Salvadorean Chicken & Cheese Pupusas with Cabbage Curtido

photo credit (c) 2017 by Tristan Sullivan

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was exposed to all sorts of different food from very different backgrounds at a very young age – and Salvadorean food is definitely no exception.

My first experience with pupusas takes me back to when I was nine, when a family friend (who is Salvadorean) brought pupusas to a gathering at our home. Not really knowing what they were (and giggling over the funny name), all I could tell was that this had CHEESE in it…(and boy, do I LOOOVEEEEE CHEEEEESSSSEEE!!!).  From first bite, it was just pure love – it was like a quesadilla but fifty times better!!!  The tortilla part was a bit crispy on the outside, but once you took a bite, it was nice a fluffy and mixed well with the oozing bits of white gooey cheese. It definitely reminded me of an over-sized mozzarella stick without the breading.

This recipe came about by accident – when I was shopping for ingredients to make tamales, I realized later on that I purchased the wrong type of corn masa (the type for tortillas, rather than the type for tamales). Rather than having to go back to the store and return the wrong masa, I realized that I could use this at my advantage and started researching pupusa recipes. Thus, the 40/30/30 pupusa recipe was born!

Each pupusa is 180 calories each, and really does taste like your typical pupusa, except less greasy and still has that nice cheesy goodness.  And even though these cheesy bundles of goodness are a bit time consuming to make (making 16 takes about 2 hours, after prepping the ingredients), these are so worth it – I usually have to make these every month since they’ve become such a staple in my diet. This is definitely a keeper!

(makes 16 pupusas)

For the masa:
3 1/2 cups of corn flour (Masa)
2 cups water
2 tsp. salt

For the filling:
12 oz. light shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp. adobo seasoning (or other spanish-style dry seasoning – I use the Peruvian Barbeque Blend from Whole Foods)
20 oz. raw boneless and skinless chicken thighs

For the cabbage curtido:
1 9 oz. container of cole slaw mix
1/4. cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano

2 tbsp. canola oil

  1. To make the masa:  in a large bowl, mix the corn flour, salt and water and knead until the mixture is smooth and has the feel and texture of play dough. Set aside in the refrigerator to rest for at least 10 minutes – 1 hour.
  2. To make the curtido: Combine all ingredients, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  3. To make the filling:  season chicken thighs and bake for 25-30 minutes on a lightly-sprayed baking pan. Set aside to cool for 15-20 minutes, then mince into 1/4-inch cubes. Combine chicken with shredded cheese and set aside.
  4. To make the pupusas:
    1. Create 16 equally-sized balls of dough
    2. With each dough ball, press your thumbs into the dough to create a bowl.
    3. Fill each ball with the chicken and cheese mixture, then mold the dough over the filling to seal the filling.
    4. Flatten the ball into a disc approximately 5-6 inches in diameter, and about 1/4-inch thick.
  5. To cook the pupusas, brush each side with cooking oil and cook on a skillet for 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden-brown.
  6. Serve with the curtido on the side.




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