Pupusas

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Savory stuffed corn cakes that originate from El Salvador. These pupusas are filled with a cheesy bean mixture that is so delicious and simple to make!

This simple appetizer pairs perfectly with our homemade salsa. Serve it with some Spanish rice or bean dip for a full spread!

Pupusas on a platter with a side of coleslaw and salsa

What is a Pupusa?

Similar to Venezuelan “arepas” or Mexican “gorditas” a pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish.

It is made with a thick corn tortilla that is usually stuffed with a savory filling. For this recipe, we are stuffing our corn cakes with a cheese and bean mixture that is blended in a blender and then cooked over the stove. 

Pupusas are a fun recipe to try if you’ve never made them before. You can even get your kids involved in the cooking! They will love making the pupusa dough and shaping them into corn cakes. We love making pupusas for appetizers when friends and family come over. It’s the perfect little snack to dip into salsa and snack on before dinner.

Step by step photos for how to make pupusas

The Ingredients

There are two parts to this recipe. The dough and the filling. For the dough you will need:

  • instant corn masa flour
  • salt
  • hot water

For the bean and cheese mixture you will need:

  • vegetable oil
  • white onion
  • can of kidney beans
  • salt
  • grated queso Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese

Adding pupusa filling to corn mixture

How to Make Pupusas

HEAT. To make the filling, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion layers to the skillet and cook, turning frequently, until blackened on all sides.

BLEND. Remove from the heat, and scoop the onions out of the skillet and into a blender or food processor, preserving the oil. Add the red beans and the bean liquid to the blender, and blend until smooth.

THICKEN. Pour the bean mixture back into the skillet with the oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened. Stir in the salt and adjust seasonings according to taste. Let the beans cool while you make the dough.

CORN CAKES. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the corn masa flour, salt, and hot water, until the dough is thick and sticky. Let it rest 15 minutes. Scoop the dough into 12 equal sized balls, about 1/4 cup each (I used an ice cream scoop to make things easier). Cover the balls with a damp towel so they don’t dry out while you’re assembling the pupusas. Stir the cheese into the cooled beans.

ASSEMBLE. To assemble the pupusas, flatten a dough ball in your hand (you can spray your hands with cooking spray to prevent the dough from sticking, if you prefer). Pinch the sides of the dough up to form a cup shape. Drop 2 tablespoons of the bean mixture into the center of the dough, then fold the edges over to enclose the beans completely. Gently flatten the dough to a 4-5 inch disk. Repeat with remaining dough balls.

COOK. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook the pupusas for 3-4 minutes per side, until the center puffs up slightly and the sides have browned spots. Serve warm.

Notes: These were a little tricky to make, but once I got the hang of stuffing the masa dough balls with the beans, they were pretty easy. I used Maseca brand masa flour, which I found easily at my grocery store on the Mexican aisle. I’ve also seen it at Target and Walmart.

Test the dough: It’s important to get the right amount of moisture in the dough. To test for a golf ball sized piece of dough. Flatten between the palm of your hands, If the edges split or crack, then add a little more water. If dough feels sticky, then add a little more corn flour.

Recipe Tips

  • Keep dough from sticking to your hands by dipping them in a bowl of warm water and a bit of cooking oil 
  • Serve with cabbage relish and salsa roja 
  • Be sure you are using corn flour, not cornmeal. 

Step by step photos for pupusa recipe

Storing + Variations

How to Store?

  • Uncooked: You can make these ahead of time and keep them in the freezer to be cooked later. Once you have the pupusas assembled place them on a baking sheet. Freeze until solid and then transfer them to a freezer safe container. They can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. To fry: thaw and cook according to recipe directions. 
  • Leftover dough: Leftover dough can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to place it in an airtight, freezer safe, cantiner. Allow the dough to warm up to room temperature before shaping. If the dough seems a bit dry add some warm water.
  • Cooked pupusas: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 1-2 months. Thaw before reheating. Reheat in a frying pan heating each side for 1-2 minutes or until hot.

Variations: We filled our pupusas with a delicious bean and cheese mix. You can also use shredded/ground beef or even veggies. Leftover meats make a perfect filling.

Close up of Pupusas on a white platter

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Pupusas Recipe

5 from 7 votes

Savory stuffed corn cakes that originate from El Salvador. These pupusas are filled with a cheesy bean mixture that is so delicious and simple to make!

Course Main Course
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 12
Calories 220 kcal

Ingredients

for the filling:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 white onion cut in half and split into layers
  • 1 15 ounce can Central American red beans or red kidney beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces grated queso Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese

for the dough:

  • 3 cups instant corn masa flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 2/3 cups hot water

Instructions

  1. To make the filling, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion layers to the skillet and cook, turning frequently, until blackened on all sides. Remove from the heat, and scoop the onions out of the skillet and into a blender or food processor, preserving the oil.
  2. Add the red beans and the bean liquid to the blender, and blend until smooth. Pour the bean mixture back into the skillet with the oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened. Stir in the salt and adjust seasonings according to taste. Let the beans cool while you make the dough.

  3. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the corn masa flour, salt, and hot water, until the dough is thick and sticky. Let rest 15 minutes.
  4. Scoop the dough into 12 equal sized balls, about 1/4 cup each (I used an ice cream scoop to make things easier). Cover the balls with a damp towel so they don’t dry out while you’re assembling the pupusas. Stir the cheese into the cooled beans.

  5. To assemble the pupusas, flatten a dough ball in your hand (you can spray your hands with cooking spray to prevent the dough from sticking, if you prefer). Pinch the sides of the dough up to form a cup shape. Drop 2 tablespoons of the bean mixture into the center of the dough, then fold the edges over to enclose the beans completely. Gently flatten the dough to a 4-5 inch disk. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
  6. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook the pupusas for 3-4 minutes per side, until the center puffs up slightly and the sides have browned spots. Serve warm.

Author

Kristyn Merkley

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative – from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Actually this will be my first time trying these little cakes. I like this kind of stuff. SonIm excited to try something different.