Trinidad Pastelle Recipe

December 10, 2020

A steamed cornmeal dish, stuffed with minced meat, olives, and capers.

A Caribbean Christmas favorite that your guests would love.

A gray plate of pastelles wrapped with a pack of flour and a spoon of chow chow

One of the top sourced items in a Trinidad and Tobago house at Christmas time is pastelles.

These things are prized possessions.

How could a savory cornmeal pie, stuffed with some kind of filling and wrapped in banana leaves (or foil) be such a high stake commodity?

You need to try one to understand.

But these little things, along with black cake, ginger beer, sweetbread, and punch ah creme are the things to have on your Caribbean Christmas list.

Most people are daunted with making pastelles because the process entails a lot of work. Especially if you decide to make a large batch.

Most times we have a full production team to get these done.

Cause, in reality, you don't want to make just 6 pastelles. For the work needed and how quickly we eat them out, that ent making no sense.

So then you decide you want to make dozens on dozens, so you then bring in enough people to divvy up the workload.

Equipment needed

How to make Trinidad pastelles

The important thing about pastelles is the flavor. So you want to make sure you season up your meat, and even your dough really good.

Fillings can vary from beef (the main thing) to chicken, fish, and vegetarian options like tofu and mushrooms.

Sizes can also vary. The size is up to you.

They can be eaten as appetizers or snacks and some people eat them as a meal by themselves.

Depending on your personal intentions that decides if you grab a tennis ball of dough or a lime ball of dough.

The first step in the process, especially if I don't have help, is to get my leaves ready. As I mentioned above, it would need to be cleaned and heated to be made pliable.

How to heat banana leaves for pastelles

Pastelles are most commonly wrapped in banana leaf. So we would normally just go outside and get them. We would then cut off the "rib" of the leaf then trim off the edges.

Once that is done we need to make it pliable, or flexible enough to fold. Cut the leaf into the best sizes for what you need and over low heat, pass it over direct heat. Do not burn them. Keep moving it over the heat.

Another option to get it pliable I know people drop them into boiling water then pull them out. Or another alternative is to place the leaves in an oven of about 200 degrees and leave for 5 to 10 minutes.

For the commercial leaves that I find in the Caribbean stores here. They are already scalded and pliable. Defrost the leaves, washed them off gently (you can even just use a wet paper towel and wipe them off) then I disinfected them with some diluted vinegar water and left them to dry.

Other wrap alternatives would be using foil or parchment paper.

And some people even use leaves and foil, with foil being on the outside wrap after they wrap with the leaf.

Once the leaves are done and set aside.

Now it's time for the meat.
Ingredients needed to make the meat for the filling

Beef is my ultimate favorite filling. I love having my pastelle stuffing to have raisins, capers, pimento, and a hint of spicy.

The good thing here is that you can taste this as you go along and season it up to your liking.

It is important that things are finely chopped for the meat mixture. Like your onions (I ground mine after I took the pic, cloves garlic, chive, peppers, etc. If not they can poke through the cornmeal wrap depending on how thin you make the casing.

Plus nobody wants a big chunk of onion et al while eating these pastelles.

Meat is now cooked and set aside. Now to get the dough ready.

My favorite brand of cornflour to use for this is Promasa cornflour. Yes, cornflour NOT cornmeal. You can get this flour from Callaloo Box.

These are two different things and this is what can make the difference in the texture of your pastelle. Corn flour is also milled corn BUT it is fine and smooth.

Corn flours are also less corn tasting in comparison to cornmeal.

Cornmeal can be used as a substitute though so don't worry.

Mix all the dough ingredients together adding the water in batches as you combine. You want it to form a nice sticky ball.

You don't want the dough to be crumbly and falling apart when you are spreading it out. If it's breaking you can add a little water at a time and mix till it's good. So test the texture now before making the individual balls.

You can then go ahead and make your dough into the size balls you want and set aside. (either a tennis ball or a lime ball) Cover dough with a damp cloth to stop it from drying up.

Now we have all the parts ready to go. Banana skin or foil, meat, and dough. You should also have your twine cut now ready for tying.

Oh, another important thing you need here too is vegetable oil. Having oil on your hands and on the leaf really helps with making sure the dough does not stick to things.

With your dried leaf, take some oil and grease one side of a leaf.

Take a ball of dough and place it on the oiled leaf. If you are just using your hands, gently push the dough out to flatten. Not too thin because it needs to hold the filling and not too thick.

It is better to use a bottle or even another plate to press down.

If you are using a press, or a plate, instead of your hands, take another leaf and oil it. Put that second leaf, oil side down on top of the ball, then use your press/plate and press down and flatten. Take off the second leaf and set it aside to continue to use as the pressing leaf.

