Corn Masa Sopes and Tomatillo Sauce
Sopes Are Delicious
I grew up eating sopapillas, pozole, enchiladas, tacos, tostadas and more. My mom hails from New Mexico and cooked many southwestern meals for our family.
I was surprised, however, that I had not tried sopes (pronounced “so-pays”) until I came across a recipe for it in the Hippy Gourmet’s Quick and Simple Cookbook. It piqued my curiosity, so I made it for the first time a couple of years ago.
I was taken aback: I used the freshest ingredients I could find, and I couldn’t believe the explosion of delicious flavors, from the beans to the corn to the sauces. I knew immediately this meal would become a staple for my own family.
It’s a bit labor-intensive, but so worth the effort. Depending on how many people you’re making this for, you’ll have dinner for three nights or more, plus some leftovers for lunch.
This recipe uses corn flour, also known as masa. This is the same ingredient that people use to make corn tortillas.
Since finding the original recipe, I’ve modified it according to my own tastes. Join me on my journey of making southwestern sopes with an incredible green sauce that your taste buds are sure to crave again and again. The rich flavors definitely embody an incredible history of wonderful foods that come from the Americas.
See the tips and tricks below for some shortcuts and variations on this dish.
- 1 bag (2 lb.) pinto beans, dry
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, whole
- 8 tomatillos, paper skin removed
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 lime, juiced (you'll just need the juice)
- 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded
- 2 ½ cups masa
- 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin (use only the part near the root)
- 1 cup corn, fresh or thawed
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1¾ cup water, lukewarm
- 1 tsp cumin, powdered (optional)
- 2 tsp garlic salt, (optional)
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese or queso fresco
- 1 tomato, sliced (optional)
Have you ever tried sopes and tomatillo sauce?
Instructions: Make the Beans
I don’t use pork, bacon or ham bones in my batches of beans. I take a more vegetarian approach and I feel like I still come up with truly robust and flavorful batches.
You need to get the beans going the day before, so that they’re cooked and ready by the time you go to make this meal.
You can also use a pressure cooker to cook them. That will cut down on the cook time significantly. Follow the instructions for your pressure cooker and adjust the cooking time needed for beans accordingly.
In this recipe, I used an entire 2 lb. bag of pinto beans.
- Separate the nicked, broken or otherwise unsightly beans from the rest and either discard or put in the damaged beans in the compost pile.
- Rinse the beans in a strainer. Place in a bowl and add enough water to cover them completely. Let them soak overnight or for at least 6 hours.
- When you’re ready to cook, do not discard the water you used to soak the beans. Instead, pour the beans and the water into a large pan. Add a little more water to cover the beans, if necessary.
- Bring them to a boil over medium high heat, and cover. When the beans boil, reduce heat to medium – enough to keep them at a gentle boil. Cook for about 1.5 hours, or until tender and soft. You may want to skim off foam during the cooking process, but that’s up to you.
- About 30 minutes before the beans are done, add 2 cloves of sliced garlic and 1 tsp salt and mix. Continue cooking the beans until finished.
Instructions: Make the Tomatillo Sauce
- Put the tomatillos first into a blender or food processor.
- Add a handful of cilantro - just twist it off the bunch.
- Add the lime juice, a tsp of salt, 2 whole cloves of garlic and jalapeños.
- Blend for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Set aside.
Instructions: Make the Sopes
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat and coat the pan well with it.
- Add the corn and onions and cook until the onions are translucent and the corn is slightly browned, about four-five minutes. Stir frequently.
- Add cumin and garlic salt; mix well. Remove from heat. Do not rinse the pan – you’ll use it again.
- Pour the masa into a large bowl. Add the corn and onion mixture to the masa. Mix well.
- Begin adding water, a little at a time, until you can mix the masa to form a ball. This usually takes about 1¾ cups of water.
- Begin taking off golf ball-sized chunks of the masa mixture. Flatten them with the palms of your hands, making palm-sized cakes.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat the skillet once again over medium-high heat. Coat evenly with the oil.
- Add three or four masa cakes to the skillet and heat each side until lightly browned. Each side will take about 3-4 minutes to brown. As you cook more masa cakes, you’ll need to re-coat the pan with more olive oil. Use as much as you need to cook all the masa cakes.
To Serve the Sopes:
Place two masa cakes on a plate. Cover them with the cooked beans, and top with cheese. Top again with the tomatillo sauce and add some slices of fresh tomato on the side. Enjoy!
Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts:
If you’re short on time, just use canned pinto beans and heat through. Their taste won’t be quite as good as the beans cooked from scratch, but they’re still a good alternative.
You can also buy green salsa at the store and use that to top the beans. This is useful when tomatillos are out of season.
If you don’t want to make sopes, you can try using corn tortillas or even tostada shells. Serve the beans on top of that, add the cheese and tomatillo sauce. Now, you have a completely different meal!
Here are some other topping ideas you can try: pepperjack cheese, regular salsa, guacamole, olives, green chiles (canned or cooked), more fresh cilantro, and/or bits of cooked chicken.
When you're making the tomatillo sauce, use the freshest ingredients possible. I used tomatillos straight from my garden. You can taste the difference - it's incredible!
© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun