Cream Cheese and Guava Pastries

In her new cookbook, Illyanna Maisonet shares a recipe for, and the background behind, sweet quesitos

Photo: copyright © 2022 by Dan Liberti

photo: © Gabriela Hasbun 2021
Illyanna Maisonet.

The food writer Illyanna Maisonet challenges stereotypes on Puerto Rico and its foodways in her powerful new book, Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook. “Quesitos and pastelillos (the dessert kind, not the savory kind) are exemplary examples of European pastry making and one of the few good things that colonization brought to the island,” she writes. “These little pastries are meant for rich people, which is probably why my grandma never made them. Quesitos and pastelillos use the same puff pastry dough; the only difference between the two is the shape and the filling. Traditionally, quesitos contained only cheese; but as time went on, we required more and more from the little pastry. What most people don’t know is that it’s traditional to brush the tops of the finished pastry with a simple syrup (some people add honey to the syrup), giving it an inviting shine. I go one extra step, for the sake of being extra, and sprinkle sanding sugar on top while the simple syrup is still warm. The big granules of sanding sugar give the pastry a nice crunch.”


  • Quesitos de Queso y Guayaba (Yield: about 18 quesitos)

    • 1 (17.3-oz.) box frozen puff pastry sheets (preferably Pepperidge Farm), thawed overnight in the fridge

    • 1 lb. cream cheese

    • 1 (14-oz.) block guava paste

    • ¼ cup granulated sugar

    • 1 tbsp. water

    • Sanding sugar for sprinkling (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Flour a work surface.

  2. Place each puff pastry sheet on the prepared surface and cut each sheet into nine squares. With a rolling pin, give the squares a little roll to stretch out the dough, making them slightly larger squares (you’ll need more surface area for the guava paste).

  3. Cut a 1/4-inch-thick slice from the cream cheese and lay it diagonally in the center of a pastry square. Cut a 1/4-inch-thick slice of guava paste and lay it directly on top of the cream cheese. Fold one side of the pastry over the filling and then bring the opposite side over the first; the filling should now be swaddled and peeking out from both ends. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry, cream cheese, and guava paste.

  4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown, keeping a close watch on them so they don’t scorch.

  5. While the quesitos are in the oven, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the granulated sugar and water, warming the mixture just enough to melt the sugar and make a simple syrup. 

  6. When the pastry is golden brown, take the pan out of the oven, immediately brush the quesitos with the simple syrup and sprinkle with sanding sugar, if desired. Place on a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes before serving. (You don’t want a mouth of molten guava paste.)

Reprinted with permission from Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook by Illyanna Maisonet copyright ©2022. Food photographs copyright © 2022 by Dan Liberti. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.