These little gems are as much fun to make as they are to eat. Wait, that sounds like an old commercial. But, if you are looking for a low cost meal you hit the jackpot. I first saw pupusas at the DC United Soccer game. There was a little stand in the stadium that sold them and the line was long, very long. Any food that was attracting that much attention was defiantly getting mine.
I waited in the long line and bought two with a side of slaw for my husband. I’m always hesitant to jump into something I don’t know all of the ingredients when I’m out, so he was the taste tester. I am very sensitive to gluten and even one crumb will do me in for a week. After my long wait in line, I returned to a very hungry husband and he was thrilled with the pupusas. He gave me that look. You know the one with the puppy dog eyes that melts me, and asked if I could make them. Ok, the look was probably all in my head but he knows I’ll try to make just about anything.
Pupusas were invented in Salvador and were brought to the US when many left their country to live here. Pupusas are typically filled with cheese, beans, pork or all three. I’ve also seen where people use shrimp, loroco (tasty green flower blossom), chicken, fish and even pumpkin or squash for vegan and vegetarian options. They are gluten free as the flour is made from corn treated with lime and can be made dairy free if you leave out the cheese.
I’ve been living gluten free since February 2007 and there are some things I miss. I don’t really bake and don’t buy the processed breads and pastries, most contain rice which I can’t eat. So I miss having a doughy tasty bundle in my hands like a burger on a brioche bun or a traditional calzone. These pupusas have filled that gap for me. They are warm, savory and doughy. Of course, now I have to experiment with all types of fillings. I’m going to try diced apples with a little cinnamon this weekend for dessert when we have friends over for dinner. We’ll either have a tasty treat or strange looks.
I’ve had bags of the MASECA around to make tortillas. One day while reading the bottom of the bag it listed all the different foods you can make with this corn. Tortillas, Tamales, Empanadas, Atoles (hot beverage), Gorditas, Sopes and Pupusas. I thought this was a sign and I should get busy cooking. Since it is a stuffed tortilla, I basically used the same recipe for tortillas that is on the bag for the dough. I had made a pork mixture that I used for the filling.
I will also be making some with beans so my vegetarian son can enjoy these. I definitely need to make some big batches and freeze these to pop out and eat for lunches or when I don’t want to cook. They are typically served with curtido, a colorful pickled vegetable mixture of cabbage, carrots, and onion, and spicy red sauce. I made my own version of spicy slaw while the pupusas were cooking and served them with salsa and Tabasco.
If you live near a Shoppers grocery store, they are selling these 4.4 lb bags 2 for $5 or $2.50 each. With the help of my extremely gifted in math son Brad, we calculated that each batch of 16 pupusas costs $0.38 to make plus the cost of the filling. I only used a TB of meat in each one I made but I didn’t weigh that out so I can’t give you a total cost per batch of 16. With the ground pork costing $2.25 per pound it’s not going to be very much. I’m guessing around $0.10 each. So you can stuff yourself for less than $2 and that includes the slaw!
2 cups Instant Corn Masa Flour or Masa Harina like MASECA (DO NOT substitute plain corn flour or corn meal)
1 ¼ cups water (filtered is best for you)
½ – 1 pound ground pork
½ cup minced onion
1-2 TB Paprika
1 TB Smoked paprika
1 TB Cumin
1 TB Ancho chili powder
½ cup Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Virgin organic coconut oil
Mix the flour and water together. You want the dough to be soft. If feels dry add more water, a little at a time. Divide the dough into 16 equal ball portions and cover with either plastic wrap or a damp cloth so they retain their moisture.
While that waits sauté the onion until it is soft. Add in the pork and cook through. Add in the seasonings and vinegar. Once this is combined, take it off the heat. You can put it into a separate bowl to help it cool off a little.
Now it’s time to prepare the pupusas. Heat your pan to medium high and add in a little oil. Keep a bowl of water near by. Keeping your hands wet makes all the difference in the world. Take a portion of the dough and start to make a little cup with your thumb. It works best if you keep the dough going in a circular motion. The dough should end up ¼ thickness. Put a tablespoon of meat into the center and then close up the dough. Now here is where mine don’t always turn out looking just right so I’m going to practice more. Your goal is to have the filling stay in the middle and not break out of the dough and to end up with a round piece of dough like a stuffed tortilla. So far mine has ended up looking like a half moon. The shape does not alter the taste so don’t let this deter you. Once you taste one of these gems you won’t care what shape it takes.
Toss it into the pan and cook up on both sides until brown. This doesn’t take long, about 3-5 minutes on the first side and 1-3 minutes on the second side. You really want to make sure to serve the pupusas warm so have a cookie sheet in the oven on 250 degrees that you can toss yours onto. That is if you don’t eat them as you make them.
Add a side of spicy slaw and red sauce and let your mouth do a little happy dance.