Pupusas with Curtido

Dinner, How-To

Pupusas are El Salvadorian stuffed corn cakes served with curtido and salsa roja. These pupusas with curtido are filled with melty cheese, pickled jalapeño and roasted squash, but the filling options are endless!

Pupusas on a round plate with curtido and limes

 

 

Let me start by saying that if your grandmother makes pupusas, she probably makes them better than me. And if your grandmother taught you how to make her pupusas, then you probably make them better than me.

But if you, like me, don’t have a Salvadorian grandmother and have never made them/heard of them, then I feel like you’re my target audience today.

Since I’m Salvadorian-grandmother-less, this recipe on how to make pupusas started with me taking a trip to South Los Angeles to eat one of the best pupusas in this city at Los Churros. They were cheesy (oh so cheesy!), filling, hearty and such flavorful masa cakes.

Pupusa dough being mixed

What Are Pupusas?!

Pupusas are made from masa harina (cormeal flour) or rice flour that are mixed with water to make a corn masa mixture. They are usually stuffed with delicious things like refried beans, shredded pork or cheese. And since they tend to be so rich and cheesy, they are topped with a pickled cabbage situation that adds a refreshing, light and tangy element that really balances the whole thing out. That is called curtido.

Pupusa dough being mixed

When I made them for the first time, I realized how similar they were to arepas. When my mom taught me how to make arepas (she was taught by my father’s Colombian great aunt), she taught me with no measurements, just touch and feel and how the dough looked. For someone like me who sort of thinks in ratios, it was SUPER annoying.

But I get it, a lot of this is just touch and feel. SO, since that’s the case, I figured I’d do a little how-to.

And here we go!

Pupusa dough scooped into portions

They Absolutely Need The Curtido!

Pupusas begin with making the curtido (the cabbage/carrot mixture above). It’s pretty simple: cabbage, carrots and Mexican oregano mixed together. The vinegar/sugar/salt mixture is mixed together and then poured over it.

It’s definitely a quick-pickle, but it’d ideally sit in the fridge overnight, but if you let it sit for three hours you should be ok.

Pupusas being filled with cheese

Pupusas being filledHow to Make Pupusas!

  1. To make the pupusa dough, you start with whisking the masa harina and salt together. Masa harina is cornmeal flour. The most popular brand and the one I’m used to using is Maseca. It’s super inexpensive (I’d say $3 for a big bag). I’d recommend finding the Latin grocery store nearest you and taking a visit.
  2. Add the cold water and mix, using a spatula, until it’s mostly combined.
  3. Using your hands, mix it with your hands.
  4. The masa will be very wet. That’s ok! You just want it to be completely combined.
  5. Divide the dough into 14 (2-ounce) balls. I used a 2-ounce cookie scoop and it made this process SUPER fast. They’ll resemble the size of golf balls.
  6. Mix together the oil and water mixture. This will help the masa from sticking from your hands.

Filling Options

The sky is truly the limit here. I chose roasted squash, pickled jalapeños and mozzarella cheese. Here are some other options:

  • Braised meats. You could braise a pork shoulder, beef, chicken. And add it to the center of the pupusas.
  • Veggies. Roasted squash was AMAZING. You could do puree cauliflower in a food processor, squash, zucchini, etc.
  • Pureed Beans. I would puree the beans in a food processor to make them soft. They’re super delicious with beans and cheese!
  • Cheese. Of course, cheese is a must. You can use Oaxacan cheese, something super melty, like mozzarella. Or you could get creative and use gouda, tallegio, sharp cheddar cheese and/or fontina.

Pupusas being formed by hands

Pupusas being formed by hands

 

Stuff and Fill The Pupusas!

  1. Flatten the pupusa and shape it into a disc that’s about 1/4-inch thick.
  2. Place a tablespoon or two of mozzarella cheese, a bit of diced jalapeño and squash in the center.
  3. And then fold the sides together, creating a half moon shape.
  4. Pinch the edges to seal the pupusa.