Now that dough is flattened, place filling in the center of the dough. Not too much
Open dough of pastelle on a banana leaf with meat filling

Now to fold the pastelle:

Step 1:  Take the right side of the leaf (or a longer side depending on how it's laid down) and fold it into the center of the dough. Then peel it back (shouldn't be too difficult once you oiled it well).
dough with meat filling with one side of dough folded in

Step 2: Take the left side of the leaf (or the next longer side) and fold it to meet, or even just past, the center of the dough (to meet or slightly past the right fold). Peel back leaf

pastelle with sides folded in with meat filling on a banana leaf

Step 3: Fold the bottom up to close the space at the bottom. You can leave the leafe there or peel it back.

Pastelle dough on a banana leaf with sides folded in

Step 4:  Fold the remaining side in to close the gap.
Fully folded pastelle on a banana leaf

Step 5: Then fold in/wrap the rest of the banana leaf into the center.

Step 6: Gently flatten pastelle

Step 7: Wrap twine around pastelles (some people sometimes put two pastelles together with the seam side facing each other) and set aside. Continue till all dough balls are filled.

Folded pastelles waiting to be put to boil

Put about 6 - 8 quartz of water to boil with some salt.

Once bubbling rapidly, gently add pastelles to water, bring again to a boil and let boil

** Or you can also steam the pastelles. Place a colander over boiling water (do not let the water get into the colander) and leave pastelles to steam for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove from water and drain.

And you just made pastelles.

Exciting right?

Storage and Reheating

You have two options for storing pastelles.

Commonly you get them from someone pre- made and they are frozen, so you just continue with them frozen.

When making them, you can opt to freeze them after boiling or you can put them to freeze before boiling.

I prefer to boil them prior to freezing.

The best way to freeze them is to put them into freezer bags to help keep them longer. Once they have been sealed in there well, pastelles can stay in your freezer for up to a year.

To reheat, the best method is to place frozen pasteles into already boiling water and let them boil for about 10 - 15 minutes. You can also steam them again.

I sometimes use a microwave if I am really hungry but it burns them. The edges get brown and crunchy. So only use this method as a last resort.
Opened banana leaf with an already steamed pastelle

Now, what can you pair these with? Depending on how you see them. Some people eat them as appetizers or even two for an actual meal.

Others may eat them as part of a meal for the holidays with stuffing, some baked ham, rice and whatever other numerous things on the Caribbean menu.

Two pastelles on plate with banana leaf showing the inside with meat

However, you eat them enjoy them.

But do you eat your pastelles with or without chow chow?

Let me know.

And if you think this is too much work, check out my baked pastelle pie which has the same great flavor combination in a casserole form.

trinidad pastelle recipe, pastelles, trinidad beef pastelle
Yield: 12
Author: Renz
Trinidad Pastelle Recipe

Trinidad Pastelle Recipe

Trinidad pastelles are steamed cornmeal stuffed with stewed meat, olives, and raisins. Popularly wrapped in a banana leaves.
Prep time: 1 HourCook time: 1 HourTotal time: 2 Hour


For Dough
For filling
For wrapping


For dough
  1. Mix cornmeal flour, vegetable oil, sugar and salt
  2. Add water in batches and mix to form a sticky ball
  3. Separate dough into 12 even balls (or even smaller if you want smaller pastelles or bigger)
For filling
  1. In a skillet heat oil
  2. Saute onion and garlic
  3. Add beef and mix in
  4. Add salt, black pepper, pimento sauce/peppers
  5. Add grinded shado beni, chives and cook meat until tender
  6. Remove meat from heat.
  7. Add raisins, capers, olives and set aside
To build pastelles
  1. Rub oil on a piece of banana leaf
  2. Take one ball and place on oiled side of leaf
  3. Flatten ball to about 1 inch thick. You can use your oiled fingers to push it out, or a bottle to roll it out, or with another oiled leaf a plate to press down
  4. Place two tablespoons (or more depending on your liking) of meat in the center of the ball of dough
  5. Fold one long side to the center of the dough and peel back the leaf
  6. Fold the other long side to the center or a little past and peel the leaf back
  7. Fold one short side up to close the gap. Leave the leaf there
  8. Then fold the other short side in. Leave the leaf there
  9. Wrap the long ends in
  10. Gently flatten wrapped pastelle
  11. Then wrap with twine to secure
  12. In about 6 quartz of already boiling water with salt, add pastelles to water and boil for 25 to 30 minutes. (See notes for additional options)


  • You can also steam pastelles. Take a colander and place it over a pot of boiling water. DO NOT SUBMERGE into water. Place pastelles in colander and cover. Steam for 30 minutes.
  • You can replace with any meat you want. Use mushrooms is also an option.
  • Some people add cooked meat to a food processor to get the texture smooth
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Renz HomeMadeZagat
Renz HomeMadeZagat

Hi guys, I’m Renz. I am the chief cook and bottle washer here at HomeMadeZagat. I am here sharing Caribbean recipes that I grew up eating and new ones I’ve fallen in love with over the years. I just want to showcase the amazing diversity of Caribbean food and that everyone can recreate these dishes.