Trinidad Beef Pastelles

Trinidad Beef Pastelles

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Trinidad beef pastelle

Trinidad Beef Pastelle

Pastelle, like ginger beer, sorrel and black cake, is a staple dish during the holidays in most Trinbagonian households. It is believed to have been brought to Trinidad somewhere in the 15th or 16th century, when the island was colonized by Spain. It’s likely, however, that the Spanish colonizers learned of the dish from the Taino Arawaks, who were indigenous to the region.


Pastelle can be made with a variety of fillings, including beef, shredded chicken, and vegan/vegetarian fillings such as lentils or bhaji/spinach. The beef version is my personal favorite.


Recently, I was invited to appear on the very first episode of an exciting new program created by the Tacoma Historical Society, ‘Tacoma’s Family Table’, hosted by THS volunteer Rose Mattison, with videography and music by Kim Davenport. In the video, which premieres on December 12th, I show step by step how to make pastelles. You can check it out below and follow along with my recipe if you want to try it!

  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8


Beef filling:

2 lbs lean ground beef

2 cloves of garlic

3 stalks of green onion or scallions

1 sprig of fresh thyme

1 whole onion

3 sprigs of fresh shado beni (also known as culantro, chadon beni, or bhandania). Cilantro can be used here instead.

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 pimento peppers, seeds and stems removed

2 tbsp ketchup or tomato paste

2 tsp black pepper

1 tbsp Knorr chicken flavor bouillon

Salt to taste

Optional, yet traditional filling ingredients:

1/2 cup raisins

3 tbsp capers

1/2 cup olives

Corn meal dough:

2 cups yellow corn meal (I recommend Promasa or P.A.N. brand. If using a different brand, ensure it’s a finely ground corn meal.)

2 tbsp corn flour (optional, but it helps to bind the corn meal together)

4 tbsp butter, softened

2 1/2 cups hot water

About 2 tsp of salt or more to taste

Banana leaves

Vegetable oil for coating the leaves

Aluminum foil

Parchment paper


  • First start by seasoning the meat. In a food processor or blender (you can also finely chop all of these ingredients), combine all of the fresh herbs and pulse until it forms a gritty paste. This is what we call green seasoning, which is a staple in most of our dishes. Add the green seasoning to the beef, then add the black pepper, bouillon, and salt to taste. Combine, cover and leave in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 1 hour. I typically marinate for a few hours or overnight.
  • To prepare the filling, using a heavy-bottomed pot (cast iron works well) on medium heat, add about 2 tbsp of oil. Add the meat and cook until browned. Set aside to cool.
  • Next, prepare the corn meal dough, which will serve as the outer shell for our pastelles. In a large bowl, add the corn meal, corn flour, softened butter, salt, and combine. Gradually add some hot water and stir to combine until a smooth, soft dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  • Prepare the banana leaves by gently rinsing under warm running water. The warm water helps to soften up the leaves and makes it easier to fold. Dry the leaves on both sides with paper towels, and cut into 8 inch squares. The cuts don’t need to be perfect.
  • Boil some water in a steamer pot, or regular pot with a metal colander insert and cover. 
  • To assemble the pastelles, a tortilla press is recommended, but not required. You can also use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten the dough.
  • Lay one piece of the banana leaf onto a flat surface, and brush with oil to coat. The oil helps the dough to lift off the leaf when folding, and also prevents drying out of the corn meal when steaming. Form the dough into 3 inch balls and cover with a damp cloth.
  • If using a tortilla press, place one dough ball onto the greased banana leaf, then place a piece of parchment paper over the dough, and gently flatten using the press. Don’t press down too hard, because it might cause the dough to break when folding.

Trinidad beef pastelle

  • If using your hands, gently flatten the dough ball and spread it out evenly into a flat circle.
  • If using a rolling pin, cover the dough ball with a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap, and gently flatten into a circle.
  • Spoon about 3 tbsp of filling into the center of the flattened dough. Fold the leaf, starting from the sides and gently massage to lift the dough from the leaf. Repeat for all sides until the dough forms a rectangular shape. Fold the leaves together like an envelope, then cover with a layer of foil. The foil is optional, but I like using it as extra protection against drying out the corn meal.

Trinidad beef pastelle

  • Steam the folded pastelles over boiling hot water in a covered pot for about 30 minutes, then serve and enjoy! In Trinidad, we eat pastelles right off of the banana leaf. No plate needed! It’s best enjoyed with a cold glass of sorrel or rum punch.
  • Author: Abby Woods
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Steamed
  • Cuisine: Caribbean, Trinidadian
  • Diet: Gluten Free


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 233kcal
  • Sugar: 2.4g
  • Sodium: 610mg
  • Fat: 14g
  • Saturated Fat: 6,4g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 6.1g
  • Trans Fat: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 17g
  • Fiber: 2.4g
  • Protein: 7.8g
  • Cholesterol: 37mg

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