One of the things we most loved to do in Des Moines was go to the farmers market on Saturdays and get a pupusa from the pupusa stand. We haven’t been able to find any pupusas in California that come close to how good those were. The ones here are too small, too perfectly round (as if a machine made them), and don’t have enough filling. The Des Moines ones are stuffed so full the filling starts to ooze out the sides until it gets crispy on the grill. YUM.
So I finally decided, why not try making them ourselves?
The reason I thought we might actually be able to pull it off is that a few years ago Mike spent a morning with the El Salvadoran grandmother that runs the pupusa stand and learned how to make them. And while I didn’t expect us to get to that level of pupusa-making any time soon, I thought we could at least get close. My favorite filling was the bean/cheese combination, so we went with that.
Here’s the recipe we used for the corn masa and filling.
Here’s the recipe we used for the coleslaw/curtido.
Mike notes that for the filling we used red beans instead of kidney beans and Oaxaca cheese instead of jack. For the curtido he sliced everything using the food processor, and cut the carrots into coins instead of grating them.
We doubled the filling recipe and did 1 1/2 times the masa recipe. In the end we had way too much filling, so we either should have left that the same or did a full 2x the masa. I think we got about 8 good-sized pupusas.
It definitely takes a while to do all the steps, so it helps to have another person cooking with you. We cooked the beans first and let the coleslaw marinate for at least a couple hours before we made the rest.
Once you have your masa mixed up, make sure it’s always covered so it doesn’t dry out.
Basically your technique is to take a ball of masa, and using your thumbs, start to make an indentation in the center. Then you’ll pinch the edges until you have what looks like a little ceramic bowl, maybe 1/3-inch thick. Try to make it as uniform as possible. Place some filling in the center (my favorite was about 1/2 bean, 1/2 cheese) and fold the edges in until it looks like a taco. Then you carefully press the edges closed, and start pressing the whole thing flat until it becomes a disc about 1/2-inch thick and 6 inches long.
I should have taken more photos of this process. Sorry!
The masa wants to crack, so you just have to keep pressing it closed and trying to keep the filling close to the edges, but still inside. If a little bit is sticking out, it’s OK.
Then you oil a hot griddle and cook them for a few minutes on each side until they start to get browned. It takes a fair amount of oil to make sure your pupusa is fully coated and doesn’t get too dry.
To serve, you add a big scoop of coleslaw and some salsa verde and you’re good to go.
The first couple we made were pretty good, but once we got the hang of it we started making some really good ones. I wouldn’t say they were farmers market level, but they were the best ones we’ve had in California, for sure. Success!