Delights from El Salvador- Pastelitos, Pupusas, Crutido & Salsa Recipes

My friend Anna was here and we shared some empanadas that I had made a few days before. She had never had this kind before, as the recipe I used originated in Argentina and is vastly different from the kind of empanadas she described from her country, El Salvador. The empanadas of her home country are commonly sweet desserts made with plantains or other fruits. My empanadas are made with either poultry or ground meat and depending on how I am feeling, I will make them spicy or semi-sweet and they are always served with a tangy dipping sauce.

So we got to talking about the food from her homeland and what she likes to cook and eat in her home. And of course we discussed what her children like and don’t like since we both have girls the same age. (Mine are much pickier than hers. Not really a shock!) We talked about ingredients and the availability of authentic ingredients to which she happily replied, “In NY, we can find everything”. That is so true! In NYC you can find nearly anything from any country! If not, there is always the internet!

Instead of empanadas, Anna said, they make another variation of a meat pie, the pastelito. Using masa that has been tinted red with a lot of paprika or achiote powder, these savory meat pies are a staple in her home. Filled with chopped meat, diced potatoes, carrots and string beans, it is a whole meal in a handheld pastry shell that has been fried in oil. She graciously shared with me how she makes them, guiding me every step of the way.

Her hands move so fast and create perfect circles.

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It was incredible watching her shape the dough and fold them. The ones she made were perfect circles! She was also able to make at least three in the time it took me to make one. (Okay, she maybe made five, but who’s counting!) They were so good too. Not spicy but very flavorful.   These photos don’t really do them justice. The deep red dough was an amazing color!

I asked to her to come back and show me more. So, the following week, she returned and taught me how to make another staple from her household, Pupusas.  These are a thick, hand-made corn tortilla filled with a blend of cheese and refried beans (frijoles refritos) that are cooked over a high heat, but with very little fat.

Along with both of these recipes she made a type of cabbage slaw called Curtido,  that is topped with a very light tomato “salsa”, that you eat as a side with the pupusas. It’s a full meal! Salad/slaw and a healthy protein!  Can’t go wrong!

 

I can’t decide which week’s delights I prefer. I think I really love them both. But more importantly, I really enjoyed our time together and her teaching me how to make something new.

 

 

Curtido Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ head of cabbage, shredded
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 4 c. boiling water
  • ½ onion, diced
  • ¼ c. white vinegar
  • 1 Jalapeño or Serrano chile pepper, minced or 1 tbs. Red Chili Pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. salt

Method

  1. Place the cabbage and carrots in a large heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling water into the bowl to cover the cabbage and carrots and set aside for about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander, pressing out as much liquid as possible.
  2. Return the cabbage to the bowl and toss with the remaining of the ingredients. Let set at room temperature for at least one hour or more to absorb all the flavors of the vinegar and spices. Chill and serve with the salsa as an accompaniment to pupusas, pastelitos or simply as a side dish.

 Salsa Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • ½ onion, quartered
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ red pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp. Red Chili Pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt

Method

  1. Place all ingredients into a blender and pulse until liquefied.
  2. Remove from the blender to a small pot and simmer, stirring occasionally over medium heat until just bubbling. Remove from heat.
  3. Serve over the Curtido.

Pastelitos Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 c. Masa
  • 2 c. water, approx.
  • ¼-1/2 c. paprika or achiote powder
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and diced fine
  • ¼ lb. fresh string beans, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1tsp. Sazon Goya
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tsp. beef consommé powder or ½ bouillon cube
  • ½ cup vegetable oil

Method

  1. Prepare the dough. In a large bowl, add the masa and gradually add the water, paprika or achiote until the dough is a nice red color (1/4-1/2 cup), add a generous dash of salt and pepper and continue kneading until the dough forms a ball that can be handled and will not crumble.  Add more water if necessary. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the filling. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the ground beef, stirring until it is browned through. Remove from heat and drain some of the fat but not all of it (leave a few tablespoons in the pan).
  3. Return the meat to the pan and add the onion, green beans, potatoes, carrots. Continue to cook, covered until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the seasoning, the beef consommé or bouillon, Sazon Goya, cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool while creating your dough discs.
  5. To create the discs, you can either do it by hand working the dough by patting it together and forming a round or you can flatten them out between two pieces of plastic wrap. Making sure your hands are really wet makes shaping the discs easier. But you would like to create discs that are about ¼” thick and have a diameter of about 4-5”. You should have enough dough to make about a dozen discs. Set aside until ready to use.
  6. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium high heat being very careful to not let it smoke.
  7. Take one disc of dough and spoon in about 2 large tablespoons of filling. Fold over and seal the edges by squeezing them together. Place in the hot oil laying the pastelito away from you so as not to splatter the oil towards you. Repeat filling discs and placing in the oil until you have filled the pan with them, but do not overcrowd. Leave a lot of space in between each pastry. Fry until they golden brown on one side, flip over and continue to fry until the dough is golden brown. Remove with a slotted spatula onto a plate that been lined with paper towels to drain.
  8. Continue filling, folding and frying until they are all complete. Cover the plate with tin foil to keep the pastelitos warm until you are ready to eat.
  9. Serve with Crudito and the salsa.

