Pupusas: Stuffed Corn Tortillas

Papusa recipe

​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
161 Calories
9g Fat
15g Carbs
6g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 161
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9g 11%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 17mg 6%
Sodium 293mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 144mg 11%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 77mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Originating in El Salvador, pupusas are a traditional dish made of corn tortillas that can be stuffed with a few different ingredients. Pupusas are a favorite dish in El Salvador, so much so, they have a day set aside to celebrate this much-beloved food; the second Sunday of November is National Day of Pupusas.

When they're filled with cheese, they are called pupusas de queso; they can also be filled with beans and/or Salvadoran-style chicharrón (shredded pork); a pupusa revuelta has all three fillings. Pupusas are usually eaten with your bare hands, but be careful, as the filling inside the corn tortillas is very hot when served immediately. 

If you are having a hard time finding traditional quesillo cheese, a Salvadoran cheese, you can substitute with other types of cheeses, such as queso fresco, mozzarella, or farmer cheese, or even Monterey Jack.


  • 3 cups masa harina (corn flour for making tortillas)

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1/2 cup refried beans, optional

  • 1 cup chicharrón (pork rind), optional

  • Vegetable oil, for oiling hands and skillet

  • 1 cup grated quesillo

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pupusas: stuffed corn tortillas recipe gathered

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. In a large bowl, mix the masa harina with the water and salt, stirring well. Add more water if necessary to obtain a soft dough that does not crack around the edges when flattened.

    Mix masa harina with water

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, for about 15 minutes.

    Let dough rest

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. If using the refried beans and/or the chicharrón, place in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. The consistency should be like a paste.

    Place in blender

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. Divide the dough into about 6 pieces.

    Divide the dough

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  6. Lightly oil your hands to keep the dough from sticking to them (just a small amount of vegetable oil will do). Form each piece of dough into a ball, then make an indentation in the ball.

    Dough formed into a balls and then indented

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  7. Place the grated quesillo, beans, chicharrón, or a combination of fillings in the indentation, and carefully wrap dough around the filling to seal.

    Place bean, cheese, pork in center

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  8. Flatten the ball into a disk, about 1/4 inch thick, being careful to keep the filling from leaking out of the edges. This can take a little practice.

    Flatten a ball into a disk

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  9. Wipe a very small amount of oil onto the surface of a heavy skillet (cast iron works well). Heat the skillet over medium heat, and place the pupusas in the skillet.

    Pupusas in the skillet

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  10. Once the bottoms of the pupusas are browned, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

    Flip papusas

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  11. Remove from the heat and serve warm with a side of pickled cabbage slaw (curtido) and tomato sauce (salsa roja) if desired.

    Papusas on plate

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  12. Enjoy.

    Enjoy Pupusas: Stuffed Corn Tortillas

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Pupusas vs. Arepas

Although pupusas resemble arepas, the two Latin American specialties are different from one another. Pupusas are from El Salvador, while arepas are a signature dish in Venezuela and Colombia. They are both griddle-cooked corn cakes, but the dough for pupusas is made with nixtamalized (alkaline-treated) corn, which gives them the same distinctive nutty corn flavor as tortillas and tamales. Arepas are made with masarepa, a special cornmeal, making this handheld treat creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

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