This is El Salvador’s most cherished food, and the simplicity of the recipe belies the delicious result. Eaten straight from the skillet and accompanied by thick tomato salsa and salads, they are a delectable snack or serious food, depending on when you stop eating. 






Skill level

Average: 3.4 (29 votes)

The roasted corn aroma which wafts through the kitchen is the signal of what is to come, and whets the appetite no matter what the time of day. The filling can vary according to taste. Cheese combines well with everything, such as finely chopped tomato, refried beans, finely diced ham, chopped herbs, garlic, chilli etc. This version uses cheese and zucchinis.



  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green capsicum, finely chopped
  • 1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes (or 4 skinned tomatoes, finely chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 4 cups corn meal (see Note) 
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


To make the salsa fry the onion in a saucepan with a little oil over low heat until the onion is transparent. Add the capsicum and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes or so until the sauce is thick. As sauce reduces, add a little water. Adjust seasonings to taste.

To make the papusas, combine the corn meal with water according to directions and mix together to form a dough. Take small pieces of dough, and make balls the size of a golf ball. Flatten between the palms of your hands, until a thin patty is formed.

Combine the zucchini, cheese and seasonings. Place a spoonful of the cheese mixture into the middle of the dough disc, and then close it over to form a ball. Flatten it again, as thin as possible without the filling being lost.

Heat a little oil in a pan or skillet until very hot, and cook the papusas for about 5 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately accompanied by tomato salsa.


• Called Masa Lista, available at health food, Mexican and fine foods stores.