About the food of El Salvador

Llopango and Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador

Do you like colorful birds? What about ruins – ancient, gothic, and colonial? Step right this way. Meet El Salvador, a tiny country freckled with mighty volcanoes, thickly coated by lush tropics, and so much more.

In this steamy dreamland, I discovered a theme: corn.

First, there’s pupusa – thick corn flour (masa) based tortillas stuffed with cheese, meat, or beans. Pupusas [Recipe] are often served with a bright, vinegary scoop of curtido [Recipe], or cabbage slaw, and fresh salsa. Then, there’s a corn drink called atol [Recipe]. Made with fresh corn, sugar, cinnamon and milk, it’s so rich you’ll think you’re drinking sweet custard, and you’ll be just as happy. And, finally, let’s not forget riguas, a moist mixture of corn (rather like tamales), spooned onto a banana leaf and griddled until firm enough to handle.


And then there’s the produce. Mounds and mounds of gorgeous tropical goodness. Vivid. Fresh. Fabulous.

Just look at this lady. She knows she’s got a good thing going on.

Still hungry? No worries. There’s more at the Salvadorian Global Table.

Bring on the boats – filled with seafood. Serve it up with rice and beans, or perhaps a healthy smattering of fried plantains [Recipe].

When it comes to sweets, it’s hard to go wrong – try rice pudding or quesadillas [Recipe]. Yes, quesadillas are dessert in El Salvador. Literally “cheese cake,” they taste rather like a salty/sweet poundcake – nothing like Mexican quesadillas. The rich goodness is typically served with a cup of coffee for breakfast or a snack. Now that sounds like a great start to a good morning!

Photos: Christian Dory, Daniel Robey, Leofleck


  1. Jessica Bennett says

    El Salvadorian cuisine is another one of my favourites. The best pupusa I had was in NYC at the Red Hook fields food cart. There also used to be a great little cafe in Baltimore with El Salvadorian food. I’ve never made anything at home though, although arepas are very similar to pupusas, which I make often (corn tortillas and beans- one of my favourite flavour combinations).

    • Sasha Martin says

      This is my first foray into Salvadorian food and I’m very impressed with the various dishes. Papusas are tasty but a little tricky to make.

      • Jessica Bennett says

        I’m looking forward to seeing how yours turned out. What did you find tricky?

  2. Kim Taylor says

    I just got back from my first trip to ElSalvador and I really miss the food! I stayed with my (Salvadoran) son-in-law’s family in the mountains where the cooking was over a wood fire in the traditional way. I was really sorry my Spanish wasn’t better to find out how things were made. And in town, there were pupusas everywhere- and only 25 cents. Anyway, what a treat to see recipes here.

    • Sasha Martin says

      25 cents!? Wow, that’s great 🙂 I wish I could see the traditional cooking – it would be so fun to learn from the locals. Next time you go, you’ll have to take video so someone can translate for you later 🙂

  3. Karen Speaks says

    I am a native of San Salvador and of course LOVE Salvadorean food. Although I know how to cook a lot of the food from there, I’d love to see more recipes of soups and other main dishes. Love the atol recipe! I’m actually on my way to get the ingredients I will need to make some. Happy New Year!

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