Pastelón de Yuca (Puerto Rican Shepherd’s Pie)

22 May

In an October post I gave you my recipe for Basic Seasoned Ground Beef (recipe repeated here, so don’t lose heart!) a Latin-style ground beef basic (similar to Carne para Rellenar, for the cognoscenti) that I make loads of at a time and freeze in serving size portions to be transformed into nachos, chili con carne (with the addition of red beans, tomato puree and chile pepper), ragu sauce for pasta (add Italian seasonings and tomato puree) or any number of things.

One of my favorite things to do with Basic Seasoned Ground Beef is make pastelón; the Puerto Rican equivalent of Shepherd’s Pie. It doesn’t take a lot of active prep (although it does require oven time in addition to stove top time) and it is a warming dish that will take everyone to their happy place. Click here for Pastelón de Platanos – Plantain Pastelón – another classic version of this dish). The more beef you use, the thicker it will be. You can also substitute Pollo Guisado (stewed chicken). The first section is the yuca preparation, but I also include the beef and chicken recipes in this post so you have them handy.

Reminder! Yuca can be bought peeled, chunked and frozen in most supermarkets (even if you don’t have a big Latin population in your neighborhood). In diverse neighborhoods you may find it fresh, but it is such a pain to peel that I rarely bother. You can always substitute potato, but you won’t get the chewy density that is part of yuca’s appeal.

My mother put it best: “This is true comfort food!”

Pastelón de Yuca (Puerto Rican Shepherd’s Pie)

2 lbs frozen yuca

Two teaspoons salt

1 teaspoons lemon juice

1 pint-1 qt Basic Seasoned Ground Beef at room temp (see recipe below) or Pollo Guisado (Stewed Chicken) in the amount of the recipe below.

(optional: 1 Tbs melted butter for brushing the top)

Boil two quarts water (or enough to eventually cover the yuca) and add salt and lemon juice. Add yuca and return to boil. Cover and boil until very soft, about an hour. Don’t worry about it losing shape; you will be mashing the bejesus out of it.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Take an 8×8 casserole/oven dish (must have sides!) and grease lightly with vegetable oil. Drain cooked yuca, and mash with a potato masher until most lumps are gone. As you mash, pull out the thick central fibers, which are inedible.

Line the bottom of the dish with half the mashed yuca. Spread the ground beef mixture evenly over. Top the beef with the remaining yuca. It will be sticky, so do the best you can; dollops are fine if it won’t spread for you.

Place in preheated oven, covered with aluminum foil, for 30 minutes. Remove foil (brush with butter if desired) and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes or so before serving.


(this is half of what I usually do to freeze. To do 3 lbs. at a time, double everything)

2 Tbs extra virigin olive oil

1 baseball sized onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced (go for more if you like – I do!)

1.5 lbs. ground beef

(Optional1/4-1/2 C. chopped red pepper fresh or roasted from a jar)

1/2 tsp adobo powder* (if desired – I generally don’t use it, but some people love the extra salt and the umami)

1 heaping Tbs capers, drained

10 manzanilla olives (pitted and stuffed with pimientos)

(optional 1/2 cup tomatoes from a can – diced, chopped, whatever or a spoonful of tomato paste you need to use up)

Heat oil on high in a large saucepan until thin and fragrant. Add onion and cook, stirring, for two minutes until well coated and getting translucent. Lower heat to fairly low and cook for five minutes, add garlic and cook for another minute. Raise heat to high and crumble in ground beef, stirring and breaking up frequently until fully-browned. Spoon out fat or pour off (don’t make it too dry!) into sink (carefully!).

Return to heat, add red pepper, optional adobo, capers, olives and optional tomato. Mix completely. Lower heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes until fat begins to separate from sauce. Serve or freeze.

 *instead of adobo powder, mix 1/4 tsp salt and 1 Tbs mixed chopped fresh herbs (oregano, rosemary, parsley) or 1 tsp dried


2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Cup chopped onion

1 Cup chopped green peppers (the long pale green cubanelles are preferred, but I use whatever I have around, including red peppers or roasted red peppers from a jar)

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Cup tomato puree, diced/chopped or peeled whole tomatoes

1.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs (more if using chicken on the bone)

1/4-1/2 tspn salt

2 12 oz cans beer

2 Tbs red wine

15 pimiento stuffed olives

In a saucepan, heat oil until fragrant and liquid. Add onion, peppers and garlic, coat and lower heat, sauteing until wilted. Add tomatoes and allow to thicken at medium heat. Add chicken and stir to coat then add salt. Add  wine and beer and bring to boil, simmer 15 minutes and then add stuffed olives. Simmer another 15-20 minutes to let the flavors develop and the chicken to tenderize. I let it cook as long as I have time for so the chicken begins to fall apart. Serve over rice or as part of a quesadilla or over tortillas with melted cheese. Serves four big appetites


8 Responses to “Pastelón de Yuca (Puerto Rican Shepherd’s Pie)”

  1. Cynthia January 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    Hmmm, I searched high and low for the yuca at my grocery store and couldn’t find it. I will be trying the picadillo though as it looks yummy and I’ve got all the ingredients.

    • nataliadecuba January 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

      You can’t find yuca!?! Hmmmmm…did you try both frozen and fresh? There’s a restaurant in Austin called Habana – call them and find out where they get theirs! (512) 443-4252

      • nataliadecuba January 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

        Or ask the customer service at your supermarket…maybe they will get it for you

  2. quetalunmate November 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Natalia, this sounds delicious. I will try it. You are right, with “Yuca Goya empaquetada”, which is so good, why bother peeling?

  3. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide May 28, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    Very cool twist. I love the olives and bring on the heat!


  1. Pastelón de amarillos (Puerto Rican lasagne, with ripe plantains!) « Hot, Cheap & Easy - September 12, 2012

    […] If you would like to try a version with yuca, Click here! […]

  2. The Best of 2011 – closing the year with my Top Five « Hot, Cheap & Easy - December 31, 2011

    […] Pastelón de Yuca (Puerto Rican Shepherd’s Pie) […]

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    […] sauce with a more authentic seasoning. Here is the link to the Basic Seasoned Ground Beef recipe.  […]

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