Pastelillos – my way


“Liza, you wanna pastelillo?” was music to my ears growing up. It was and still is one of my favorite cultural foods. Some people call them empanadas but my family called them pastelillos (meat turnover). With grandparents from Puerto Rico, who eventually migrated to New York, I’ve been privileged to indulge in delicious Puerto Rican cuisine all of my life. Dad was born in Aibonito, Puerto Rico and mom was born here in NYC, but she too, was well endowed with her cooking skills.  I remember when she died in 2008, mostly everyone who attended her funeral, mentioned how grateful they were for her cooking. She fed everyone, just as my grandmothers did. It’s traditional in our culture to show our love through food and we believe, there’s always enough for everyone – “¡ Dios da pa todo mundo” .. is what I always heard them say. 

I may not cook as authentically as my ancestors but I definitely cook with love and from what I understand,  that’s one of the most potent ingredients. 

Here, I share my version of pastelillos:

I start off with a package of dough (discos) and a pound of ground turkey. Traditionally, they use ground beef but you can substitute with ground turkey or chicken for a healthier version, as I do. 

I sauté sofrito, fresh garlic,  adobo, onion powder, black pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Then I mix in the ground turkey with the sofrito over medium flames until fully cooked.

Now, I sprinkle some flour on the counter top , lay and roll out the dough atop of flour, then place some ground meat in the center. 

Cheese is optional. 

Now,  I scramble an egg and dab the edges of the entire circumference, fold over the dough and begin to pinch the edges with a fork. 

Pile them up, until complete and begin to fry. (Baking is also optional)

As they’re frying, I grab a large utensil and begin to repeatedly scoop oil over the pastelillo. The dough will begin to bubble up and turn golden. After a few minutes, flip it over and do the same on the opposite side.

*Remove from oil and wait a few minutes to cool off before eating. The internal steam can burn your skin.



©2016 Liza Morales


5 thoughts on “Pastelillos – my way

  1. I have my own memories of empanada that are intimately bound to my sense of home. There’s a small kiosk in every train station in Metro Manila selling them, with stuffings of your choice. It’s a fusion of sorts. There are pizza-like flavors (pepperoni, Italian sausage, etc.), Filipino dish concepts (adobo, lumpia), and the basic cheese and chicken, which were the cheapest in the menu. I always grab one or two before getting on the train. Those things have witnessed fights with boyfriends, phone calls bearing both good and bad news, study sessions, gossip sessions, the list is endless. When I visit home I’ll be sure to treat my husband and son to some. 🙂

  2. I still make them with pollo and everybody loves them 🙂 I do have the emapanada maker so I don’t have to use the folk. Always frying for the ultimate flavor! 🙂

    • Yes, I love them with chicken too, as long as the pollo is not dry. Lol
      I was in PR a few months ago and my boys had at least 4 a day! We’re pastelillo fanatics…. and yes frying is the best! 🙂

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