You may recall I made home made tortillas a week or so ago. I still have plenty masa harina left, and after perusing the contents of my pantry, I figured I’d try my hand at making pupusas. Pupusas are a Salvadoran dish that’s essentially a stuffed tortilla (the Latin American kind, not the Spanish kind). For the filling I used cheese and some leftover sweet potatoes.
Pupusas are traditionally stuffed with cheese, beans or pork. After mixing the masa with water, the dough is divided up and formed into balls which are in turn formed into a cup shape. After the filling is added, the sides are closed up and the whole thing is shaped into a disk. It takes a bit of practice to learn how much filling to add and how to form the pupusa without squeezing the filling out through the sides.
If you get frustrated, you can do what I did and make quesadillas. Did you know quesadillas aren’t always Mexican grilled cheese? I did because I was fortunate enough to work with a group of really good cooks from all over Mexico and the Caribbean.
You can serve the pupusas with a pickled cabbage relish called curtido or you can serve them as I did, with sour cream and guacamole and some black beans on the side. The sweet potato filling turned out great and would work fine as a taco filling. The cheese filled pupusas and quesadillas were also well received. Rick loved them, and he’s the only one in the house who has actually eaten authentic pupusas.
A cast iron pan wiped with a small amount of oil is probably best for cooking these. You can add more oil if you prefer your pupusas and quesadillas to be a little more crunchy.
You should get 8 pupusas (or 16 quesadillas) from this recipe, which was adapted from this one from the Maseca web site (and includes how to make the curtido).
- 2 cups masa harina (Bob’s Red Mill makes an organic, gmo free masa (affiliate link))
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups cooked diced sweet potatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 cup finely diced onion
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup grated cheese (Monterey Jack, cotijo, cheddar, mozzarella…whatever you have on hand)
- oil for frying (I used coconut oil, but sunflower oil would be a good choice as well)
- Mix the masa harina, water and salt in a large mixing bowl until it forms a ball. You want a dough that is wet enough to be “moldable” so the dough can be handled without splitting. I use my hands to mix. Allow to set for 15 – 20 minutes while you make the filling.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small skillet. Add a single cumin seed and when it cracks, throw the rest in and stir them around.
- Add the onions and sauté until they begin to soften and change color.
- Add the sweet potatoes, chili powder and garlic powder and allow to heat through.
- When heated through, remove from the heat and mash the mixture with a fork or potato masher.
- Set aside and until it’s cool enough to handle.
- Use this time to grate the cheese and make the guacamole or curtido if you’re going to serve either of those.
- When ready to assemble, divide the dough into 8 parts (16 for quesadillas).
- For the pupusas, form a piece of dough into a ball, then use your fingers to form a bowl shape.
- Fill with a small amount of sweet potato, cheese, or a mixture of both.
- Pinch the edges closed and pat into a disk shape.
- Fry in the skillet for a couple minutes on each side until a nice color forms.
- For the quesadillas, follow the directions here for making tortillas. Put a small amount of sweet potato, cheese or a mixture in the middle of the tortilla and fold the other side over to form a half circle.
- Pinch the edges closed and cook in the skillet for a couple minutes on each side until a nice color forms.
If you want to try a meat filling, all the recipes I came across advise using a blender to make a paste with the meat and a small amount of broth or water. If you want to use beans, you should blend or mash them until smooth.
I think the quesadillas are easier to make, but I’d like to get more comfortable making pupusas, since Rick liked them so much. Whichever you choose, have fun making your pupusas and quesadillas. They are a great way to stretch small amounts of leftover food into an novel meal.