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El Salvadoran Cuisine: Pupusas

Updated on September 4, 2019
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Expat Mamasita lived in El Salvador for 5 years and during this time she travelled widely and wrote about the country's attractions and food


The tastiest Salvadoran pupusa recipe

"What are pupusas?" was not a question that had ever entered my head until we moved to El Salvador. Indeed, I had never even heard the word pupusa used, and had no idea what one was!

When we first arrived I was not at all impressed by this Salvadoran dish that everybody told us that we needed to try because it is fantastic. I am not a lover of tortilla, probably for the same reason, that I find it to be very heavy and stodgy.

Then I had a revelation. We went to a friend's house and she served pupusas. I didn't want to appear rude, so I took one, just intending to nibble at it.

The difference in the taste was amazing, and left me speechless (much to Papacito's delight!). She told me that she bought them from her local papuseria and that they were made from rice flour, not maize flour. The rice flour gives the papusa a lighter texture, and I was able to enjoy the delicious combination of warm bread and hot melted cheese.

We have since moved house, and this papuseria is only a couple of minutes walk from our house, and pupusas have become a regular Sunday breakfast treat!

If you have never tried a pupusa or are a Salvadoran living abroad who is feeling nostalgic for your homeland, please enjoy reading this review, where I try to answer the question "What are pupusas?" and I share my maid Rosa's pupusa recipe with you.

Salvadoran Street Food

What are Pupusas, papusas or pupisio?

Papusas, pupusas or pupisio are a food dish that were first made by the Pipil people who lived in the area now known as El Salvador, and remains of cooking implements used to make papusas have been found at Joya de Ceren, and date their existence to two thousand years ago.

They are basically a dough, made from maize or rice flour, somewhat similar to a tortilla. The difference is that the dough is rolled into balls and a filling placed inside, before the dough is flattened and cooked.

Traditionally pupusas are served with curtido, a pickled cabbage relish and a red salsa sauce.

Until relatively recently pupusas were very much a localised food, enjoyed in central Salvadoran towns such as Olocuilta. During the middle of the last century, as the population became more mobile, pupusas became known all over El Salvador, with regional variations occurring.

During the civil war in the 1980s many Salvadoran's left El Salvador to take up residence in other countries, mainly the United States. As is common with migrants the world over, Salvadorans began to cook their traditional foods in their new home countries and dishes such as pupusa became known to more people.

A question for you......

Have you ever tried pupusas?

How do you make pupusas?
How do you make pupusas?

Pupusa Recipe

photo credit: satanoid via photo pin cc

Do you want to learn how to make pupusas?

This is the recipe that my maid Rosa uses and I was amazed at the simplicity of the ingredients.

No yeast or time to for it to rise, just flour, warm water and your choice of filling.

I hope that you enjoy trying out this recipe!

Serving Size

Serves: 8 pupusas


  • Masa Harina (Tortilla flour) or Aroz Harina (Rice flour) - 2 cups
  • Warm water - 1 cup
  • Filling - 1 cup


  1. Mix the flour and water together in a large bowl.
  2. Knead the dough thoroughly
  3. Add more water, a tablespoonful at a time if needed. The dough should be moist but firm dough,
  4. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Split the dough into 8 equal parts, and roll each into a ball.
  6. Make an indentation in the ball with your thumb.
  7. Place approximately 1 tablespoon of filling into the indentation and fold the dough over to cover the filling.
  8. Flatten the ball with the palms of your hands to form a flat disc, taking care that that the filling doesn't spill out.
  9. Use a tortilla press to press each ball to about 5 or 6 inches wide and about 1/4-inch thick. You can place the dough between two small plates and apply pressure if you don't have a press.
  10. Grease a skillet and heat it over medium-high flame.
  11. Cook each pupusa for roughly 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.
  12. Place on a plate and keep warm until you have cooked all the pupusas.
  13. Serve with Salvadoran coleslaw and salsa sauce
Cast your vote for Rosa's Pupusa Recipe

Salvadorean Bakery Making Pupusas

Which do you prefer?

What flour do you prefer your pupusas to be made from?

What's your favourite pupusa filling?

What's your favourite pupusa filling?
What's your favourite pupusa filling?

What is your favourite pupusa filling?

See results

Different Pupusa Fillings

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Expat Mamasita


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