Pupusa Recipe: Simple Steps for a Tasty Treat

Pupusas, a delicious and traditional food from El Salvador, have captured the hearts and taste buds of many around the world. Originating from this Central American country where they proudly stand as the national dish, pupusas bring together a harmonious combination of flavors in a simple yet satisfying recipe.

Comprised of thick corn tortillas typically filled with a variety of ingredients such as cheese, beans, and seasoned meats, these flavorful treats can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates a good meal. With a rich history, diverse ingredient options, and a straightforward cooking process, it’s no wonder the popularity of pupusas continues to grow. Dive into the mouthwatering world of pupusas and learn how to create your own authentic recipe at home.

Key Takeaways

  • Pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish, offer a flavorful combination of ingredients.
  • The ideal pupusa recipe involves a manageable process with diverse ingredient options.
  • Enjoy your homemade pupusas with various serving and pairing suggestions for a true taste of El Salvador.

History and Significance

Pupusas, a delicious and iconic dish from El Salvador, have a fascinating history. As you savor your pupusa, you’re actually enjoying a culinary tradition that dates back centuries! It’s believed that the Pipil people, indigenous to this Central American region, first created pupusas around 2000 years ago.

As you may know, pupusas have become El Salvador’s national dish, holding significant cultural value throughout the country. In fact, Salvadorans celebrate National Pupusa Day every November, a testament to their important role in Salvadoran cuisine and identity.

You might be curious about how pupusas received their unique name. Derived from the Pipil word “pupusawa”, it roughly translates to “filled tortilla,” which accurately describes this much-loved treat. A primary ingredient for pupusas is maize dough, which is then traditionally filled with combinations of cheese, beans, meat, or veggies.

Pupusas served as a humble and practical meal for the Pipil people, who needed portable and easy-to-prepare sustenance while working the fields. Over time, this simple yet delicious recipe spread throughout Central America, eventually reaching other parts of the world. Today, pupusas can be enjoyed in various countries, but the authentic Salvadoran flavor remains a unique experience.

In support of the classic pupusa-making technique, UNESCO recognized this treasured culinary tradition in 2018, adding it to their List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. As you enjoy a pupusa, remember that you’re taking part in a rich and cherished culinary legacy.

Ingredients Needed

To prepare delicious pupusas, you will need the following ingredients. For the dough, gather:

  • 2 cups of masa harina (corn flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

Combine these ingredients in a mixing bowl until you achieve a soft, slightly sticky dough. If needed, add more water in small increments.

For the filling, you can choose from several options such as cheese, refried beans, cooked and seasoned meat (chicken, pork, or chorizo). You can also mix and match these ingredients to create a rich and satisfying filling. For a simple cheese filling, you’ll need:

Feel free to get creative and add other ingredients to suit your taste. If you prefer a refried bean filling, you will need:

  • 1 cup of refried beans, seasoned to your liking

For a delicious curtido (Salvadoran cabbage slaw), gather:

  • 2 cups of thinly sliced cabbage
  • 1 cup of grated carrots
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of oregano

Mix these ingredients together in a bowl and let it sit for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld.

Lastly, prepare a tasty salsa roja by combining:

  • 1 cup of tomato salsa (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Optional: additional spices or hot sauce for added heat

Now that you have gathered all your ingredients, you are ready to create mouthwatering pupusas that will keep your taste buds craving for more!

Equipment Required

When making pupusas, having the right equipment on hand can make the process smoother and more enjoyable. In this section, we’ll go over the essential tools you’ll need to prepare this tasty dish.

Skillet or Griddle: A non-stick skillet or griddle is a must-have for cooking pupusas. Make sure that the surface is large enough to fit at least a couple of pupusas at a time. This will allow you to cook them evenly and efficiently.

Blender or Food Processor: To create the perfect dough, you’ll need a blender or food processor. These appliances make it easy to combine masa harina (corn flour) with water and seasonings. You can achieve a smooth and homogenous texture by using either of these devices.

Stand Mixer (Optional): If you have a stand mixer, consider using it to knead the dough. This can save time and energy. However, if a stand mixer isn’t available, mixing and kneading the dough by hand works just as well.

