How To Make Pupusas

Dinner, How-To

Pupusas are El Salvadorian stuffed corn cakes served with curtido and salsa roja. This how to make pupusas recipe, has them filled with melty cheese, pickled jalapeño and roasted squash, but the sky is the limit!

How To Make Pupusas

 

 

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.

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.

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!

How To Make Pupusas

Pupusas 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.

How To Make Pupusas

How 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 for Pupusas

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.

 

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.

 

How to Assemble Pupusas!

  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.

 

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.

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 🙂

How To Make Pupusas

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.

How To Make Pupusas

Pupusa Recipe

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5 from 7 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.
CourseAppetizer, Dinner, Side Dish
CuisineCentral America, El Salvador, El Salvadorian
Keywordagua, el salvador, el salvadorian, how to cook pupusas, pupusa recipe, pupusas, pupusas salvadoreñas, receta latino, receta pupusas
Nutrition Facts
Pupusa Recipe
Amount Per Serving (14 g)
Calories 125 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat 3g5%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Polyunsaturated Fat 5g
Sodium 500mg22%
Potassium 12mg0%
Carbohydrates 10g3%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 2g4%
Calcium 1mg0%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Did you make this recipe?Tag @acozykitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #acozykitchen

How To Make Pupusas

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

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68 Comments

Leave a Reply

  • Reply Jade March 20, 2013 at 1:02 am

    5 stars
    Oooooh. I had never even heard of these before this post. What a wonderful idea. Looks and sounds absolutely delicious .

  • Reply Grace March 20, 2013 at 3:45 am

    I have never heard of pupusas before! We just recently (like this month) discovered arepas, but the restaurant that makes them is an hour and a half away. I’m definitely going to try these at home!!

  • Reply Abby March 20, 2013 at 3:48 am

    5 stars
    As a pupusa lover that now lives in Israel where no one has ever heard of a pupusa, I am ecstatic that you posted this recipe! It seems far simpler than I thought it would be, though the Salvadoran grandmother probably has a few tricks up her sleeve. Anyway, I can’t wait to try this!!!
    Do you have any idea if there is a decent replacement for queso fresco given that I doubt the Middle Easterners have a clue what that is either?

    • Reply Adrianna March 20, 2013 at 9:43 am

      Yes! I would just go all mozzarella. It won’t be that big of a difference. They’ll still taste awesome.

      • Reply Abby March 22, 2013 at 12:59 am

        Thanks! Will let you know how it goes 🙂

    • Reply Izzy March 28, 2014 at 9:35 am

      Queso fresco is same as feta cheese it has same texture and saltiness

      • Reply Adrianna Adarme March 29, 2014 at 4:07 pm

        It’s actually not exactly the same. But you’re welcome to use it as a substitute.

  • Reply Abby @The Frosted Vegan March 20, 2013 at 3:57 am

    I hadn’t heard of them either, but I’m in!

  • Reply Marie @ Little Kitchie March 20, 2013 at 3:59 am

    I am dying over that gorgeous pink color! Definitely going to put this on my project list – they look incredible!

  • Reply cindy March 20, 2013 at 4:46 am

    most of my coworkers at the bakery I used to work at were central/south american and our holiday parties were the business! Barbacoa, tamales, AND pupusas (among other goodness)! I think pupusas were my fave…I mean, I can’t turn away melty cheese, ever!

  • Reply Ashley March 20, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Thank you!!! Finally a wonderful recipe for Pupusas! I’ve had them at a mexican restaurant here in Dallas and they are fabulous! I’ve been wanting to figure out how to make them. Thanks so much! I can’t wait to try these. Yum!

  • Reply Marie @ Little Kitchie March 20, 2013 at 5:38 am

    P.S. LOVE your nail polish – what color?!

    • Reply Adrianna March 20, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Navigate Her by Essie!

  • Reply Tieghan March 20, 2013 at 6:16 am

    I hade no idea what pupusas was, but I know want to make it! Those llok and sound delicious!

  • Reply Laura March 20, 2013 at 8:12 am

    I loooooove pupusas. So so good!

  • Reply Kelly March 20, 2013 at 8:18 am

    These might be the prettiest pupusas I’ve ever seen! I would totally make these for a girls night!

