20 Traditional Salvadoran Foods to Try Today. The Culinary Treasures of El Salvador

Exploring the Rich Diversity of Salvadoran Foods!

By Eddie Galdamez  | Updated on Feb 26th, 2024
El Salvador FoodsSalvadoran Traditional Foods.

El Salvador Foods. The best traditional Salvadoran foods are Pupusas, Tamales, Yuca Frita con Chicharon, different types of soups, Empanadas, Pastelitos, Quesadillas, Panes con Pollo, and desserts. These typical Salvadoran foods have unique flavors that make them popular with locals and foreigners.

El Salvador foods are a mixture of Spanish cuisine and indigenous foods from native groups such as Mayan, Xinca, Lenca, Pogoman, Cacaopera, and Pipil. These tasty local dishes are served all over the territory, and even though the country is small, different regions offer variations of the same traditional meals.

The following 20 Salvadoran foods are the most popular in the country and are available all over the territory; it includes appetizers, desserts, and regular meals.

El Salvador Foods
El Salvador food festival in Juayua. Photo by El Salvador Travel.

What Salvadoran Food to Eat?
20 Popular Salvadoran Foods to Try

Salvadoran cuisine is a mixture of Spanish and indigenous foods that began its blend during colonial times. It mixes Native American cuisine from Lencas, Pipil, Mayan, and Cacaopera Indians with traditional Spanish cuisine.

1. Pupusas. The National Dish of El Salvador

Pupusa is the national dish of El Salvador; they are hand-made tortillas made of corn or rice flour filled with cheese, pork, beans, or Loroco (a local edible flower). They are topped with homemade Curtido (a sour cabbage salad) and tomato sauce, also known as salsa.

Pupusas are well-known worldwide; they are the pride of all Salvadorans. Tell any Salvadoran that you will visit El Salvador for the first time. I am sure they will tell you that you have to try pupusas.

Traditional Pupusas are made of corn-based flour; however, they can also be made with rice-based flour. The taste is different, so it will be up to you to decide which you prefer.

The traditional stuffings of pupusas are cheese, pork, or beans; nevertheless, you can get them with other items such as Loroca flower, Ayote (Salvadoran Punkin), chicken, and other things.

Curtido and salsa are the main toppings of this popular dish. Each Pupuseria serves a different variation of this side dish; it ranges from a mild taste to extra spicy.

Pupusa is a food that you can easily find all over El Salvador. This traditional Salvadoran food is good at any point of the day, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a snack.

RELATED: If you want to know more details about the national dish of El Salvador, visit our “Salvadoran Pupusas” page.

El Salvador Food
Salvadoran Pupusas

2. Tamales. Best Salvadoran Food for Special Celebrations

Salvadoran tamales are made using corn dough mixed with spices and are filled with chicken, a slice of boiled egg, and tomato-based sauce. It also includes vegetables such as olives, green pepper, or a thin piece of potato.

The tomato-based sauce, which goes inside the tamale, changes depending on the individual or family; everyone, who makes tamales, has their recipe for this sauce.

Tamale is the food most Salvadorans make for special events, from funerals to weddings. In El Salvador, you will find different types of Tamales, such as traditional, Pisques, Sugar, and corn tamale.

Salvadoran Tamales
Traditional Salvadoran Tamales.

Traditional Salvadoran Tamale

Traditional tamale is stuffed with a reddish tomato-based sauce, meat (chicken, pork, or turkey), vegetables (olive, green pepper, potato, or a combination), and in some instances, a slice of boiled egg.

Tamales Pisques

Tamales Pisques are traditionally made with corn dough and typically stuffed with refried beans; however, some add Salvadoran cheese to the mix.

Tamales de Azucar or Sugar Tamales

These Tamales are made mainly in individual homes and for personal use. They are made of corn dough and stuffed with Salvadoran sugar (Dulce de Atado) or jam (pineapple, strawberry). Some people will also add chicken and vegetables to these tamales.

Tamales de Elote or Corn Tamales

Tamale de Elote or corn Tamale is seasonal. The main ingredient to make them is fresh corn, which is available only at the crop’s earliest stages.

The corn dough is prepared with milk, butter, salt, and sugar; then, it is wrapped in corn husks instead of the traditional banana leaves and cooked in water. These tamales are served with Crema, a Salvadoran cream cheese.

3. Yuca Frita con Chicharron or Deep-Fried Cassava with Pork Chunks

Yuca con chicharron is fried pieces of Yuca root or Cassava, served with chunks of crispy pork meat. The typical dish is topped with cabbage and tomato sauce. Chicharrones are pork belly chunks or pork rinds deep-fried.

Yuca Frita is made from a delicious root vegetable similar to Cassava. It is a starchy root, almost like a potato when it comes to texture and taste. The preparation is more tedious; firstly, you need to steam it and then deep-fry it to a golden brown color.

