontrangefed on Instagram - I'd love to see your masterpiece!
More Delicious Soup Recipes
- Easy Split Pea Soup With Bacon
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- Instant Pot Chicken And Noodle Soup
- Chickpea Stew With Orzo And Greens
- Cream Cheese Chicken Chili
- Easy Corn Chowder
Tasty Pastele Stew Recipe With Plantains
- 2 tablespoon avocado oil (or another neutral oil like vegetable oil)
- 4-6 lbs pork but, chopped (mine was about 6 pounds and it worked well with these ratios)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon Sazon (Goya brand, one packet)
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 white onion chopped (1 large or 2 medium onions work well)
- 3.5 oz Achiote Powder
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cans tomato paste (2 6 oz cans)
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 lb plantains sliced (about 3 plantains)
- 2 green bell peppers diced
- 6 oz whole black olives
- 1 bunch cilantro chopped
- In a large Dutch oven over medium high-heat, warm the avocado oil for about 1 minute.
- Add the diced pork. Season with the salt and sazon and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pork has browned.
- Add the garlic, white onion, achiote powder and crushed red chili flakes to the pork and cook for an additional 10 minutes
- Prepare the plantains by peeling them (see instructions for how to peel the plantains above), then grating them with a box grater. Set aside.
- Add the tomato paste, broth, and water to the dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the stew for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the pork from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Add the grated plantains to the pot and mix well. Cook for another 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the green bell pepper, black olives, and cilantro to the pot and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Serve over rice.
- Peeling the plantains. Peeling a green plantain is not like peeling a banana. Follow the instructions listed above to make this process easier.
- Storing. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator , or freeze for up to 3 months.