What is a Pupusa?

You may have wondered what is a Pupusa pronounced: (poo-poo-saw)?

What is a Pupusa?

A pupusa is a traditional El Salvadorian dish. You could say a pupusa is to El Salvador as an arepa is to Colombia. Both pupusas and arepas are made with masa de maíz, which is essentially corn dough. Masa de maíz is common throughout Latin American cuisine and makes for some finger-licking dishes!

The process of preparing masa de maíz and nixtamal (a variation of masa de maiz) has been around since 1500 BC. Pupusa traditions date back to the 11th century to the time of the Pipil Tribes. Even through Spanish colonization, the Pipil people retained some of their culinary identity.

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Pupusas are usually served with coleslaw, spicy tomato sauce, or both. A plain pupusa is a blank slate. It can be filled with anything, really. Cheese, beans, chicharron (ground pork), chicken or ground meat are the most common. Coastal towns even offer seafood-stuffed pupusas. While tortillas and some types of arepas are flat, pupusas are cooked with the stuffing already inside. It’s like getting a sealed sandwich unlike any other.

Best Places to Try Pupusas

San Salvador

El Salvador’s capital city has no shortage of these savory dishes. Numerous restaurants and street vendors offer pupusas 7 days a week to hungry customers. Tipicos Margoth is a restaurant that began in 1962 as Pupuseria Margoth. Customers loved Mrs. Margoth’s pupusas so much that the eatery expanded into the successful restaurant it is today. Here you can order pupusas made with eggs, pork, cheese, hot peppers and beans.

Some will warn you against getting pupusas from street vendors, but I threw caution to the wind and did it anyway. They were a tad greasier than restaurant pupusas, but delicious nonetheless.

Olocuilta

This is a town southeast of San Salvador located along the RN-05 highway. It renowned for its rice pupusas. Olocuilta features a cluster of pupusa vendors along the main road. The area is called Pupusodromo de Olocuilta. If the extensive selection is intimidating, go with the customary beans and cheese pupusa. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a pupusa recipe so you can make them at home:

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: About 6 pupusas

Ingredients:

3 cups masa harina (corn flour for making tortillas)

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 cup grated quesillo (Salvadoran cheese), or substitute queso fresco, mozzarella, or farmer’s cheese)

1/2 cup refried beans (optional)

1 cup Chicharrón (optional)

Preparation:

In a large bowl, mix the masa harina with the water and salt, stirring well. Add more water if necessary to obtain a soft dough that does not crack around the edges when flattened. 
Let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, for about 15 minutes. 
If using the refried beans, place them in a blender or cuisinart and process until smooth. Do the same with the pork – the consistency should be more like a paste.

Divide dough into about 6 pieces. Form a ball of dough, and then make an indentation in the ball. Place filling of choice in the indentation, and carefully wrap dough around the filling to seal. Flatten ball into a disk, about 1/4 inch thick, being careful to keep filling from leaking out of the edges. (This takes a little practice). 
Wipe a very small amount of oil onto the surface of a heavy skillet (cast iron and even enameled cast iron works well). Heat the skillet over medium heat, and place the pupusas in the skillet. Allow to brown on each side, like a tortilla, flipping as necessary. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Recipe by: Marian Blazes

Have you ever tried pupusas or made them at home? Leave us a question or comment below!

Special thanks to the El Salvador Tourism Board.

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