Originating in El Salvador, Pupusas are a traditional dish made of corn tortillas that can be stuffed with a few different ingredients. When they are stuffed 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, don't fret. You can substitute with other types of cheeses, such as queso fresco, mozzarella, or farmer's cheese, or even Monterey Jack.
- 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.
- Let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, for about 15 minutes.
- If using the refried beans and/or the pork, place in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. The consistency should be like a paste.
- Divide the dough into about 6 pieces. 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.
- Place the cheese, beans, pork, or a combination of fillings in the indentation, and carefully wrap dough around the filling to seal.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once the bottom of the pupusa is browned, flip over and cook the other side, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- Remove from heat and serve warm with a side of pickled cabbage slaw (curtido) and tomato sauce (salsa roja).
Pupusas Vs. Arepas
Although pupusas resemble arepas, the two South American specialties are different from one another. Pupusas are from El Salvador while arepas are a signature dish in Venezuela and Columbia. 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 hand-held treat creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside.