For the most part, anything that’s stuffed with beans and cheese will likely get a big “yes” from us. However, today we’re talking specifically about the delicious pupusa, El Salvador’s national dish.
These griddled cakes are traditionally made from either corn masa or rice flour and come stuffed with things like beans, cheese, vegetables, and tender chicharron. They’re the Central American cousin to the Mexican gordita and Colombian arepa, and are best enjoyed fresh off the griddle with a tomato-based salsa and pickled curtido slaw. More importantly, it’s now an LA staple with over 200 pupuserias scattered across town. But while there are many good options to choose from, these are the 10 best.
Operating for over a decade inside Downtown’s Grand Central Market, Sarita’s Pupuseria is a great spot for sampling Salvadoran foods like yuca frita, fried plantains, and, of course, pupusas. Sitting at Sarita’s countertop might as well be courtside tickets to a Lakers game, as you watch fresh pupusas get made with seasoned precision. The chicharron and cheese combo is a must, as the pork gets gently rehydrated in warm salsa. The cheese melds together with the meat to create the perfect mixture of savory and spicy inside the soft masa, which tastes great with Sarita’s fresh curtido on top. The counter’s slaw has plenty of carrot and cabbage for a nice crunch, and its tangy red salsa de tomate brings some welcomed heat too.
With multiple locations around LA, Paseo San Miguel is a one-stop shop for trying El Salvador’s most celebrated dishes. The pupusas here are excellent, satisfyingly big, and can be made from either cornmeal or rice flour. If you’re unsure about which pupusa to choose, the go-to here is their revuelta, which is the name for the classic chicharron, bean, and cheese combo. This place never skimps on the filling either, so expect plenty of cheesy stuffing rather than digging into mouthfuls of dough. Also, their briny curtido brings tons of acidic flavor and crunch to every bite.
Your experience at El Baron really depends on when you stop by because this place doubles as a nightclub (yes, actually). But whether you come at 10am for a hearty Salvadoran breakfast or decide to eat dinner in a dimly lit club that’s blaring cumbia music, the food here is always great. The specialties include sopa de siete mares (seafood stew), pastellitos de carne (fried meat empanadas), and great pupusas. Give their loroco pupusa a try, which comes stuffed with an aromatic flower bud traditionally used in Salvadoran cooking. It’s similar in flavor to artichoke or asparagus, but tastes even better when it’s tucked inside a masa cake with lots of cheese. When it comes to the curtido, El Baron’s is on the more liquidy side and packs a spicy kick too.
El Salvador Corridor is a cluster of Central American food vendors and businesses situated in front of Koreatown’s Two Guys Plaza. As you make your way through them, you’ll inevitably be tempted to try Salvadoran street snacks like spicy green mangos and blood clam cocktails, but don’t skip out on the pupusas. There are plenty of options to choose from, but the stall located directly in front of the plaza’s parking lot entrance makes an excellent chicharron, bean, and cheese pupusa that’s packed with delicious stuffing. The curtido here comes soaked with bright vinegar and tastes best paired with their thick tomato salsa slathered on top. The next time you’re here, feel free to go on a sampling tour around the plaza, find your favorites, and support the small businesses.
If you’re interested in experiencing Salvadoran food in a more formal setting, then head directly to Jaragua. This Oakwood restaurant specializes in El Salvador’s tried and true classics like casamiento, which translates to rice and beans gently cooked together to create a warm stew we’d happily swim in. Their pupusas also include familiar fillings like chicharron, loroco, beans, and cheese, and come in either corn or rice flour variations - both of which are super moist with beautiful griddle marks. However, a pupusa is not complete without its curtido, and Jaragua’s slaw comes tender soft after soaking in vinegar for hours. Paired with their bright salsa de tomate, these final touches nicely cut through the cake’s starchiness and bring out all the flavors in the fillings.
At first glance, Los Cocos appears to be a Salvadoran bakery stocked with sweet breads, cookies, and French pastries like chocolatey eclairs. But if you look closer, you’ll find this Del Rey shop makes some great pupusas with plenty of plant-based options - like the excellent squash, carrot, onion, loroco, and bean pupusa that’s generously filled and nicely charred on the outside. The vegetable stuffing is gently cooked into a Salvadoran succotash of sorts and gives the handmade masa a green tint as it tries to peek out of its shell. The shop’s purple cabbage curtido is as nice to look at as it is delicious to eat, with its sharp vinegar bite. Top the whole thing with their spicy tomato salsa as well to bring a nice freshness and extra moisture to the masa. And if you have a sweet tooth, leave some room for eclairs because, after all, you’re already here.
Hollywood’s La Numero Uno is a vibrantly decorated cantina that serves a mixed Mexican and Salvadoran menu, as well as a few hybrid dishes for all the masa-lovers out - like their squash blossom and cheese pupusa, which is a Salvadoran twist on a common Mexican quesadilla filling. The squash blossom adds great texture and a subtle floral sweetness to the pupusa’s dough. If you’re familiar with the gordita, aka the pupusa’s Mexican counterpart, make sure to try the spicy chicken gordita-pupusa too. This traditional cornmeal pupusa gets filled with jack cheese and shredded chipotle chicken before getting garnished with standard Mexican toppings like crema, lettuce, tomato, and salsa. Whether you call it Salvadoran or Mexican, we can all agree that both countries know a thing or two about masa, cheese, and all the things that make our world delicious.
This place started as a successful food truck back in the 1970s, but now has a handful of locations around the central LA area, each serving some of the city’s tastiest pupusas. Make sure to try their rice flour pupusas, which take on a similar color to the corn version, but with a distinctive chewiness we love. Common fillings like chicharron, cheese, and loroco are all on the menu, but so is the way-less-common vegan cheese pupusa. The curtido is delicious and simple with cabbage and carrot, and the tomato salsa serves as a light, spicy dressing to drench your entire order in. You can get your griddle cakes individually, as part of the double pupusa combo, or our favorite option: with the desayuno típico. You’ll get two small pupusas (filling of your choosing), alongside some morning eggs and chorizo.
This food truck might be on the smaller side, but that’s pretty much the only “small” thing about it. Drive Thru Pupusas in Eagle Rock serves frisbee-sized pupusas with a large menu of fillings to choose from. The corn masa comes hot, golden yellow, and soft enough that cheese often leaks out to form crispy edges on the griddle. The curtido is also tasty but spicy, with some jalapenos adding heat to the pickled salad. But one menu item takes pupusas somewhere they have never gone before (or at least within our imaginations): the taco pupusa. After choosing which pupusa to feast on, it gets topped with cheese, carne asada, curtido slaw, salsa, and avocado. It’s a wondrous two-meals-in-one scenario and absolutely delicious.
If you’re someone who loves both karaoke and pupusas, then we have good news for you: we know somewhere you can enjoy both simultaneously. Mi Bandera Pupuseria Y Restaurante is a neon-lit Salvadoran spot in LA’s South Figueroa Corridor where you can eat great pupusas and sing all at once (or at least on Friday and Saturday nights). But this place has more to offer than just the opportunity to embarrass yourself in front of coworkers, including its chewy pupusas that come with the ideal filling-to-masa ratio. Mi Bandera’s version isn’t the size of your plate like at other spots, so it’s easy to have a mix-and-match pupusa party when you stop by. This place also makes a delicious revuelta filling with soft chicharron cooked in tangy salsa, and a creamy bean paste that’s good enough to eat by the spoonful. It’s topped off with a sharp cabbage and carrot curtido and a super-thin salsa de tomate to marinate your masa in.