El Salvador is a country located in Central America, bordered by Honduras, Guatemala and the Pacific Ocean. Also known as the land of volcanoes, El Salvador is known to experience frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. The country is also known for its beautiful black-sand beaches and radiant nightlife.
The population of El Salvador is composed of several ethnicities, including Mestizo (86.3%), European (15%), Indigenous (1%), Afro-Salvadorans (0.8%) and others (0.64%). The cuisine of El Salvador is certainly influenced by the country’s diversity, with many interesting delicacies to uncover.
Most Popular Salvadoran Dishes
Salvadoran cuisine is a blend of native American cuisines from groups including the Lenca, Pipil, Maya Poqomam, Maya Chʼortiʼ, Alaguilac, Mixe, and Cacaopera. Maize (corn) is a common ingredient which is used in the preparation of many dishes. Pork and seafood are other commonly consumed foods.
One staple food of Salvadoran cuisine is pupusas, which are basically stuffed handmade corn tortillas. Other commonly consumed dishes include carne guisada, lomo entomatado, carne asada, pasteles de carne, pollo guisado con hongos and pacaya planta.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try dishes of El Salvador along with recipes for you to try for yourself.
Pupusas are tortillas or thick griddle cakes made of corn or rice dough that are filled with several ingredients such as cheese, beans and pork rinds. There are a variety of ingredients used for preparing pupusas and they are added based on personal preference. Pupusas are generally accompanied by curtido, which is cabbage dipped in vinegar along with other vegetables and tomato sauce.
Corn atole, also called atolli, is a hot beverage which, as its name indicates, is prepared using corn. It is made during the sweet corn season and can be found at affordable prices. The drink is considered to be one of the best-known drinks in El Salvador and it even has a Salvadoran song in its honor.
Torrejas is a sweet traditional Easter dish prepared using bread slices which are coated in eggs. They are then fried and soaked in the piloncillo syrup. Torrejas can be accompanied with coffee, without sugar, since the torrejas already have a sweet taste.
Tamal Pisque is a traditional dish prepared using seasoned corn masa which is combined with refried beans. The mixture is carefully wrapped in plantain leaves which are then steamed.
Salvadorian tamales are generally prepared in banana or plantain leaves, and the masa (cornmeal) is either seasoned with chicken stock or bouillon. It is usually served at breakfast and dinner and is generally consumed with tomato sauce or curtido (a fermented cabbage relish).
Tamal pisque is considered to be one of the most popular comfort foods among Salvadorans, and they can be easily found at local street vendors throughout the country.
Yuca Sancochada is a dish made from cassava and fried pork rind. It is typically is served on a plate with an orchard leaf below the yucca and curtido is added on top. Lastly, pepescas (small fish) or pork rinds are placed over the curtido.
The dish is generally consumed when the weather is lukewarm. People optionally also add salt, lemon, chili or tomato sauce to enhance the flavor.
Pastelitos (Beef and Chicken Patties)
Pastelitos are small pancakes made of corn dough, seasoned with a little achiote (which provides the dough with orange color). Inside these pancakes, there is usually a filling of ground beef or shredded chicken meat with vegetables. They are often accompanied by a little tanning.
Pastelitos are amongst the most consumed dishes of El Salvador and can be found in all towns and neighborhoods at affordable prices.
Leg soup is a typical cow soup dish reserved for Sundays in El Salvador. Its name derives from the fact that the broth uses the legs and guts of the cow for its preparation. Other ingredients added include vegetables such as güisquil, cabbage and yucca. Occasionally, corn is also added.
Salvadoran enchilada is a dish prepared using small corn tortillas seasoned with achiote. They are occasionally accompanied by other ingredients such as blended beans, curtido, sliced cucumber, sliced egg, tomato reddish and grated hard cheese.
Seafood chowder is a soup made from crabs, shrimp, lobster, squid tentacles, mussels and fish. It also includes cream, cilantro and celery, among other things. Recommended to be served piping hot, it is often accompanied by a few fried corn tortillas.
Horchata is a widely consumed drink made from ground morro seeds. It can also be made using ingredients like white rice, cocoa beans, nutmeg, peanuts, sesame, cinnamon and allspice. In order to enhance the flavor, sugar and vanilla extract are also added. Horchata is considered to be a very refreshing and nutritious drink.
Riguas are cakes made with corn dough and are generally served in banana leaves. It is often consumed on its own or along with curd, cream or cheese. Riguas are quite similar to corn tamales, only that its preparation is faster and easier.
Quesadilla is a Salvadoran cheese-based dessert prepared using a blend of queso fresco cheese, milk, eggs, butter and flour. Generally savory in flavor and cheesy in texture, it is topped with sesame seeds and is usually consumed for breakfast. It is typically accompanied by coffee or hot chocolate.
Traditional Salvadoran quesadillas are prepared using rice flour and a few other dairy products. It is then baked in rectangular trays using brick ovens. Also considered to be a popular Sunday morning staple, one can easily find this sweet bread being sold by local street vendors (in small cities) and in local markets (in big cities).
Sopa De Pata (Cow’s Feet Soup)
Sopa De Pata, also known as Caldo De Pata, is a cow’s feet soup dish. You might squirm a little bit at the thought of using cow feet in a soup, but it’s really not that strange. Especially in comparison to some of the other weird dishes we’ve discovered around the world.
Sopa de pata is a hearty, comforting soup that is also eaten throughout different parts of Latin America such as in Ecuador.
Obleas are round wafers that are light brown in colour. It is a famous Latin American dessert, usually spread with Colombian caramel called arequipe, and topped with cheese, jams, sprinkles, or fruits.
Other fillings can also be placed in obleas like grated and shredded cheese. Others would prefer blackberry sauce, condensed milk, and even more cheese.
Chilate is a Salvadoran hot beverage made from corn and flavored with ginger and allspice. The corn is cooked in water, with the ginger and allspice slowly steeped in the mixture. Chilate is sometimes eaten with meals however it is mostly consumed as an afternoon refreshment. Since the it is unsweetened, it’s usually accompanied by a sweet dish such as fried sweet plantains or nuegados.
Yuca con Chicharrón
Yuca con Chicharrón is a dish consisting of boiled or fried yuca accompanied by, or topped with, raw cabbage salad, chicharron, spicy tomato sauce or chimol. Chicharrón is deep fried pork skins or pork belly. Pieces of pork are fried until they are golden brown and very crispy. Chicharrón can be found in Spanish cooking in just about every Spanish-speaking country.
Fresco de Cebada
Fresco de Cebada is El Salvador’s signature strawberry flavored pink drink. Fresco de cebada translates to English as fresh barley, which is somewhat a misnomer since there is no barley in this drink. This beverage is made from water, spices such as cloves and cinnamon, flour and sugar. The strawberry flavor comes from vanilla and strawberry essences.
Nuegados de Yuca
Nuegados de Yuca are a deep-fried dough made with cassava and cheese, popular in El Salvador. Finely ground cassava, shredded cheese and eggs are some of the ingredients used to make the dough which is divided into smaller pieces, shaped then deep fried. After the dough is fried it is drizzled with panela honey
Charamusca is a popular fruit drink from El Salvador made from fruit juice, and sometimes milk, which is frozen and served in a plastic bag.
There are many different popular flavors of charamusca including strawberry, mango and banana. Chunks of fruit or nuts may also be added into the liquid before freezing.
Minutas are a frozen snack similar to a snow cone. The frozen base is made of shaved ice. The ice is scooped into the serving container then topped with colorful flavored syrups. Additional toppings can also be added. These include condensed milk, fresh fruit, sweet colorful shredded coconut and sprinkles.