These homemade pupusas are filled with roasted poblanos, refried beans and oaxaca cheese! Serve your roasted poblano pupusas with our easy curtido, a pickled cabbage slaw that makes for a refreshing topping!
Pupusas, delicious savory stuffed corn-based cakes, originated in El Salvador and have since become popular throughout other parts of the world. From chicharron pupusas at a local Salvadoran food truck to seafood pupusas in Belize, we can never resist an opportunity to snack on the handheld comfort food! Since we’re currently living hundreds of miles from the nearest pupuseria, we’ve been making them at home with refried beans, cheese and whatever else we can think of. Today’s version features roasted poblanos!
the filling: roasted poblano, refried beans and cheese
Before we get to the dough, let’s talk about the delicious filling! When we order pupusas at a restaurant, some of our favorites are pupusas revueltas, which are stuffed with refried beans, cheese and chicharron (which in El Salvador refers to crispy seasoned pork). But in the vegetarian version we’ve been making at home, we’ve replaced the pork with quick roasted poblanos!
While you can char your poblanos on the grill or over an open flame, we generally find broiling them in the oven to be easiest. After 4-5 minutes of broiling on each side, we wrap the poblano in a bit of foil to steam for an additional 15 minutes. Then just scrape off the charred skin (it should come off very easily), deseed and dice!
As for the only other two ingredients, we use canned refried beans (but you could certainly make your own) and shredded oaxaca cheese. If you can’t find oaxaca, mozzarella would be an excellent substitute.
To make the pupusa dough, you need only three ingredients: masa harina, salt and water. Masa harina is the dried and powdered form of maize dough (masa) and can be found at most large grocery stores. Mix the masa harina, salt and water in a large bowl and knead until smooth. The dough should be quite soft so if it’s crumbling or tears easily when you try and form it into a disc, add water one tablespoon at a time.
To get the best pupusas, it’s important to make sure that the dough doesn’t dry out. To prevent this, make sure to keep the dough you’re not working with covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth at all times. I also keep the formed pupusas covered with a damp cloth as well. Another great way to keep the dough hydrated (and keep the dough from sticking to your hands) is to mix a small bowl of water with a bit of olive or vegetable oil. Dip your hands in the mixture as needed before working with the dough.
When forming the pupusas, I like to start by dividing the dough into 12 balls so they’re about equal in size. Form each ball into a disc (see the photos above), add the filling and close the dough around the filling to seal it in. Next, gently roll the dough back into a ball and flatten into a disc with your hands. If you make it too thin and you start to see little pockets of your filling, you can patch them up easily with a bit of extra dough. These pupusas aren’t too finicky at all and if a few pupusas leak delicious gooey cheese when you fry them, well that’s not a bad problem at all!
To cook, lightly brush your skillet with a bit of oil and fry each pupusa for about four or five minutes on each side over medium heat. If the pupusas are burning before they cook through, reduce the heat as needed.
Curtido, a fermented Salvadoran cabbage slaw, is a wonderfully light and refreshing addition to these bean and cheese filled pupusas! It can be made with just cabbage, carrots, onion, vinegar and salt. While traditional curtido doesn’t require a very long fermentation period, we still generally find ourselves having not planned ahead and needing to whip it up a few hours before our pupusas are ready. For that reason we’ve included our super quick curtido fix, but feel free to make it a few days in advance for the best flavor!
We also served our pupusas with Salvadoran salsa roja using a wonderful recipe from Recetas Salvadorenas. It requires blending your ingredients and then reducing them on the stovetop into a deliciously smooth and flavorful salsa!
For more of our favorite handheld street foods, give these recipes a try!
- chebureki | fried beef pockets
- chicken empanadas
- salbutes | fried puffed corn tortillas
- hotteok | sweet pancakes
roasted poblano pupusas
- masa harina 3 c (360 g)
- water 2.5 c (600 ml)
- salt 2 tsp
- poblano 1 large
- refried beans 15 oz (420 g)
- oaxaca cheese 5 oz (140 g)
- water ½ c (120 ml)
- vegetable oil 1 tbsp
- (plus additional for frying)
- cabbage ½ head
- carrot 2 large
- red onion ½ small
- jalapeno (optional) 1 small
- dried oregano 1 tsp
- salt 2 tsp
- apple cider vinegar ½ c (120 ml)
- water ½ c (120 ml)
- (plus additional for boiling)
roasted poblano pupusas
- Preheat oven to broil. Place the poblano on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and place in the oven directly under the heating element. Broil for 4-5 minutes on each side or until the skin is charred. Remove from oven and carefully wrap the foil around the poblano to keep in heat. Let sit for 15 minutes before scraping off the charred skin, deseeding and dicing.
- In a large bowl combine the masa harina, water and salt. Knead until smooth. The dough should be quite soft so if it appears too crumbly, add water one tablespoon at a time.
- Mix one tablespoon of vegetable oil with ½ cup (120 ml) of water. Dip your hands in the mixture before forming each pupusa to keep the dough hydrated. Additionally, keeping the dough covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap will help to prevent it drying out.
- Divide the dough into 12-13 balls (65-70 g each).
- Form each ball into a disc (about ½ inch or 12 mm thick). Add a spoonful of refried beans and top generously with shredded oaxaca and diced poblano. Close the dough around the filling and gently roll back into a ball. Gently flatten into a disc with your hands.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and brush a small amount of oil (about 2 tsp) over the surface. Cook each pupusa for approximately 5 minutes on each side or until it begins to slightly brown in spots. Lower the heat if they are cooking too fast or burning before cooked through.
- Prepare the veggies. Shred the cabbage and peel and cut the carrots into long, thin strips. Thinly slice the red onion. Deseed and slice the jalapeno.
- Place the cabbage and carrots in a large bowl and cover with boiling water for one minute. Drain and transfer to a large glass jar along with the red onion, jalapeno, oregano, salt, apple cider vinegar and water.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
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