Pupusas are a traditional Salvadoran dish. They’re thick corn tortillas that are filled with things like cheese, beans, or pork. They’re traditionally eaten for breakfast or lunch, but they’re becoming more popular as an anytime snack now!
After experimenting with loads of different combinations, I’ve come up with 14 delicious sides that pair perfectly with pupusas. In this article, I list the most popular side dishes for pupusas. In a rush? Here’s the short answer.
The best dishes to serve with pupusas are the traditional curtido and salsa roja. Other dip options include cilantro-lime crema, pico de gallo, or guacamole. More substantial side dishes include refried beans, plantain chips, grilled vegetable kabobs, or Mexican rice.
You won’t often see pupusas without curtido. This traditional Salvadoran side is made by pickling cabbage and carrots in vinegar, so it adds a refreshing tang to the rich and cheesy pupusas.
Picture a slaw, but zestier. I can see why everyone loves serving it right next to curtido – it keeps this dish from getting too heavy.
Pupusas go hand in hand with salsa roja in Salvadoran cuisine. This red, zesty salsa is typically made with tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, and cilantro.
It’s perfect for dipping your meaty tortillas in, so don’t be afraid to dive in. Head on over to Alpha Foodie to get your hands on their authentic recipe.
Psst… salsa verde is the green version of this dip.
If the curtido doesn’t appeal to you, what about some Mexican slaw instead.
It’s not pickled, so it’s less tangy than its Salvadoran counterpart. But the slaw still has a good amount of tang from the lime dressing so it helps keep the pupusas tasting fresh.
The bright purple cabbage will also add a nice pop of color to the table. Serve your toasty pupusas with a side of Mexican slaw for a satisfying snack.
Plantains are a type of banana that is firmer and less sweet than regular bananas. And it makes wonderful chips, which are perfect for adding some crunch to your pupusas.
These fried plantains are so versatile too – you can flavor them with whatever you want.
Vanessa uses salt in her recipe, but if you want more of a kick you could use cayenne pepper. Or for some tang, you could use ranch seasoning.
If you’re after a really hearty meal, serve your pupusas with some of this restaurant-style Mexican rice.
The rice is cooked in chicken stock and tomato puree, infusing each grain with tons of flavor. The smell of it cooking is enough to get my stomach rumbling!
Plus it’s all made in one pot, so cleanup is a breeze. Talk about a win-win.
Sopa de Frijoles
Dive into the comforting embrace of sopa de frijoles, a traditional Salvadoran bean soup that’s as hearty as it is heartwarming.
The rich, savory broth is brimming with tender beans, bits of pork, avocaodo, and a decent amount of chili. It’s perfect for dipping your pupusa in.
Fresh veggie chow chow
Not loving the idea of a heavy side dish like rich? This fresh veggie chow chow has your back.
It’s a mix of colorful, freshly diced vegetables that are marinated in a tangy vinegar sauce, pretty similar to the curtido above actually!
And pupusas aren’t the only thing this chow chow goes with. You can stockpile it in the fridge and use it as a relish on sandwiches, salads, burgers… you name it.
Cilantro lime crema
Still scouting for the right dip? This cilantro lime crema might be the one.
It’s creamy and cooling, but also has some acidity from the lime juice, which goes really well with the pupusas.
After all, you’ll rarely see them served without a slice of lime on the side. Want something light? Swap out the sour cream for Greek yogurt.
This is probably one of my favorite side suggestions for pupusas.
The distinctive avocado flavor melds perfectly with the deep, savory notes of the pupusas and brightens the dish.
Basic guacamole is usually my go-to. But I’m a big fan of adding some diced jalapenos too.
Do you have trouble with your guacamole turning brown? Green Healthy Cooking has a unique tip to help you (and not, it’s not adding lime juice).
Creamy tomato and cucumber salad
There’s no shame in serving something simple. And this creamy tomato and cucumber salad is all about simplicity.
The salad is a refreshing way to cleanse your palate, and it only takes 10 minutes to throw together, so it’s great if you’re cooking for a crowd.
Psst… this salad is best in the summer when tomatoes are at their best.
Grilled vegetable kabobs
Pupusas have carbs and meat. The only thing they’re missing is some vegetables.
But veggies don’t have to be boring. These kabobs are a fun, eye-catching side dish. And they can even be interactive if you get the guests to make their own.
I’d have onions, peppers, and zucchini on mine. What about you?
Pico de gallo
Pico de gallo is uh-maazing with tacos, so it makes sense that it would be delicious with pupusas too.
This fresh salsa is made from diced tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, and cilantro.
Sounds similar to salsa roja, right? It is! Except it’s much chunkier.
The flavors will take 20 minutes to fully develop, so make sure you give it some time to rest before serving.
Spicy refried beans
You could cheat and use refried beans from a can, but that would be doing a disservice to your pupusas.
Homemade is always best, the beans have so much more depth to them.
These refried beans are warm, filling, and a little bit spicy – perfect for scooping up with your crunchy pupusas.
Follow this recipe for the BEST refried beans you’ve ever tasted.
Elote loco takes your standard grilled corn and turns it into a feast for the senses. It’s not the prettiest dish, and it’s messy and bold, but it’s utterly delicious.
This Salvadoran street food classic involves smothering juicy corn on the cob with a hearty layer of mayonnaise, a sprinkle of hard cheese, and a dash of chili powder for that extra kick. This recipe takes things even further and adds ketchup and mustard too.
Don’t forget to grab some napkins before you dig in!
What To Serve With Pupusas [14 Side Dishes]
- 1 portion pupusas
- Prepare your pupusas according to your favorite recipe.
- In the meantime, choose one of the following sides to serve alongside it.
- Side dishes include: curtido, salsa roja, mexican slaw, fried plantains, mexican rice, fresh veggie chow chow, cilantro lime crema, homemade guacamole, creamy tomato and cucumber salad, grilled vegetable kabobs, pico de gallo, and spicy refried beans.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!