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  • Writer's pictureGrace Rector

El Salvador

In 2003, my mom and I went to go check out a potential project for future LMU Alternative Breaks. During our two weeks there, I went to a local school with my family friend who was five-years-old at the time. My Spanish was non-existent, so when the teacher went over colors and the days of the week I was completely lost. I remember little from the trip but I do remember one night when we had a late night dinner with members in the community. A group of women were making pupusas on an outdoor grill and I asked them to teach me. They taught me the detailed process of making pupusas with beans and cheese inside, and they tasted amazing!

As a 4 year old kid, I found this one stray cat and played with it nonstop, and eventually covered myself and my hands with cat hair. After petting the cat I would jump up to make more pupusas. The ladies would make me clean my hands, then they would allow me to cook a little more.

This is my earliest memory of an international trip and I simply remember how unusual it was that complete strangers were so kind to me: someone they did not know. I will remember it forever.

If you would like to make pupusas, try out this recipe from


I. The Beans

  1. 3 cups red beans (cooked)

  2. 1⁄4 small onion

  3. 1⁄2 cup corn oil

  4. 1 tablespoon salt

  5. 1 cup water (I use cooking liquid from the beans)

II. The cheese

  1. 3 lbs mozzarella cheese(shredded)

  2. 1⁄2 green bell pepper (diced)

  3. 1⁄2 cup chile (I use lorocco which is a tropical flower found in latin markets)

III. The Masa

  1. 4 cups masa corn flour (I use maseca brand)

  2. 2 cups of warm water


  1. The Beans:.

  2. Heat the corn oil in a large soup pan on medium high heat. Once the oil is heated fry the onion until golden brown.

  3. While the onions are cooking, place half of the beans and 1/2 cup of the reserved bean liquid in a blender and blend for 1 minute.

  4. Once the onion is golden in color, about 4 minutes take the onion out with a slotted spoon.

  5. Carefully stir the beans from the blender into the hot oil. Turn your heat down to medium low.

  6. Next add the onion and the rest of the beans and reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid into the blender and liquefy for a minute. Add the beans to the rest of the mixture that is already cooking.

  7. Carefully stir the beans until no oil appears in the beans, about 3 minutes. Cook on medium stirring about every 5 minutes until the beans have darkened about 3 shades and are the consistency of refried beans in a can.

  8. The Cheese:.

  9. Place the shredded mozzarella, lorocco, and bell pepper in a food processor and process until the bell peppers and lorocco are chopped into tiny pieces and fully incorporated into the cheese.

  10. Next, place the cheese mixture into a plastic bowl and warm the mix in the microwave for no more than 20 seconds.

  11. Next — and yes this sounds gross, squeeze the cheese mixture with your hands until it becomes like a soft putty consistency.

  12. Set the cheese aside and get ready for the masa.

  13. The Masa:.

  14. Place the masa mix and water in a bowl and stir until fully mixed. The masa should be very sticky but should form an easy ball when rolled. If not, add water until it is sticky but easy to work with.

  15. Next, Place an egg size ball of masa in your hand (it helps to place a tiny bit of oil on your hands before doing this) and press the masa out in one hand to represent a small plate the size of your palm.

  16. Place about a tablespoon of cheese down onto the masa, then a tsp of beans. Pull the sides of the masa up around the beans and cheese and roll it into a ball. Next, flatten it a tiny bit with your palms to form a thick disc. Pat the disc turning it between your hands about 6 times to flatten it more but to keep it in a round shape.

  17. The pupusa should be a little less than 1/2 inch thick.

  18. Place the pupusa on a large oiled non stick surface and cook on medium high until each side is golden brown, around 3 minutes on each side.

  19. Enjoy!

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