Pupusas from El Salvador (Vegetarian/ Vegan Recipe)

Pupusas from El Salvador are masa harina pockets filled with refried beans and cheese, making for the most satisfying snack! This recipe will guide you on how to make either vegetarian or vegan pupusa.

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!

Vegan Pupusa vs Vegetarian Pupusa Recipe

This pupusa recipe can easily be made vegetarian or vegan, depending on your dietary preferences. The vegetarian pupusa recipe includes uses hearty refried beans and mozzarella cheese, which is a seriously winning combo!

To make vegan pupusa, simply use your favourite plant-based cheese. Or, you can omit the cheese and just have a filling of refried beans (which is still very tasty!)

How to make vegetarian/ vegan 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.

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.

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.

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.

Ingredient notes for Vegan/ Vegetarian Pupusa

MASA HARINA FLOUR- It is essential to use the right flour to make pupusas. Regular corn flour will not work. You can find masa harina in specialty stores or online. Brands to look for include Harina PAN, Areparina, Harina Juana, and Goya. 

CHEESE– Pupusas from El Salvador are most commonly made with a soft, fresh cheese called quesillo. The closest cheese I could find to make this recipe was mozzarella. However, you can use any other cheese that melts well (include plant-based chees if making vegan pupusa).

RED KIDNEY BEANS– Traditionally, the refried beans used in pupusas from El Salvador are made from red silk beans. As these beans are difficult to find, this recipe uses red kidney beans instead. You could also use pinto beans or black beans.

What do you serve with Pupusas in El Salvador?

Pupusas from 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.

Pupusas from El Salvador

Pupusas from El Salvador

Yield: 12 pupusas
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Resting Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Pupusas from El Salvador are masa harina pockets filled with refried beans and cheese. This recipe will guide you on how to make either vegetarian or vegan pupusa.

Ingredients

Pupusas

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

Pupusa Filling

  • ½ large brown onion
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 oz (400g) red kidney beans
  • 1 cup mozzarella (or vegan cheese)

Instructions

  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. To make filling, 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 vegetarian recipes to try from Central America:

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