Our family loves these simple and delicious homemade Pupusas, filled with beans and cheese and served with traditional toppings like curtido and salsa roja.
I’m not from El Salvador, so I can’t call these authentic, but I love trying to recreate some of our family’s favorite international dishes, and I love the way these turned out! I wanted to share my recipe that I make my family in my home kitchen, with ingredients I can easily find at my local grocery store. I love teaching my kids about other cultures and foods.
Why I love this recipe:
- Cook Together – This is such a fun meal to invite the whole family in the kitchen to help, or even turn it into a party! The recipe makes a bunch and they are fun to assemble.
- Fresh – You can’t get a fresher taste than making homemade dough and serving with Curtido and salsa roja made from scratch.
- Unique – Not everyone can travel internationally, but cooking food from different cultures is a fun way to teach and introduce kids. These pupusas are definitely a favorite of ours!
What are Pupusas?
Pupusas are a traditional dish from El Salvador and are similar to a corn pancake with bean and cheese or meat filling. They are similar to a flatbread or pancake that is made with corn flour (masa) and can be filled with a variety of different savory fillings, like cheese, beans, beef, pork or veggies. They’re often with curtido and salsa roja (a Salvadorian red sauce).
You may have heard of Venezuelan “arepas” or Mexican “gorditas.” Pupusas are like a cousin to these popular Latin American recipes as all of them are made with corn masa and stuffed with a variety of fillings. My family loves the delicious simplicity of bean and cheese pupusas.
How to make Pupusas:
Make Dough: Add masa harina (corn flour) and salt to a large mixing bowl then add the warm water, little by little, while mixing the dough with your hand until you get the consistency of a soft play dough. Add butter and chicken bouillon if you’d like, for extra flavor.
Shape into Balls: Scoop the dough into large golf ball size portions. If the masa is sticking to your hands while forming the pupusas, mix a little bit of water and oil together in a bowl and dip your hands in it as needed, while you work.
Add the Filling: Using the palms of your hands, pat the dough into a disc, about 4 inches in diameter. Scoop a tablespoon of beans and place in the center of the masa disc then sprinkle on some cheese.
Form Pupusa: Gently bring the edges of the dough up and around the filling. Pinch it closed into a ball, then gently pat/slap the dough back and forth between your palms to form it back into a disc.
Storage and Freezing Instructions:
To Store: Cooked pupusas are best served warm, right off the griddle. Leftover masa dough can be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for 1-2 days. If the dough dries out, add a little more warm water to it before using.
Leftover cooked pupusas should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat them on a hot griddle for a minute on each side.
To Freeze: Make the pupusas, but don’t cook them. Place them flat on a baking sheet then freeze them for 30 minutes. Transfer to a tightly sealed freezer bag and place them back in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, allow them to thaw completely and follow the steps for cooking and serving.
- Filling: Feel free to try different filling combinations. It is popular to include beans, meat, and cheese.
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For the Pupusas:
For the filling:
- 1 can refried beans , or homemade
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese , or Oaxaca cheese
- Make Dough: Add masa harina (corn flour) and salt to a large mixing bowl. Add the warm water, little by little, mixing the dough with your hand. You may not need all of the water. You want the masa to be the consistency of a soft play dough. If the dough is too wet, mix in some more masa harina. If it’s too dry, add a little more water. Mix in butter and chicken bouillon, if using.
- Scoop into balls: Scoop the dough into large, golf-ball-size portions. You can scoop all of the dough into balls before continuing, or make 1 pupusa at a time. Be sure to keep the dough covered with a damp cloth as you work, to keep it from drying out.
- Flatten and add filling: Use the palms of your hands to pat the dough into a disc, about 4 inches in diameter. Scoop about half a tablespoon of the beans and place it in the center of the dough circle, followed by a pinch of shredded cheese.
- Shape into disc: Gently bring the edges of the dough up and around the filling, pinching it closed into a ball. Gently pat the dough between your palms to form it into a disc again. Be gentle so you don’t have big cracks of filling come through, but if you do have some, its fine! They don’t need to be perfect.
- Cook: Heat a large un-greased skillet or pan over medium heat. Place pupusas on the hot pan and cook for about 2-4 minutes on each side. You will know the pupusas are ready to flip when the edges are set and the bottom is lightly golden.
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I originally shared this recipe May 2019. Updated August 2022.
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