Pupusas are the national dish of El Salvador consisting of griddled masa cakes filled with cheese, meat, and/or vegetables and typically served with curtido—a pickled cabbage slaw—and a tomato-based hot sauce.
This dish requires a bit of prep work, including making the curtido well ahead of time (typically fermented, this recipe utilizes a quick pickle method, so the longer it sits, the better).
Count on two to three pupusas per person for a filling meal.
This recipe serves 4-6.
For the pupusas:
3 cup masa harina
3 cup hot water
4 oz cotija cheese, crumbled
6 oz monterey jack or mozzarella, finely shredded
2 portobello mushrooms, diced
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 tsp cumin
For the curtido:
4 cups cabbage, shredded
2 medium carrots, grated
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapeño, cut into very thin strips
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
Make the curtido 2 hours to 2 days ahead of time. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrot, onion, and jalapeño along with the salt. With clean hands, toss the mixture rubbing the salt into the vegetables. Heat together the red wine vinegar and sugar until steaming, then pour over the vegetables. Add the cilantro and oregano and toss one more time. Chill in the refrigerator.
To prepare the masa, combine the masa harina with hot water and stir with a spoon until there are no more dry spots. Knead the dough 1-2 minutes until uniform, then cover with a towel and rest 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a skillet set over medium-low heat, add 3 tbsp vegetable oil along with the mushrooms and zucchini. Add a large pinch of salt and the cumin seed and sauté until the mushroom is soft and the zucchini is starting to break down, 8-12 minutes. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine the cotija and jack cheeses. Divide into 12 equal portions and form into lightly packed balls; then set aside.
When the masa has cooled, apply a bit of oil to your hands to prevent sticking and knead the masa lightly a few times in the bowl. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts, rolling each into a large ball.
To form a pupusa, take a ball and flatten with your hands to about 1/4” thick and a little over 3" in diameter, with the middle a bit thinner than the edges. Flatten a ball of cheese and place into the center, leaving 1/4-1/2” of dough on the edge. Take a spoonful of the vegetable filling and add to the middle. Bring the sides of the masa up and around the filling, enveloping it and ensuring there are no large holes in the dough. Pinch the dough together at the top to seal, then lightly roll into a ball and press flat with the palm of your hand to about 1/2” thick, creating a 4” round. Repeat with the remaining dough, cheese, and filling.
Heat a cast iron skillet or comal over medium-high. Without using oil, cook the pupusas 4-5 minutes on the first side or until dark brown spots form. Flip and cook another 3-4 minutes.
To serve, plate 2-3 pupusas, toss the curtido and spoon some to the side. Garnish with extra cilantro and cotija, if desired.