Pupusas, or Salvadoran stuffed tortillas, are Central America’s most recognizable street food. On a world wide scale, these homemade stuffed tortillas are on par with pizza and hamburgers. Although I lived in Central America (Costa Rica) for three months back in college, I never came across any pupserias (the equivalent of a “burger joint” or “pizza parlor”). And from things I’ve read online, pupserias are of course quite common in a state like California and even an area like Washington D.C. since it is home to quite a sizable Salvadoran population. Sadly, there are no pupserias here in Pittsburgh and somehow I don’t see one materializing any…time…soon. The city has a slew of different ethnic groups but from a Latin perspective, they’re highly lacking (unfortunately).
So even though my pupusa making skills would make any Salvadoran abuela cringe, I finally had a pupusa a couple of weeks ago when I made them myself. From a difficulty level, they weren’t as bad as I had feared although I know mine were much too chubby and not “disk like” enough (i.e. flat). But all in all, I succeeded in making homemade pupusas and for that I’m entirely proud of myself.
Fillings vary as I opted for a traditional mashed bean, onion, and spices one although for extra measure I did throw in some queso (cheese is another popular filling). While I definitely enjoyed the ones I made, I’m all the more anxious to try out the “real thing” lo mas pronto posible (as soon as possible).
Pupusas (Salvadoran Stuffed Tortillas)
Recipe via Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking
2 1/2 cups masa harina
1 1/2/1 3/4 cups hot water
1 cup cooked or canned red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon minced onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chicken stock or fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
salt and ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup of grated cheese
1 cup salsa
To make the masa: In a medium bowl, combine the masa harina and water. Mix and knead with a wooden spoon or your fingers for 3-4 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and thick. The consistency should resemble that of Play-Doh; add a little more water, if needed. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
To make the filling: In a medium nonstick skillet over high heat, combine the beans, onions, garlic, cumin, and stock or broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until all the stock has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Mash the beans with the back of a spoon and let cool.
To assemble: Divide the dough into 16 portions. With wet hands, roll 1 portion into a ball (cover the remaining portions with plastic to keep them from drying out as you work). Using your thumb, make a depression in the center of the ball. Gradually enlarge this depression to turn each masa ball into a cup. (Rotate the masa as you shape it with your thumb to keep the sides of the cup even. The walls of the cup should be about 1/4″ thick). Repeat with the remaining dough.
Place a spoonful of the filling in the center of each masa cup. Bring the top sides of the cup together over the filling to enclose it and pinch the top shut. Remoisten your hands and gently pat the resulting ball into a disk. (If necessary, pat the pupusas between sheets of plastic to avoid sticking). Continue patting the disk to obtain a pupusa about 4″ across and 1/4″ thick. Repeat to make a total of 16 pupusas.
Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Brush both sides of each pupusa with oil. Working in batches, cook for 2 minutes per side, or until puffed, hot, and just beginning to brown. Keep warm in a 250 F oven until all of the pupusas are cooked. Serve with the salsa.