 Pupusa Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 c. Masa
  • 2 c. water, approx.
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 can or pouch refried red beans (approx. 14oz)
  • 1 cup soft cheese such as queso blanco, fresco or mozzarella
  • 1-2 tbs water
  • vegetable oil for your hands

Method

  1. Prepare the dough. In a large bowl, add the masa and gradually add the water, add a generous dash of salt and pepper and continue kneading until the dough forms a ball that can be handled and will not crumble.  Add more water if necessary. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the filling. In a medium bowl combine the cheese with 1-2 tbs of water and mash it together with your hands or a fork so the cheese is smooth.
  3. Add the beans to the cheese mixture and mix to combine well. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Coat your hands with vegetable oil and create the discs of dough by rolling a golf ball sized piece into the palm of your hand, cupping it as you turn it to create a well. Fill with a tablespoon of the bean and cheese mixture and close the top of the ball. Flatten out into a round patty making sure it is well coated in oil.
  5. In a large frying pan, that has been heated over medium high heat lay the patty directly on the bottom surface. The oil on the patty will act as your fat.
  6. Repeat filling discs and placing in the pan until you have filled the pan with them, but do not overcrowd. Leave a lot of space in between each pastry. Fry until they golden brown on one side, flip over and continue to fry until the dough is golden brown. Remove with a slotted spatula onto a plate that been lined with paper towels to drain.
  7. Continue filling, folding and frying until they are all complete. Cover the plate with tin foil to keep them warm until you are ready to eat.
  8. Serve with Crudito and the salsa.

Buen Provecho!

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh my gosh! I had pupusas in El Salvador years ago… and there is now a stand at our farmer’s market. I would LOVE to try this recipe, as they are gluten-free. Thanks so much for sharing and for all the handy pix!

  2. TAMMY says

    How cool that I saw your post listed on FoodBlogs! I have been making empanadas lately. I should probably explain that in our house, the words empanadas and pastelilos seems to be interchangeable. It’s probably incorrect, but I honestly don’t know the difference. Anyway, first I was on a search for the right ground beef filling recipe, and this week’s mission is for a crabmeat filling. Thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    I am oozing with jealousy. I know to covet is bad but come on, an in home cooking class to make traditional yumminess. JEALOUS! I can’t help it. Thank you for sharing these recipe. My husband will be begging me on his knees to make these for him!

  4. says

    Friends not only can exchange love and care…but also great recipes from home. What a great collection of recipes from El Salvador. I’m drooling. Thank you for sharing, my friend. After such a long and hard week, it is good to visit the blogs that I love. I hope you have a safe and happy weekend.

  5. says

    Wow! How lucky are you guys to not only learn the real-deal but to actually live in a place where you can find what you need! I think the Pupusas look really good and maybe I’ll try my hand at ‘em!

  6. MBJ says

    Hi Renee & Ariz,
    I would like to know more about your salsa recipe.
    Do you add oil to simmer the blended salsa mixture?

    By the way, you have done a wonderful job, well done!
    Thanks,
    MBJ

    • Renee says

      Hi MBJ,
      No we don’t add oil to the salsa mixture, just simmer it over a low heat, no oil needed.
      Thanks for reading,
      Ari

  7. MBJ says

    Hi again Renee & Ariz,
    Thanks so much for your kind reply, can’t wait to try the salsa recipe out!

    Sincerely,

    MBJ

    • Renee says

      This recipe makes a good two dozen hand sized pastelitos. Depending how generous or lean with the dough, you can get a few more or less. Enjoy! We loved them!

  8. Renee says

    Hi Jack,
    Currently we don’t have any more. But there will be some in the near future. We are loving El Salvadorian food!