The Best Pupusas In Los Angeles

13 places to eat great versions of El Salvador’s national dish.
The Best Pupusas In Los Angeles image

photo credit: Andrea D'Agosto

LA wouldn't be the same without the cheesy, warm pupusa. But that's an alternate reality we don't care to live in. Thanks to waves of Salvadoran immigrants, many of whom arrived after escaping civil war in the '80s and '90s, these griddled masa cakes are all over LA. You can find El Salvador's national dish everywhere from Gardena strip malls, outdoor markets in Koreatown, and Eagle Rock food trucks.

Traditionally made with either masa or rice flour, pupusas can come stuffed with beans, cheese, vegetables, and tender chicharron, and topped with bright tomato salsa and pickle-y curtido that slices through the salt and starch like a lightsaber. Here are our 13 favorite spots serving this quintessential LA dish.




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Walk through El Mercado Salvadoreño with your eyes closed and you might mistake the sound of riguas sizzling on hot grills for a bunch of horny cicadas. This daily street market outside Koreatown’s Two Guys Plaza is a cultural hub for LA's Salvadoran community, and somewhere you can spend an entire afternoon eating blood clam cocteles, sour green mangoes, and scalding pupusas. By our count, there are near-infinite pupusa vendors here. But our favorite is Pupuseria Jazmin’s #2 with its long banquet tables where can drink refreshing guanabana agua fresca as your rice-flour pupusa crisps up on the grill. Think thin and spongy in the center, yet crispy around the edges. Get an order of revueltas. These have an equal frijoles to cheese to chicharron ratio, with finely minced pork seasoning every bite.

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If we were to place a thick griddle cake in a time capsule for future humans to discover, we’d use one from Delmy’s. That’s because the namesake dish at this Salvadoran food stand—that shows up at farmers markets from Hollywood to Silver Lake—is the epitome of a pupusa. They’re always the perfect size, with a flawless masa-to-filling ratio, and oozing mozzarella cheese. Even the curtido here is exceptional. The team takes the slaw's usual veggies and adds a few fermented hot peppers. It’s so good and pungent, we could eat this alone like a side salad.

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Jaraguá in Oakwood is one of LA’s most recognizable Salvadoran restaurants. It's also somewhere you can walk in any time for classics, including casamiento—rice and beans gently stewed together—and moist, griddle-marked pupusas full of chicharrón, loroco, and cheese. Whether you get rice or corn (both are great), a pupusa here isn’t complete without Jaraguá’s soft, vinegar-soaked curtido. That, plus some bright salsa de tomate, cuts through the cake’s starchiness and brings out all the flavors in the fillings.

This Eagle Rock spot is more of a driveway than a drive-thru, because it's just a pupusa truck parked outside someone’s home. And that set-up is fitting, really, since these aren't your average pupusas. Big masa frisbees come hot, they're golden yellow, and so soft that the cheese busts through like water rushing out of a dam. From the revueltas to the squash and cheese, we haven’t had a pupusa that we didn’t like here, so order whichever variety speaks to you as a taco pupusa. This acts as a base for crispy carne asada, spicier-than-usual curtido (thanks to lots of jalapeños at the party), splatters of salsa verde, and avocado to cool everything down.

It feels good just to be inside Cojutepeque, a blue roadside diner in Westlake where you can watch traffic zoom by, drink coffee, and tune into a poorly dubbed Turkish soap drama. But that feeling only multiplies when you eat minty, citrusy salpicón, pastelitos stuffed with chicken stew, and their spongy pupusas with milky, stretchy cheese. We usually go for the loroco and cheese combo, which has a good amount of crunch and mild vegetal sweetness. If you're looking for something punchier, the revuelta is about as subtle as a Boy Scout troop leader with a blow horn—in a great way.

Los Molcajetes has come a long way since its food truck days in the ‘70s. But even now, with multiple locations scattered across central LA, Los Molcajetes is still chugging along with some of the most consistent pupusas in town. While the corn versions are good, the rice ones have the crispy edges and chew we’re looking for in a pupusa. The revueltas ooze salty, spicy, creamy fillings out of the sides, forming a crust on the grill. We just suggest cutting through all that hearty cheese and beans with plenty of sharp, vinegary curtido.

If you’re new to Salvadoran food, Paseo San Miguel can be your 101 course, training wheels, beginner’s guide, or whatever you want to call it. This local mini-chain specializes in simple everyday staples, like sweet fried plantains with sour cream, mixed piles of fried chicharron and yucca, and pupusas leaking cheese and beans like punctured water balloons. But the best pupusa at Paseo San Miguel is the version with zucchini and cheese that packs extra crunch and moisture from the cooked squash. It’s super subtle in flavor. That means you have more of an excuse to dump briny curtido on top.

La Pupusa Urban Eatery has a long history in LA, spanning multiple decades, locations, and generations. Now it’s run by a husband-and-wife duo who moved their family’s business into a larger DTLA space. La Pupusa riffs on tradition, and no dish exemplifies this better than “La Mamasota." It's a ten-pound pupusa pizza that comes out sliced with a bucket of curtido on the side. (They also do a heart-shaped version, just in case you're hoping for a pupusa-themed wedding reception.) These items might sound Guy Fieri-coded, but they're really quite good. And, if you’re looking for something smaller, order one of the palm-sized pupusas. We especially like the pupusas al pastor and the classic revuelta.

Too often, the most memorable parts of a pupusa are the gooey beans and the cheese burning the roof of your mouth. Not at Los Cheros. This strip mall pupusería in Gardena makes plump masa cakes with dark grill marks. Even after a hot sear, these remain soft and doughy when you pinch off a piece with your fingertips. And if you’re a dairy freak, you’ll appreciate the copious amount of salty cheese. We like to balance it out with spinach or stewed squash.

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What we love most about the pupusas at El Guanaco, a small order-at-the-counter restaurant in a Hollywood strip mall, is that they rely on ingredients, not pure fat and salt, for flavor. Queso, tender pork meat, and golden masa all work together like a well-trained youth symphony. The menu sticks mainly to classic varieties like cheese or pork, but we recommend the revueltas with cheese, pork, and creamy beans. 

You could come to this Reseda spot several times and not even make it to the pupusa section. That would be a mistake in our books. Mis Raíces’ pupusas are crispy and golden, with scalding hot interiors that require several minutes to cool off before eating. What stands out most though is the sheer variety here. There are 26 different kinds of pupusas on the menu, including shrimp, zucchini and cheese, and squash and spinach. If you’re looking to expand on your usual pupusa routine, head to Mis Raíces.

Mama’s Tamales makes our favorite vegan pupusas in the city. This restaurant right across the street from MacArthur Park has the usual vegetable filling options like nutty loroco and spicy jalapeno. But the real star, and the one you should order no matter what, is a fluffy corn cake full of jackfruit revuelta. Every bite blends sweetness from the yellow fruit (which is shredded like pulled pork and marinated in salsa verde) and tang from crunchy curtido. We also love how the melted vegan mozzarella holds everything together with a mild taste and gooey texture that’s still in the ballpark of the stuff we get from cows. 

At first glance, Los Cocos looks like a Salvadoran panadería with display cases full of conchas and golden quesadillas (the moist pound cake, not the cheesy tortilla dish). But look a little closer and you’ll see a small dry-erase board behind the counter listing off pupusas. The classics like revueltas and bean and cheese are quite good here, but this Del Rey shop is our go-to for veggie-stuffed pupusas with contrasting textures. Order the squash, onion, and carrot pupusa with crunchy vegetables peaking through the soft masa, which you should top with zippy purple cabbage curtido.


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