Cheesy Lunchtime Salvadoran Pupusas

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time: 20 to 25 minutes. Servings: 4 pupusas.

Latin American cuisine is recognizable for its often bold, bright, and unabashedly vibrant flavors. The best place to find some of the most delicious regional favorites? Hit the streets! In the small Central American country of El Salvador, the national snack or casual lunch of choice is simple corn cakes stuffed with cheese: pupusas. Made with a type of treated cornmeal dough called masa harina, this beloved food is traditionally stuffed with cheese, pork, beans, or all three.

Pupusas were first made by the people of the Pipil tribes, who resided in the area now known as El Salvador. By the 1960s, pupusas were eaten across the country and can now be found in other parts of the worlds as well due to the migration of Salvadorans.

Here, pupusas are simply made with Maseca brand masa harina, kosher salt, and water. The dough is hand-kneaded until it's soft and pliable, then stuffed with shredded mozzarella cheese, sealed, and flattened to resemble pancakes. Lightly pan-fried in oil, these mouthwateringly savory corn cakes become perfectly golden on the outside as the cheese melts on the inside, sometimes seeping out the sides. If it does, consider the browned cheese on the pan a delightful bonus since it's delicious. The next time you're tasked with fixing your own lunch, why not whip up some quick and easy pupusas for a little Salvadoran flair? Whether you eat them on the go or sit down to savor them, pupusas pair extraordinarily well with a tasty cabbage slaw, or curtido, alongside.


Shopping list

  • 1 cup Maseca brand masa harina
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup mozzarella, shredded
  • canola oil
  • curtido or slaw for serving, optional


  • plastic wrap
  • large nonstick pan

Make pupusa dough

In a large bowl, whisk together the masa harina and salt until fully combined. Add water a little at a time, kneading the dough with your hands as you go along. Continue adding the water and kneading until you use up all the water.

Prepare pupusa dough and filling

Place a large piece of plastic wrap on a clean, dry work surface. Lightly grease it with the canola oil. Divide the mozzarella cheese into four equal piles. Divide the prepared pupusa dough into four equal sections.

Fill pupusa

Working with one section of pupusa dough at a time and covering the rest with a damp dish towel, pat the ball of dough flat until it\'s about the size of your palm. Shape the edges of the dough to create a cup. Place one pile of mozzarella cheese inside the cup.

Seal pupusa

Fold over the edges of the pupusa dough, pinching in the center to seal the dough over the cheese. Transfer the dough to the prepared plastic wrap and using your hands, pat down the dough until it\'s 3 to 4 inches in diameter.

Fill and seal remaining pupusas

Fill and seal the remaining pupusas, using up the portioned dough and mozzarella cheese.

Cook pupusas

Heat a small amount of the canola oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the pupusas in a single layer, working in batches if necessary. Cook until the bottoms are golden and browning in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip the pupusas and cook until browned on all over, 3 to 4 minutes more.

Serve pupusas

Serve pupusas with a traditional Salvadoran curtido or similar cabbage slaw alongside. Get ready to make these more often.