Pupusas, a hallmark of traditional Salvadoran cuisine, are thick, handmade corn tortillas stuffed with beans, cheeses and other savory ingredients. Popular in El Salvador for centuries, pupusas made their way to the United States around the 1980s, and here they have been enjoyed ever since. These pupusas are made with authentic queso Oaxaca and beans seasoned with onion, cilantro and a blend of authentic spices.
Queso Oaxaca is a delicious, stringy, semi-hard cheese from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. Made using many of the same cutting and stretching techniques as for Italian mozzarella, queso Oaxaca is delicately rich and durable, yet melty when heated. It contains cow’s milk, as opposed to water buffalo’s milk. It’s terrific in tortilla dishes, like quesadillas and the local tlayuda (similar to a quesadilla, but cooked open-faced).
1 cup Instant Masa Harina
1½ cups Black Beans
8 Ounces Green Cabbage
2 Ounces Radishes
1 Red Onion
1 Large Bunch Cilantro
2 Ounces Queso Oaxaca
2 Tablespoons Sugar
Pupusa Spice Blend, to taste
For the Pupusa Spice Blend:
2 Tablespoons Ancho Chile Powder
2 Tablespoons Chipotle Chile Powder
2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
Wash and dry the fresh produce. Drain and rinse the beans; transfer to a medium bowl and mash with a fork. Remove and discard the cabbage core; thinly slice the leaves. Cut the radishes into matchsticks. Quarter the lime. Peel and halve the onion; thinly slice one half and small dice the other. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stems; mince the stems and keep the leaves whole. Grate the Oaxaca cheese.
In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the diced onion, cilantro stems and spice blend; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 minutes, or until softened. Add the mashed beans and ¼ cup of water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes, or until thickened. Set aside to cool.
To make the the radish curtido:
While the beans cook, blanch the cabbage, onion, and radish before dressing it.Turn off the heat under the boiling water as soon as the vegetables are added, then after one minute, drain the vegetables in a colander and quickly rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, radishes, sugar, as much of the sliced onion as you’d like and the juice of all 4 lime wedges. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to thoroughly combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
To make the pupusas:
In a large bowl, combine the masa harina and ¾ cup of water; season with salt and pepper. (The dough should be slightly damp and easy to shape. If it seems too dry, add up to an additional ¼ cup of water.) Using wet hands, divide the mixture into 4 equal-sized balls; carefully flatten into rounds, each about 5 inches in diameter. Divide the cooked beans between the centers of 2 of the rounds; spread into an even layer, leaving a small border around the edge of each (you may have extra beans). Top with the Oaxaca cheese and remaining dough rounds. Using your hands, carefully press down to seal the edges of the pupusas around the filling.
To Cook the pupusas:
In a large cast iron skillet, heat a thin layer of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Carefully add the pupusas. Cook, gently pressing down to ensure even browning, 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a clean, dry work surface.
To serve,carefully slice the pupusas in half. Divide the sliced pupusas and radish curtido between 2 dishes. Garnish with the cilantro leaves. Serve with any remaining cooked beans on the side.
If queso Oaxaca cannot be found in your local area, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella or White Cheddar will work as a great substitute for the cheese.