Bollos Pelones! The Comfort Food of Venezuela.

I still remember that as a child I was thrilled coming from school at noon and finding out that lunch that day consisted of bollos pelones an old fashioned, homemade dish lovingly made by my grandmother. The house was filled with fragrant paprika with notes of mellow garlic and good bacon, it made me very happy to be home.

This family-style dish, consist of tender meatballs wrapped in a thin layer of white cornmeal dough, dressed in a savory and light tomato sauce.

One can use other delicious fillings too, such as pork, shredded chicken, or even salted cod! But the classic version that I grew up with is made with ground sirloin beef.

Unique to Venezuela, this is a traditional dish that to my knowledge is only found in home kitchens particularly in the Yaracuy State region. Unlike other Venezuelan dishes, such as asado negro or arepas, I have yet to see this dish being served in a restaurant.

They're delightful and so much fun to make!


for the dough

2 cups of pre-cooked white cornmeal (available in Latin supermarkets)

2 1/2 cups of chicken broth

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

for the filling (can be made up to a day in advance)

1/2 pound of ground beef

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 cup of paprika

1/2 medium white onion

3 strips of bacon finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon tomato paste

1 14 can of crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup of Spanish olives, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of Spanish capers

1/2 cup of sweet red wine (Manischewitz is a good option)

adobo to taste

for the sauce

1/2 medium white onion

1/2 red bell pepper

1/2 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, crushed

salt and pepper to taste


  1. Filling: Heat vegetable oil in a pan, cook crushed garlic, paprika, bacon and onion for one minute. Add ground beef, followed by adobo. Once the meat is cooked, add tomatoes, olives, capers, red wine and tomato paste, lower the temperature, cover and let the sauce thicken.

  2. Dough: To prepare the dough, the chicken broth should be warm. Place the broth in a medium bowl and slowly mix in flour. Mix with a wooden spoon and once the dough has a similar texture to cookie dough, add one tablespoon of oil and knead with your hands for 3 to 5 minutes. Let stand for about 5 minutes.

  3. Tomato sauce: Blend canned tomatoes, paprika and onion. Place in a saucepan over medium heat and add tomato paste, salt and garlic. Cook until thickened.

  4. Assemble the bollos: Make a ball of dough (slightly bigger than a golf ball) and open a hole in the center, fill it with the ground beef, close it with more dough, making sure it maintains a round shape. Eliminate excess dough and use a little water to smooth over. Repeat with all of the meat and dough until you have used up all your ground beef, setting them aside until you are ready to cook.

  5. Bring water to a boil in a deep pot, add meatballs carefully to prevent breakage. Let them cook for about 12 minutes, or until they float, which means they are ready.

  6. Remove them carefully, drain and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

  7. Place all meat balls in a serving platter and serve with sauce over them. Enjoy with white rice or just by themselves.

I will thank my grandmother for you!

Gustavo Adolfo Mendoza-Baquero, CFO/co-Owner

Brian Beal Moore Catering


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Created by Gustavo A. Mendoza. All rights reserved.

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