This is an updated post from the Macheesmo Archives!
I would say if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from almost
three ten years of running this weird site it wouldn’t be one cooking skill specifically. It would be the ability to not be scared to try something very new. What’s the worst that happens? I fail? It wouldn’t be the first time. In fact, I haven’t made a dish in a while that would rank in my top ten fails of all time.
So I’m feeling pretty confident which, at the end of the day, is what this site is all about I guess.
But I will admit that there was a tinge of doubt in the back of my mind when I started trying homemade pupusas. If you’ve ever had a good one, you know it’s a fine balance between stuffed pocket and delicate tortilla.
I also had some doubt because 1) I happen to be married to a pupusa connoisseur. Betsy loves them and knows a good one from a bad one. 2) I’ve only worked with masa (corn) dough a few times. It can be finicky.
Turns out that I was a tiny bit right. The dough did take some getting used to, but it turned out to be fine and the resulting homemade bean and cheese pupusas were pretty darn tasty!
1) For filling, chop onions and add to a pan with garlic, butter and beans. Cook for five minutes until veggies start to soften. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and process until smooth. If you don’t have a food processor you can just mash the ingredients together. Stir in grated cheese.
3) To make the pupusa dough, stir water into masa until a dough forms. Knead for a minute or two. If the dough is dry and cracking, add more water. If it’s sticky, add more masa.
4) Take a small ball of dough slightly larger than a golf ball and roll it out to a six inch round. I like to use wax paper to help release the dough. Add about 1-2 tablespoons of filling to the center. Fold pupusa dough up around filling to enclose it in dough. Gently form a ball with the dough again, being careful to keep the filling enclosed.
5) Carefully flatten the pupusa out a second time. Wax paper helps. Try to get it about 6 inches across. If the pupusa cracks a lot, that means your dough is too dry.
6) Cook pupusas in a skillet with a small drizzle of oil or for 3 minutes per side on medium high heat.
Serve with avocado, sour cream, and salsa.
The Pupusa Filling
You could used canned refried beans for this filling, but I wanted to make my own because I find that it comes out a bit more flavorful. All I did was chop up an onion and some garlic and add it to a pan with some butter and a can of rinsed pinto beans. I cooked this for about 5 minutes until the veggies were starting to soften.
Next, add a pinch of salt and pepper and add these to a food processor. Pulse the bean mixture until it’s smooth.
Then stir in your grated cheese and your filling is done!
If you don’t have a food processor or you’re just too lazy to bust it out, there’s no reason why this recipe needs completely processed beans. You could just roughly mash them together with the cheese and call it good. If you do that though be sure to dice your onions a lot smaller since they won’t get pulsed.
Making the Pupusas
Ok. The moment of truth. Can I master this dough? The recipe for the dough is about as easy as it gets. Masa and water. Easy enough.
The thing that takes experience (as with all doughs) is knowing the consistency that you want out of the dough. Too dry and the dough will crack a lot and not seal up well around the filling. Too wet and it’ll just turn to mush.
I would start the dough with about 3 parts masa to 2 parts water and adjust from there. Stir the water into the masa and once it forms a ball, knead it for a minute or two. Remember that corn masa doesn’t have gluten in it, so you’re not trying to develop flexibility in the dough, you’re just trying to evenly distribute the water and masa.
Once you get an even dough ball, rip off a small ball of dough (a bit larger than a golf ball) and try to flatten it out. If it cracks a lot around the edges, then your dough needs more water. If it’s soggy and sticky, you need more masa.
Once you get a good consistency, flatten the dough out into about a six inch round. Then add about 1-2 tablespoons of bean filling right in the center.
This was my test pupusa. I could tell my dough was still too dry because it cracked a lot.
Once your filling is in the center, close the edges up around the filling so it forms a ball again. This time, however, the filling is in the direct center of the ball. Once that’s done, carefully flatten out the ball again and you’ll end up with a flat disk that has a bean filling right in the middle!
I fried up my test pupusa and it tasted good, but the cracks meant that the filling leaked all over the place.
NOTE: If you’ve never worked with masa before, this will take you a few tries to get right. You’re not gonna nail it on the first try. If you look at my above one which was my first pupusa, there are all kinds of cracks around the edges. That means my dough was too dry. It’ll still taste good like this, but we can do better.
What I found helped for the dough was to keep a bowl of water by my work station. As I worked with each small ball of dough, I would rub some water over it which would loosen it up a bit. That helped a lot.
Cooking the Pupusas
Once you get the dough right, you can really start banging these out. Luckily cooking these guys is the easy part. Just throw them on a griddle or in a pan with a little oil. The corn is really resilient and won’t burn or anything. You want to cook these over a medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per side.
Once you get the hang of it, you can have some cooking while you’re making others. It’s a little pupusa assembly line of sorts.
Serve these homemade pupusas with sour cream, salsa, and avocado or guac!
I think to really nail these guys, I need to watch an old El Salvadorian grandmother make them. But Betsy gave mine a satisfactory rating which I’ll happily take.
Anyone made pupusas before? Leave a comment with tips!