Karen Felician’s Pastelles

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes


Appears in

Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad and Tobago

Sweet Hands

By Ramin Ganeshram

Published 2018

  • About

Karen Felician of Maraval serves these traditional pastelles on Christmas Eve. She uses homemade green seasoning made from the local herbs that have made the Paramin region famous and from which her husband, Carlos, hails.



  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 3 cups hot water
  • ¼ cup canola oil, plus more as needed


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons Paramin green seasoning
  • ½ Scotch bonnet pepper or other hot red chili pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • ½ pimiento pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • ½ cup raisins
  • Banana leaves* or heavy-duty plastic wrap, cut into 24 8-inch squares
  • Kitchen twine


Make Dough

Combine the masa harina, hot water, and oil. Mix until the dough comes together in a ball.

Make Filling

Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the onion. Cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the ground beef, mix well, and brown using a fork to break up any chunks. Add the green seasoning, chili and pimiento peppers, salt, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, capers, and raisins. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, then remove from the heat and cool.

Assemble & Steam

Scald the banana leaves in boiling salted water until malleable. Remove them from the water and set aside to cool.

Brush a leaf (or plastic square) with oil and spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the masa dough onto the middle of the square. Pat the dough into a square about ¼-inch thick using the back of a spoon. Place 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture in the center of the dough. Add another heaping tablespoon of the masa dough on top of the meat mixture and smooth. Fold the square in half to form a long rectangle and smooth it with your fingers so that the filling is evenly distributed. Fold each end under to form a rectangular package and tie with twine. Repeat with remaining leaf/plastic squares.

Place a steamer basket or colander in a large pot halfway filled with hot water (the water level must be below the bottom of the steamer basket). Put a single layer of pastelles in the steamer basket and cover the pot. Simmer for about 45 minutes if using banana leaves and 20 minutes if using plastic. Remove from the water and drain, then place in a baking dish covered with foil in a warm oven while you steam the remaining pastelles. Serve hot.

* Banana leaves are available in the freezer section of many Latino or Caribbean markets.