pupusas with curtido slaw
I got the chance to travel to El Salvador in 2014, right after my brother had finished a big Central American road trip and deemed it “an awesome place to go check out.” At this time, El Salvador was very inexpensive in terms of accommodations and food, plus the ocean was 80 degrees, so it didn’t take much convincing.
One of the highlights of any trip to me is sampling the local traditional food, in this case pupusas. Pupusas are made out of masa corn flour, a little hot water and some salt. The filling can be whatever you want. I like a simple refried bean and cheese, but you can get more creative with cooked chicken, chilis, shredded zucchini… Santa Cruz Farmers Market has a local vendor who sells the real deal pupusas and I always look for them every time I’m down there. This recipe is the Gringa version 😉
Forming the pupusas is the hardest part, and some will turn out better than others, (speaking from experience). I tried to make these to impress a date one time, and his pupusas turned out way better than mine which was a little embarrassing. Don’t worry though, they will all still be edible!
How to make pupusas from scratch…
For the Pupusa Dough:
3 cups corn masa flour (I used this brand: Bob’s Redmill Masa)
1 tsp sea salt
3 cups hot water (I found with the Bob’s masa it helps to add a couple extra TBS of hot water- you want the dough to be soft and not crumbly).
Oil for cooking (I like coconut or avocado oil)
For the Filling:
1 can refried beans of choice, (you can also take the time to pressure cook some pinto beans and mash them if you prefer).
1/2 tsp sea salt
6 oz. jack cheese or mixture of pepper jack and plain
In a food processor or stand mixer combine masa flour, salt and hot water, mixing for about 1-2 minutes until well incorporated and dough is slightly sticky. If it breaks apart too easily when handling, re-mix with more hot water. Allow dough to rest for a few minutes before handling.
You may want to use some water or oil to handle the dough if it sticks to your hands. Grab a chunk of dough slightly smaller than a tennis ball and place it in the palm of your hand. Use the other hand to flatten it into a disk, about 5 inches in diameter. You want the dough to be relatively thin so it cooks through.
Scoop a few tablespoons of refried beans into the center, add cheese and begin to fold the edges towards the center. The goal is to completely seal up the other side and then flatten the filled pupusa into a thick disk. Pat the pupusas back and forth between both hands until it is about a half inch thick. Place them on a plate to rest while you assemble the remaining pupusas.
Depending on how many you are serving you may want to make double or even triple batches of dough.
Once all pupusas are formed, heat a lightly oiled griddle over medium high and cook them about five minutes per side, allowing masa to bake through and the beans and cheese to melt together.
Serve with the traditional Curtido Slaw, (recipe below) and a spicy red salsa or hot sauce. We found that Cholula goes really well with pupusas.
Slaws are one of my favorite sides to make- they can be thrown together in minutes, the variations are endless, and they last for quite awhile in the fridge, making them a great meal prep recipe. This particular slaw is traditional in El Salvador, and uses vinegar and oregano as some of the main flavors. You will typically see large plastic tubs of this stuff sitting outside of the pupusa restaurants, fermenting naturally.
1/2 medium green cabbage
1/4 red cabbage
2 carrots, grated
1/2 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp sea salt
3 TBS apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, shred cabbage and onion as finely as possible and add to a medium bowl along with remaining ingredients. Use tongs to mix the slaw every few minutes, allowing the vinegar to soak into the vegetables. This is even better the next day!
Curtido slaw will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.