How Long to Boil Frozen Pasteles to Get the Best Result: Tips and Tricks

If you have ever been to a Puerto Rican holiday party, you might have noticed a peculiar dish served that looks like a tamale but has its unique flavor and texture. These are called Pasteles, and they are one of the most traditional dishes in Puerto Rico originating from the island’s Indigenous people. In this article, we will discuss what pasteles are and provide tips for boiling frozen Pasteles with perfection.

What are Pasteles?

If you’ve never tasted pasteles, you’re in for a treat. This traditional Latin American dish is made from various ingredients and typically wrapped in banana leaf or parchment paper before it’s boiled or steamed until fully cooked. Here’s everything you need to know about pasteles:

Definition of Pasteles

Pasteles (pronounced pah-STELL-ehs) are similar to tamales, but with a distinct Caribbean flavor profile. The filling consists of meat (often pork), vegetables like potatoes and carrots, olives, raisins, and spices such as cumin and oregano.

Ingredients Used to Make Pasteles

  • Taro root or yucca root mashed into masa dough
  • Banana leaf or parchment paper for wrapping
  • Pork shoulder or other protein options like chicken or beef used in the filling
  • Veggies like potatoes, green banana, yam, kabocha squash used as mix-ins with the protein base in each pasteless wrap.
  • Cilantro, garlic powder/onion powder added for taste on the seasoning mixture mixed within the fillings.

Popular Types of Pasteles

  • Puerto Rican pasteles – consist of green banana masa dough filled with pork shoulder seasoned with sofrito sauce which usually includes onion/garlic-based flavors accompanied by cilantro also known as recaito when ground together into one spice flavored mixture.
  • Dominican pasteles – consist of yucca massa dough filled with meats commonly used in Caribbean cooking such as beef or chicken.

  • dominican-pasteles
  • Mexican pasteles: similar to the tamale, containing protein along with corn masa and pepper or cheese some areas use banana leaves for wrapping while other regions use corn husks

  • mexican pastel

No matter what type of pastele you try, we’re sure you’ll love this unique dish’s savory flavor and warm, comforting texture.

How Long to Boil Frozen Pasteles to Get the Best Result

Boiling frozen pasteles can be a tricky process, but if done right, it can result in a delicious and satisfying meal. Here are some factors that affect boiling time and best practices for boiling frozen pasteles:

Factors that affect boiling time

  • The size of the pastel: Smaller pasteles will cook faster than larger ones.
  • The number of pasteles you are cooking: If you are cooking a large batch of pasteles at once, it may take longer for the water to come back up to a boil after adding them.
  • The altitude at which you are cooking: At higher altitudes, water boils at lower temperatures, so it may take longer to cook your pasteles.
  • The type of pot used for boiling: A wider pot allows for more even heat distribution and faster boiling times.

Best practices for boiling frozen pasteles

  1. Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the pasteles completely.
  2. Add salt to taste and bring the water to a rolling boil before adding the frozen pasteles.
  3. Cover the pot with a lid and let the water come back up to a boil before lowering the heat to medium-low or low. Simmer gently until fully cooked through; this usually takes 45-60 minutes depending on size (see below). Stir once during cooking so that they don’t stick together too much or on bottom of pan causing sticking/burning reduction in quality/texture over-boiled end product.

How to test for doneness

You can test whether your frozen pastele is fully cooked by inserting skewer/sharp knife to one and gauge if come out clean or not. Once they are fully cooked, remove them from the pot using a slotted spoon, and let them drain on paper towels before serving.

Common mistakes to avoid

  • Overcrowding: Do not boil too many pasteles at once as it can lead to longer cooking times or even undercooking in cases of freezing variations among brands/ homemade preparations/ traditional preferences
  • Boiling for too long: Over boiling can make your pastele mushy and reduce its quality.

Remember! Practice makes perfect when it comes to boiling frozen pasteles. With some patience and attention to detail, you can achieve the perfect texture and flavor every time.

Tips and Tricks for Perfectly Boiled Pasteles

How to store pasteles before boiling

If you plan on making a big batch of pasteles, it’s important to know how to store them properly before boiling. You can either refrigerate or freeze the uncooked pasteles. If you’re going to store them in the fridge, make sure they’re wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in an airtight container. They’ll last for about 2-3 days in the fridge.

If you’re planning on storing them longer than that, freezing is your best bet. Wrap each individual pastel tightly with plastic wrap, then place them in a freezer-safe bag or container. Make sure there’s no air inside! Frozen pasteles will last up to 6 months.

How to reheat boiled pasteles

If you have leftover boiled pasteles that you want to reheat, there are a few ways of doing so without losing their signature moistness:

  • Microwave: Put individual pasteles on a plate and cover loosely with damp paper towels; microwave for about 1 minute per pastel.
  • Oven: Preheat oven at 350°F (180°C); put each pastel on aluminum foil and warm through.
  • Pot: Bring some water to boil; dip in each pastel wrapped with banana leaves using tongs for around 5 minutes until heated through but not fall apart. If frozen still wet from condensation and don’t let too long even when thawed out.

Serving suggestions for boiled Pastele

  • Add sauce: To add more flavor, drizzle some ají dulce (sweet pepper sauce or sofrito) over the boiled pasteles. It will give them a nice kick of flavor
  • Add sides: In Puerto Rico, it’s traditional to eat pasteles with arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), pernil asado (roast pork), and salad.

Variations on boiled pasteles

If you want to switch things up from the traditional style, here are a few variations:

  • Vegetarian Pasteles: Substitute carrots, squash, corn, starchy root vegetables for meat in masa mixture before assembly.
  • Cheesy Pasteles: Mix shredded manchego cheese into masa; wrap in banana leaves and steam or boil until cooked through.
  • Dessert Pasteles: To make sweet versions of pastel filling add coconut milk, rice flour, sugar, a dash of vanilla extract instead of garlic/onions/salt/pepper/cumin/chiles. Wrap it in banana leaf but instead boil put them in oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes. Top with shredded coconut flakes before serving.


In conclusion, Pasteles hold a special place in Puerto Rican cuisine, as an essential part of every special occasion feast. By boiling your frozen pasteles correctly using our tips and tricks, you can enjoy them just as much as if they were freshly made.


Can I steam my frozen pasteles instead of boiling them?

Yes! steaming pasteles is another option to consider.

How long do fresh pasteles take to boil compared to frozen?

While it largely depends on size, fresh ones tend to cook faster than thawed ones.

How long can I keep pasteles in the freezer before they go bad?

It is best to consume them within six months when stored correctly in an airtight container.

Can I make vegan or vegetarian versions of pasteles?

Definitely! There are delicious meat-free variations available which replace pork with tofu or other plant-based meats.

Are there any gluten-free options for making pastels?

Of course! Many recipes use mashed yucca root which serves as an excellent substitute for flour-based doughs.

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