Updated November 17, 2014
cups masa harina (found in most grocery stores, often in the Mexican foods section with the corn tortilla mixes)
cup shredded white melty cheese, like farmers or mozzarella
In a large bowl, combine masa harina, water and salt. Mix with your hands until mixture comes together into a moist but firm ball. Add more water as needed so that the mixture doesn't crack at the edges under pressure (moisture is very important in this recipe or the pupusas will be tough). Cover and let rest five minutes.
Mix together spinach and cheese in a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Uncover masa harina mixture and shape into a log about 8-10 inches long. Cut horizontally into 8 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball (again, add more water to each piece if it cracks on the edges under pressure -- moisture is key in this recipe!)
Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each ball and fill with about 1 1/2 tbsp of the spinach-cheese mixture. Pinch the edges of the masa harina mixture over the filling and seal completely. Wet your hands with water and use your fingers to flatten the ball into a 4-5 inch pancake, careful not to let the filling spill out.
Place a couple pupusas at a time in the heated skillet and cook on both sides about 2-3 minutes each, until dark brown spots appear.
Serve pupusas warm with salsa, curtido (a cabbage mixture with vinegar and spices), sour cream and any other favorite toppings.
More About This Recipe
- I’m always leery when I make a dish that’s traditional to a certain culture.
Sometimes, I’m not sure I’m doing it “just the right way” or there might be some secret to the preparation that one only knows from being passed down for generations in their family. Those thoughts went through my head when I decided to make these pupusas, a traditional El Salvadoran dish, for the first time.
But I decided to go for it anyway with this recipe, and there is one thing I am sure of: They are delicious. And I’m no longer afraid to make them, or I’d be withholding from myself a tasty meal.
The thing about pupusas is once you get the hang of making them, they’re extremely easy. The first time I made these guys, I wasn’t aware how much moisture the masa harina sucks up. I mean, wow – your mixture can go from soaking wet to bone-dry in a matter of minutes if you’re not careful. But don’t let this deter you – just be sure to follow the instructions carefully and to be safe, always have some extra water on hand. It’s pivotal that the mixture stays moist or your pupusas will be rock solid. I say this from experience.
To me, pupusas are like stuffed tortillas. I guess, in a way, that’s exactly what they are. A filling of your choice (I chose spinach and cheese for this particular recipe, but refried beans, meat and potatoes also work well) is stuffed into a pocket of masa harina, or finely ground field corn (or maize), and flattened into a pancake. Then it’s cooked in oil over a hot skillet. Then it’s devoured. It’s as simple as that.
I like to top my pupusas with salsa and curtido – a traditional topping for pupusas made with cabbage – but sometimes, when I’m lazy, I just top it with plain old shredded cabbage and carrots to get that nice crunch without much effort. Sour cream also tastes great on these, too.
Don’t be leery, like I once was, of making pupusas. If you are, you don’t know what you’re missing. And what you’re missing is too delicious to pass up.
Stephanie (aka Girl Versus Dough) joined Tablespoon to share her adventures in the kitchen. Check out Stephanie’s Tablespoon member profile and keep checking back for her own personal recipes on Tablespoon!