Savoring Salvadoran Pupusas! The Heart and Soul of Salvadoran Cuisine

By Eddie Galdamez  | Updated on Sep 6th, 2023
Traditional Salvadoran PupusasTraditional Pupusas from El Salvador.

Salvadoran pupusas, the beloved national dish of El Salvador, are a delectable blend of masa (corn dough) stuffed with a variety of fillings, from cheese to meats and beans. El Salvador Pupusas showcases the rich flavors of this Central American nation.

Salvadoran Pupusas are thick, hand-made tortillas made of corn or rice flour and filled with cheese, shredded pork, beans, or Loroca flowers. Pupusas are the national dish of El Salvador; they have their own National Pupusa Day, which takes place on the second Sunday in November.

Pupusas originated in El Salvador during pre-colonial times; it is believed that the Pipil tribes that lived in the Salvadoran region created Pupusas centuries ago.

El Salvador Pupusas
Pupusas from El Salvador. Photo by @EShistoria32

Pupusas outside El Salvador

Pupusa is a typical Salvadoran dish available all over El Salvador and in many nations worldwide, especially countries with a large Salvadoran immigrant community.

Salvadorans who left the country during the 1980s civil war introduced Pupusas to other nations, especially the United States, Canada, and some European Nations.

Pupusas are the most popular food in El Salvador; Salvadorans eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. It does not matter what part of the country you find yourself in; if you want to eat Pupusas, you will always find a Pupuseria nearby.

History of Salvadoran Pupusas

Pupusas originate from El Salvador; their history dates back to pre-colonial times. According to historians, Salvadoran Pupusas, or a variation of today’s dish, were first made by Pipil Indians in the El Salvador region during pre-colonial times.

The diet of the Pípil Indians was the same as other Meso-American people; it included corn, beans, and squash, strengthened with whatever meat was available at the time. The Pipil discovered how to make their version of corn dough, which they used to make tortillas or Pupusas.

Historians also noted that the pre-Columbian Pupusas were vegetarian, and it was shaped like a half-moon.

Pipil Indians might not have made Pupusas the way we know them today. Nevertheless, the Salvadoran Pupusas history demonstrates that the Pipil tribe are who invented Pupusas originally.

SEE ALSO: 20 Traditional Salvadoran Foods to Try Today. Exploring the Culinary Treasures of El Salvador

Pupusas from El Salvador
Salvadoran Pupusas. Photo by esimpressive

Pupusas Expansion Around the Globe

For centuries, Pupusas were mainly a local dish made by Salvadoran families, principally in the country’s western region. In the 1970s, Pupusas expanded to other areas of the country and parts of neighboring Guatemala and Honduras.

In the 1980s, Pupusas started to be known outside El Salvador. The Salvadoran armed conflict of the 1980s forced many people to migrate to other countries, mainly the United States.

These Salvadoran migrants brought the knowledge of how to make Pupusas to different countries. Consequently, over time, Pupusas became available in whatever country had Salvadoran communities.

Nowadays, Pupuserias are found in many large and small cities in the United States. Furthermore, you can locate Pupuserias in Australia, Italy, Canada, and many other nations.

The national dish of El Salvador is so popular that it has its own official Pupusa day. The second Sunday of November is National Pupusa Day, an official holiday in El Salvador.

SEE ALSO: Flavor El Salvador street foods: The Best Salvadoran Street Foods to Savor!

Eating Pupusas the Salvadoran Way

The most important thing to remember is to eat them with your fingers. Of course, the polite way is to eat it with a knife and fork; nonetheless, you should try it like a Salvadoran and use your fingers.

Adding Salsa and Curtido is an option; some people like to add a small portion of both, while others select to add a lot of the side toppings.

Even though the taste of Pupusas will be similar to most Pupuserias, the taste of the Curtido and Salsa will vary. Because of customers’ different preferences, some Pupuserias offer different types of Curtido and Salsa.

Making Pupusas

Pupusas are not complicated to make; they are just hand-made tortillas made using corn flour dough and filled with other food items. The essential ingredients needed are flour (corn or rice), cheese, and other optional items to add inside the pupusas.

The most popular optional ingredients to fill Pupusas are Cheese, fried pork rind or Chicharron, refried beans, and Loroca flower. Some places take the liberty of creating different variations of this Salvadoran dish, especially during holidays.

I will not explain how to make Pupusas as I am not an expert in making them; I am an expert in eating them!

There are fantastic videos, recipes, and cookbooks available online if you want to make your own Pupusas. I am sure you will find the right one to teach you how to make Pupusas.

Typical Salvadoran Food
Making Pupusas. Photo by Sonia Elizabeth

National Pupusa Day

National Pupusa Day is a holiday celebrated in El Salvador on the second Sunday in November. Municipalities all over El Salvador will use this day to hold different types of events. But, the best municipality to visit during this National Holiday is Olocuilta, the town known as the Pupusa Capital.

In 2015, Olocuilta was included in the Guinness world record for creating the largest Pupusa in the world.

The largest pupusa is 4.50 m (14 ft 9 in) in diameter and was made by the Alcaldía de Olocuilta (El Salvador) in Olocuilta, El Salvador, on 8 November 2015.” Guinness world records.

Olocuilta El Salvador
Largest Pupusa in the world. Photo by EsaChivisimo

Pupusas Facts Worth Knowing

The word Pupusa comes from the Pipil “Pupusawa,” which in Spanish is pronounced “Popotlax,” from the Nahuatl “Popotl” which means big, stuffed “Tlaxkalli” or tortilla.

In 2005, by legislative decree, the second Sunday in November was declared the National Pupusas Day of El Salvador.

In 2015, in Olocuilta, a world record was set for cooking the world’s largest Pupusa. The Pupusa measured 4.5 meters in diameter.

To assemble the Olocuilta 2015 largest Pupusa, 300 pounds of flour, 200 pounds of cheese, 10 pounds of Loroco flowers, 115 pounds of beans, and 80 pounds of pork rinds were used.

You can find other types of Pupusas made with jalapeno peppers, garlic, basil, blackberry, pumpkin, mushrooms, squash, chicken, shrimp, and even fruits.

Some Salvadoran Pupuserias have chosen to make colored Pupusas, such as pink, yellow, and green.

Salvadoran Pupusas

In conclusion, Salvadoran Pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador, embodies the rich culinary heritage and cultural diversity of the the samllest country in the Americas. Their delicious blend of flavors and tradition makes them a true culinary treasure worth savoring and celebrating.

Today, this dish is served all over El Salvador and in many countries around the world. So, if you ever get the chance, try this delicious dish at least once. I am sure you will enjoy it.