Pupusas being formed by hands

 

Pupusas being formedHow to Assemble

  1. After you’ve filled the pupusa and have shaped it into a half moon shape, tuck in the sides.
  2. And gently pat the dough, flattening it, alternating your hands until it reaches about 1/2-inch thick and about 4-inches in diameter.
  3. Dip your hands in the oil and water mixture, as needed.
  4. Repeat with the remaining masa!
  5. Cook ’em in a pan over medium high heat. And/or you can use a cast iron skillet. Add the pupusas on a hot pan. I tried to cook them for 2 to 3 minutes but found that they more needed, like, 4-5 minutes per side.

Formed uncooked pupusas on a piece of parchmentWarm pupusas on a baking sheet

 

Can You Freeze Pupusas?

Absolutely! Yes, you can definitely freeze pupusas. To freeze pupusas, this is what you should do:

  1. Place assembled (but not cooked) pupusas on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  2. Add the baking sheet with the pupusas to the freezer and allow to chill and get cold for 20 minutes.
  3. Transfer the pupusas to an airtight container or freezer-safe plastic bag and write the date on the bag or container.
  4. Place in the freezer to freeze for up to 4 months.
  5. To cook frozen pupusas, cook from frozen. No need to thaw them at all! They make 1 to 2 more minutes to cook.

Pupusa being torn apart with cheese pull

Can You Use Tamale Masa For Pupusas?

It’s slightly different. Tamale masa has oil, lard or shortening, while pupusa masa dough does not. I find it different and it’s so easy to make that I don’t see why you wouldn’t just follow the recipe below 🙂

Close up of a cheesy pupusa

Tips and Tricks for Making Pupusas

  1. I used a 2 ounce cookie scoop to divide the dough balls. It made it super quick and easy and made it so they were mostly the exact size.
  2. Make sure your hands are always oiled. This dough is super sticky and the oil helps so much!
  3. While forming the pupusas, if a tear appears, simply pinch the masa shut. Also if a bit of cheese leaks out of the pupusa while cooking it, that’ll be delicious and make a bit of a cheese chip.
  4. Let gravity be your friend. When you move the ball of masa from palm to palm, gravity will help make it get a bit flatter. Each time you move it from palm to palm, you should be gently flattening it.
  5. When I was done forming each pupusa, I placed them on a piece of parchment. You can use a plate or cutting board, just be sure to grease it with a bit of oil so the formed pupusas don’t stick.
  6. If you don’t own a large griddle (I don’t own one) and want to keep the pupusas warm while you work your way through cooking them, use your oven. I like to place a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and stick it in a 200 degree F oven. When I’m done making each pupusa, I just transfer it to the rack in the oven.

Pupusas on a plate surrounded by beer

Looking for more Latin-inspired recipes? Here are some other favorites: 

Here’s a step-by-step video on How To Make Pupusas!

Pupusa Recipe

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5 from 16 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Assembly 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serving Size: 14
Calories: 125kcal
This is a step-by-step on how to make pupusas! This recipe hails from El Salvador and is made by mixing corn flour with water and salt. It's topped with a quick pickled cabbage slaw called curtido.

Ingredients

Curtido:

  • 1/2 head of cabbage, (2 cups of shredded cabbage)
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano, (if you can't find Mexican oregano, use Italian!)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Pupusa Dough:

  • 3 cups (11.8 ounces/334g) masa harina , (such as maseca)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 3/4 cup cold water, (from the faucet is fine)

Filling:

  • 2 cups (7.5 ounces) shredded mozzarella, (or Oaxacan cheese or any other melty cheese)
  • 1/2 cup pickled jalapeño peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced roasted butternut squash

For Hands:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or neutral oil

Directions

To Make the Curtido:

