As a Puerto Rican, pasteles are ingrained in my heart! Then I was introduced to the tamales… 


…Mexican tamales to be exact, and I was hooked!  This opened a door of wrapped-up Latino deliciousness that only comes around during the holidays.   Meaning that you will see pasteles, tamales, humitas, and hallacas appear mostly during the holidays. Making them takes a lot of work and time. No wonder they appear once a year.
What are pasteles? Pasteles are made with a masa that consists of typically grated green banana, green plantain, and other tubers (root vegetables) such as yautía, potatoes, and pumpkins. The masa is placed on a plantain leaf, filled with seasoned meat then wrapped up!  Pasteles with similar ingredients to Puerto Rican pasteles are also known in Dominican Republic, and Hawaii. However, in  Trinidad and Tobago it’s called pastelle, and El Salvador pasteles have similar names but the ingredients are like tamales.


What are tamales? They are a traditional Mexican dish of seasoned meat wrapped in cornmeal dough and steamed or baked in corn husks. You’ll find tamales in Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Peru

What are humitas?  Humitas consists of masa harina and corn, slowly steamed or boiled in a pot of water. They are also very popular in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Cuba, and Bolivia.
What are hallacas? Hallaca is a version of the corn tamal stuffed with a stew of beef, pork, and chicken, fish or other seafood.
It is said that the tamal comes from the indigenous natives of Mexico and that the recipe has evolved as it has made its way through different countries, and regions.  You can see lots of similarities in all of these recipes, and each one represents its unique culture and ingredients.
Whether you claim the pasteles, tamales, humitas, or hallacas … one thing will ring true, it is comfort food at its best!

Tamales vs. Pasteles Educational Resources 

Tamales and Pasteles Latin America Holiday Food: this resource teaches our students to learn about the rich diversity in Latin American cuisine during the holiday season.

Comprehensible Spanish Story: Latin America Holiday Food :  this upcoming holiday season get this no-prep story of Tita tamal and Papo pastel. This story uses comprehensible input, high-frequency Spanish words, and repetition perfect for Spanish language learners.

Pretend play pasteles and decorative pasteles

Want to decorate your home during the holidays with some cute decorative Puerto Rican pasteles?  I got you covered! Click on the images below:

Children’s Books about pasteles and tamales 

Want to get your kids excited about pasteles or tamales? Take a look at the books below:

¡Yo Quiero Pasteles!/I Want Pasteles! (Bilingual-Dual Language) (English Edition) (Spanish Edition)


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  1. Love this!!! I grew up with pasteles too and miss eating more of them in Southern California! Thank you for this great post! Besos

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