Visiting Porto's Bakery for the first time, I encountered lines out the door and refrigerated cases filled with glorious, Cuban pastries. I was told by my friend's mom that the pastries were great but all the excitement was for the savory meat pies, or pastelitos de carne, so I added two to my order.

Once seated, I bit into the infinite layers of flaky puff pastry and was met with the rich, umami-packed beef filling. Once I returned back home, I researched the internet for recipes and drew inspiration from my experience to come up with this adaptation of Porto's famous pastelitos de carne.

Pastelitos de Carne

  • Prep Time:30 mins
  • Cook Time:30 mins
  • Total Time:1 hr
  • Servings:18
  • Medium


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 15 ounces canned tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup and 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/4 cup white cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Flour as needed for work surface
  • 2 thawed puff pastry packages
Cindy Lin
  • Step 1

    Add oil onto heated pan. Cook minced onions and bell peppers with a pinch of salt. Once onions are translucent, add in minced garlic. Add ground beef and break apart with spoon and add remaining salt. Once ground beef is browned, add in tomato sauce, cumin, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. Let filling simmer for at least 10 min. Preheat oven to 350°F.

    Cindy Lin
  • Step 2

    Beat egg and 1 tablespoon of water in bowl and set aside.

  • Step 3

    Place 1/4 cup white cane sugar and 1/4 cup water into a pan and let it simmer. Once sugar is dissolved, place simple syrup into an additional cup or bowl to cool and set aside.

  • Step 4

    Flour work surface. Cut puff pastry sheets into 8 smaller squares for a total of 32 smaller squares of puff pastry. Place 1 tbsp of meat filling into center of puff pastry square. Add egg wash around border of puff pastry with finger. Seal with another puff pastry square and place on baking sheet. Repeat until out of pastry.

    Cindy Lin
  • Step 5

    Bake pies for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

    Cindy Lin
  • Step 6

    Once baked, brush warm pies with simple syrup. Let simple syrup soak into pastry for about 5 min.

    Cindy Lin

For best results, eat the pastelitos de carne immediately to savor the buttery layers and light syrup on the pastry. Another recommendation is to eat them with some spice. When my family and I make these, we add Tapatío hot sauce to each bite and devour the tray for dinner. Since one cannot eat 16 pastelitos de carne alone, invite friends to help and let them know that the spice is optional, after all, it is a Cuban dish that my family and I put our Mexican spin on with the Tapatío. Additionally, the therapeutic process of making the pastelitos de carne doubles as a study break during fall midterms. 

#SpoonTip: If you or one of your friends are vegetarian, swap out the ground beef for tofu. The bell peppers and onion retain the rich flavors of the filling.