Cheese and Bean Pupusas (Salvadoran Stuffed, Griddled Tortillas) With Cabbage Slaw

A stellar corn flour pancake stuffed with melted cheese and refried bean, topped with a simple slaw.

Two cheese and bean pupusas topped with cabbage slaw.

Serious Eats / Lauren Rothman

Why It Works

  • Two basic fillings—refried beans and shredded cheese—keep things simple, allowing you to focus on forming the pupusa shells. Plus, the thick, not-too-wet fillings won't leach out of the delicate pupusas as you stuff and griddle them.
  • The masa harina dough comes together in a matter of minutes and brings a ton of homemade flavor to the dish.
  • The quick, refreshing curtido slaw adds brightness and acidity to the flavorful beans and rich cheese.

After gorditas and sopes, we'll be making Salvadoran pupusas, thick tortillas stuffed 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.

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 golf ball-sized orbs, you use your 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.

June 2014

Recipe Facts



Active: 60 mins
Total: 60 mins
Serves: 15 pupusas

Rate & Comment



  1. Using wet hands, roll masa dough into 15 golf-ball-sized balls. Place balls on a baking sheet and cover with a moist towel. Working with one ball at a time, use your thumb to press a deep indent into the ball, then use your hands to work it into a small "bowl" with a 1/4-inch-thick edge.

    Masa dough formed into cup shape.

    Serious Eats / Lauren Rothman

  2. Place about 1 heaping tablespoon refried beans into the bottom of the "bowl," then top with about 1 heaping tablespoon shredded cheese. Using moist fingers, carefully bring dough edge together, enclosing the filling within, and press to seal. Roll the ball in your hands to return it to a uniform ball shape. Carefully pat pupusa down into a flat round about 4 inches wide and about 3/4 inch thick; if edges crack, run a wet finger around them to smooth them. Place pupusas on a baking sheet and keep covered with a towel as you work. Repeat with remaining masa balls and fillings.

  3. Lightly coat a large cast iron skillet with oil and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Working in batches, add pupusas and fry, turning once, until well-browned and crisp, about 4 minutes per side. Drain pupusas on a paper towel-lined plate, then transfer them to plates and top with curtido. Serve with hot sauce and lime wedges, if desired.


Masa freezes beautifully. After forming the balls of masa (see Step 1), place extras on a baking sheet in a single layer for one hour, then transfer to a zipper-lock bag or airtight container and store in the freezer for up to three months. To defrost, set masa balls on a plate at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then proceed with the recipe.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
370 Calories
20g Fat
33g Carbs
16g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 15
Amount per serving
Calories 370
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 25%
Saturated Fat 9g 43%
Cholesterol 42mg 14%
Sodium 607mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 33g 12%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 16g
Vitamin C 6mg 28%
Calcium 410mg 32%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 250mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)