Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by Rebecca Huff
You don't have to go to the Caribbean to enjoy this Easy Pastelón Recipe. Although when you taste it you might imagine you're there.
Pastelón is a type of casserole very similar to lasagna in that it has layers, ground beef for the meat, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. However, Pastelón uses a layer of plantains in place of the pasta noodles.
Pastelón is what I would consider traditional comfort food.
The first time I tasted this dish it was prepared by a Dominican woman and I thought I had died and gone to heaven's restaurant. Yes, it was that good. Sadly, I wasn't able to get her recipe but as I have played with various ingredients, I've created one that comes close!
Puerto Rican Pastelon vs. Dominican Pastelon
From what I've read, Pastelón originated in Puerto Rico. Similar but not identical, both cuisines use plantain in cooking both sweet and savory dishes.
After tasting Dominican Pastelón, I searched for recipes and tried dozens.
Many of the recipes called for Sazón, which I couldn't find. A blend of salt, pepper, cumin, garlic and perhaps red pepper, it wouldn't be hard to make your own. Some recipes called for green beans, which were definitely not in the original recipe I tried. I discovered that was a dish called Piñon, not pastelon.
Other traditional ingredients included sofrito, which similar to pesto or pico de Gallo but made with onions, herbs, tomatoes and green bell pepper. Often the sofrito contained fresh cilantro which I dislike. When I started making my own, I settled on adobo seasoning.
Of all the recipes I tried, none of them tasted precisely like the one I remembered.
In the end, I came up with a blend of what I found and ended up with this particular dish, which I call easy Pastelón. Since I'm neither Puerto Rican or Dominican, you'll have to take my word for it, this dish blends the best of both cuisines.
Puerto Rican Pastelón may differ slightly from Dominican Pastelón but both are delicious! Although, fried plantain is a classic Puerto Rican dish.
What does Pastelon taste like?
If you like a savory dish that has a delicate sweetness to it, use Plantains that are almost black. These are the ripe plantains. My family and I prefer the very ripe plantains in this dish. Mostly, I buy the bag of frozen “mini plantains” from Trader Joe's.
Shopping for Plantain
Finding sweet plantains might be difficult depending on where you live. That's why I use frozen mini plantain or “saba bananas” as TJ's labels them.
These mini plantains from TJ's are lightly steamed, so you can just thaw and smash them with a meat mallet or whatever you have. Sometimes I fry mine a little bit in coconut oil or avocado oil, but other times I just skip that step. If you prefer not to fry, just thaw them, smash them, and continue.
If you can find green plantains at the supermarket, you can turn them yellow or very ripe by putting them in a brown paper bag and loosely closing it. Check every few days until they're pretty ripe.
You can then peel and slice plantain strips to about 1/4-1/2 inch thick for this recipe. Make sure to slice them lengthwise. Lightly fry them over medium-high heat until they are golden brown. Then drain on paper towels before using them to layer in this easy pastelón recipe.
Green (not yet ripe) plantains can still be used but the flavor is very different. In my opinion, an unripe plantain tastes more like a dry potato. Not recommended.
Preparing the Dish
Using a large skillet, cook the beef mixture first and set it aside. My preference is grass-fed organic beef from Butcher Box, but use what you have on hand.
Work in batches if you choose to fry the plantain before beginning the layers in your baking dish.
My filling is based on the ingredients of a Cuban-style Picadillo. I have chosen to use golden raisins as I feel they have a brighter taste and really adds a depth of flavor to the overall dish.
Green olives stuffed with red pimento give this dish a delicious saltiness that balances out everything. I've tried some recipes which call for capers, but I prefer green olives. Adding these to the meat mixture while you prepare the plantain allows them to meld flavors.
Once you have your plantain slices, meat mixture, whisked eggs, and other ingredients ready to go, you can start layering them in a casserole dish. After layering the ingredients, if you have any remaining plantains, lightly sprinkle them with cinnamon and drizzle on honey and enjoy them as a dessert.
Making Plantain Lasagna
The egg mixture is what holds everything together and makes it casserole-like. So use two large eggs, whisk thoroughly, or use a mini food processor. You don't want the white and yellow to cook separately.
If you hate raisins, you can leave them out. The flavor they add is amazing though, so unless you hate them put them in the dish.
To increase the vitamin C count in this dish and lend a bit of tartness, I add Baobab powder.
Adding vitamin C rich Baobab will help your body absorb iron from the meat. Two tablespoons will make the “sauce” portion of this recipe pretty tart, but when you put it together with the plantain and golden raisins, it evens out. However, if you rather not have that tartness, you can leave out the Baobab, or reduce it to one tablespoon.
- 1 onion diced
- Avocado oil for sautéing
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 pound ground beef or bison
- 1/3 cup sliced pimento stuffed green olives
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Adobo Seasoning or just make your own, that's what I do! *see below
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped, optional
- 1 bag frozen baby plantain from Trader Joe's or 6-8 plantains depending on size
- Mozzarella cheese 1-2 cups depending on your preference
- 2 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
My Adobo Seasoning:
- 1 1/2 TBSP Salt
- 1 TBSP Paprika
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 TBSP onion powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 2 Tablespoons Baobab powder optional(you can also add garlic powder, about 1 tsp, but I prefer fresh garlic and I have that listed in the filling.
- Sauce Portion
- Brown the ground beef with diced onion and garlic, drain grease if necessary
- Add spices (adobo) + S&P
- Add tomato sauce, olives, raisins and simmer about 5 minutes while you prepare the plaintain
- If using large plantain, slice vertically and saute in pan till soft. (using a Mandolin Slicer helps!)
- If using frozen small plantain, let thaw, smash, then saute.
- After all the plantain are cooked, add one layer to the bottom of the pan
- Top with half the meat filling.
- Top with half the cheese.
- Repeat the plantain and meat mixture.
- Beat egg and water mixture VERY thoroughly and pour over entire mixture to hold everything together.
- AFTER the egg mixture, add the final top cheese layer.
- Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, careful not to let cheese get too brown.
- Allow lasagna to sit for 15 minutes before cutting/serving.
This dish pairs well with coleslaw and makes a fantastic meal prep dish. As you can see, I send it to work with my husband when we have leftovers.
Want to learn more about the difference between Dominican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican Recipes? This article goes into detail on the subject.
Pin this post to your “Dinner Board” on Pinterest! It's a great weekend recipe.