  • To a medium bowl, toss together the cabbage, carrots and Mexican oregano. In a measuring cup, stir together the hot water, vinegar, salt and sugar; pour it over the cabbage/carrot mixture. Allow it to come to room temperature and then cover it with plastic wrap and transfer it to the fridge for at least 4 hours and preferably a day before serving.
  • To Make the Pupusa Dough:
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the masa harina and salt. Pour in the cold water and using a spatula, stir the masa until mostly combined. Then, using your hands, mix the dough until a very soft dough forms. The dough will be very soft. This is totally okay; this means a delicious pupusa is on the way!
  • I found it easiest to use a 2 ounce ice cream scoop and scoop out the masa into balls onto a piece of parchment. You could also do this with your hands but be sure to make the water/oil mixture above and coat your hands with it first.

To Assembe the Pupusas:

  • Add the water to a measuring cup and pour in the oil (you can eyeball this). Lightly dip your hands in the water/oil mixture, making sure your palm are evenly coated. This will make it so the masa doesn’t stick to your hands.
  • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F. I like to place the pupusas in the oven while I make the rest of the pupusas so they can stay warm and melty. I placed a cooling rack atop a baking sheet and placed it in the oven.
  • Working one at a time, flatten the balls gently until they're about 1/2-inch thick discs. Place a tablespoon or two of mozzarella cheese, a small bit of diced jalapeño and squash into the center and wrap the dough around the filling creating a half moon shape. Pinch the edges to seal it completely. And then pat the dough gently, flattening it and alternating hands until it reaches about 1/4-inch thick and about 4-inches in diameter. Feel free to re-grease your hands as needed. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
  • Meanwhile, preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of neutral oil and brush the surface with a silicon brush. Add the pupusas to the pan, fitting two to three at time. Don’t be shy to break out another cast iron skillet (if you own it). Cook each pupusa for 4 to 6 minutes per side and then transfer to the baking sheet in the oven. Repeat this process until you’ve worked your way through all of the pupusas.

To Serve the Pupusas:

  • Serve the pupusas with the curtido, wedges of lime and salsa.

Notes

Tips and Tricks for Making Pupusas:
  1. Cookie scoops are your friend! I used a 2 ounce cookie scoop to divide the dough balls. It made it super quick and easy and made it so they were mostly the exact size.
  2. Make sure your hands are always oiled. This dough is super sticky and the oil helps so much!
  3. While forming the pupusas, if a tear appears, simply pinch the masa shut. Also if a bit of cheese leaks out of the pupusa while cooking it, that’ll be delicious and make a bit of a cheese chip.
  4. Let gravity be your friend. When you move the ball of masa from palm to palm, gravity will help make it get a bit flatter. Each time you move it from palm to palm, you should be gently flattening it.
  5. When I was done forming each pupusa, I placed them on a piece of parchment. You can use a plate or cutting board, just be sure to grease it with a bit of oil so the formed pupusas don’t stick.
  6. If you don’t own a large griddle (I don’t own one) and want to keep the pupusas warm while you work your way through cooking them, use your oven. I like to place a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and stick it in a 200 degree F oven. When I’m done making each pupusa, I just transfer it to the rack in the oven.
Equipment: 
Cast Iron Skillet | Fish Spatula | Baking Sheet | Cooling Rack | Stainless Steel Bowls | Silicon Spatula | Mixing Bowls with Lids
CourseAppetizer, Dinner, Side Dish
CuisineEl Salvadorian
DietGluten Free
Keywordel salvador, el salvadorian, how to cook pupusas, pupusa recipe, pupusas, pupusas salvadoreñas, receta latino, receta pupusas
Serving: 14g | Calories: 125kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 500mg | Potassium: 12mg | Sugar: 1g | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you make this Recipe? Tag me Today!Tag @acozykitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #acozykitchen
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79 Comments

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Recipe Rating




  • Reply Sherry August 29, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    I’ve been looking for an in depth explanation on how to make these. And you are so helpful!!! I finally feel confident to make them. Can’t wait to come back and let you know how it does. Thanks for the oil and water ratio and showing how to fold the masa. 🙂

