How to make Pupusa recipe
Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune; Corrine Kozlak/food styling

Recipe of the Day: How to Make Pupusas

They make the perfect weeknight dinner
How to make Pupusa recipe
Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune; Corrine Kozlak/food styling

If you're looking to mix up your weeknight dinner routine, let us submit a dish for your consideration: pupusas. Hear us out. In their most basic form pupusas require just three ingredients, they can be made from start to finish in well under an hour and you can customize your fillings to suit your cravings, preferences and leftovers.

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If you have no idea what pupusas are, let alone how to make them, you've come to the right place. Read on for the deets and a step-by-step guide (with photos!) for making pupusas, or jump straight to the pupusa recipe.

What are pupusas?

Pupusas are thick corn tortillas made from masa dough that are stuffed with a savory filling and cooked in a pan. Masa dough, which is also the base for corn tortillas, tamales, sopes and chalupas is made with just three ingredients: corn masa harina, salt and water. Yup, that's it.

The national dish of El Salvador, pupusas can also be found in Honduras and Guatamala. They are not dissimilar from Venezuelan arepas or Mexican gorditas.

How to make pupusas

Making pupusas is far easier than you may think. First, mix together the masa harina dough by kneading masa harina, salt and water until a ball forms that is moist but not sticky.

How to make pupusas - a step-by step pupusa recipe and guide

Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune; Corrine Kozlak/food styling

Next, separate the big ball of dough into eight to 10 smaller balls and flatten each into 7-inch round disc that is about 1/4-inch thick.

How to make pupusas - a step-by step pupusa recipe and guide

Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune; Corrine Kozlak/food styling

To fill the pupusas, place one tortilla in your lightly oiled palm, place 1/3 cup filling in the center and wrap the edges of the dough around the filling (the vegetarian pupusa recipe below uses shredded cheese, but you can use meat, beans, or whatever else you like). Close up ball of dough into a sphere, pinching the edges together and pinching off excess dough. 

How to make pupusas - a step-by step pupusa recipe and guide

Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune; Corrine Kozlak/food styling

Flatten the filled balls into four- or five-inch discs, then cook them in a lightly oiled hot griddle for five to six minutes per side. That's it!

How to make pupusas - a step-by step pupusa recipe and guide

Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune; Corrine Kozlak/food styling

What to serve with pupusas?

The traditional accompaniments for pupusas are tomato salsa and curtido, a tangy and refreshing pickled cabbage and carrot salad. If you want to make it an even bigger meal, you can make other easy no-cook side dishes for weeknight dinners.

Pupusas recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 1/3 cup shredded white cheddar cheese or queso fresco
  • 2 1/4 cups cup corn masa harina
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • Canola oil

Directions

Step 1: Make the cheese filling. In a bowl, combine 1 1/3 cups shredded mozzarella and 1 1/3 cups shredded white cheddar cheese or queso fresco. Set aside.

Step 2: Make the dough. Combine 2 1/4 cup corn masa harina and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; add 2 cups water. Mix with hands to combine. Fold over and knead dough until a moist ball forms. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap to keep dough moist.

Step 3: Form tortillas. Cover countertop with a 10-by-10-inch sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Set out a small bowl of water and a small bowl of canola oil. Pinch off 1/2 cup of dough and form it into a ball; continue rolling dough to form 8-10 round balls.

Step 4: Working with 1 ball at a time, dampen hands with water, press dough in between both hands and continue patting to form a disc. Lay disc down on the counter and press dough out into a 7-inch round disc with hands or a rolling pin to approximately 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with other dough balls. Stack tortillas with plastic wrap in between each to avoid sticking.

Step 5: Form pockets. Coat one palm with oil and place one tortilla into oiled hand. Cup the dough in your hand and place 1/3 cup cheese filling (or filling of choice) into center of tortilla.

Step 6: Wrap edges of dough around the filling, then close up ball of dough into a baseball shape, pinching the edges together and pinching off excess dough. (Set aside excess pinched-off dough to make mini tortillas to grill up and serve with salsa as a snack.)

Step 7: Dab hands with a few drops of oil, then pat filled tortilla ball into another disc, distributing filling out to the edges. Flatten to 4-5 inches in diameter. Patch small tears in dough, if needed, to prevent oozing while cooking. Set on lightly oiled sheet pan and continue with remaining dough balls. If stacking finished pupusas, separate layers with plastic wrap or parchment to avoid sticking.

Step 8: Cook pupusas. Heat a griddle to medium-high heat and lightly oil. Grill pupusas for approximately 5-6 minutes per side, flipping occasionally as needed, until both sides are nicely browned. Serve immediately (or return to baking sheet and store in 350F oven until entire batch is completed.)

Step 9: Serve. Place warm, grilled pupusa on plate and slice into quarters or halves. Top with crunchy curtido and a dollop of red salsa.

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