I Tried Plantain Pupusas for the First Time and I Can’t Wait to Make Them Again
I absolutely love pupusas. The thick pockets of masa harina filled with cheese, beans, or meat are a traditional dish from El Salvador and are usually served with curtido — a Salvadoran slaw. Pupusas are so popular in El Salvador that there’s even a National Pupusa Day celebrated annually on the second Sunday of November.
While the deliciously filled dish is one of my favorites around, unfortunately pupusas aren’t something I have as often as I wish I could. I don’t come across them unless I purposely seek out a Salvadoran spot, plus the ingredients and process of making the dough make it a bit too time-consuming for me to prepare at home.
So when I saw Chef Jonas’ recipe for plantain pupusas that substitutes the masa harina for plantains, I knew my entire life was about to change. I don’t always have masa harina on hand, but I’m never short on plantains, so his recipe is something I can quickly throw together to get the fix I may be yearning for.
How to Make Plantain Pupusas
Peel and slice a few ripe plantains into 2-inch pieces and boil in a pot. Once soft, place in a bowl and smash the plantains until they are mashed thoroughly. Oil your hands so that the plantains don’t stick to your fingers.
Divide the mashed plantains and roll them into roughly 2-inch balls and use a finger to make an indentation in the middle. This is where you will put the filling of your choosing. In his video, Chef Jonas used queso de hoja — a Dominican cheese similar to mozzarella — but regular mozzarella works if you can’t find queso de hoja.
Place your filling in the crater, careful not to overstuff. Close the plantain ball, so the filling is completely covered, and roll it in your hands again. Gently flatten the plantain ball with your hands into discs. If some of the filling is spilling out, ball it up, roll it in your hands again, and repeat the flattening process.
Heat a pan with oil and cook the pupusas until they start to brown. This will take about 3 minutes on each side. Resist the temptation of biting into them soon as they’re out of the oil and instead rest them for a minute or two before digging in. Top with queso de crema or any salty, crumbly cheese.
My Honest Review of Plantain Pupusas
These are great when you’re craving pupusas and (like me) you always have more plantains on hand than you know what to do with. Unfortunately though, I messed up by using plantains that were too ripe. Although they tasted great because they added a sweetness to it (especially when combined with the saltiness of the cheese!), I didn’t account for the change in texture because of the softer plantains. The outcome of the ones I made were a little too soft, making it hard to flip in the pan or hold in my hand.
In his video, Chef Jonas’ plantain pupusas look much firmer as he slowly rips them apart, and the stringy cheese holds on to each side for dear life, but mine didn’t do that. Chef Jonas’ also had a yellow-ish golden color to them, whereas mine were more burnt orange.
Overall, however, these plantain pupusas can make a perfect snack, appetizer, or even full meal. I plan to make this recipe again soon and even experiment a bit more with different fillings.
3 Tips for Making Plantain Pupusas
- Experiment with fillings. You can fill these with anything from veggies, beans, and cheese to any kind of meat as long as it’s shredded small enough. This is so that it doesn’t protrude from the plantain when you flatten the ball.
- Oil your hands. Lightly coat your hands with olive oil and rub them together before forming the plantain balls. This will make your hands slippery, so the plantains won’t stick to them.
- It’s all about the plantain. You want the plantains to be ripe enough so they’ll be easier to mash and form. Ripe plantains will hold together better, too. Also, the riper the plantain, the sweeter the pupusa, but you will lose texture. Choose carefully.