  • Reply heidi March 20, 2013 at 9:13 am

    what a great idea! i hadn’t heard of these either but i’m excited to try them, thanks to your great tutorial! 🙂

  • Reply Katie @ Blonde Ambition March 20, 2013 at 9:18 am

    These look and sound delicious. But really, who could say no to anything that has cheese IN the dough and is STUFFED with cheese? I certainly couldn’t 🙂

  • Reply Karla @ Foodologie March 20, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I love pupusas! Won’t lie though, the red sauce you pour on top is usually my favorite part 😀

    • Reply Adrianna March 20, 2013 at 9:44 am

      I love that sauce! I thought of making that sauce too but the tomatoes at the market looked SO sad. Maybe in the summer I’ll do it!

  • Reply Aimee St.Germain (Cooking the Strip) March 20, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Ooo, these look great. I always enjoy seeing new recipes from different countries! Thanks for sharing – I’ll be sure to try these soon. 🙂

  • Reply Megan @ girl by the lake March 20, 2013 at 9:50 am

    OOOH! I have to say, I had some of these at a restaurant not too long ago, and all I could think about was: could I make these at home? Now I know that I can! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Sue/the view from great island March 20, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I am also Savadorian Grandmother-less, so I’m going to follow your lead! I love masa harina, and the texture of these thick papusas is killing me, I can’t even look at the photos without getting itchy to make them right now.

  • Reply Gini March 20, 2013 at 10:07 am

    YAY! My husband and I had pupusas in Belize and have waxed poetic ever since. These seem WAY easier than I thought they’d be. I think we’ll give em a whirl this weekend! Thanks for clearing the way!

  • Reply sandra March 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

    this looks so much like spring. i love the colors. and I love the simplicity. I may try this out with some fake cheeze I have waiting to be used.

  • Reply [email protected] Is Dishing Up March 20, 2013 at 10:13 am

    OMgeeeeeeeee, these were one of my favorite treats when I lived in Oakland. I have never found quite the right recipe to make them on my own. I’m so excited to try yours!

  • Reply Eileen March 20, 2013 at 10:39 am

    I’ve been meaning to try making pupusas for so long! But there’s a Salvadorean restaurant with excellent pupusas just around the corner…so we end up going there. Still! This looks amazing, and I must try it. I do make curtido at home, but ours looks pretty different–mostly because I use green cabbage, but we like using pureed serrano peppers too 🙂

  • Reply Suzanne Perazzini March 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    This is a great gluten-free dish and I will be trying it with rice flour. Hopefully that works just as well.

  • Reply Kristi March 20, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Oh yum!! My grandmother makes the best pupusas, and the key for her was to use a little bit of lard. I also love when she makes salpicon.

    • Reply Adrianna March 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      Oooo. That sounds awesome.

  • Reply Jayne March 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    This is another dish that I’ve never heard of before. But that makes me excited because now I’ve learnt yet another new thing from foodblogs. Who said spending hours on the internet is a bad thing ;-). And loving that ooey gooey cheese in the centre. So awesome.

  • Reply Christina @ The Beautiful Balance March 20, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    This look amazing and so simple to make! Love the cabbage mixture on top, it has to make this such a dynamite combo.

  • Reply Kiran @ KiranTarun.com March 20, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    The pickled cabbage definitely adds a vibrancy to the dish!!

  • Reply Eu March 20, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Hi!

    I’m from El Salvador and I nearly had an excitement induced heart attack when I read that you had done a post about pupusas! SO great and SO glad you liked them! Like another commenter said, they use lard here on the skillet to make them extra crispy and yummy! I’m curious about your wrist action when flattening them, it’s a staple around here. I’ve actually tried several times to make them myself, but they came out shapeless. It’s all in the wrist…

  • Reply Megan March 21, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Oh man. These look SO good! And this is, by far, the prettiest dinner ever!

  • Reply Sophie March 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

    My mother laughed at me recently when I mentioned that a local Salvadoran restaurant serves really good pupusas. “Native American infants?!” I knew I wasn’t mistaken on the name!

    I’m so excited to read about the process of making these, they look super doable! I recently learned how to make a good homemade hot sauce, so I think a night of pupusas, pickles and hot-sauce is in order FOR SURE! Yummmm girl. You’re a genius.

  • Reply June March 21, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Thanks for posting this recipe. I have never heard of this dish and will certainly try it

  • Reply Dana March 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Pupusas are so good! These remind me of my trip to El Salvador, though we never ate them with the slaw. I should make some of these!

  • Reply Friday Link Love « Catering Directory March 22, 2013 at 6:20 am

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  • Reply Bernadette @ Now Stir It Up March 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

    I have never had Pupusas or even heard of them. I can’t believe it, because they sound AMAZING. I like making tamales and the masa is a feel/touch/eyeballed thing too. I get how annoying that can be when someone tries to explain it, but your step by step is fab.

    BTW… Love the nail polish.