  • Reply Astrid Mendez August 14, 2020 at 8:50 am

    5 stars
    Being Salvadoran myself, looking this recipe here, makes me so happy! It takes practice to master the technique, my husband makes them better than me, I take care of the curtido and salsa.
    The OG fillings: revuelta (beans, pork, cheese); frijol con queso (beans & cheese); queso (cheese). But the possibilities are endless! Garlic, chicken, shrimp, mushroom, etc
    Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme August 23, 2020 at 10:11 pm

      yumm. i really want to make them with shredded pork shoulder. sounds so delicious.

  • Reply Dalia August 11, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    5 stars
    Thank you for the recipe! In Mexico we make gorditas which is almost the same as pupusas but I had not had the curtido before. Love it! Second time around I added some crushed pepper flakes for an extra kick.

    Your audio was on at a point and I was laughing so hard. I feel your pain! Loved it, dont edit it out. Real life!

  • Reply Eva May 3, 2020 at 9:54 am

    5 stars
    I tried them this morning and definitely was very good! Liked everything about them! I put mix cheeses and jalapeños. Will put a few in the freezer so I can enjoy them again! Thank you

  • Reply Cristina Leivas April 19, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    Hello…I would like to make these with rice flour but wondering if it’s 1:1 ratio to substitute for Maseca. Any pointers would be helpful.

    Grew up eating these – Godmother was Salvadoran and now would like to make them for my kids,

    Thank you!

  • Reply Skylar Andrews April 16, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    Mmm, I’ve never tried filled purpusas before, but we made some a couple years back in my Spanish class and put some queso fresco on top. My Spanish teacher is El Salvadorian so she likes to introduce us to different traditions!

  • Reply Gisea Ruiz April 12, 2020 at 10:51 am

    5 stars
    I am planning on making them today. I can’t wait !! First time making them, I need just two ingredients to make this happen.

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme April 12, 2020 at 2:24 pm

      amazing–let me know how they end up turning out!

  • Reply Sean Echternach March 14, 2020 at 4:35 am

    5 stars
    I found Pupusas Recipe w/ Curtido and Salsa Roja {Authentic Salvadorian Recipe] very
    educational.

  • Reply Julia February 26, 2020 at 3:43 am

    5 stars
    I was the targeted audience for sure. Never heard of the dish. But now can`t wait to try it! Do you think is there any difference whether I will use pickled cabbage made the way you describe it (using vinegar) or can I use Sauerkraut (it does not use vinegar for fermenting)? How do you think it will impact the taste of pupusas?

  • Reply Cecilie Nielsen February 25, 2020 at 2:36 am

    I eat quite a lot of South American food but never heard of these (a tendency based on the comments). But they look absolutely delicious!

  • Reply Odessa January 28, 2020 at 10:47 am

    I’ve never had (or heard of) pupusas, but I’m definitely making these this weekend – will try daiya mozzarella in place of the regular cheese and see how it goes 🙂

  • Reply Zahir Hussain January 24, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    5 stars
    It’s the ultimate guide. I love your writing style! Really helpful for beginners like me. Thanks for sharing. very informative posts
    Thanks again.

  • Reply Delanoe August 11, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    Love Love Love these. My first time eating these was in Ogden, Ut. Since than i have always wanted them and found a pupuseria here in Las Vegas Las Pupusas on Valley Spring. The bomb dot com.

  • Reply Cliff July 9, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    5 stars
    I lived in El Salvador for a few years and ate pupusas all the time …. simple street food! I saw maize flour in a shop in the uk today which reminded me and I decided to make some – hence checking out the recipe. As alternatives to the cheese filling you can use ‘frijoles refritos’ (refried beans) or spicy ground pork – at least as common as cheese in ES. I’m looking forward to eating them again!

  • Reply miranda June 15, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    I just love pupusas but with chicharron which is like pulled pork.

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