What are pupusas?

Before I visited El Salvador, I didn’t know what pupusas are. In the United States, Mexican food has been infused into our culture. Tacos and burritos are well known. But food from El Salvador? It’s not well known.

Pupusas, pronounced “poopoo’sus”, are a part of everyday life here in El Salvador. They are by far the most famous food from El Salvador. On every block of town, you’re guaranteed to find at least one “Pupuseria”, which is a small restaurant that sells only pupusas and beverages (like coco-cola, horchata, and fanta).

So what are they?

Pupusas are thick soft tortillas made from corn and stuffed with ingredients, usually beans and cheese. It’s actually very simple recipe, but making them Salvadoran style is rather difficult. I’ve tried. Even with measuring the ingredients, they just weren’t the same. They require the perfect balance of carefully selected ingredients, to be heated in a balanced and careful manner and to be occasionally dosed in vegetable oil.

These are the pupusas that I made. They were good, but not the same as genuine pupusas:

Now, let’s talk REAL pupusas…

Accompanying pupusas on the plate are two additions: red sauce (pureed tomato) and pickled cabbage. It’s not the same to eat pupusas without these two complementary sides. The red sauce adds moisture and flavor to the pupusas and the pickled cabbage gives the meal more texture. You can see the little bag off red sauce and cabbage on the plate in my photo below. Note: THESE ARE GENUINE!

Notice the “Pilsener” beer. That’s a beer from El Salvador. It’s very common and costs about $0.75-1.00 each.

Pupusas are delicious and filling. Admittedly, they’re probably not very healthy for a consistent diet because they’re loaded with fat and carbohydrates. However, they’re perfect for a quick and filling meal.

They’re hugely popular among Salvadoran natives.

It’s not just a cultural food here, it’s also an integral part of the diet in El Salvador. Since I’ve moved to El Salvador to live with my girlfriend and her family, we eat pupusas about twice per week. Only $4 or $5 of pupusas will feed our family of 4, often with one pupusa leftover.

It’s common for people in El Salvador to eat pupusas every day. They’re delicious, low cost, readily available and they’re filling.

If you’ve never tried pupusas, I definitely suggest searching for a restaurant that sells dishes from El Salvador. Salvadoran restaurants exist in almost every city of the United States. I can’t speak for other countries.

They sell pupusas in the frozen food section. I found these in a grocery store in California:

The frozen one’s don’t taste bad, especially if they’re cooked properly in a pan on flame. However, even though they taste good – they don’t taste exactly like the ones in El Salvador. They’re missing the rich taste of unadulterated corn that’s more present in fresh Pupusas.

In any case, I suggest trying to find a local Salvadoran restaurant if you can. Pupusas are delicious and definitely worth a try!