You don’t need to travel to El Salvador to find pupusas. With this pupusa recipe, you can make homemade pupusas right in your own kitchen.

Pupusas from Zestuous

How I discovered authentic Pupusas

One day, I was craving tacos. Not Taco Bell tacos, but real heart and soul authentic tacos. As I drove the streets looking for a taco truck, I noticed a restaurant that said Salvadoran and Mexican food. I had never tried Salvadoran food, but I knew that this place probably had the decent taco I was craving.

As I walked into Esmeralda’s Café, there were three charming ladies behind the counter. One was working the register and helping the few guests who were glued to a soccer game on the TVs. The other appeared to be doing prep work, and the older woman, wearing a colorful dress, was cooking on the flattop right in the open.

On the chalkboard by the register, they had a daily special that had tacos, so I placed my order. As I waited, I read through the picturesque menu. I pulled out my phone and began to look up some of the unfamiliar menu items.

I observed the older woman flattening dough with her hands and was curious what she was making. They were too thick to be tortillas, but she was putting a lot of love into them. I immediately began looking for them on the menu. Could it be the pupusa?

I typed that into my phone and discovered that these corn meal pockets of dough were filled with ingredients like cheese, pork and/or beans. I’m a huge lover of grilled cheese, and I can live off of cheese quesadillas, especially ones made with corn tortillas. Could this El Salvadoran discovery be my new grilled cheese?

Although my order was almost ready and I had been craving tacos all day, I had to try a pupusa. I added one to my order.

My first reaction

I unwrapped the foil and the beautiful aroma of roasted cornmeal brought a smile to my face. As I tore off a piece, the cheese strung for miles. Finally, the first bite…oh my heavens! Where have you been all my life?

The salty, gooey cheese and the pillowy, earthy corn meal dough were love at first bite.

The next day after work, I drove straight to Esmeralda’s. The same ladies were there and they recognized me right away. I asked them about this magical pocket of cheese, and she graciously explained to me how they were made.

I ordered three more pupusas that day – cheese, beans and chicharrón.

They also serve pupusas with fermented cabbage slaw called curtido. It was similar in taste to Korean kimchi.


How are pupusas made?

Pupusas are made using masa harina, which is the same type of corn flour used to make corn tortillas and tamales. You form the pupusa dough is into a ball. Then, press a dent in the center, and add a savory filling of your choice. 

Then, you flatten the dough around the filling and cook it on a flattop or griddle and serve it with a side of curtido.

After my experience at Esmeralda’s I wanted to recreate this dish at home, so I developed the below recipe that includes chicharrón, a pork filling to go inside of the pupusas.

As with all of my recipes, I added my own Zestuous twist, so it’s not a traditional pupusa recipe.

I hope you give this recipe a try, or look in the phone book and see if you have an El Salvadoran restaurant nearby. You don’t have to go far to travel the world.

5 from 2 votes

Pupusas (El Salvadoran Grilled Cheese)

This easy pupas recipe only requires a few simple ingredients and tastes super authentic.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 12 pupusas

Ingredients 

Queso Filling

  • 1 cup pepper jack, monterey jack or Oaxaca cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup cotija cheese

Chicharrón (shredded pork) Filling

  • 1 lb pork butt, cubed
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 1 tbsp canned green chiles
  • 1 cup pepper jack, monterey jack or Oaxaca cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup cotija cheese

Pupusa Dough

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions 

  • Make either the pork filling, queso filling or both for your pupusas.

Queso Filling

  • Combine the cheeses in a medium bowl and use as a filling for pupusas.

