Learn how to make pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador, delicious corn cakes stuffed with beans, cheese, or meats, served with pickled cabbage slaw.
Salvadoran Pupusas Recipe
We're cooking up Pupusas in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends. Would you care for one?
We were recently introduced to pupusas by our very good friend and neighbor, whose family is from El Salvidor. She took us to a local place that makes them and we fell in love with them instantly.
What are Pupusas?
Pupusas are griddle cakes typically stuffed with cheese, refried beans, or meats, usually made from corn flour. They the national dish of El Salvador, and traditional in both El Salvador and Honduras.
Pupusas are made from a corn flour dough, then stuffed, flattened, and cooked on a griddle until golden brown.
The dish is believed to have originated with the Pibil tribe who inhabited El Salvador, though the exact origins are unknown.
Today, El Salvador pupusas are hugely popular and iconic dish, served everywhere in the country, particularly in "pupuserías" or as a street food. The dish has spread from the region, thankfully into the United States, where I've been seeing them more and more.
They are usually served with curtido, a fermented cabbage slaw, along with salsa. One taste of this simple yet delicious dish, and I think you will love them.
Let's talk about how to make pupusas, shall we?
The full ingredients list with measurements is listed in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- Masa Harina. Masa harina is a corn flour made from ground nixtamalized corn, commonly used for making corn tortillas, tamales, pupusas, and gorditas.
- Warm Water.
- Shredded Cheese. Use quesillo/oaxaca, mozzarella, or white cheddar, though other melty cheeses will work. For stuffing.
- Vegetable Oil. For cooking.
- Optional Fillings. Refried beans, Cooked and seasoned ground meat (pork, beef, or chicken).
- Curtido. For Serving. Curtido is lightly fermented pickled cabbage slaw traditionally served with pupusas. Check out how to make curtido.
- Additional Serving. Salsa roja, salsa verde, or your favorite salsa, tomato sauce, or hot sauce.
How to Make Pupusas - the Recipe Method
Make the Masa Dough. In a mixing bowl, combine the masa harina and salt. Stir in warm water to form a corn dough. Knead the dough several minutes until it becomes smooth and pliable. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water; if it's too sticky, add a bit more masa harina.
Divide the Dough. Divide the dough into golf ball-sized portions. Cover with a damp cloth to prevent drying.
Stuff the Pupusa Dough. Flatten each dough ball to form a 1/4 inch thick patty. Place 1-2 tablespoons of shredded cheese (or beans, meat, or combo) in the center of the masa patty.
Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, then seal to form a ball again. Flatten each stuffed dough balls to form thick tortillas.
Cook the Pupusas. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan to medium-high heat. Cook the pupusas 2-3 minutes per side, until they turn golden brown. Use a spatula to help them cook evenly.
Serve warm with curtido (pickled cabbage slaw), fresh salsa, hot sauce.
Boom! Done! Your pupusas are ready to serve. Easy to make, aren't they? Which do you prefer? Bean filled? Cheese? Meats? Maybe a mix? I'd love to hear!
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Get Creative with Stuffing. Cheese or refried beans are commonly used to stuff pupusas, but you can also stuff them with seasoned ground meats, chicharrón (fried pork belly or rinds), loroco buds, (a Central American flower bud), spinach, or others.
- Best Cheese for Pupusas. Consider Salvadoran cheese like queso duro, queso fresco, or quesillo for more authentic flavor, but you can substitute with a blend of mozzarella cheese for great flavor. I've also seen some recipes with feta cheese as an option.
- Moisten Your Hands. Dip your hands in water before handling pupusa dough, which can be sticky. This will make it easier to shape the pupusas without the dough sticking to your fingers.
- Plain Pupusas. Feel free to skip stuffing your pupusas and serve them plain with salsa and curtido. You can easily pile other things onto them, like shredded meats and more.
Pupusas will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container. You can gently reheat them in a hot pan.
You can also freeze them for 2-3 months in freezer containers.
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this pupusas recipe. Let me know if you make it. I'd love to hear how it turned out for you, and if you decided to spice it up!
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Salvadoran Pupusas Recipe
- 2 cups masa harina corn flour
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup shredded cheese such as quesillo/oaxaca, mozzarella, or white cheddar – for stuffing
- Vegetable oil for cooking
- For Serving: Curtido (Pickled Cabbage Slaw)
- Optional fillings: Refried beans, Cooked and seasoned ground meat (pork, beef, or chicken)
- In a mixing bowl, combine the masa harina and salt. Stir in warm water to form a dough. Knead the dough several minutes until it becomes smooth and pliable. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water; if it's too sticky, add a bit more masa harina.
- Divide the dough into golf ball-sized portions. Cover with a damp cloth to prevent drying.
- Flatten each dough ball to form a 1/4 inch thick patty. Place 1-2 tablespoons of shredded cheese (or beans, meat, or combo) in the center of the masa patty.
- Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, then seal to form a ball again. Flatten each stuffed dough balls to form thick tortillas.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a pan to medium-high heat. Cook the pupusas 2-3 minutes per side, until they turn golden brown. Use a spatula to help them cook evenly.
- Serve warm with curtido (pickled cabbage slaw).