Simply De-Lite-Ful: Pupusas and more!

Alice Bolen's Pupusas
Pupusas,  a traditional dish from El Salvador, are  thicker corn tortillas with a filling which can be meat (usually finely ground pork or shredded chicken), a bean mixture, or if your diet allows it, cheese.  Pupuasas are cooked on a griddle, and served with a pickled cabbage slaw called curtido and thin tomato sauce (salsa roja).  The Avocado sauce is also delicious.
Yield: About 6 -8 pupusas.

  • 3 cups masa harina (corn flour for making tortillas)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (more if needed to make a soft dough resembling play dough)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional, but gives better flavor)

Meat, bean mixture or cheese for fillings.  Recipes below.  I offer shredded cheese like low fat Mexican blend cheese, Queso Fresco, etc. as a filling for those of my guests or family who don’t have dietary restrictions. 
Top with either or both of the sauces, fat free sour cream and sliced avocado or a little chopped, fresh cilantro to garnish.  Serve Curtido as a topping or on the side.  Also good with shredded lettuce for those who might prefer it over the cabbage.

  • 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. Work with fingers until it comes together and  knead for about 1 minute..
  • Let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, for about 15 minutes.
  • Divide dough into pieces  about 1/3 cup each.  Form each piece into a ball of dough, then holding it in the pam of your hand, make an indentation in the ball with the fingers of your other hand, making it like a little cup. Place filling of choice in the indentation, and carefully wrap dough around the filling to seal. Flatten ball into a disk, about 1/4 inch thick, being careful to keep filling from leaking out of the edges. (this takes a little practice).  If there is a little filling that escapes, it’s okay.  You can make ahead to this point, placing formed and filled pupusas on a plate, separated with plastic wrap or waxed paper.  Cover and refrigerate till ready to cook.
  • Lightly spray the surface of a heavy skillet or griddle with cooking spray. Heat the skillet or griddle over medium heat, and place the pupusas on the cooking surface. Allow to brown on each side, like a tortilla, flipping as necessary 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and serve warm with Curtido, Salsa Roja or Avocado sauce.  If you prefer, you can serve with shredded lettuce  as well.
  • If you prefer, you can form the dough into discs about ¼ inch thick, grill till lightly browned on each side and serve open face with fillings piled on top, tostada style.

Curtido (Salvadoran Cabbage Slaw)
Makes about 4 cups

  • 1/2 head cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper cut in large slices. (I remove as many seeds as possible to minimize the heat.)

Combine the cabbage, carrot, and onion in a large bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and then pour over the cabbage mixture and stir.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Keeps up to a week.

Salsa Roja

  • 3-4 medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped (or 1 15 oz can of whole tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Add everything except water to a blender.  Add ½ cup or water and blend till smooth.  You want the salsa to be pretty thin, so add more water as needed.
Transfer the salsa to a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Reduce heat and cook for 7-10 minutes till it thickens slightly.  (It will still be thin.)  Taste and adjust seasons as necessary..  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Transfer to a jar and serve or refrigerate up to 1 week.

Avocado Sauce

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • ½ jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and quartered (more if you like it hot)
  • 1 cup water (or a little more to thin it out a bit)
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped  fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • Juice of ½ lime

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process at high speed till it is completely smooth .  Add additional water a little at a time if too thick.  Should be like very heavy cream.  Pour into a bowl and refrigerate till ready to serve.

South of the Border Shredded Chicken

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup red salsa (I use Mild Pace Picante, but your favorite is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon mince garlic
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to boil over medium heat.  Reduce to simmer and cook about 25- 30 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through.  (This can also be done in a slow cooker, cooking on low till tender—probably 2 plus hours, depending on your cooker.)  When done, remove chicken and shred it, using 2 forks to pull it apart.  Return the pan with the sauce in it to the stove and gently boil for 5-7 minutes to reduce it slightly.  Put shredded chicken back in the sauce and mix well.  Put it in a dish and refrigerate till ready to make pupusas.  Bring to room temperature or heat a little before putting them together. 

Black Bean and Corn Salsa or Pupusa Filling

  • ¾ cup black beans
  • ¾ cup cooked corn, (canned, fresh or frozen)
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup sweet red pepper, chopped
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ -1 teaspoon seeded, finely minced serrano chili (depending on desired  heat)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients and chill several hours or longer to blend flavors.


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