Besides these essential items, you should also gather the following kitchen tools:

  • Large mixing bowl for mixing the dough ingredients
  • Measuring cups and spoons to help with accurate ingredient proportions
  • Spatula or tongs to easily flip the pupusas while they cook

Before you start making pupusas, ensure that you have all the necessary equipment ready and within reach. This will not only save time but also help keep your workspace organized. Happy cooking!

The Process of Making Pupusas

To begin making your homemade pupusas, start by preparing the dough. Mix the masa harina (corn flour) with warm water and a pinch of salt. Knead the dough until it has a smooth consistency, then let it rest for a few minutes. While waiting, you can prepare the filling. You can choose from various options, including cheese, beans, and vegetables, or a combination of your favorites.

Next, you’ll want to preheat a griddle or pan over medium-high heat. While the pan heats up, divide the dough into equal portions and form them into balls. Create an indentation in the center of each ball, using your thumb, and add a generous portion of your preferred filling. Seal the dough by pinching the edges together and gently flatten the stuffed dough balls.

Now, it’s time to cook your pupusas. To ensure they’re evenly browned, place each pupusa on the hot griddle or pan and cook them for about 4-5 minutes on each side. You’ll know they’re ready when they have a slightly crispy exterior with beautiful browned spots.

Once your pupusas are cooked to perfection, it’s time to enjoy them! You can eat them on their own, or serve them with a traditional side of curtido (a spicy cabbage slaw) and salsa roja for an extra kick of flavor. Pupusas are best enjoyed warm, so feel free to dig in as soon as they come off the griddle, and enjoy your delicious homemade creation.

Serving and Pairing Suggestions

Pupusas, the delicious stuffed corn cakes, are best enjoyed when eaten warm. To prepare your pupusas for a fantastic culinary experience, heat them in an oven or lightly pan-fry them with a touch of oil before serving. They are highly versatile, making them an excellent choice for a main dish, appetizer, or side dish.

When serving pupusas, one of the most popular traditional accompaniments is curtido. Curtido is a tangy cabbage slaw flavored with vinegar, onions, and sometimes carrots. It adds beautiful texture and brightness to the dish.

Another great pairing for pupusas is salsa roja, a mild tomato-based sauce. This salsa can be spooned onto the corn cakes, adding a splash of vibrant color and enhancing their flavor. To prepare salsa roja, simply blend tomatoes, onions, garlic, and mild peppers, then season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cumin.

For those who like their food with a little heat, consider adding a side of spicy pickled jalapeños. These bold pickled peppers can be found in many grocery stores or can be made at home with fresh jalapeños and a vinegar solution.

Don’t hesitate to explore more serving options. You can create your own favorite combinations by adding various cheeses, fresh vegetables, or even sweet fruit jams. Let your tastebuds guide you!

Remember, these stuffed corn cakes are irresistible and can easily be the star of any meal. Enjoy your perfectly paired pupusas and delight in this good food that brings people together – enjoy!

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Storing your pupusas properly is essential to maintain their taste and quality. To store your freshly made pupusas, place them in an airtight container once they have cooled down to room temperature. This will help prevent them from drying out or absorbing any unwanted flavors.

While you can store your pupusas in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, it is recommended to store them in the freezer if you plan to keep them for a longer period of time. To freeze your pupusas, wrap each one individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place them in a freezer-safe bag. Be sure to label the bag with the date for easy reference.

When you’re ready to enjoy your delicious pupusas again, follow these simple reheating instructions:

  1. Thaw your pupusas in the refrigerator overnight, or if you’re short on time, you can use the defrost function on your microwave.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and place the thawed pupusas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Heat the pupusas in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until they are heated through and slightly crispy on the outside.

Alternatively, you can reheat your pupusas on the stovetop. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat, and lightly brush it with oil. Place your thawed pupusas on the skillet and cook them for 2-3 minutes per side, or until they are heated through and golden brown.

Variations of Pupusa Recipes

When making pupusas, you can explore different variations to suit your taste buds. The authentic Salvadoran pupusa is made from masa dough, which is typically made with masa flour. To start, you can experiment with the type of masa flour used, such as switching to rice flour for a unique twist. Rice flour results in a lighter, slightly less dense pupusa, but still delivers that delicious taste you’re looking for.

