published Aug 29, 2023
Pastelón Recipe

Similar to lasagna in construction, this Puerto Rican casserole is made with layers of sweet plantain, meat sauce, and shredded cheese.


Prep20 minutes

Cook1 hour

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cross section of a slice of pastelon on a plate showing layers of plantain, cheese, and ground beef
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: James Park

Often deemed as the Puerto Rican lasagna, I prefer to call pastelón a sweet plantain casserole, focusing on the tropical ingredients used (although the layering method is the same as the lasagna most people know and love). The flavors here all work together wonderfully. It’s the perfect balance of savory and sweet — from the sofrito and tomato-flavored ground beef, to the tender sweet plantain, to the creamy cheese.

Ingredients in Pastelón

  • Ground beef: The meat mixture used is picadillo, a saucy and flavorful ground beef recipe that’s often served solo with steamed white rice or used as a stuffing for empanadas and fritters. It’s flavored with sazón seasoning, smoked paprika, sofrito, tomato paste, diced pimentos, capers, and bay leaves. 
  • Plantains: Instead of noodles, ripe sweet plantains are used, often sliced lengthwise and then shallow fried until golden-brown and soft. 
  • Cheese: This is often based on personal preference. I prefer mozzarella for a mild flavor or a nice melting cheese like Colby Jack. Using freshly grated cheese is recommended, as it’ll melt better than pre-packaged cheese. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: James Park

How to Make and Store Pastelón

I made this in a standard loaf pan instead of a casserole dish for a smaller serving, as I was just cooking this for myself, but you can double the amounts to make a larger portion that would fit in a 9×13-inch baking dish and feed a crowd. In my family, pastelóns were often made for special occasions, as it’s pretty involved and there are multiple steps to do prior to assembly and baking.

Leftovers are wonderful the next day and individual slices of the pastelón can actually be stored and frozen easily for a future dinner without the extra fuss.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: James Park

What to Serve with Pastelón

We often serve pastelón with steamed white rice, such as jasmine rice or Arroz Rico short-grain rice, as the flavors of the casserole are complex.

Pastelón Recipe

Similar to lasagna in construction, this Puerto Rican casserole is made with layers of sweet plantain, meat sauce, and shredded cheese.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 4


For the picadillo filling:

  • 1 tablespoon

    neutral oil, such as canola

  • 1 pound

    lean ground beef

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    sazón seasoning, such as Badia or Iberia

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1/4 cup

    fresh sofrito or thawed frozen sofrito, such as La Reyna

  • 2 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon

    diced pimentos

  • 2 teaspoons

    drained capers

  • 1/2 cup

    water or unsalted beef broth, plus more as needed

  • 2

    small bay leaves

For the fried plantains:

  • 3

    large ripe plantains (about 2 pounds total)

  • Cooking spray (if air frying) or 4 cups neutral oil (if deep frying)

  • Kosher salt

For assembly and serving:

  • Cooking spray

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 6 ounces

    low-moisture shredded mozzarella or colby-jack cheese (about 1 1/2 cups shredded)

  • Steamed white rice, for serving


Make the picadillo filling:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon neutral oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1 pound lean ground beef, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sazón seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika. Stir to combine, breaking up the beef into smaller pieces. Cook until the beef is about half cooked, 5 to 6 minutes.

  2. Add 1/4 cup sofrito, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon diced pimentos, and 2 teaspoons drained capers. Stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup water or unsalted beef broth and 2 small bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the beef is cooked through and the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Add a little more water or broth as needed to get the mixture to a saucy consistency similar to sloppy joes. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Remove the pan from the heat.

Make the fried plantains:

  1. Peel 3 large plantains and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices.

  2. Option 1: Deep frying. Heat 4 cups neutral oil in a large cast iron or straight-sided skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Frying in batches so as to not crowd the pan, add the plantains and fry until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack fitted over a baking sheet and season lightly with kosher salt.

  3. Option 2: Air frying. Frying in batches if needed, place the plantains in the air fryer basket in a single layer with space around each one. Coat lightly with cooking spray. Air fry at 400ºF until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack fitted over a baking sheet.

Assemble and bake the pastelón:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

  2. Place 2 large eggs in a small bowl and whisk with a fork until broken up. Grate 6 ounces low-moisture mozzarella or colby-jack cheese on the large holes of a box grater if needed, or measure out 1 1/2 cups store-bought shredded.

  3. Arrange a single, even layer of the fried sweet plantains in the bottom of the loaf pan. Top with half of the picadillo (about 1 cup) and spread into an even layer. Drizzle with half of the eggs. Gently tilt the pan to spread the egg out so that it coats the picadillo.

  4. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese. Repeat layering plantains, the remaining picadillo, remaining egg, and 1/2 cup cheese. Top with the remaining plantains. Carefully pick up the pan and tap it on a kitchen towel while shaking it a bit to release any air bubbles and help the ingredients settle together. Let sit for 5 minutes.

  5. Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. If you’d like a browner top, turn the oven to broil and broil until browned in spots, about 1 minute. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serve with steamed white rice.

Recipe Notes

I make my own sazón spice blends to control the amount of salt I use when cooking, so if you’re using store-bought blends, make sure to taste and adjust the amount accordingly to avoid oversalting your dish.

Make ahead: The picadillo filling can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Rewarm in the microwave or on the stovetop before assembling the pastelón.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You can also freeze the pastelón for up to a few months: Wrap individual slices in plastic wrap, then wrap again in aluminum foil or place in a freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.