Like its kissing cousin, the Mexican gordita, Salvadoran pupusas are a stellar corn flour pancake stuffed with fillings such as shredded cheese and braised meats, then griddled. Pupusas have the advantage of being stuffed before they're cooked, ensuring an irresistible gooey layer of cheese inside. Our recipe features a simple refried bean filling in addition to melted Oaxacan cheese, and gets topped with curtido, a simple cabbage, carrot and onion slaw.
Why this recipe 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.
Note: Masa freezes beautifully. After forming the balls of masa (see Step 1), place extras on a baking sheet in a single layer for 1 hour, then transfer to a zipper-lock bag or airtight container and store in freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost, set masa balls on a plate at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then proceed with recipe.
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.
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.
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, than transfer them to plates and top with curtido. Serve with hot sauce and lime wedges, if desired.