Pupusa: a typical dish from El Salvador

My name is Leidy Cortez and I am a member of OCC (Open Cultural Center). This is my article on a typical dish from my country, El Salvador. If you are a food lover who likes to experiment and try new flavours, you can enjoy this recipe for pupusa.

Pupusa is a thick flatbread, usually stuffed with a few ingredients, and has been named the ‘national dish of El Salvador’ as it is the most widespread typical food of El Salvador in Central America. The word “pupusa” derives from the word “pupusawa” which means to puff up and has been linked to the Pipil tribes who inhabited the territory of El Salvador. The name pupusa also comes from the poptl (Náhuatl) language, which was previously spoken in the Country of El Salvador which means a large, stuffed, thick handmade tortilla made from rice corn dough.

Pupusas are usually stuffed with one or multiple fillings. This can range from cheese, which is very common, ground pork, courgette and beans. They can be eaten at any time but especially at breakfast or dinner or as a snack. They are best enjoyed with a traditional tomato sauce and tanning (salad), as well as a variety of drinks.

Here is how you make pupusa

Ingredients for Salvadoran Pupusas:

  • 7 cups of corn or rice flour (8oz C / one)
  • 4 cups of beans that must be refried
  • Oil to fry
  • 3 Lb of ground pork but it can also be veal
  • 4lb of mozzarella cheese
  • 4 pieces of courgette
  • 1/2 spinach

Pupusa procedure:

  1. It is helpful to lightly oil your hands before doing so. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.
  2. Mix corn or rice flour with a little flour, salt and warm water in a bowl. Stir everything together to form a paste-like dough. It must not contain any lumps.
  3. Next, let the dough rest in a bowl and cover with a towel and leave it for 10 minutes.
  4. For each pupusa, form a round ball.
  5. Fill the pupusas. Take a ball of dough and press in the centre with your thumb. There should be a small indentation. Put 1 tablespoon of white cheese in the indentation and close it with the dough on top. Do the same with the other dumplings.
  6. The cheese must be completely sealed in the pupusa, otherwise, it will come out when you fry it.
  7. Form discs with the balls filled. Slowly flatten the stuffed ball in your hands. The pupusa should be circular and flat, roughly 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) thick. Do not squeeze or stretch the dough too much or the filling could come out.
  8. Cook the pupusas. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of oil to lightly coat the pan. Wait for it to heat for 2-3 minutes and add the pupusas and cook them for 2-3 minutes. Then flip them over and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes more. The pupusas should look golden once they are ready.
  9. Serve the pupusas while still hot. Cover it with tanning (salad) and any sauce of your choice.
  10. Accompany them with hot and cold drinks such as chocolate coffee, orange juice and soft natural drinks.

Ingredients to prepare the tanning:

  • 1 small cabbage
  • 4 pieces of large carrots
  • 2 pieces of raw jalapeño peppers of a big size
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup radishes (this is optional)
  • Salt to and a little oregano to add flavour
  • (the original tanning must be seasoned with artisan vinegar, letting it rest the day before)

Tanning “curtido” pupusa procedure:

  1. Prepare your vegetables. Cut the cabbage into strips, grate the carrot and finely chop the onion. Put everything in a large bowl and put to one side.
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Mix the apple cider vinegar, (usually the custom is to make a homemade vinegar), the water, the salt, the brown sugar, the oregano and the red chili flakes. Make sure there are no lumps of spice or brown sugar.
  3. Combine the tanning. Pour the spicy liquid mixture over the prepared vegetables and stir well. Make sure the vegetables are well covered in the mixture.
  4. Refrigerate the tanning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. It will be even richer if you refrigerate it overnight before serving. This will give it a slightly tanned (preserved) flavor.

Sauce ingredients:

  • 4 tomatoes of medium size
  • 2 pieces of pepper |
  • 1 cup of chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/4 cup of oregano
  • Salt to add flavour
  • 1/2 carrot

Sauce procedure:

  1. Prepare the tomatoes and onion peppers by cutting and crushing them until they become a sauce.
  2. Add salt and pepper and heat the sauce in a pan for 10 minutes. Serve the pupusas with red sauce or tomato sauce.
  3. Although the tanning is the traditional cabbage salad that accompanies the pupusas, you can also serve them with sauce. Also, you could use something similar to a tomato or enchilada sauce to dip your pupusas.
  4. For a better flavour, heat the sauce before dipping the pupusas.