  • Reply jeri March 22, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I love arepas and papusas, but all the recipes I found said to use boiling water. I tried that exactly once. As much as we all loved them, I wasn’t about to go through that pain again. Clearly, yours turned out great using warm water, so I can’t wait to give it another try. And if anyone can’t find Maseca, your store may carry something called PAN.

    • Reply Adrianna March 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      If you follow these ratios and use PAN, you’ll end up with Arepas and not Pupusas. They’re definitely different in texture, though I love LOVE arepas.

  • Reply weekend sites and sounds - Treasure Tromp March 23, 2013 at 12:02 pm

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  • Reply Corrine Engelgau March 24, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Hey there! This recipe sounds absolutely delicious. I’ve been reading a lot about soaking grains lately and just wanted to let you know that if you soak the corn flour in lime water before you use it, it will release the B3 vitamins stored in corn as well as the niacin. It’s much easier to digest and to use the nutrients in soaked corn flour. Check out this website: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/video-making-limewater-for-soaking-corn/ Always be cooking!

    • Reply John Hatchell February 4, 2014 at 12:50 am

      The type of corn flour used in Latin American cuisine (masa harina) is already treated with lime. If you use ordinary corn flour the recipe wont work right anyway, never mind the nutrition.

  • Reply Iris Dongo March 24, 2013 at 7:25 am

    I have been searching for a recipe like this, I can’t wait to try it!

  • Reply Migdalia March 27, 2013 at 11:00 am

    The first paragraphs of the post cracked me up! My dad’s friends are from El Salvador and made this dish for us once and I was in love! Great post, I can’t wait to try!

    xoxo,
    Dalia

  • Reply Sophie March 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Made these last night. Ohhh so good! My husband is obsessed. So am I. Your instructions were perfect, I didnt change a thing. The dough was really easy to work with! I’ve never tried such a dough before and it was rewarding. We are several each, then for dessert, we drizzled honey on a couple. OH MAN nommm. Thanks so much 🙂

    • Reply Adrianna March 27, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      AWESOME. This made my day.

  • Reply Green stuff, fun stuff, weird stuff | poco-cocoa April 4, 2013 at 10:07 am

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  • Reply Morajah April 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this, I am new in your cozy kitchen 🙂 and I am loving so many of the recipes you’ve posted. I will try this I am cooking them today! The curtido looks too delish.

  • Reply Hanan May 10, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Oh my gosh I’m in love with puposa ,I’m going to make it ,now I know how .

  • Reply Maggie July 13, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Hi, my husband is from El Salvador heritage and i want to make these myself. I have eaten them many times but want to try to do it myself. I can’t find the Maseca in the supermarkets here (Australia) i have brought Corn Flour will that work instead!!!
    Please Help 🙂

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme July 13, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Corn flour is finer than masa so I’d recommend starting with about half as less water and then going from there until a dough forms. They’ll be closer to an arepa than a pupusa but they’ll still taste great. 😉

      • Reply Maggie July 17, 2013 at 6:12 am

        Thanks Adrianna i will try that, Fingers crossed 🙂

  • Reply J.M. September 1, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    A few buddies and I are planning a Salvadorian potluck. My friend chose pupusas but I think I’ll show up with a few of my own, using this recipe! Thanks for sharing.. Also , nice touch with the red cabbage!

  • Reply jacky November 8, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    this is not a pupusa i know what a pupusa is. I am Salvadoran that is just something eles

  • Reply Jan November 15, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Hi Im from the Uk and not an El Salvadorian relative in sight but I tried my own take on pupusa using just plain white flour and a filling of cheese,shredded onion and jalapeno peppers.Delicious! I served them with home made tomato chutney.I decided to try out a sweet version.I used plain flour again and this time put in a mixture of banana,ricotta cheese and maple syrup.I fried these in butter.They are equally as delicious as the savoury pupusa.Cheap and very tasty

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme November 15, 2013 at 9:23 am

      Oh! Interesting. I’m guessing what you had was more like a flour pupusa. Those do exist! Love the sweet rendition–sounds delicious!

  • Reply Las Vegas Pupusas November 30, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Wow what a great tutorial great for my team thanks for the share

  • Reply Momo December 2, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    My actual El Salvadorian grandmother has unfortunately moved back home, leaving me pupusa-less for far too long, so I’ll have to try these out! My favorites are the ones loaded with little beans as well as cheese, but I definitely don’t trust myself to season correctly!

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

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

  • 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 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 El Savadorean Black Bean Pupusas – Hopscotch Mom April 7, 2018 at 4:44 am

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  • 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 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 🙂