All over El Salvador, you will find the same Yuca Frita with Chicharron; the only thing that will change is what they are served with, such as the type of cabbage and sauce.

El Salvador Foods
Yuca con Chicharron. Deep-Fried Cassava with pork chunks,

4. Sopa de Pata or Cow’s Foot Soup

Sopa de Pata is made with meat from the cow’s feet, cooked with vegetables, such as Yuca, corn, plantains, beans, tomatoes, and cabbage. The combination of meat with vegetables, lemon juice, and cilantro adds the perfect zest to this traditional soup.

This soup is a delicacy that is not available all the time, most places that make it will do it on specific days of the week and for lunch. This lunch dish is popular with locals, especially the elderly.

Sopa de Pata
Salvadoran Sopa de Pata.

5. Sopa de Res or Beef Soup

Sopa de Res (Beef Soup) is a traditional Salvadoran lunch soup made by cooking large chunks of beef with corn, carrots, yuca, cabbage, plantains, and zucchini. This famous soup is found principally at lunchtime in small food places at the local markets.

Sopa de Res
Salvadoran Beef Soup.

6. Sopa de Mondongo or Tripe Soup

Mondongo soup is made using cow’s tripe, tendons, and cartilage mixed with spices, corn, cabbage, carrots, and yuca. Mondongo soup is a popular dish among local Salvadorans for getting rid of hangovers. It is regularly sold during the weekends at lunchtime.

Mondongo soup
El Salvador food. Mondongo soup

7. Sopa de Gallina India or Wild Chicken Soup

Wild chicken soup or Sopa de Gallina India is made using wild or indigenous Indian chicken. The soup is cooked with chopped vegetables, garlic, herbs, and spices.

Sopa de Gallina India is a popular lunch dish found in local markets, mainly at lunchtime. Most restaurants only serve it on special occasions or during the weekends.

Sopa de Gallina India
Salvadoran Sopa de Gallina India. Photo by @SalvadoranPride

8. Empanadas de Leche o Frijoles

Empanadas are ground plantain molded into oval balls stuffed with vanilla custard or beans; this sweet food is served with sugar sprinkled on top. Empanadas are served as a dessert or snack, usually with coffee.

Empanada de Leche
Empanade de leche. Photo by @ahistoriasv

9. Pasteles or Pastelitos

Fried Pasteles or Pastelitos are a popular Salvadoran food eaten mainly as a snack or appetizer. This food is similar to Spanish Tapas from Spain.

Each Pastelito is made with corn dough, achiote powder, and other condiments. It is then made into a half-moon shape filled with either meat, vegetables, or a combination. They are then deep-fried and served with tomato sauce and cabbage on the side.

Salvadoran Food
Salvadoran Pateles.

10. Quesadillas. Salvadoran Cheesecake

Quesadilla is a delicious traditional Salvadoran dessert made with local cheese, butter, eggs, milk, and flour. This food is cooked in an artisanal oven that uses wood.

The quesadillas are top with sesame seeds and usually served with a hot cup of coffee or chocolate. The traditional food is available everywhere, in restaurants, coffee shops, and on the side of the Salvadoran roads.

Salvadoran food
Quesadillas from artisan oven.

11. Panes Rellenos. Salvadoran Sandwiches

Panes Rellenos are chicken or turkey subs mixed with a tomato-based sauce and spices; it is topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. Panes Rellenos are also known as Panes Migueleños because they are a characteristic food of the department of San Miguel in the eastern part of the country.

Salvadoran Panes Rellenos
Salvadoran Panes Rellenos.

12. Platanos con Huevos, Crema y Frijoles.

Platanos, con Huevos, Crema y Frijoles, or fried plantains with eggs, cream, and beans are the typical Salvadoran breakfast found all over El Salvador. This breakfast dish includes either Tortillas or bread (Pan Frances). Each location that serves a typical Salvadoran breakfast will offer different variations of scrambled eggs and beans

El Salvador Breakfast Food
Salvadoran breakfast. Image by @cecyliss

13. Lomo Relleno. Stuffed Pork Loin

Stuffed pork loin or Lomo Relleno is a traditional meal mainly cooked during special occasions such as Christmas. It is pork or beef tenderloin flattened and then stuffed with more meat and vegetables. The typical stuffing includes carrots, onions, potatoes, peppers, and diced bacon or ham.

Salvadoran Lomo Relleno
Salvadoran Lomo Relleno. Photo by Tipicos Salvadoreños

14. Coctel de Conchas or Shellfish Cocktail

Shellfish cocktail or Coctel de conchas is a typical dish popular in the Salvadoran coastal areas. It combines black shell clams (conchas Negras), diced tomatoes, cilantro, lemon juice, and onions. Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and salt are added to give it flavor.

