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How to Make Pupusas (Salvadoran Stuffed, Griddled Tortillas) With Masa

Thick, homemade corn tortillas stuffed with melted cheese and refried beans are topped with a quick cabbage slaw. [Photographs: Lauren Rothman]

After covering both Mexican gorditas and sopes, we've come to the third and final installment in our series on how to make great street food with homemade masa dough. Today, we'll talking about Salvadoran pupusas, thick homemade tortillas stuffed with with a variety of fillings and then cooked on a hot griddle. Pupusas have a lot in common with their kissing cousin, the gordita, but the former have the advantage of being stuffed before they're cooked, ensuring that the cheese you'll inevitably want to fold inside will become melted and gooey and pretty much irresistible.

As we discussed in previous installments, homemade masa dough is a breeze to make, coming together in just minutes once you've picked up a bag of widely-available masa harina: just add the masa flour, salt, fat, and baking powder, knead briefly, and you're ready to go. Forming the pupusas is the more labor-intensive part: after rolling out golfball-sized orbs, you use you thumb to press an indentation into the pliable dough, then work it with your fingers to create a small "bowl"—if you've ever taken a ceramics class, you know exactly what I mean.

Once you have that little bowl, it's ready to be filled with all kinds of delectable stuffings. Then it's pinched together, rolled back into a ball, and carefully flattened out, yielding a delicious, stuffed pancake-like situation. To keep things simple, our recipe calls for a layer of Daniel's Perfect Refried Beans, followed by a layer of shredded Oaxacan cheese. Both of these fillings are extremely easy to put together, and because they're not too runny or wet, you won't run the risk of them bursting through as you form and griddle the pupusas. Plus, if you make the beans the day ahead—a good idea anyway since they need to be at room temperature before you proceed with the recipe—you can get the pupusas on the table in about 45 minutes. The finished, piping-hot pupusas get topped with a briny, refreshing cabbage slaw and a dash of hot sauce.

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