What Is Pastel De Choclo?

Cynde Gregory

Pastel de choclo is a corn and meat casserole popular in Chile and Peru. Cooks pride themselves on their variations, some of which include black or white raisins, olives, eggs, or even sugar. Many variations add regional flavor, and a vegetarian option exists too. Traditionally, the dish is baked and served in a large, red clay bowl or in individual serving bowls.

Corn is a main ingredient in pastel de choclo.
Corn is a main ingredient in pastel de choclo.

What is common to all pastel de choclo variations is the inclusion of corn meal puree, or choclo, as a topping and some kind of meat within the casserole itself. Most pastel de choclo dishes also contain raisins or another dried fruit. While it isn’t a requirement, most cooks allow the pureed corn top layer to brown by running it under a broiler for a few minutes.

Cassava can replace the meat in a vegetarian pastel de choclo.
Cassava can replace the meat in a vegetarian pastel de choclo.

In Chile, the most common type of pastel de choclo is made with ground beef. Raisins or other dried fruit and green or black olives are added to the beef, which is then simmered on top of the stove until the meat releases its juices. Some cooks prefer choclo with diced onion; others consider the addition of onion to be sacrilege.

In both Chile and Peru, pastel de choclo can contain both ground beef and diced chicken. Regional variations add sliced or minced hard boiled eggs to the mixture. Basil or cumin and paprika also distinguish regional recipes, as does the addition of corn kernels.

The corn topping also exhibits a number of variations. Some cooks use corn meal, while others grate fresh corn kernels and cook it into a pudding. The corn is mixed with milk or cream and sometimes a beaten egg. Some Chileans prefer a sweeter pastel and either add sugar to the corn topping or serve it with confectioner’s sugar on the side.

One variation is distinct enough to be considered a separate dish. Pastel de papas shares common ingredients such as chicken or ground beef, hardboiled egg, olives, and raisins. Some substitute mashed cassava or potatoes instead of the corn topping. Grated cheese is often added to the mashed topping.

A vegetarian version of either pastel de choclo or pastel de papas can be made as well. Replacing the chicken or beef with potatoes, yams, cassava, or other root vegetables is one method. Some cooks add diced, dried tofu or other meat substitute. Others replace the meat with sautéed mushrooms.

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