My entire life has been filled with a vast array of different Salvadoran cuisine. I would watch my grandmother make tortillas or sopa in the kitchen every day, and wait patiently for my mom to bring home pan when she’d come back from work. These dishes have a prominent part of my life — whether I’m eating them in the comfort of my house or in my grandmother’s dining room in El Salvador.
I’m always filled with joy when I’m given the opportunity to share my culture and heritage with others. There’s no better time for me to share my absolute favorite Salvadoran dishes that truly remind me of home.
Pupusas are the most popular Salvadoran dish! These delights are corn tortillas stuffed with practically anything you can imagine — cheese, beans, meat, garlic, vegetables. We often eat them with what we call curtido — which is made of pickled cabbage, carrots and spices — and salsa de tomate.
My favorite kind of pupusas are with cheese and loroco, a type of flower bud that’s native to Central America. I highly recommend trying these out!
Panes con pollo (bread with chicken)
This dish may seem self explanatory, but it’s actually so much more! Panes con pollo are a sort of chicken sandwich. The chicken is broiled in a homemade gravy my family always called “jugito de pollo” — which literally translates to “chicken juice” — and that gravy is also a signature part of the dish. The sandwich is usually stuffed with veggies such as radishes, cucumber, watercress and tomato.
When I became vegetarian, I continued to eat panes con pollo without the chicken, and it’s still just as delicious.
Tamales Salvadoreñas (Salvadoran tamales)
Many people are familiar with Mexican tamales, and I always tell them that Salvadoran tamales are very different. Our tamales are much more moist since they are made out of lard, and they are wrapped in banana leaves rather than corn husks. Though, they’re usually stuffed with the same types of filling such as beans, meat and certain veggies.
We also love eating our tamales with the same salsa we use to eat our pupusas, and it makes it all the more mouth-watering!
Non-Salvadoran Spanish-speakers are going to be quite thrown off when I explain this one. These are, in fact, not cake! They’re actually savory fried dough usually stuffed with ground beef, chicken or — my favorite — cheese. They somewhat resemble empanadas, but they’re prepared in a different way.
Sopa de res (Beef stew/soup)
This soup is the most delectable mouth-watering dish! Made with tender pieces of beef, corn cob halves, cabbage and chayote (which we call wiskil), it’s guaranteed to fill you up. Growing up, my family we’d eat sopa de res even on the hottest of days — and we never even complained. Now that I don’t eat meat anymore, my grandma makes me a special dish without the beef in it, and it’s just as delectable.
For some extra flavor, I would always add a squeeze of lime or lemon juice. That makes it ten times tastier!
Salvadoran horchata is actually very different from what most people are familiar with. It’s not the typical rice water and cinnamon, it’s actually got a lot more ingredients. Salvadoran horchata is also made with an array of seeds and spices that are pressed into a fine powder and mixed into water. It’s most commonly known as “horchata de morro” — but growing up, my family always just called it horchata.
There is so much more to Salvadoran cuisine than what I’ve covered. From atol de elote to yucca frita, there’s just never enough room in a small article to cover all the delicious food from my people.
I hope those who have never tried these dishes before go out and have a taste for themselves! And, for my fellow Salvadoreños, I hope reading this list reminded you of our beautiful home.