January 29, 2023

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Cooking Is My World

How to Make Pupusas Recipe + VIDEO

How to Make Pupusas – These thick and chewy corn tortillas are filled with beans and cheese, pan fried, and topped with a fresh cabbage slaw. Our easy pupusa recipe is perfect for a snack or casual dinner!

Thick corn pupusas on a plate.

What are Pupusas?

Pupusas (sometimes also spelled papusas) are a thick pan-fried corn tortilla stuffed with beans and cheese. They are served all over Central America, and in some areas are even made with wheat flour. However, the most traditional and popular varieties are made with masa harina, an instant corn flour.

The flour is combined with water and a pinch of salt to make a soft, pliable dough. Then add a bit of your favorite fillings, form and flatten the papusa, and quickly pan-fry to golden.

Making Pupusas is fun and a great way to introduce yourself to preparing authentic Latin American cuisine. Get the whole family in on the process!

Variations

Papusas are fun to make and personalize with any sort of filling. The most traditional variety is filled with only beans and cheese, and then serve with a simple cold cabbage slaw on the side.

However, feel free to use up leftover taco meat, carne asada, or shredded rotisserie chicken in the filling as well. They can also be stuffed with stewed chicken, shredded pork carnitas, or other cooked ingredients like pickled jalapeños or diced vegetables!

Top down pupusas on a plate with coleslaw.

Ingredients You Need

For the Curtido Slaw

  • Cabbage slaw mix – packaged or freshly made with finely shredded cabbage and carrots
  • Lime – juiced
  • Salt – just a pinch to taste

For the Pupusa Dough

  • Masa Harina – also known as corn flour
  • Salt – for flavor
  • Water – to create the smooth dough

Classic Fillings

  • Refried black beans – low sodium is preferable
  • Monterey jack cheese – shredded
  • Oil – avocado, olive, or canola

Optional additional fillings: stewed chicken, carnitas, ground beef, chorizo, chopped pickled jalapeno, roasted squash, and/or pico de gallo.

Hands tearing open papusa showing inside to camera.

How to Make a Simple Curtido Slaw

Set out a medium mixing bowl. Combine the cabbage slaw mix with the lime juice and ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix well.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pro Tip: I recommend that you prepare the slaw no more than a few hours before serving. If it sits too long the cabbage will start to lose that delightful crunchiness.

Squeezing lemon into bowl of coleslaw.

How to Make Pupusas

Set out a large mixing bowl. Add the masa harina, salt, and water.

Masa harina in a bowl.

Mix by hand until the mixture is very soft and smooth. Set aside.

Hand shaping masa harina and water into a soft dough.

Set a large cast-iron skillet on the stovetop. Set the refried beans, shredded Monterey jack cheese, and any other fillings you would like to use on a clean work surface.

Use a scoop to measure out 3-4 tablespoon balls of pupusa dough. They should be slightly larger than golf balls. Rub your hands with additional masa to keep them dry.

One at a time, press the masa balls into flat disks about 5 inches wide, or the width of your palm. One of my favorite things about this easy pupusa recipe is: They don’t need to be perfect or look pretty!

Now place 1 teaspoon of refried beans in the center then cover with 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese. Add a scant amount of any other filling you would like. Be careful not to overfill the pupusas or they will be hard to seal.

Gently fold the sides of the dough up over the fillings and pinch. Then pinch along the sides of the dough creating a clamshell shape. Rotate the closed papusa in your hands to create a ball.

Get the Complete (Printable) Pupusa Recipe + VIDEO Below. Enjoy!

Then gently flatten it into a thin disk, about 4 inches across. Check the sides and pinch to seal any areas where filling might be coming out. It’s ok to see a little bit of black beans peeking out here and there, but you don’t want fully open areas.

Heat the skillet over medium and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot add 4 to 6 pupusas to the skillet at a time. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes per side until golden.

Pupusas cooking in a cast iron skillet.

Repeat the filling, shaping, and frying until you have used all the pupusa dough up. Add oil to the skillet as needed.

Serve immediately, or keep warm in a low-heat oven, until all the pupusas are cooked.

Hand holding papusa to camera.

Serving Suggestions

These are fantastic for a hearty snack or lunch. Serve the pupusas warm with a side of the homemade slaw to top them. It’s common to eat with your hands, so don’t be afraid to tear and scoop!

Include your favorite toppings on the table! We love guacamole, avocado slices, avocado crema, fresh salsa, and sour cream.

Top down pupusas on a plate with cold slaw.

