Homemade Pupusas

Pupusas with curtido and salsa roja

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This pupusa recipe is more of a technique based project than an ingredient based one. The only important ingredient is the masa. Because it is after all a maize cake! You can play around with the fillings and decide what you like best. I made a bean and cheese pupusa because it is what I had on hand. So feel free to use what you have on hand. If you have leftover taco meat, that will go nicely as a filling after you grind it up a little. You can also totally make them vegan with a filling of mushrooms and onions and whatever else you may like. The possibilities are endless.

Pupusas with salsa roja and curtido

Although it is not a requirement, I encourage serving pupusas with curtido and salsa roja. The contrasting interplay of texture of the pillowy pupusa – that is if they are made correctly, against the tangy crunch of the curtido and the smoky goodness of salsa roja is what makes you stand in line at the local food truck serving pupusas. It is what got me hooked to pupusas in the first place when I first had them so many years ago.

Grilled corn cakes or pupusas with cabbage relish and a roasted tomato salsa

So why is the masa the important ingredient? The pupusa is a maize cake from El Salvador. The maize (dried corn) is soaked in a calcium hydroxide solution( the process is called nixtamalization) . After washing, the grain is put through a fine-grade grinder to make the corn dough. Then it is dehydrated again to make the masa harina, which is what we will be working with.
This process not only improves the nutrients and flavor, it also makes the flour easy to work with. Have you tried making a dough with untreated cornmeal? Yeah! No can do!

Tips on how to make papusas successfully.

  • Use Masa Harina. Not corn flour. There are many brands you can choose from and they are available in the Latin American / International section of most grocery stores. Or better still, hit up your local ethnic grocery store.
  • Ratio for making dough – flour to water 1:1 .
  • Use boiling hot water to mix the dough. Use a wooden spoon to do this. Once mixed, cover and set aside until the dough is cool enough to handle. Adding boiling hot water is the key in making the dough super hydrated and elastic. This ensures the dough is very easy to handle and doesn’t break when you make discs out of it.
  • Make sure your filling is neither too wet or too dry.
  • The best pupusas are a perfect balance of filling to dough.
  • Masa has a tendency to dry out, so keep a bowl of water nearby . While shaping pupusas you will need this water to keep your hands and the dough moist.
  • Test the dough hydration. Take about 2 oz of dough and flatten it. If it starts to break around the edges, it needs more water. Add a tsp of water at a time and knead the dough until it’s soft, pliable and not sticky.
Picture of a flat pupusa dough

Now that we have the dough figured out, let’s get to the crunchy delicious curtido. Curtido is a quick fermented cabbage and carrot relish. It only needs a quick brine with vinegar and hot water and you are on your way to a delicious condiment.

The salsa roja is the basic red sauce. I made mine by roasting tomatoes, onions, jalapeno on my stovetop griddle, until they get a nice char on all sides and are partially cooked. It adds a nice smoky flavor that is so hard to resist. I can eat this sauce on everything.

I also use the charred onions in my filling for the pupusa.

The sauce is cooked down considerably after blending. But this step is again optional. I like the consistency of a thicker sauce.

Salsa roja made with roasted tomatoes, onions and peppers

So, with this recipe I hope to bring you some of your favorite Food Truck Food to your home.

Pupusas with curtido and salsa roja
5 from 6 votes

Homemade Pupusas

Savory stuffed corncake from El Salvador.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Central American, Latin American
Keyword Corn, Gluten Free, Pupusa
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Resting time for Curtido 2 hours
Servings 4



  • 2 c shredded cabbage
  • 1/4 c shredded red cabbage optional
  • 1 medium carrot cut into thin strips cut half in strips and grate the other half
  • 2 scallions sliced
  • 2 red radishes sliced
  • 1 Jalapeno sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 c vinegar
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • sugar a small pinch

Salsa Roja

  • 3 c tomatoes roasted and chopped
  • 1/2 c onions roasted and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno roasted, stem removed and chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp oregano dried
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste

Pupusa Filling

  • 1 can black beans your fav brand ( 15 to 16 oz)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 1/2 c Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano dried
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • salt to taste

Pupusa Dough

  • 2 c masa harina
  • 2 c boiling hot water
  • salt a small pinch



  1. Place the cabbage, scallions, carrot, radishes, jalapeno and red cabbage into a bowl or jar

  2. Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the salt and sugar and mix . Allow to cool slightly, then add chilli flakes, oregano and the vinegar.

  3. Pour this water vinegar mix ( brine) over the cabbage mix. Stir to combine, cover partially and leave undisturbed for at least two hours.

Salsa Roja

  1. Blend the tomatoes, jalapenos, onions together

  2. Heat oil in a pan and toss in the tomato, onion mixture

  3. add the ancho, oregano and salt and cook until sauce thickens and oil floats to the top

Pupusa Filling

  1. drain the beans and reserve some of the canning liquid

  2. add oil to a pan and cook the onions until nicely browned

  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool

  4. blend the beans, onions, cheese, salt, oregano into a thick smooth paste. You may need to use a tsp or two of the canning liquid to ease the process. Make sure the filling isn's runny

  5. Add in the chilli flakes after blending .

Pupusa Dough

  1. Place the masa harina in a bowl , add a pinch of salt . stir to combine

  2. using a wooden spoon, mix boiling hot water into the flour

  3. mix until there is no more dry flour in the bowl

  4. cover and allow to cool slightly before kneading to a smooth consistency

  5. Scoop the dough into large golf ball size portions.this Recipe makes 8 large ones. Cover the balls with a wet kitchen towel

Making the Pupusa

  1. Use the palms of your hands to pat the dough into a disc, about 4 inches in diameter.

  2. take about a tablespoon of the beans mix and place in the center of the masa disc. Gently bring the edges of the dough up and around the filling, pinching it closed into a ball. Then pat the dough between your palms again to form it back into a disc.

  3. Place the discs on a hot comal or skillet and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown spots start appearing. You may lightly brush up some oil for extra crispy texture

Progressive Eats
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is Food Truck Foods and I was the host. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it’s a virtual party. A theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Come along and see all of the delicious Food Truck inspired dishes!

Food Truck Food

Savory Sweet

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