Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets...


Pupusas are one of my favorite foods and I eat them every chance I get! Originally from El Salvador, they have become popular in many countries, such as the United States and Canada, and have taken on a life of their own in Guatemala and Honduras. Such a fundamental part of El Salvadorian culture, pupusas now even have their own National Pupusa Day! Pupusas are like a cross between a pancake and a quesadilla. Think of a small, thick, hand-made pancake, sealed and stuffed with savory goodness. The dough is made from masa (a popular flour made from the large corn, maize, that is used widely in Latin American cuisine), and the stuffing can be any ingredient you desire. But, they are most commonly stuffed with one or more of the following: quesillo (a soft Salvadorian cheese), fried pork, chicken, refried beans, and locoro (the bud of a vine flower from Central America). They are topped with curtido (a pickled cabbage relish, that usually includes hot peppers), and a spicy thin tomato sauce. They are traditionally eaten by hand. Pupusas are filling and cheap, and therefore popular amongst the late night, bar crowd, but really, you can eat them whenever you want. I do! They are small enough to fit in one hand, but hearty enough for a meal to consist of just two or three, depending on your appetite, of course. My mouth is watering just thinking about them! If you live in a major city, or one that has a large Latin population, you may have a Pupuseria nearby, and each pupusa is likely to cost just $1-2 USD. If not, don't fret! Keeping the filling sealed perfectly inside takes some practice, but pupusas are easy enough to make at home, if you want to try out the below recipe. I must point out though, that the curdito makes the meal complete, so I've included a recipe for that also. You might as well make some extra because anyone is sure to love these little discs of deliciousness!

Makes 4-5 pupusas
  • Masa harina -- 2 cups
  • Warm water -- 1 cup
  • Filling (see variations) -- 1 cup


1. In a large bowl, mix together the masa harina and water and knead well. Knead in more water, one tablespoonful at a time if needed, to make a moist, yet firm dough. (It should not crack at the edges when you press down on it.) Cover and set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Roll the dough into a log and cut it into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball.

3. Press an indentation in each ball with your thumb. Put about 1 tablespoon of desired filling into each indentation and fold the dough over to completely enclose it. Press the ball out with your palms to form a disc, taking care that that the filling doesn't spill out.

4. Line a tortilla press with plastic and press out each ball to about 5-6 inches wide and about 1/4-inch thick. If you don't have a tortilla press, place the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper and roll it out with a rolling pin.

5. Heat an ungreased skillet over medium-high flame. Cook each pupusa for about 1-2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and blistered. Remove to a plate and hold warm until all pupusas are done. Serve with curtido and salsa roja.


  • Pupusas de Queso: With a cheese filling. Use grated quesillo, queso fresco, farmer's cheese, mozzarella, Swiss cheese or a combination. Add some minced green chile if you like.
  • Pupusas de Chicharrones: With a filling of fried chopped pork and a little tomato sauce. A reasonable facsimile can be made by pulsing 1 cup of cooked bacon with a little bit of tomato sauce in a food processor.
  • Pupusas de Frijoles Refritos: With a refried bean filling.
  • Pupusas Revueltas: Use a mixture of chicharrones, cheese and refried beans.
  • Pupusas de Queso y Loroco: With a cheese and tropical vine flower filling.Loroco can be found in jars at many Latin markets.
  • Pupusas de Arroz: A variety of pupusa that uses rice flour instead of corn masa.
  • Cooked potatoes or finely minced, sautéed jalapeño peppers are also tasty fillings. Try a mixture of different fillings.
  • The above recipe uses masa harina, a special dried cornmeal flour used in making tortillas, tamales, etc. If you are able to get fresh masa, definitely use it instead. The flavor will be much fresher. Just substitute the masa harina and water with fresh masa. One pound will make about 4-6 pupusas depending on size.

  • Cabbage, shredded -- 1/2 head
  • Carrot, peeled and grated -- 1
  • Boiling water -- 4 cups
  • Scallions, minced -- 3
  • Apple Cider vinegar -- 1/2 cup
  • Water -- 1/2 cup
  • Jalapeño or serrano chile pepper, minced -- 1
  • Salt -- 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano (optional)
  • sliced jalapenos (optional)


  1. Place the cabbage and carrots in a large heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling water into the bowl to cover the cabbage and carrots and set aside for about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, pressing out as much liquid as possible.
  2. Return the cabbage to the bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Let sit at room temperature for a couple of hours. Then chill for at least 4-6 hours, and serve as an accompaniment to pupusas or as a side dish.
Makes 4-6 servings

*Photo from
*Pupusa recipe from

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