Recipe Variations

  • Add stewed chicken, carnitas, ground beef, chorizo, or other cooked meat you like.
  • Keep this a vegetarian recipe and add hearty veggies like roasted squash or sweet potatoes.
  • Swap refried black beans with refried pinto beans if you prefer.
  • We love the tangy, yet mild, taste of Monterey jack cheese. But any melty shredded cheese will do! Sharp or medium cheddar, Colby jack, or cotija are all great options.
  • Make this an entirely dairy-free and vegan pupusa recipe by omitting the cheese. Serve with Magical All-Purpose Cashew Cream!
Three pupusas on a plate with small glass dish of slaw.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Pupusas, Gorditas, and Arepas?

Gorditas and Arepas are often confused with Papusas. However, both of these dishes consist of a thick corn tortillas that is cooked first, then sliced and filled afterward. Pupusas are always filled before cooking. 

Gorditas use the same kind of corn flour as Pupusa so they are very similar. However, Arepas use a different precooked corn flour that produces a different overall texture.

Are pupusas gluten-free?

Yes, they are! Masa Harina – corn flour – is naturally gluten-free.

Can I prep pupusas ahead of time?

You can make this pupusa recipe and freeze them in advance. Make the dough, stuff, and shape, but do not cook. Instead, place them on a baking sheet and flash freeze for one hour. Then transfer to a zipper freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Cook from frozen in a hot skillet.

However, uncooked papusas should not be kept in the fridge. They will quickly dry out and become crumbly.

How long can I keep them in the fridge?

Cooked pupusas will keep well for a day or two in the refrigerator. Keep them in a tightly sealed container.

Can I freeze cooked pupusas?

I do not recommend freezing them once they’re cooked. Freezing them, thawing, and re-cooking will make the dough dry and crumbly.

What’s the best way to reheat them?

Lightly pan-fry on the stovetop until warmed throughout. Alternatively, you can reheat them in a microwave. Wrap each individually in a slightly damp paper towel, and cook in 20-second intervals at 50% power.

Hand with pupusa bite taken, coleslaw on top.

Looking for More Easy Snack Recipes? Be Sure to Also Try:

How to Make Pupusas (Recipe + VIDEO)

Thick and chewy corn tortillas are filled with beans and cheese, pan fried, and topped with a fresh cabbage slaw. This easy pupusa recipe is perfect for a snack or casual dinner!

Servings: 21 pupusas

For the Curtido Slaw –

  • 2 cups cabbage slaw mix
  • 1 lime juiced
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the Pupusa Dough –

  • 4 cups masa harina
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups water
  • For the Fillings –
  • ½ cup refried black beans
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 4 tablespoons oli avocado, olive, canola
  • Optional fillings: stewed chicken carnitas, ground beef, chopped pickled jalapeno, roasted squash, pico de gallo
  • For the slaw: Set out a medium mixing bowl. Combine the cabbage slaw mix with the lime juice and ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

  • For the Pupusa dough: Set out a large mixing bowl. Combine the masa harina, salt, and water. Mix by hand until the mixture is very soft and smooth. Set aside.

  • Set a large cast-iron skillet on the stovetop. Set the refried beans, shredded Monterey jack cheese, and any other fillings you would like to use on a clean work surface.

  • Use a scoop to measure out 3-4 tablespoon balls of pupusa dough. They should be slightly larger than golf balls. Rub your hands with additional masa to keep them dry. One at a time, press the masa balls into flat disks about 5 inches wide, or the width of your palm. Place 1 teaspoon of refried beans in the center then cover with 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese. Add a scant amount of any other filling you would like. Be careful not to overfill the pupusas or they will be hard to seal.

  • Gently fold the sides of the dough up over the fillings and pinch. Then pinch along the sides of the dough creating a clam shell shape. Rotate the closed pupusa in your hands to create a ball. Then gently flatten into a thin disk, about 4 inches across. Check the sides and pinch to seal any areas where filling might be coming out. It’s ok to see a little bit of black beans peeking out here and there, but you don’t want fully open areas.

  • Heat the skillet over medium and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot add 4 to 6 pupusas to the skillet at a time. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes per side until golden. Repeat the filling, shaping, and frying until you have used all the pupusa dough. Add oil to the skillet as needed.

  • Serve immediately, or keep warm in a low heat oven, until all the pupusas are cooked.

Serve the pupusas warm with a side of slaw to top them. You can also top them with salsa and sour cream if you like!

Serving: 1pc, Calories: 108kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 353mg, Potassium: 89mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 0.3g, Vitamin A: 102IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 77mg, Iron: 2mg

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