Pork Filling

  • Cook Pork: Place the pork, water, garlic and salt in a large pot. Cook over medium heat on the stove for 30 minutes.
  • Brown Pork: After 30 minutes, turn the heat to medium-high. Allow the liquid to boil off, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat back to medium and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes to brown the fat.
  • Chop: Place the cooked meat in a food processor. Pulse 8-10 times to chop the meat. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Make Salsa: Place the tomatoes and onions in the food processor. Pulse. Pour into the large bowl.
  • Finish Pork Filling: Add the green chiles and cheeses to the bowl and mix with your hands

Pupusa Dough

  • Mix: In a large bowl, mix the masa, salt and 1 1/2 cups water together with your hands to make a dough.
  • Dump: Dump the dough onto the counter. If you press it and it cracks, you need to knead in more water. You’ll know you have enough water when you press it and it looks smooth.

Filling and Cooking Pupusas

  • Roll: Break off a handful of dough and roll it into a ball.
  • Flatten: Slightly flatten the ball and make an indention in the dough.
  • Fill: Add about a tablespoon of filling.
  • Fold: Fold the dough like a taco and press together. Fold in the opposite ends and press together. (see pictures below)
  • Flatten: Set the dough on the counter and press the dough together to cover the filling. Carefully flatten it out into a 1/4-inch thick disc. Don’t press too hard or the filling will poke through the dough. Continue with the remaining dough.
  • Cook: Heat a skillet or griddle over medium to medium-high heat. Place pupusas on the skillet in a single layer. Cook for 5 minutes, until brown.
  • Flip: Flip. Continue cooking 5 more minutes.
  • Remove: Remove from skillet and cook remaining pupusas.
  • Serve: Serve with a side of curtido (recipe below)

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 175kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 12gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 454mgPotassium: 222mgFiber: 1gSugar: 0.4gVitamin A: 197IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 138mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: El Salvordan
Did you try this recipe?Be sure to rate it, leave a comment and save it so you can make it again. Show off your awesome results on social by tagging @zestuous
5 from 1 vote

Curtido (slaw)

This is an optional side item often served with pupusas. This is not quite a traditional recipe. I added sriracha for heat. I like to grab a pinch of curtido with my fingers and eat it on top of my pupusa.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 16 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bag bag shredded cabbage, 8 oz
  • 2 tbls lime juice, juice of one lime
  • 1 tbls sriracha
  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1/4 cup grated onion

Instructions 

  • Microwave: Place the water in a microwave-safe pitcher and microwave for 3 minutes. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and pour the water on top. Let it rest for 3 minutes.
  • Drain: Drain the water from the cabbage using a colander.
  • Mix: In the bowl, whisk together the lime juice, sriracha, olive oil, sugar, salt and water.
  • Mix: Place the cabbage back in the bowl and mix in the carrots and onion.
  • Pour: Pour the mixture into a Ziploc bag. Press out the air and seal so the cabbage ferments in the liquid. The longer it sits, the better the flavors will be.
  • Serve: Serve alongside the pupusas.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 76kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 2gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 418mgPotassium: 271mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 2792IUVitamin C: 48mgCalcium: 60mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: El Salvordan
Did you try this recipe?Be sure to rate it, leave a comment and save it so you can make it again. Show off your awesome results on social by tagging @zestuous
Pupusas from Zestuous

Ingredients for pupusas

  • Masa harina: Found in the baking aisle or online. Masa harina is a corn flour used to make pupusas, tortillas and other types of corn dough.
  • Water: Acts as the binding agent for the corn flour as well as softens the cabbage for curtido.
  • Salt
  • Cotija cheese: Found in the deli section near the Mexican cheeses.
  • Shredded cheese: You want a melty white cheese, like shredded pepper jack, monterey ack or Oaxaca. 
  • Pork butt: Pork butt is cut from the shoulder of a pig and is commonly used in pulled pork recipes. 
  • Fresh garlic
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • White Onion
  • Canned green chiles: Found in the Hispanic foods section. Adds a little kick to the filling. 
  • Shredded cabbage: This is the base for the curtido.
  • Lime juice (juice of one lime)
  • Sriracha: Found in the ethnic food section. Adds a slight kick to the curtido. 
  • Olive oil
  • Sugar: Used in the curtido to sweeten it slightly. 
  • Carrot: Used in the curtido.

See the full recipe card for servings and a full list of ingredients.

