In the past few years I’ve gotten really into pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish. They have taken over my mind and made me do things like brave a rather shady looking pupuserie that shares its parking lot with an even shadier looking porn store. (Totally worth it, by the way.) I’ve also eaten pupusas from a few food carts around town. Each pupusa journey ended in happiness, but the more I ate, the more determined I became to make them myself.
Finally last Saturday, after spending the morning googling recipes, I decided the time was right.
I picked up a huge bag of masa (I’m envisioning tamales, tortillas and endless pupusas in my future) and some queso fresco. I decided to skip making the typical pupusa accompaniment, curtido (a pickled or fermented cabbage salad), since I had some homemade pickled veggies to use up. I also had some braised beef that needed a good home and so the project was a pretty affordable one — always a good thing when you don’t really know what you’re doing!
But regardless of my inexperience, by following the recipe and instructions from The Kitchn carefully, my pupusa adventure was a delicious success.
Pupusas are surprisingly easy to make. Mix masa (corn flour) with warm water and salt, knead and let rest under a clean towel. The dough should be moist but not too tacky. I learned from my first batch to err on the side of slightly wet to keep it from drying out or cracking later on.
Once the dough has rested about ten minutes, divide into 8 equal parts. Take each piece and roll it into a ball. Then with your thumb, press a deep hole into the center. Be careful not to poke all the way through!
Then add about 1 TB of your filling. Resist the urge to overfill your pupusas or the stuffing could seep out. It took me a while to learn this lesson! Also if you are adding in a wetter ingredient as part of the stuffing, put it in first. I put a small amount of beef in the bottom and then topped it with cheese. This made it easier to flatten without losing any of the goodness.
Gently pinch the hole closed and roll into a ball before flattening into a disc. Each pupusa should be about 4 inches wide.
Once your pupusas are ready to go, it’s time to cook them. Heat a large skillet, drizzle in some oil and cook each side until it’s crispy and golden brown. Be careful not to overcook the pupusas or the masa will dry out. I figured out on my second batch that they only needed a few minutes on each side.
I gave each pupusa a dusting of salt once it was done (my first batch was a bit bland) and then it was time to dig in! Serve with any pickled veggies you have on hand or get more authentic a make some curtido and salsa roja.
Then try not to eat them all in one sitting. (I was not at all successful at this.)
I did manage to save some of my second batch — though I will be totally honest here. I made them to share with my husband. And then they were too good to share. And so I hid them all and took them to work so I could enjoy them for lunch.
I may be a selfish wife but I did learn a valuable lesson — pupusas heat up brilliantly in the toaster!