Pupusas Recipe from El Salvador

These vegetarian pupusas from El Salvadorian are corncakes filled with refried beans and cheese (or omit cheese to make vegan pupusas). Served them up with a tangy cabbage slaw (curtido) and a salsa roja for a seriously satisfying snack!

Vegetarian Pupusas | El Salvadorian Pupusas Recipe

What is a pupusa?

A pupusa is a thick, flat corncake that originates from El Salvador. It’s made from masa harina corn flour and is stuffed with various fillings and then fried. The most typical fillings include cheese, refried beans and pork.

Pupusa vs Arepa- what is the difference?

Pupusa and arepa are both Latin-American style corncakes, made from a dough of masa harina corn flour, water and salt. Colombian arepas are sliced in half after cooking and stuffed with various fillings. On the other hand, pupusas from El Salvador are stuffed with fillings and then sealed and cooked.

When comparing pupusa vs arepa, pupusa is a little more fiddly to make. However, the extra effort is worth it once you take a bite into a pupusa and have all the delicious fillings oozing out!

Vegetarian Pupusas | El Salvadorian Pupusas Recipe

Vegetarian Pupusas vs Vegan Pupusas

This vegetarian pupusa recipe includes both melty cheese and hearty refried beans, which is a seriously winning combo! However, you can very easily make these vegan pupusas by simply omitting the cheese.

Vegetarian Pupusas | El Salvadorian Pupusas Recipe

What do you serve with pupusas?

Pupusas in El Salvador are typically served with two condiments. The first condition is curtido, which is a tangy slaw. The second is salsa roja, which is a rich, tomato sauce.

How to make vegetarian Pupusas

Pupusas take a little time to prepare, but once you get the hang of them, you’ll realize they are pretty easy to make. My advice is to make the curtido and salsa roja first so everything is ready to go once you start cooking the pupusas.

MAKE PUPUSA DOUGH: Mix together corn masa flour, salt and 2 1/2 cups of warm water for about a minute, until dough is thick and sticky.  If mixture is too dry, add extra water. Rest for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling.

Vegetarian Pupusas | El Salvadorian Pupusas Recipe

MAKE REFRIED BEANS: Cut onion half into wedges, then separate layers to form petals. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browning on each side.

Vegetarian Pupusas | El Salvadorian Pupusas Recipe

Transfer onion to blender, leaving the oil in the pan. Add the kidney beans and liquid from the can and blend till a smooth puree is reached.

Vegetarian Pupusas | El Salvadorian Pupusas Recipe

Reheat oil in pan over medium heat then transfer bean mixture in. Season with salt, cook for 7 minutes then set aside in a bowl to cool. Once cool, mix in cheese.

FORM PUPUSAS: Divide dough into 12 balls. Working one at a time, place a dough ball into your palm. Shape the ball into a well and fill with 2 tablespoons of bean mixture. Pinch dough together to fully enclose the filling and gently flatten into a disk.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook a few Pupusas at a time for 3 minutes per side or until browned in spots.

Vegetarian Pupusas | El Salvadorian Pupusas Recipe

Ingredient notes for Pupusas

  • Masa harina flour- It’s absolutely essential you get the right flour to make pupusas. You might need to seek out corn masa harina in a specialty store or purchase the flour online. Brands to look for include Harina PAN, Areparina, Harina Juana, and Goya. 
  • Mozzarella cheese– This recipe uses mozzarella cheese, however, you can also use queso Oaxaca or any other cheese that melts well

Vegetarian Pupusas | El Salvadorian Pupusas Recipe

Pupusas with Curtido + Salsa Roja

Yield: 12 pupusas
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

These vegetarian pupusas are a typical El Salvadorian dish consisting of thick fried corncake's that are filled with oozing cheese and refried kidney beans. Served up with a tangy cabbage slaw (curtido) and a flavourful salsa, these make for a serious satisfying snack or light meal

Ingredients

Curtido

  • 1/2 head cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

Salsa Roja

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 jalapeño
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 vegetable stock cube

Pupusas

  • 3 cups corn masa flour
  • 2 1/2- 3 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ white onion
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 cup mozzarella

Instructions

To make curtido:

  1. Place all ingredients into a bowl and allow to marinate for at least an hour.

To make salsa roja:

  1. Blend all ingredients except the stock cube in a food processor.
  2. Transfer to a medium saucepan, crumble in vegetable stock cube and bring to a low boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has been reduced.

To make Pupusas:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together corn masa flour, salt and 2 1/2 cups of warm water for about a minute, until dough is thick and sticky. If mixture is too dry, add extra water. Rest for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling.
  2. Cut onion half into wedges, then separate layers to form petals. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browning on each side.
  3. Transfer onion to blender, leaving the oil in the pan. Add the kidney beans and liquid from the can and blend till a smooth puree is reached.
  4. Reheat oil in pan over medium heat then transfer bean mixture in. Season with salt, cook for 7 minutes then set aside in a bowl to cool. Once cool, mix in cheese.
  5. Divide dough into 12 balls. Working one at a time, place a dough ball into your palm. Shape the ball into a well and fill with 2 tablespoon of bean mixture. Pinch dough together to fully enclose the filling and gently flatten into a disk.
  6. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook a few Pupusas at a time (depending on how much space in the pan there is) for 3 minutes per side or until browned in spots. Serve warm with salsa roja and curtido.

Notes

Recipe inspired by Bon Appetit

Did you make this recipe?

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Other Central American dishes to try

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Here's how to make these delicious vegetarian pupusas from El Salvador - made with curtido and salsa roja
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