Pupusas 101

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Love tortillas and arepas? Then you must try the pupusa, which originates from El Salvador, and is also popular in Guatemala and Honduras, and now in the US. A pupusa is a thick, hand-made corn tortilla made of maize flour dough, or masa de maiz, stuffed with cheese (more traditionally with quesillo, which is a soft Salvadoran cheese), chicharron (fried pork rind), ayote (squash), refried beans, or queso con loroco (loroco is a vine flower bud found in Central America). You can have your pupusa with a single ingredient, or revueltas with mixed ingredients, most commonly cheese with beans and chicharron. Your serving of pupusa is not complete, however, without curtido, a pickled cabbage relish, that sometimes includes hot peppers and tomato sauce.

The pupusa was first made by the Pipil tribes of El Salvador about three thousand years ago. They became widespread in El Salvador during the 1960s. Most recently, the pupusa has arrived in the US as a result of the large amount of immigrants fleeing El Salvador’s civil war and declining economy in the 1980s. Pupusas have yet to gain popularity in New York, but in cities like LA and DC, and among other small El Salvadoran communities, pupusas have become a staple. Pupusas in the US are usually made with Maseca (a popular commercial corn flour mix) instead of freshly made masa harina. Some high-end pupuserías even offer rice flour or low carb versions with wheat flour. Ultimately, pupusas may vary in ingredients based on where you get them.

The quintessential NYC place to get a pupusa is in Red Hook Park, of course. After a bout with the department of health, vendors received a six-year permit that will help them stay in business as long as they meet DOH standards around equipment for food storage and cleaning. Red Hook is the perfect place to enjoy other Latin American delights or to watch un partido de futbol while waiting for your made to order pupusas. This summer vendors have experienced setbacks due to compliance issues, but follow up with Remezcla to find out when the vendors finally open for business.

It is increasingly easy to find pupusas in the five boroughs, specifically at Salvadoran restaurants, where you can enjoy other typical treats as well. Here are some great locations to check out:

Bahia Restaurant 690 Grand Street (near Graham avenue) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a great place to order pupusas de chicharrón, frijoles, or revueltas, or pupusas with chicken, queso con ayote, or queso con loroco. You can also enjoy other Salvadoran specialties like: elote loco (corn on the cob served with mayonnaise, mustard and Parmesan cheese), tamales de elote, or yuca frita o cocida.

Izalco, named after a volcano in El Salvador but located on Roosevelt Avenue between 64th and 65th streets in Woodside, Queens, serves three delicious pupusas for a great price of $4.50. You can also find pupusas among the wide range of Latin American food vendors that stretch along Roosevelt avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens, between 74th and 90th Streets, particularly near 86th Street. 

Check out La Cabaña Salvadoreña in Washington Heights on 187th street and Broadway or La Cabaña 2 Salvadoreña in the Bronx on East 205th Street and Villa Avenue for great authentic pupusas and other El Salvadoran dishes.

If you want to venture a bit further and hop on the LIRR, then head to The Rincon Guanaco located on 471 Grand Blvd. in Deer Park, Long Island, which makes great pupusas. You can also try the Pupuseria Melissa Tavern located on 1400 New York Ave. in Huntington Station.

If you’re feeling more creative and adventurous, buy some maseca from your local food store and try making them at home with a recipe found at here.