Healthy Recipe: El Salvadorian Black Bean and Cheese Pupusas


From cuisines and music to fitness, wellness, and much more, Hispanic and Latinx people have enriched the United States with their cultures, traditions, and practices. To pay homage to the impact and contributions Hispanic and Latinx-Americans have made to the United States and to the entire world, we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15. 

One thing that seems to be universally true about pupusa is that they conjure up memories—memories of city nights, travel to far-away places, or even a grandmother’s kitchen. Yet this food that is loved by so many is made at home by only a few.  

This recipe will let you bring this nostalgic El Salvadorian street food to life in your kitchen. It is simple to make, easy to diversify, and tastes fantastic. 

A pupusa is an authentic El Salvadorian corn cake that is made from the same masa dough used to make tortillas, tamales, and arepas. These thick corn cakes come with a variety of fillings ranging from bean and cheese, to meat and veggie, and beyond. 

Whatever the filling, they are always served with a pickled cabbage called curtido and a great salsa. This recipe will teach you how to make a mouthwatering bean and cheese version, and from there the possibilities are endless. Other healthy favorites are nopales, shredded chicken, or squash. Homemade recipes are always healthier than the restaurant versions because you can control the salt and fat content. So if your aim is to make this dish as healthy as possible, consider lowering the amount of cheese and salt you use. There are always added health benefits when you make something from scratch because you have more control over the salt and fat content. 

Once you get to know this staple El Salvadorian recipe it is sure to become a favorite in your household. Plus, pupusas freeze well, so you can always make a double batch and freeze half for a fantastic last minute dinner idea. 


1 teaspoons Kosher salt

3 cups instant corn masa flour (such as Maseca Instant Corn Masa Mix)

2 ⅔ cup hot water

1 16-ounce can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed 

½ a white onion, diced

½ teaspoon ground cumin 

2 cloves of garlic 

4 ounces grated queso Oaxaca 

For the curtido:

½ large head of white cabbage, thinly sliced

1 large carrot, shredded on the large holes of a box grater

½ large white onion, thinly sliced

1 serrano chiles, stems removed, thinly sliced (optional)

1 garlic clove, grated into vinegar 

2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)

1 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup apple cider vinegar


Using a food processor with a pastry blade, add your masa flour and salt and 2 2/3 tablespoons of warm water. Turn the food processor on and slowly add the warm water until the dough begins to come together into a ball. Set aside for 15 minutes. 

Once the dough has set, make 10 balls of masa dough and set aside under a damp paper towel. 

For the curtido mix your cabbage, carrots, onions, and chilis in a large bowl and set aside. Make a salad dressing by adding vinegar to a jar, grating in garlic, and adding dried oregano and salt. Then slowly pour in olive oil and whisk until it emulsifies. Curtido can be made 1 to 3 days in advance. 

Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil and cook the onion and garlic until fragrant. Add the black beans, cumin, and a tablespoon of water. Cook on low for 10 minutes. Then using a bean masher, mash the beans into a paste. Add a ½ teaspoon of salt. 

To make you pupusa, create a finger bowl of water and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Heat a griddle or large cast iron pan. After getting fingers wet in the bowl, create a well in the center of your dough ball until it looks like a little cup. Add 1 tablespoon of beans and a ½ tablespoon of cheese. Work the dough around the filling until it is covered. Then gently pat your pupusa to flatten into a thick tortilla. Place the pupusa on the griddle and cook until crispy and golden on each side. 

Serve pupusa with a scoop of curtido, your favorite hot sauce, and a slice of avocado. 

Makes 12 medium pupusas. 


Calories: 180

Protein 5 g

Total fat 2.5 g

Saturated fat 1 g (5% DV)

Cholesterol 5 mg

Carbs 33 g

Fiber 5 g

Total sugars 1 g

Added sugars 0 g

Sodium 240 mg (10%)


24 servings 

Calories: 30 

Protein: 0  g

Total fat: 2.5 g

Saturated fat: 0 g

Cholesterol 0 mg

Carbs 2 g

Fiber: 1 g

Total sugars: 1 g

Added sugars 0 g

Sodium 85 mg 

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