Are pasteles healthy for you?

What are pasteles?

Pasteles are a traditional dish in Puerto Rican and Dominican cuisine consisting of a masa dough stuffed with a filling, wrapped in a banana leaf, and then boiled or steamed. The masa dough is typically made from grated green banana, yautía, and calabaza squash or pumpkin. Common fillings include stewed pork, beef, chicken, seafood, cheese, vegetables, and fruits. Pasteles are especially popular around the holidays like Christmas.

Are pasteles nutritious?

Pasteles can be a nutritious part of a balanced diet when prepared with healthy fillings and ingredients. Here is the nutritional breakdown for a typical pasteles:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 220
Total Fat 4 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Protein 10 g
Carbohydrates 41 g
Fiber 5 g
Sodium 320 mg

Pasteles provide energy from complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals. The masa dough is an excellent source of dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and B vitamins. The fillings also boost the nutrition, depending on the ingredients used. For example, pasteles filled with lean protein are a good source of protein. Vegetable-based fillings provide vitamins and minerals. Overall, homemade pasteles made with wholesome ingredients can be a nutritious part of one’s diet.

What are the health benefits of pasteles?

Here are some of the top health benefits that can come from eating homemade pasteles in moderation:

– Provides sustained energy from complex carbohydrates. The green banana and other starchy vegetables used to make the masa have a low glycemic index, meaning they are digested slowly to provide lasting energy.

– Good source of fiber. The masa dough provides around 5 grams of dietary fiber per pasteles, supporting digestive and heart health.

– Contains protein. Pasteles made with meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or cheese supply protein to support muscle growth and satisfaction.

– Provides vitamins and minerals. Pasteles provide a range of vitamins and minerals from the masa and fillings, including potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and vitamins A, C and B vitamins.

– May support heart health. The fiber, potassium and other nutrients in pasteles can help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

– Can aid digestion. The dietary fiber in pasteles encourages regularity and healthy digestion.

– Satisfying and energizing. Pasteles can be a filling and wholesome part of a meal or snack that provides sustained energy.

What should you look for in healthy pasteles?

To maximize the nutritional value of your pasteles, here are some tips on selecting healthy ingredients:

– Choose lean cuts of meat like chicken, pork loin or flank steak for fillings. Avoid high-fat meats like bacon or sausage.

– Use lots of vegetables like spinach, kale, peppers, onions, mushrooms in fillings. This boosts fiber, vitamins and minerals.

– Skip the lard (manteca) when making the masa dough. Opt for heart-healthy oils like avocado or olive oil instead.

– Go easy on the salt when seasoning fillings to limit sodium intake.

– Select whole grain masa dough, if store-bought. Check the label to ensure it’s made from 100% corn with no hydrogenated oils or excessive additives.

– Use cheese sparingly in moderation due to its high saturated fat and sodium content. Try reduced-fat versions.

– Avoid fillings with excessive oil, butter, cream or sour cream. This spikes fat and calories.

– Steer clear of fillings with refined carbs like white rice, potato or cassava. These lack nutritional value.

– Keep pasteles portions modest and balance with non-starchy veggies like salad or broccoli.

Are there any downsides to eating pasteles?

Pasteles are a nutritious traditional dish, but there are some potential downsides to be aware of:

– Can be high in sodium. Depending on ingredients used, pasteles may contain a high amount of sodium from fillings, seasoning and processed masa. This may negatively impact blood pressure.

– Often high in calories. A large pasteles can pack over 500 calories, especially with fatty fillings. Overeating may lead to weight gain.

– Preparation is time consuming. Making pasteles requires significant effort and time, which may deter people from preparing them at home.

– Spoil relatively quickly. Due to the high moisture content, pasteles tend to spoil within 4-5 days. They need to be consumed promptly or frozen.

– Easy to overeat. The tasty masa dough and savory fillings make pasteles very appetizing and easy to overconsume, potentially leading to excess calorie intake.

– Can contain unhealthy fats. Some recipes use lard, butter or other saturated fats to make and fill pasteles, which may negatively impact cholesterol levels.

Tips for eating pasteles in a healthy way

Here are some tips to keep pasteles as part of a healthy diet:

– Make them at home with nutritious ingredients to control what goes into them.

– Eat them in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet. Enjoy 1-2 pasteles as a meal, not the whole batch.

– Pair with salad or vegetables to increase fiber, vitamin and mineral intake.

– Avoid excessive salty, high-fat fillings like bacon, ham or chorizo.

– Use heart-healthy oils like olive or avocado oil instead of lard or butter.

– Choose lean proteins like chicken or fish for fillings over red meat.

– Load up on veggies in the fillings like spinach, kale, onions, peppers and mushrooms.

– Opt for lower-sodium seasonings on fillings like garlic, pepper, citrus juice, salsa.

– Limit high-calorie accompaniments like rice, fried plantains, potato salad.

– Exercise portion control. One medium pasteles contains around 220 calories.

– Balance pasteles intake with other healthy meals and snacks during the day.

