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Southwest meets El Salvador: Baja Cafe cooks pupusas

Southwest meets El Salvador: Baja Cafe cooks pupusas

The pupusa: a simple little corn cake, often stuffed with shredded meat or gooey white cheese. It's most popular on the streets of El Salvador, where it's served with a punchy slaw of fermented cabbage called "curtido." 

But unless you venture out to the Tohono O'Odham swapmeet, pupusas are a little hard to come by around here. Look closely though, and you can find them nestled underneath an eggs Benedict at Baja Cafe.  

A native of Wisconsin who's fallen in love with Southwestern cuisine, owner Gerard Meurer does his pupusas a bit differently. Rather than shaping them into disks, he makes his thick almost like a Mexican huarache. You can cut into them with a fork and get a mouthful of soft, hearty dough. They're the perfect bed for a soft poached egg, but also great for quick weekday snacking. 

Baja Cafe's pupusas


  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
  • 2 tablespoons diced green onions 
  • ½ cup clarified butter
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups dry masa 
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • warm water, added in 1/4 cup increments  
  • olive oil
  • can fill with shredded cheese, meats or vegetables of your choosing

Mince garlic, cilantro and jalapeño. Dice green onions. Saute ingredients in clarified butter for 5 minutes.

Place all remaining ingredients except olive oil in a mixing bowl. While the butter mixture is still hot, add it to the bowl.

Squeeze the dough into your hands to mix. Keep adding water as you go until the dough is moist, but not wet.

Form the dough into 1 ½ inch balls with your hands. Using your thumb, push a dent in each ball of dough. Form the balls into the shape of a thick bowl. Fill with desired filling and move dough around to close the hole. Shape into patties, like you would a hamburger. 

Place balls in a skillet with olive oil and cook couple minutes until golden brown, covering the skillet with a lid. Flip, and brown the other sides. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan, and then cover for a couple more minutes until pupusas are soft and golden brown on both sides. Serve with poached eggs or homemade salsa ...

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You can find #ThisIsTucson's food writer Andi Berlin at a taqueria near you, taking tiny bites and furiously scribbling into an old notepad.

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