Hailing from El Salvador, pupusas are a delicious stuffed bread made with masa–the same corn flour product used to make corn tortillas. Traditionally they are served with curdito, a mildly fermented cabbage slaw, and a spiced tomato sauce. I kept it quick and simple and served mine with a vinegary slaw and spicy store bought salsa, adding guacamole because it’s our favorite. Cooked up, the masa-based dough is soft and pillowy. The pupusas are filled with creamy refried beans and a homemade vegan roasted jalapeño cheese.The cheese is perfect in these pupusas. It’s melty, rich, creamy, and packed with delicious peppery flavor. Bursting with mouth watering hot cheese and beans, these vegan jalapeño cheese and bean pupusas are quite the treat.
The first time I had a pupusa was my junior year in college. I was taking way too many science classes at the time (story of my college life), and trying to keep up with the course load by pulling way too many all nighters. On one beautiful day in early spring, my friend and I decided to ignore the fact that we hadn’t slept in 36 hours and go take a sunset hike (it was great, we jumped over logs and sang terrible renditions of pop songs from the 90s and early 2000s). After the hike she suggested we grab some dinner at this El Salvadorian restaurant that I’d never heard of, but I love trying new cuisines, so we went and I had my first pupusa.
Are pupusas so life changing that you remember the entire day leading up to taking your first bite of pupusa? Maybe. But, in my case, it was 2008 and you made Facebook albums for everything (seriously, why??). They did become one of my favorite foods though. And what’s not to like? They’re a stuffed bread, which is always a winner in my book. While in college I went back to that restaurant regularly, but then I moved to Chicago, where there is a ton of Mexican food but not much El Salvadorian, and to make it more challenging to eat pupusas out, I started to phase out cheese from my diet. So I did what I do with anything I want to eat but can’t get out. I figured out how to make them. I was amazed by how easy they are to make! Let’s just say my life has not been lacking in pupusas since.
Really though, the masa dough is a breeze to make. It consists of Mexican style masa harina with a little all purpose flour added in to make it a little easier to work with (gluten free friends: I have successfully made it with no wheat flour many times, and you definitely can make it that way, I just find adding a little wheat makes the dough a bit easier to work with). Add a sprinkling of salt, and splash of oil to keep the dough moist and add some richness. Hot water hydrates the flour and a quick kneading gets everything evenly distributed and the little bit of gluten developed. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes and it’s ready to go!
To shape the pupusas you want to first press them into a disk.
Set the disk in the middle of your palm and spoon in the filling, being careful not to overdo it.
Fold the edges of the masa dough around the filling.
Next, press the filled dough into a disk. Move the dough around in a circle as you press it between your palms, to evenly flatten it out. Don’t stress too much if the dough splits and the filling is exposed. If it’s small you can smear some extra dough over split with a dampened finger. Or pull from an edge with a bit extra dough to patch.
Once formed, cook over a hot oiled skillet for a couple of minutes on each side. Serve hot with some slaw and salsa, and try them with some guacamole or sour cream as desired.
- To make this gluten free, substitute additional masa harina for the all purpose flour. This will still make delicious pupusas!
- The slaw is great made up to one day ahead of time.
- You can use a variety of fillings to stuff the pupusas, or make simply make cheese filled ones. This just happens to be my favorite way to eat them.
To Assemble & Serve
To make the masa dough
To assemble the pupusas
To make the slaw