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Pupusas are just as hands-on to make as they are fun to eat when accompanied by slaw and salsa and bursting with cheese. This Salvadoran tortilla dish will be the newest tradition at your table. Caroline, Recipe Hunter

Caroline Cassard


El Salvadoran Pupusas with Curtido and Salsa Roja

Cheese-oozing tortillas with authentic Latin American toppings

El Salvadoran Pupusas with Curtido and Salsa Roja

Of all the comforting tortilla-based Latin American recipes, pupusas are one of our favorites. They’re made from the same masa harina flour as traditional tortillas, and it’s all about texture and moisture when sculpting them individually. The final thick, pancake-like discs ooze with fresh shredded mozzarella cheese. Traditionally, they’re served with two accompaniments: curtido and salsa roja. Curtido is a Salvadoran cabbage slaw that compliments pupusas and enchiladas, or is eaten as a side dish similar to cole slaw, whereas salsa roja is thinner than the average out-of-a-can chunky variety. For the dough, all you need are a few ingredients, a cast iron pan and your hands, eager to master the pupusa-sculpting process. We suggest starting with the toppings because curtido needs to refrigerate for about 2 hours. But since leftover curtido and salsa store for weeks on end in the fridge, so you can easily serve completed pupusas over and over again. Our base-and-toppings trio is about as authentic as it gets.

See our step-by-step guide to make pupusas here

Curtido (Cabbage Slaw)


  • 1 small cabbage, washed and shredded (about 3-4 cups)
  • 1 cup carrots, washed, peeled and grated
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced into thick rings.
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ – 1 cup warm water


  1. Shred the cabbage, peel and grate the carrots, thinly slice the onion, and toss them with apple cider vinegar and jalapenos in a large bowl.
  2. Use your hands to toss in salt and oregano, then pour the mixture into a large jar and top it off with the warm water until just covered. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving, and enjoy leftovers for weeks to come. Curtido lasts for up to 2 months in the fridge.


Salsa Roja (Red Salsa)


  • 3 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped (or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ to ¾ cup water


  1. Add everything except the water to a blender. Add ½ cup of water and blend until smooth. You want the salsa to be pretty thin so add more water as needed.
  2. Transfer the salsa to a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 7-10 minutes until the salsa has thickened slightly. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Transfer to a jar and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week.



Yield: 8-10


  • 2 cups masa harina (recommended: Maseca brand)
  • 1 ¾ – 2 ¼ cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Vegetable oil for cooking

Fillings: Traditional Salvadoran pupusas are filled with cheese, while pupusas revueltas include a combination of cheese, refried beans and chicharrón. We suggest starting with a soft shredded mozzarella.


  1. Combine Maseca corn flour with 1 ¾ cups water and salt. Temperature and humidity affect the dough’s moisture, so you may or may not need the extra 1/2 cup of water. Mix the dough with your fingers until it comes together and knead for 1 minute. The dough should feel soft and lightweight, like a non-sticky and very pliable playdough. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of water at a time.
  2. Let the dough sit under a damp towel for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Then it’s time to get sculpting: Wet your hands and break the dough into about ⅓-cup pieces. Work with one at a time: gently roll it into a ball and lightly flatten it from one hand to another until you have a ¼ inch-tall pancake-like disc. Dipping your finger tips in a water dish while patting it flat helps to seal dough and avoid clay-like cracks.
  4. Cup the disc in your hand to create a shallow dish for cheese. Add 2 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella. Fold the dough around the center, swallowing up the fillings and sealing them inside. Lightly oil your hands, then gently press the ball into a ½ inch- tall, 5-inch in diameter circle. (Repeat for the remaining 8-10 pieces of dough and store formed pupusas on a plate under a damp paper towel.
  5. Heat a cast iron pan or griddle over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, then add a small drop of vegetable oil and spread evenly with a paper towel. Lightly coat the pupusas with vegetable oil using your fingers, and cook for 6-7 minutes on each side until they are light brown with some charred spots. The touch of oil will keep the pupusas from drying out without becoming too greasy.
  6. Top pupusas with homemade salsa and curtido, and enjoy while they’re warm!

  • Sarah|PickledCapers

    Anything described as “cheese-oozing tortillas” warrants some kind of sonnet.

  • asdf

    That salsa roja is WAAAAY too salty, 2 teaspoons of salt for a tiny amount of salsa? It was inedible!

    • Katy

      Yes, couldn’t agree more. I made it as-is (with the fresh tomatoes) and then had to add 1/2 a can of crushed tomatoes to even out the salt. Adding more tomato was for the better overall, too: I love the fresh, almost raw taste of the versions I’ve had of this sauce with pupusas.

  • Jade Aguiluz

    This was great! I also added chicaron, loroco flowers and refried beans. Thanks! Everyone loved it.