Coctel de conchas
Coctel de conchas. El Salvador food.

15. Salvadoran Enchiladas

The dough for this food is made with corn dough mixed with achiote powder and other condiments. The dough is flattened like a tortilla and then fried until done. A typical Salvadoran enchilada is topped with beans paste, hard-boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, avocado, and cabbage. Shredded cheese and other sauces are added to give it a unique taste.

Salvadoran Enchiladas
Salvadoran Enchiladas.

16. Mariscada or Seafood Soup

Mariscada is a typical Salvadoran seafood soup common in the coastal areas of El Salvador. This delicious soup has fish, shrimp, squid, crabs, clams, and lobster. A traditional Mariscada is topped with cilantro and chives for extra flavor. Mariscadas is available in a clear broth or made with Salvadoran cream for a creamy look and taste.

Salvadoran Maeiscada
Salvadoran Mariscada or Seafood Soup.

17. Nuegados

Salvadoran Nuegados are made of Yuca or corn dough. Nuegados are deep-fried and served with honey; it is a sweet dish eaten, usually as a snack or dessert. This tasty dish is served accompanied by Chilate, a traditional drink in El Salvador.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador street foods. Best Salvadoran Street Foods to try!

18. Arroz con Leche or Rice with Milk

Arroz con Leche is a popular dessert item in El Salvador. Rice with milk or Arroz con Leche is easy to make. To prepare it, you must boil rice, sugar, cinnamon, and milk. This dessert can be eaten hot or cold.

19. Casamiento

Casamiento is made with leftover beans and rice. They are mixed together and refried again to give it a unique taste; some places add vegetables such as peppers, onions, and tomatoes, to give it additional flavor. Casamiento is a complementary side item served with other meats or with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

20. Marquesote or Salvadoran Cake

The Salvadoran Marquesote is a traditional fluffy cake usually served as a snack with coffee or hot chocolate. This typical dessert cake is made with flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon.

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America with fantastic gastronomy. Try the traditional Salvadoran foods; I am sure you will enjoy them! Travel to El Salvador and indulge yourself with the excellent local cuisine or look for a recipe online and prepare these typical Salvadoran foods.

Marquesote or Salvadoran Cake
Marquesote or Salvadoran Cake.

Salvadoran Food. Frequently asked questions.

What is the National dish of El Salvador?

The national dish of El Salvador is Pupusa; this hand-made tortilla originated during colonial times and is the pride of El Salvador. Pupusas are well-known worldwide and have their holiday; National Pupusa day is celebrated on the second Sunday in November.

What do Salvadorans eat?

People from El Salvador traditionally eat three meals, with combinations of food that include beans, rice, eggs, vegetable, and meat (Chicken is the most popular). Hand-made Tortillas or Pan Frances is a must during any of these meals.

What do people in El Salvador eat for breakfast?

For breakfast, Salvadorans typically eat a mixture of foods, such as refried beans, fried plantains (Platanos Fritos), eggs, cheese, sour cream, and tortillas or Pan Frances. Cafe con Pan or coffee with sweet bread is also a popular breakfast among Salvadorans, especially in Eastern El Salvador.

What do people in El Salvador eat for lunch?

A typical lunch for Salvadorans consists of Pupusas, Soups (Chicken or beef), Tamales, and sandwiches. People also eat buffet-style lunches where they can combine foods. Many Salvadorans who live near their jobs go back home and have lunch there.

What do people in El Salvador eat for dinner?

A typical Salvadoran dinner includes Pupusas, Tortas, Tamales, and family recipes. Also, traditional Salvadoran dinners include tortillas, Pan Frances, refried beans, or Casamiento (Fried beans and rice).

What is the most famous food in El Salvador?

The most famous food in El Salvador is Pupusa; this tasty dish is available all over the country. Additionally, it is a staple dish cooked by Salvadoran families. Pupusas is a traditional food served in all types of celebrations, from official holidays to family celebrations.

Is Salvadoran food healthy?

Using American standards, the majority of Salvadoran food is not healthy; Salvadoran cuisine is high in carbs and sodium. It also includes lots of fried foods, sugar, and dairy products. Street foods and food sold at local markets are the most unhealthy; however, home prep meals tend to be healthier.

What is the most popular dessert in El Salvador?

The most popular desserts in El Salvador are Quesadillas, Nuegados, Empanadas with beans or sweet custard, Torrejas, Arroz con Leche (Rice with Milk), and Tres leches cake. These desserts are traditionally eaten with a fresh cup of Salvadoran coffee.

Is Salvadoran food spicy?

Most foods in El Salvador are not spicy, but most of them might be a lot of condiments added to them. All food establishments offer hot spices or sauces that you can add to them and give them a spicier flavor.