Salvadorian Pupusa

The pupusa is a flavorful savory, perfect as an appetizer or addition to a meal.   Similar to the stuffed corn arepas of Venezuela and Gorditas of Mexico, they are unique to El Salvador with a two thousand year history confirmed by excavations at the Pompeii of the New World.   So basic to Salvadorian cuisine that November 13th is celebrated as “National Pupusa Day.” There are many long-standing  traditions around the world which are vegetarian or easily adapted, a number of which can be found in Pre-Columbian dishes. Central and South American societies have provided us with some of the most versatile ingredients and super-foods known to man. Pupusas are made from a masa dough. The dough is flattened in the hand, then gently formed around a filling to make a ball. I fill my pupusas with a cilantro pesto made with pepitas, chiles and lime, and serve them with a zesty Pico de Gallo style salsa made from diced tomato, lime, onion, garlic, green chile, cilantro and sea salt. While making them, I reflect on where the dish came from and the cultural tradition behind it, giving the food a story and identity.  The background music in the video below is performed by Santiago Orozco and is a beautiful complement to preparing and serving pupusas.


Makes 10


2 1/2 cups masa harina

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups water

Mix ingredients together, cover and allow to rest for an hour.


1/2 cup pepitas

1 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed

1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

Preheat oven to 375.  Place the pepitas evenly on a baking sheet and cook for 9 minutes.  Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Transfer and reserve.

1/2 cup water

Canola oil for cooking

Add water to masa dough, knead together and form into 10 balls.  Take one ball and use your hands to flatten into a 3 inch wide patty.  Place 1 tablespoon filling in the center and gently work the the dough around the filling to form a ball.  Flatten the ball back to 3 1/2 inches wide by 3/8 inch thick, rinse hands and repeat. Heat cast iron skillet on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet.  Cook 4 to 5 pupusas at a time until golden brown and turn over, cooking again until golden brown.  Serve warm with salsa.

Fresh Salsa

3/4 cup tomato, diced

1 Anaheim chile, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 cup sweet onion, minced

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped and packed

Mix together all ingredients.  Serve cold or room temperature.

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