Learn how to make Pupusas! A pupusa is a stuffed Salvadorian flatbread with a crispy masa outside and a cheesy inside.
The best snacks are crispy and cheesy, and pupusas satisfy both of these requirements. I discovered pupusas when I was in Santa Fe. We went to the farmers market and that is where I saw blue masa cakes cooking on a griddle and oozing beans and cheese.
We had just eaten breakfast but it didn’t matter. I needed to try it. I talked to the man cooking the pupusas and he explained what they were. He made pupusas with blue corn masa filled with Monterrey jack cheese and pinto beans, all classic New Mexico ingredients.
Later on, during our trip, we tried pupusas at Cafe Pasqual’s. Our server explained that they were on the menu as a nod to the Salvadorian kitchen staff. The pupusas at Cafe Pasqual’s were smaller and thinner, which seems to be the norm.
After four days in Santa Fe, I was obsessed with New Mexican food and when I returned to Chicago I was on a mission to recreate all the amazing foods that I had tried. I had no idea how to make pupusas, but then, because Facebook is clearly stalking my life, a video of a man named Curly making pupusas with his grandmother appeared in my feed. (Watch it, it’s adorable).
The pupusas that we tried in Santa Fe were filled with beans and cheese, but I consulted with my friend Jonathan who is from New Mexico and he explained that lots of people add meat. I decided to add some chicken in green chile sauce, and some leftover brisket in red chile sauce along with the classic pinto beans and cheese.
Pupusas are more of a snack or appetizer than a full meal. Traditionally pupusas are served with curtido on the side. Curtido is a cabbage and carrot relish. I prefer to skip the relish and serve the pupusas with red and green chile sauce and some sour cream.
In order to make pupusas first you prep your fillings. I placed the meat, beans, and cheese in bowls. Next, you need to make the masa dough. This is easy. You take masa harina (look for it near flour, Bob’s Red Mill makes it) and cold water and mix them together. You want the dough to be wet but not sticky. Then you flatten a piece of dough the size of your palm, pinch it together like a dumpling, then roll it and flatten it. Then you toast the pupusas in a lightly greased pan.
How to make Pupusas:
- 1/2 cup Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup Refried Beans
- 1 cup Cheese (Colby, Monterrey Jack, or Cheddar)
- 1 cup finely diced Meat
- 4 cups Masa Harina
- 3 cups Cold Water
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- Red Chile Sauce
- Green Chile Sauce
- Sour Cream
Mix the refried beans and the pinto beans together. I like the texture of mixing them together.
When it comes to the meat, I like to finely chop or shred it and then add some chile sauce. I had some leftover brisket which I added some red chile sauce too, and some shredded chicken which I add some green sauce too. Add just enough so the meat is coated in the sauce.
Arrange all of your pupusa fillings. Do this first before you mix up your dough since the dough can dry out as it sits.
Next combine the masa harina, cold water, and salt. Mix with your hands. You may need to add a little more water or masa. You want the dough to be wet but not sticky. If the dough is too dry it is hard to work with.
Roll some of the masa dough into a ping pong ball sized ball. Then flatten it and place it in your palm. Next add small (about a teaspoon) scoops of the beans, meat, and cheese. Carefully fold the masa dough and pitch the edges of the dough together, sealing in the fillings. This is similar to making dumplings. Now, gently roll the dough back into a ball and then flatten it to make the pupusa. This gets easier with practice. As you get better you will be able to make thinner pupusas with more of the fillings.
Continue to assemble the pususas until you use up all of the dough.
To cook the pupusas, heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add as many pupusas as will comfortably fit in the skillet and toast each side until golden brown. Keep cooked pupusas warm in an oven heated to 300 degrees. Continue to toast the remaining pupusas adding more oil to the skillet as necessary.
Serve the pupusas with sour cream and chile sauce.