This easy Pupusa Recipe will teach you how to make these bean and cheese-filled tortillas. The pupusas are easy to customize, and are typically paired with curtido for a tasty lunch, dinner or snack.
Oh look, another recipe from my in-laws!
Last week I shared their Panes con Pollo recipe, and today I'm sharing the infamous pupusa recipe. The first documentation I have of me trying pupusas is in 2015, though to be honest, I'm fairly certain I tried one before then, I just wasn't as obsessed with taking food photos back then.
To say it was love at first bite would be an understatement. I loved the simplicity of them, and how they were SO flavorful, and that there were many kinds to choose from.
For this pupusa recipe, I opted to stick with beans and cheese as the filling, but I've included other variations in the recipe card "notes" section below.
What are pupusas?
Pupusas are made with masa harina (cornmeal flour) and water to make homemade tortillas that are then filled with anything from cheese to beans to pork, or even veggies like zucchini. They're typically paired with a fermented cabbage mixture known as curtido, and have been declared the national dish of El Salvador.
Though they're comparable to Honduran and Colombian arepas, they have slight differences, one of then being that pupusas tend to big a bit larger and flatter.
- An easy pupusa recipe that I'd argue anyone can make!
- Filled with beans and shredded cheese, but can also be filled with pulled pork, zucchini or just cheese.
- Paired with fermented cabbage, or curtido, for a flavor-packed meal.
Masa harina - The staple ingredient used to make the dough. No substitutions!
Refried beans - Traditional pupusas use homemade refried beans, but my mother-in-law assured me it's acceptable to use store-bought ones (it's much quicker this way).
Seasoning - Goya chicken seasoning is the way to go; you should be able to find it at most conventional grocery stores.
Mozzarella cheese - Shredded or freshly grated
Cabbage - Green cabbage is the main ingredient for the curtido, though you could sub purple cabbage and it'd be fine
Carrots - Buy pre-shredded carrots to save time
Onion - White onion or yellow onion
Vinegar - White vinegar or apple cider vinegar will work
Step 1: Assemble the curtido. First, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the cabbage and cook it until it's soft. Reserve ½ cup of the boiling water, then drain the rest. Add the cabbage to a large bowl, along with the carrots, onion, vinegar and reserved water. Allow it to sit and ferment while you prepare the pupusas.
Step 2: Make the dough. Add the masa and salt to a large mixing bowl, then slowly pour in the warm water and mix everything together with your hands until it resembles the texture of play-doh.
Step 3: Make the filling. Next, add the refried beans to a separate bowl, then pour in the chicken seasoning (Goya) and shredded mozzarella cheese. Stir to combine.
Step 4: Create the pupusas. Grab a handful of the dough and use your palms to press it into a disc. Use your thumbs to press around the edges so they lift up a bit, then add a tablespoon or two of the bean mixture to the center. Fold the edges of the dough up around the filling so that the whole thing is in the shape of a ball. Then, once again use your palm to flatten it back into a disc. It's ok if it isn't perfect looking! It takes several tries to get the hang of it.
Step 5: Cook. Heat a cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed skillet with a small amount of oil over medium heat, then add 3-4 pupusas at a time and cook them for 2-3 minutes on the first side and 1-2 minutes on the second side, or until they're slightly golden brown.
Step 6: Serve. To serve, add 2 pupusas to a plate, then top them with some of the curtido.
Tips and tricks
- In order to keep the dough moist, cover the bowl with a damp dish towel, which should prevent the dough from drying out.
- You may need to wet your hands when working with the dough, as it tends to dry out kind of easily. It's ok if some of the filling seeps out when you flatten the dough back into discs. This will actually create crispy bits, which in my opinion, makes them extra delicious.
- I recommend buying pre-shredded carrots to speed up the curtido-making process.
What about salsa roja?
Guys, I know! I know, I know. I got this recipe from one of Miguel's aunts, and they don't make the salsa roja, and I felt a little weird just making up a recipe. But, generally speaking, pupusas are served with salsa roja, which consists of tomatoes, onion, garlic, and chicken seasoning.
Refrigerator: Store pupusas in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Freezer: If you'd prefer to prep these ahead of time, make the pupusas but DON'T cook them. Instead, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store them in a freezer-safe bag. When you're ready to eat/cook them, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight, then cook them as usual.
Reheating: Reheat pupusas in a covered skillet over medium-low heat until they'e warmed through.
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If you made this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below. Thanks!
for the dough:
- 3 cups masa harina
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 2 ¾ cups warm water
- 2 tablespoon avocado oil or oil of choice; for frying
for the filling:
- 15 oz. refried beans
- 1 packet chicken seasoning (preferably Goya)
- 1 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
for the curtido:
- ½ head green cabbage sliced
- 1 large carrot peeled and sliced thinly (or use ½ cup pre-shredded carrots)
- ½ onion thinly sliced
- salt to taste
- ½ cup white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup boiling water or more
- Start by making the curtido: bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the cabbage and boil it until soft; reserve ½ cup of the water, then drain the rest. Transfer the cabbage to a bowl and add the carrot, onion, salt, vinegar, and the reserved hot water. Allow the mixture to sit while you prepare the pupusas.
- Next, make the filling: stir the refried beans, chicken seasoning and cheese together in a bowl; set aside.
- Next, make the dough: add the masa and salt to a large mixing bowl, then add the water in 1 cup at a time, using your hands to stir everything together to form the dough. Once all of the water has been added, the dough should feel similar to play-doh.
- Now, it's time to assemble the pupusas! Grab a small handful of the dough and use your palms to flatten it into a disc. Use your fingers to lift the edges up a bit so it resembles a shallow cup, then add 1-2 tablespoons of the bean mixture into the center. Fold the sides up so that the dough forms a ball, then use your palms to flatten it back out into a disc. It's ok if it isn't perfect! This process takes several tries to get right. Repeat this process until all of the bean mixture is used up.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast iron skillet (or heavy bottomed skillet) over medium heat. Add 3 pupusas and cook them for 2-3 minutes, then use a spatula to flip them over and cook for 1-2 minutes until they're golden on the outside. Repeat this process with all of the pupusas.
- Serve pupusas with curtido on top (and salsa roja, if available) and enjoy!
- Zucchini: shred the zucchini, then season it with salt and chicken seasoning. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. Transfer the zucchini to a nut milk bag, or place it on top of several paper towels and squeeze out the excess moisture; pour it into a bowl, then stir in the mozzarella cheese.
- Chicharron (pork): make sure to use a fattier cut. Cut the pork into bite-size pieces, then boil it and add some salt, Old Bay seasoning and garlic. Once it's soft, transfer it to a skillet and pan-fry it until brown. Transfer it to a food processor, along with tomato, onion, green pepper, and 2 garlic cloves; pulse everything together a few times, then add chicken seasoning to taste. Strain out any water, then stir in the mozzarella cheese.
Who told you that’s the way you make pupusas , please don’t kill our real recipe , the real pupusas. are make with refried beans and the cheese recipe has 3 kinds of ( Fresco, Mozzarella and Monterrey Jack )cheeses and add a little pieces of bell pepper and onion. after you mix the cheese with the vegetables . You place them separately in the dough tortilla and when they are cooking the ingredients will mix.
Hi Sara! That sounds delicious. I'm not sure if you read the blog post, but this recipe is from my husband's aunt, who is from El Salvador.