Making Pastelle Pie: One More Christmas Tradition

Making Trinidad Pastelle Pie

Before I get into the explanation of what is Pastelle Pie, let me wish you a Happy Three Kings Day… Feliz Día de los Reyes Magos.

Los Tres Reyes Mago Three Kings

Today marks the official end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Epiphany, which celebrates the Three Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem. On this day, they arrived bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Baby Jesus.

Across Latin America many children will have received their gifts from Los Tres Reyes last night, as opposed to from Santa on December 24. Check out this post on Parade for more details on how the day is celebrated in Mexico.

To celebrate the end of the festive season, I’d like to share one more post on a seasonal foodie tradition of mine.

Last year, I did a post on traditional Christmas foods and drinks across Latin America and the Caribbean. This year my original plan was to expand that list but then I got a special request to post about a dish that’s treasured in my own home… Pastelle Pie.

Pastelle Pie is a variation on a dish known as Pastelles.

What are Pastelles?

Photo of Trinidad Pastelle on fig leaf

Pastelles are a favourite Christmas dish that often incites wars over whose family has the best recipe. To be a little more specific, it’s a cornmeal patty stuffed with highly flavoured meat. Raisins, olives, capers and other seasonings are also added. There are many variations for the filling. The most common was once minced beef, but now you can find pastelles stuffed with pork, chicken, fish, lentils, cheese or soya.

The cornmeal is mixed into a soft dough, flattened and wrapped around the filling. The patty is then wrapped in a banana leaf and tied with a string. The resultant package is then boiled for about 20 minutes, drained and either eaten or left to cool, then frozen to be enjoyed another time. Simply Trini Cooking offers a detailed explanation of how to make traditional pastelles.

Trinidad pastelle wrapped in fig leaf

**Pastelle photos courtesy #LookTrinidad #ttchatterbox

Another type of Tamale?

Some of you may be thinking this seems similar to tamales and you’d be right! They are quite similar.

tamales with banana leaf and corn husk

**Photo courtesy Shutterstock

Similarities:

  • Time consuming to make,
  • Delicious,
  • Christmas must-have,
  • Seasoned meat filling,
  • Corn based masa,
  • Boiled/ steamed to cook,
  • Can be frozen.

Differences:

  • Tamales can be wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves depending on regional preferences,
  • Tamales sometimes have sweet fillings,
  • There is the whole other issue of cornmeal versus cornflour. I’m no expert on this part but I believe pastelles can be made with cornmeal whereas tamales should be made from corn flour to create the masa harina.

Gimme Some Oven will walk you through the steps of tamale making.

As for which tastes better… well that’s one argument I’d be an absolute idiot to start! Besides, I like both just fine enough, but I did grow up eating one not the other….

Despite both of these dishes being scrumptious must haves at Christmas tables, they are both incredibly time consuming to make. Family and friends can spend all day or even a few days ensconced in pastelle/ tamale prepping and making. In my home, we just don’t have that kind of time and energy but we do love the flavours. That’s why we adore our Pastelle Pie recipe. I’ve also seen this recipe referred to as a pastelle casserole. I’ve even seen tamale casserole recipes, which do seem similar. Here are the ingredients we use:

Pastelle Pie Ingredients

½ lb margarine

2 eggs

1 ½ cups milk

1 tin cream corn

1 ½ cups corn meal

2 medium onions

1 lb seasoned mince meat

Capers, raisins, olivies, pimentos

My husband very carefully documented his first Pastelle pie of the season, in photos, for me to share on the blog.

Pastelle Pie Method

Step 1 – Melt margarine and simmer crushed garlic, onion, pimento and seasoned minced meat.

Step 2 – In a bowl, beat the eggs & milk, and mix in the cornmeal gradually. Then add the cream corn.

Step 3 – Add mince meat (step 1) to the mixture (step 2). Add olives, capers and raisins.

Step 4 – Mix and spoon into a slightly greased baking dish. Bake at 350F for about ½ hr.


There you have it, my family’s Pastelle Pie dish!

As the pie/ casserole is fairly easy to make, we sometimes treat ourselves to it during the year and don’t have to wait for the festive season to enjoy it. Now, fruit cake is another huge favourite of mine. Maybe I can convince the hubby to make that for Easter too…

Have a wonderful week!

Be sure to check out some more Christmas in Sun traditions.


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I’m a Latin American Studies teacher, teaching Latin American History and Politics and Basic Spanish. I love reading, writing, teaching and travelling.  Travel over the Andes with me to explore the diverse culture of Latin America.

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