Healthy pasteles recipe

Here is a recipe for healthier vegetable pasteles:


For the masa dough:
– 3 cups grated green banana
– 1 cup grated calabaza squash
– 1/2 cup olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 3 cups masa harina

For the filling:
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1/2 onion, diced
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 jalapeño, diced
– 1 red bell pepper, diced
– 2 cups chopped kale
– 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large bowl, mix together the grated green banana, squash, olive oil and salt. Let sit for 5 minutes. Then mix in the masa harina until well combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook for 1 minute more.

3. Add the bell pepper, kale, black beans and cumin. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until kale is wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Assemble the pasteles – take about 1/3 cup masa dough in your hands and flatten into a rectangular shape. Place 2-3 tablespoons of the vegetable filling into the center and fold the masa over to encase the filling completely.

5. Arrange the assembled pasteles seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes until firm.

6. Serve warm accompanied by a salad or steamed vegetables if desired. Enjoy!

Are pasteles weight loss friendly?

Pasteles can be incorporated into a weight loss diet in moderation when made with healthy ingredients and proper portion sizes. Here are some tips for making pasteles weight loss friendly:

– Use lean proteins like chicken breast, pork tenderloin, white fish or shrimp for fillings instead of fatty meats.

– Load up on low-calorie, high fiber veggies in fillings such as spinach, kale, zucchini, mushrooms.

– Avoid using fatty ingredients like cream, cheese, sour cream in fillings.

– Skip lard or butter when preparing masa dough. Opt for heart-healthy oils like avocado or olive oil instead.

– Go easy on salty seasonings that can cause water retention.

– Stick to a modest portion of 1 medium pasteles as a meal, not multiple.

– Round out the meal with lower calorie sides like a salad with low-fat dressing or steamed broccoli.

– Avoid heavy starchy sides like rice, pasta or fried plantains that can pile on calories.

– Stay hydrated by drinking water or unsweetened tea with your pasteles.

– Be active after enjoying pasteles to burn off some extra calories. Even light exercise like a walk helps.

– Limit yourself to enjoying pasteles only 1-2 times per week while trying to lose weight.

With mindful preparation and reasonable portions, pasteles can be part of a healthy weight loss diet. But moderation is key.

Healthier pasteles preparation tips

Here are some healthy preparation tips for making nutritious pasteles at home:

– Use masa harina made from 100% ground corn with no hydrogenated oils or excessive additives

– Substitute some of the refined masa harina with whole cornmeal or wheat flour for extra nutrition

– Skip the lard (manteca) and use heart-healthy fats like avocado, olive or canola oil instead

– Season fillings with fresh garlic, onions, peppers, cilantro, salsa verde instead of salt

– Load up on fiber-rich veggies like spinach, kale, zucchini, mushrooms in fillings

– Use plenty of lean protein in fillings like skinless chicken breast, flank steak, white fish, shrimp

– Go easy on high-fat, high-sodium ingredients like cheese, bacon, ham, sausage

– Use reduced-fat cheese like cotija or queso fresco in moderation

– Grill, bake or poach proteins instead of frying to limit unhealthy fats

– Cook fillings in broths or tomato sauce rather than oils or lard

– Use whole grain wraps like collard greens instead of processed dough

– Opt for heartier masa made with more squash and green banana than refined flour

– Shape pasteles smaller for sensible portion sizes

With some easy tweaks, pasteles can be nutritious and better for your health while still tasting delicious. Moderation and home preparation are key.

Healthy pasteles fillings ideas

Take your pasteles to the next level of nutrition with these delicious and good-for-you filling ideas:

Chicken and vegetables: Shredded chicken breast, onions, garlic, peppers, spinach, cilantro

Shrimp and cheese: Poached shrimp, onions, reduced-fat cheddar or cotija cheese, cilantro

Black bean and squash: Black beans, diced zucchini, onions, garlic, cumin, cilantro

Spinach and mushroom: Sautéed spinach, mushrooms, onions, garlic

Chickpea and sweet potato: Chickpeas, roasted sweet potato, garlic, cilantro

Tofu and veggie: Crispy tofu, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, ginger

Turkey and cranberry: Ground turkey, fresh or frozen cranberries, celery, thyme

Salmon and dill: Flaked salmon, spinach, fresh dill, lemon zest

Vegetable medley: Kale, carrots, onion, bell pepper, black beans, cumin

White bean and kale: Cannellini beans, chopped kale, garlic, paprika

Have fun mixing and matching your favorite healthy proteins, veggies, herbs and spices for nutritious pasteles fillings. Your taste buds and body will thank you!


Pasteles can be a nutritious part of your diet when prepared with care using fresh, wholesome ingredients. The masa dough provides energy from complex carbs along with fiber, while the fillings offer ample opportunity to boost nutrition with lean proteins, veggies, beans and more.

To maximize their nutrition and health benefits, opt for healthier fats over lard, load up on veggies in fillings, and go easy on sodium and refined carbs. Be mindful of portions too. Made well and enjoyed in moderation, pasteles are a delicious and nutritious cultural tradition. Just be sure to balance them with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

Leave a Comment