Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pupusas: A Salvadoran Gordita

A friend recently took me to a Nicaraguan restaurant where I was turned on to a Salvadoran dish called pupusas. They were good, so I looked them up online to see if I could make my own.

Yup! Lots of recipes!

A sort of cousin to Mexico's gorditas, pupusas are made of thick, hand-made corn tortillas filled with a blend of the following: cheese (usually a soft cheese called Quesillo found in all Central America), cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency (called chicharrón, not to be confused with fried pork rind which is also known as chicharrón in some other countries), squash, refried beans, or queso con loroco (loroco is a vine flower bud from Central America). The two most common pupusas are the pupusa de queso (cheese) and the more popular pupusa revuelta with mixed ingredients of queso, frijoles, and chicharrón. (Pupusa revuelta actually covers any number of ingredients since it refers to being scrambled/mixed up) Pupusas are typically served with curtido (lightly fermented cabbage slaw with red chilies and vinegar) and a watery tomato salsa.

I had the pupusa revuelta, and that's what I made at home. It turned out just fine, though I could use a little practice in the tortilla making part (I lack a tortilla press and had to do it by hand). The image above is from Wikipedia; mine didn't look quite like that. And for a filling I used canned chilorio rather than chicharrón, and queso fresco for the cheese (that's what I had on hand).

Here is the recipe I used, taken from, with my revisions.

Makes 8 pupusas

  • 2 Cups masa harina
  • 1 Cup warm water
  • 1/2 Cup canned chilorio
  • 1/4 Cup refried beans
  • 1/2 Cup Queso Fresco, grated


There is no mystery here. Place the chilorio, refried beans and grated cheese into a small bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Set aside.


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 5-10 minutes.


Roll dough into a log and cut into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball.
Press a hole into each ball with your thumb (not all the way through!). Put about 1 tablespoon of filling into the depression you've made in each ball and fold the dough over it to completely enclose it. Press the ball out with your palms to form a disc. Be careful that the filling doesn't spill out.

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 plastic wrap and roll it out with a rolling pin. (Or, you can pat it out between the palms of your hands, which is somehow very satisfying but didn't look as pretty when I did it.)

Heat a heavy, ungreased skillet over high heat. Cook each pupusa for about 1-2 minutes on each side till lightly browned and blistered. Remove to a plate and cover till all pupusas are done. Serve with a cabbage slaw and salsa roja.

You can learn all about the history of pupusas (and more) at Wikipedia, and it's interesting enough to be worth while.

Buen provecho!

If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish, I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)


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