Fare With A Flair: El Salvador’s hot pockets

3 min read

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I have fond memories of the first time I bit into a delicious papusa at a multi-cultural food fest many years ago. I was delighted at the crispy corn dough shell and the warm cheese-filled centre.

Papusas are a delectable, stuffed savory corn cake from El Salvador.

The filling can be as simple as grated cheese, or an assortment of meats and vegetables. They are pan fried until golden and are delicious served with the tangy slaw called curtido.

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My recipe is a simple version filled with grated cheese. While many recipes call for  South American cheeses, you can get by with grated Monterey Jack cheese or a simple Tex-Mex version available at supermarkets.

The flour used to make the dough for papusas is the key. You’ll need an instant corn masa flour. One of the most popular brands is Maseca. It’s starting to become more readily available in grocery store international aisles.

This flour also can be used to make tortillas, empanadas and tamales. The other bonus is it’s gluten free.

This dish certainly fits into the comfort food category.

Papusas with Slaw

(Serves 4-6)


2 cups (500 ml) instant corn masa flour

1 tsp. (5 ml) salt

1-3/4 c. (325 ml) water

2-1/2 c. (625 ml) grated Monterey Jack or Tex Mex cheese

3 Tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil for pan frying


1. Place the masa flour, salt and water into a bowl. Stir to form a dough.

2. Divide the dough into 12 balls.

3. Press your thumb into the centre of each ball to make a deep indentation.

4. Roll 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) of the cheese into a ball.

5. Press the cheese into center of the dough. Pinch the edges together around the cheese to seal.

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6. Flatten and smooth the ball into a 4-inch (10-centimetre) wide pattie. Repeat with the remaining dough and cheese.

7. Heat a 10-inch (25 cm) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the pan. Add four papusas and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes a side until golden. Repeat with remaining oil and papusas.

8. Serve hot with the slaw.


1/4 c. (50 ml) white wine or apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil

1 tsp. (5 ml) sugar

1 tsp. (5 ml) oregano

1/2 tsp. (2 ml) red pepper flakes

1 small carrot shredded

4 green onions, finely sliced

4 cups (1L) of shredded cabbage (a combination of red and green)

Salt to taste


1. Combine vinegar, oil, sugar, oregano, red pepper flakes, carrots, onions, and cabbage in a bowl. Season with salt. Toss and transfer to a refrigerator to let chill.

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