Moving onto the filling, you have various options to choose from. Some popular ones are:

  • Cheese and loroco: A classic Salvadoran blend of soft cheese and loroco (an edible flower bud)
  • Chicharrón and cheese: A scrumptious combination of finely ground pork and cheese
  • Refried beans and cheese: A vegetarian-friendly mix of beans and cheese
  • Mixed pupusas: A crowd-pleasing combo of all three ingredients listed above

Don’t be afraid to be creative! Feel free to explore using different types of cheese, adding veggies, or even experimenting with seafood fillings like shrimp or crab.

As for the sides, typically, pupusas are served with a tangy cabbage slaw, also known as “curtido,” and a tomato-based salsa. If you want to switch it up, try making a cabbage relish instead of the traditional slaw. You can also add garlic and other spices to the slaw or relish for an extra layer of flavor.

To summarize, there are countless ways to customize your pupusa recipe, from tweaking the masa dough and fillings to playing around with the sides. Remember to have fun and enjoy the process as you create a pupusa tailored to your preferences.

Salvadoran Pupusas

You'll love this!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Salvadorian
Servings 4
Calories 168 kcal


  • 2 cups masa harina corn flour
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup refried beans optional
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese optional
  • 1/2 cup cooked and seasoned ground pork optional
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions optional


  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the masa harina, salt, and warm water. Mix until a smooth dough forms.
  • Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes.
  • While the dough is resting, prepare the filling by mixing the refried beans, cheese, ground pork, tomato sauce, and onions in a separate bowl.
  • Once the dough has rested, divide it into 8-10 equal-sized balls.
  • Flatten each ball into a disc about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each disc.
  • Fold the edges of the disc over the filling and pinch the edges together to seal.
  • Flatten each pupusa to about 1/2 inch thickness.
  • Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.
  • Cook each pupusa for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crispy.
  • Serve hot with curtido (a pickled cabbage slaw) and salsa.


Calories: 168kcal
Keyword Papusas
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to make cheese pupusas?

To make cheese pupusas, first prepare the dough by mixing masa harina with water and salt, and let it rest for a few minutes. Then, form balls of dough and flatten them into circles. Add your choice of cheese (like shredded mozzarella or quesillo) to the center of each circle. Fold the edges around the filling, seal, and flatten the pupusa to your desired thickness. Cook both sides on a lightly oiled griddle or pan until they are golden brown. Enjoy with your favorite salsa or side dish!

What is the easiest way to prepare pupusas?

The easiest way to prepare pupusas is by using pre-made masa harina dough and your choice of filling. Form the dough and filling into balls, flatten, and cook on a lightly oiled griddle or pan. Keep the process simple and repetitive, and soon you will be able to make pupusas quickly and efficiently.

What ingredients are needed for pupusa dough?

For pupusa dough, you will need masa harina or corn flour, water, and salt. Many recipes will also call for a bit of oil for cooking the pupusas on a griddle or pan, but generally, the three main ingredients of masa harina, water, and salt are needed.

How to make bean and cheese pupusas?

To make bean and cheese pupusas, begin by preparing the dough using the same method as you would for cheese pupusas. For the filling, mix your choice of cooked beans (usually refried beans) with cheese (mozzarella or quesillo works well). Fill the dough circles with the bean and cheese mixture, fold, seal, and flatten. Cook on a lightly oiled griddle or pan until both sides are golden brown.

What to serve with pupusas?

Pupusas are typically served with a side of curtido, a Salvadoran pickled cabbage slaw. Other options for serving with pupusas include Salvadoran tomato salsa or a simple mix of tomatoes, onions, and peppers. You can also enjoy your pupusas with other traditional Salvadoran dishes like platanos fritos (fried plantains), yuca frita (fried yuca), and Salvadoran sour cream.

How to make chicken pupusas?

To make chicken pupusas, prepare the dough using the same method as with other types of pupusas. For the filling, shred cooked chicken and mix it with your choice of cheese. You can also add some vegetables or additional seasoning based on your preference. Fill the dough circles with the chicken and cheese mixture, fold, seal, and flatten. Cook the pupusas on a lightly oiled griddle or pan until both sides are golden brown.

Follow Us
Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
Follow Us