How to make pupusa dough

  1. Mix: In a large bowl, mix the masa flour, salt and 1 1/2 cups warm water together with your hands to make a dough.
  2. Dump: Dump the masa dough ball onto the counter. If you press it and it cracks, you need to knead in more water. You’ll know you have enough water when you press it and it looks smooth.
  1. Roll: Break off a handful of dough and roll it into a small ball.
  2. Flatten: Slightly flatten the ball and make an indention in the dough.
  3. Fill: Add about a tablespoon of the delicious filling.
  4. Fold: Fold the dough like a taco and press together.
  5. Fold: Fold in the opposite ends and press together.
  6. Press: Set the dough on the counter and press the dough together to cover the filling.
  7. Flatten: Carefully flatten it out into a 1/4-inch thick disc. Don’t press too hard or the filling will poke through the dough. Continue with the remaining dough.
  1. Cook: Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium to medium-high heat. Place pupusas on the skillet or hot griddle in a single layer. Cook for 5 minutes, until golden brown.
  2. Flip: Flip. Continue cooking for 5 more minutes.
  3. Remove: Remove from skillet and cook remaining pupusas.

​Pork Filling

  1. Cook: Add the pork, water, garlic and salt into a large pot. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat: After 30 minutes, turn the heat to medium-high for 10 minutes to allow the liquid to boil off.
  3. Brown: Reduce the heat back to medium and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes to brown the fat.
  4. Pulse: Place the meat in a food processor. Pulse 8-10 times to chop the meat. Transfer to a large bowl.
  1. Chop: In a food processor, chop the tomatoes and onion.
  2. Stir: Place the salsa in the bowl with the meat. Add the green chiles and cheeses. Mix with your hands.
  3. Fill: Use the prepared chicharrón as filling for pupusas.

Cheese Filling

  1. Combine: Combine the cheese in a medium bowl and use it as a filling for pupusas.

Curtido

  1. Microwave: Place the water in a microwave-safe pitcher and microwave for 3 minutes. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and pour the water on top. Let it rest for 3 minutes.
  2. Drain: Drain the water from the cabbage using a colander.
  3. Mix: In the bowl, whisk together the lime juice, sriracha, olive oil, sugar, salt and water.
  4. Mix: Place the cabbage back in the bowl and mix in the carrots and onion.
  5. Pour: Pour the mixture into a Ziploc bag. Press out the air and seal so the cabbage ferments in the liquid. The longer it sits, the better the flavors will be.
  6. Serve: Serve alongside the pupusas.
pupusas on a plate with a side of curtido

How to serve Salvadoran pupusas

For the tastiest results, serve up your pupusas hot from the griddle with a side of curtido. 

Storage

Store leftover pupusas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can freeze them for up to 3 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you reheat pupusas?

Turn a skillet to medium heat. Once your skillet it warm, add the pupusas until reheated. If using frozen pupusas, let them come to room temperature first. 

Can I use regular corn flour instead of masa harina?

No. I don’t recommend using corn flour for this recipe. Masa harina is a corn flour that has been treated with lime. This unique process gives masa harina it’s rich, earthy flavor and the consistency needed for pupusa dough.

What’s the difference between pupusas and Gorditas or arepas?

They each originate from a different part of Central and North America. Plus, their dough is a little bit different.

With gorditas, the dough is made with masa harina, wheat flour and lard. The dough is cooked first and then filled. Pupusas are closed and cooked with the filling inside. Arepa dough is made from pre-cooked cornmeal called masarepa.

More main dish recipes

Latest Recipes


You May Also Like


Christie Vanover

About Zestuous

Hi. I’m Christie, the head cook and award-winning competitive pitmaster for Team Girls Can Grill. I have won multiple grand championships and have dozens of top ten category finishes. People know me as the girl who is forever hovering over a grill, smoker or campfire with tongs in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.


5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




36 Comments

    1. So sorry about that. My website is undergoing some updates. The full recipe has been reloaded now.