I’ve driven across the country exactly eight times. Eight times! I love road trips, even though I sort of hate driving. But I think I just hate driving in LA, which if you’ve never driven here just know that it isn’t the most relaxing, hand-out-of-the-window-in-the-wind kind of driving. There’s traffic and people arguing over parking spots at Whole Foods.
There’s something about open-air-driving that I really love. I got a lot of that in New Mexico a few weeks ago. Before my trip, which was hosted by The New Mexico Tourism board, I had only driven through Albuquerque a few times. As a kid, I was obsessed with Roswell and aliens. (We’ll get back to that later.) Would you like to see some photos and hear about my trip? It was special; there’s a reason New Mexico is called the land of enchantment.
I arrived in Albuquerque, picked up a car and got some lunch at El Modelo. One thing you learn very quickly in New Mexico is that the history is rich and the food is at its best when it’s not fancy or expensive.
These Sopapillas with Honey hail from New Mexico. This version consists of perfectly fried puffed dough served with a drizzle of honey.
Last week I spent a few days in New Mexico (whole re-cap coming soon!) and one of the best things I ate during my trip were Sopapillas with Honey! Have you had a sopapilla before? There are different iterations; before last week, the only version I have had were South American and Tex-Mex versions, but the puffy ones you see pictured are vastly different.
The New Mexican-style sopapilla is almost like a cross between a South American sopapilla and a Native American fry bread. Think of them like that. They’re soft and fluffy and puffy. Traditionally you serve them with a drizzle of honey.
Sweet or Savory Sopapillas!
Sopapillas are served in both sweet and savory contexts.
The best version I had (and I had a lot and in savory contexts too!) was at El Paragua Restaurant in Espanola, New Mexico, which is about an hour south of Taos. It was a meal we ate while we were headed to Albuquerque and it was AMAZING. I got the combination plate. It was simple: one enchilada, one tamale, rice, beans and pazole. I’ve had a lot of enchiladas in my day but seriously it was the best enchilada I’ve ever had. Same with the tamale.
The sopapillas were to die for. When I got home, the first thing I did was research recipes.
How to Make Sopapillas Without Shortening!
Most recipes I found used shortening in the dough. I’m not big on using shortening but figured this might be the exception. I ended up buying non-gmo shortening and guess what? I didn’t like them! They weren’t right. They were crispy, not puffy and lacked flavor. Luckily I found this video, which uses no shortening (yay!). I played with his recipe, adding more salt and figuring out the technique that works best. (Them puffing up is all about the temperature of the oil and the thinness of the dough.)
The milk in this recipe (most recipes use water) result in a much softer sopapilla. The version I liked from El Paragua was suuuuper soft on the inside but the exterior was awesomely crispy. These are the same. I tried to mimic their version as closely as possible since they really were the best I had all week.
I can’t wait to share my re-cap with you because New Mexico is sooo beautiful and all the food I ate (and I ate A LOT!) was so good and full of history. But for now, Sopapillas with Honey!
How to Make Sopapillas with Honey
Whisk together the dry ingredients. We’re using all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
Make a well in the flour mixture.
Then pour in the honey and milk.
Stir until a dough forms.
Rest the dough for 20 minutes.
Choose your choice of fat. I used shortening but you could use peanut oil, neutral oil or lard. Heat it until it reaches about 300 degrees F.
Roll out the dough so that it’s 1/8-inch thick.
Cut the dough into squares.
Heat the oil further to 375 degrees F.
Drop the squares of dough into the hot oil.
Flip them after a minute.
Cook on the opposite side for another minute. And then transfer to the paper towels.
New Mexico is a beautiful place and these sopapillas paired with honey are straight from New Mexico.
Shortening, (or canola oil, peanut oil or lard, for frying)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Next, create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the honey and whole milk. Using a spoon or your hands, mix the dough together until it forms a sticky mass. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rest for about 20 minutes.
I know frying this is a bit of a bummer but I’ll say that with these it’s needed and worth it. Since I had shortening leftover from my first batch of dough, I used it to fry these sopapillas; canola oil or peanut oil or lard will also work. In a cast iron skillet (or medium pot), add enough fat so it reaches 3-inches up the sides of the skillet/pot. Heat up your oil to around 300 degrees. (Right before we fry them off, we’ll heat it up even further.)
Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. If the dough is at all sticky (it shouldn’t be after it rested) feel free to sprinkle it with a bit of flour so it doesn’t adhere to the surface. Dump the dough onto the counter and roll the dough into a thin (1/8-inch thick) square. (It doesn’t have to be a perfect square either, just do your best.) Cut the sopapillas into 4 x 3-inch rectangles. Again, the measurements don’t have to be exact, you can definitely eyeball this.
Before you fry them up, be sure to get your honey ready. Line a baking sheet or plate with a few layers of paper towels or clean kitchen towel. Heat the oil up again to 375 degrees F. Drop the sopapillas in the hot oil, frying two to three at a time, for about a minute, flipping them over at the halfway point. (If they don’t puff up, they’ll still be tasty! But it may mean the dough isn’t rolled thin enough.) They should be lightly golden brown—not too crispy. Transfer them to the bed of paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining sopapillas.
These taste best straight from the fryer to a plate to being consumed but if you want, you can keep the sopapillas warm in an 200 degree pre-heated oven while you fry up the rest. Serve them alongside some honey and apricot preserves.