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14 Traditional El Salvador Foods Everyone Should Try

Salvadorian food is a product of several rich cultures but still manages to have its unique tastes. Both Central American and Latin American countries have strong influences on food from El Salvador.

There are different traditional dishes in El Salvador that range from familiar tastes to more exotic profiles. But if there is one thing that is consistently evident, it is how creative the Salvadorian cuisine is.

Pupusas

Pupusas are known as the national dish of El Salvador. They are extremely common in the country, as stands preparing pupusas can be found everywhere.

Pupusas are made by hand and stuffed with different fillings. They are corn patties derived from maise or rice flour.

Typically, pupusas are stuffed with cheese, meat, vegetables, beans, or pork. Loroco — a local edible flower — is also a popular filling of the pupusas.

Pupusas are flattened out over a flat hot comal stove like tortillas. Sour cabbage salad and homemade tomato sauce are the local favourites for eating pupusas.

This favourite national dish is a cross between a slightly sweet taste and a meaty aroma from the fillings inside the patties.

Sopa de Pata

Credit: Mimamor / Flickr

This traditional Salvadoran soup is a hearty dish made from tripe, corn, yuca, cow’s feet, plantains, beans, cabbage, cilantro, lemon juice and tomatoes.

Natives also add ingredients like cassava, chayotes, sweet corn, and bananas. The soup is spiced with cumin, achiote, garlic and onions.

Sopa de pata has a rich buttery flavour that comes from the cow hooves which are washed in lemon juice. This wash cleanses them of any barnyard aroma and enhances their flavour.

This meal is zesty, creamy, and perfect for lunch. When served, locals sprinkle chilli powder on the soup then garnish it with cilantro.

Tamales

Tamales are parcels filled with nourishing ingredients that can either be sweet or savoury. They are a typical festival food in El Salvador, perfected for fairs and fiestas by street vendors.

For the sweet version, the parcels are filled with palm sugar, dried fruits, sweet corn, red and black frijoles and herbs. The savoury version features vegetables, pork, spices and chicken.

The pockets are made from corn dough, filled with choice ingredients and wraped in bananas leaves. Then, they are steamed until they are fluffy and ready to be eaten.

Depending on the way tamales are garnished, they make for either a savoury, sweet or creamy mouthful. 

Panes Rellenos

Panes Rellenos is a Salvadoran submarine sandwich. It is usually filled with specially roasted poultry.

Locals roast either chicken or turkey with pipil spices. The sandwich is also garnished with cucumbers, lettuce or tomatoes.

Panes Rellenos is popular finger food in El Salvador and is quite filling once you consume a few of them.

Yuca Frita

Yuca frita is a side dish made from cassava. Yuca means cassava, and the plant is found commonly in El Salvador.

The starchy cassava is cut into wedge-like shapes. These cuts are boiled then fried and eaten with a side of tomato sauce.

Yuca frita is a Salvadoran equivalent of the European french fries. However, the favourite side dish is meatier, with a soft and chewy texture. Yuca frita has a slightly sweet and grainy taste. 

Empanadas de Leche

Empanadas de leche is a sweet breakfast dish that is made from ground plantain. The ground flour is shaped into small oval balls that are stuffed with vanilla custard.

To serve empanadas de leche, locals sprinkle sugar on top, making them even sweeter. This light dish can be eaten as a snack as well. 

Ceviche

Ceviche is famous all over Latin America. However, it is made a bit differently in each part, including El Salvador.

In El Salvador, white fish and camarones are caught fresh and marinated in lemon juice and chilli. Locals claim that the lemon juice is responsible for “cooking the fish” even without any heat source. In reality, the acidic juice simply denaturalises the fish.

To make a ceviche dish, locals include tomato, cilantro, chilli, finely chopped garlic, mangoes and onions. They also add chilli sauce and pepper based on preferences.

In El Salvador, ceviche is served with banana chips as opposed to tostadas in Mexico. 

Quesadilla Salvadorena

Quesadilla salvadorena is a dessert dish cake that is extremely popular with Salvadorians. 

It is made from queso fresco cheese which basically means fresh cheese. This cheese is the secret ingredient that makes a random pound cake extra soft and gives it added moisture.

The cheese is combined with milk, eggs, butter and flour. The ensuing flavour and texture of this pound cake are legendary.

Its aroma is delightful and beloved by all who experience the quesadilla salvadorena. 

Sopa de Pescado

Sopa de pescado is specifically made for Good Friday in El Salvador. The main ingredients of this soup are seafood.

Fish or any other preferred seafood is cooked along with cumin, achiote, cornflour, tomatoes and green peppers. Sopa de pescado is spicy and filling, and perfect for lunch or dinner.

Sopa de Res

El Salvador’s sopa de res is a favourite national dish that is prepared and served for every occasion and season. It is considered extremely wholesome and filling.

The soup is made by cooking corn, cabbage, carrots and zucchini with large chunks of beef. The raw vegetables blend perfectly with the beef’s aroma.

This gives a thick soup that is usually served with white rice for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Sopa de Siete Mares

Sopa de siete mares are made from seafood. As a seafood soup, this dish can feature any choice of water animal.

Natives use clams, squid, fish, lobsters, shrimps with lots of vegetables. These vegetables include cilantro, tomatoes and onions.

Some add natural lemon juice to give it a bit of a tangy taste. The soup is considered sumptuous and wholehearted, especially by seafood lovers. 

Tres Leches Cake

Tres leches is a traditional cake from El Salvador that locals learn to make from their older family members. The cake ingredients combine three different types of milk.

Locals use whole or cream milk, condensed milk and evaporated to make tres leches cake. After preparation, the cake is served cold as a dense-layered sponge cake with whipped cream on top.

Lomo Relleno

El Salvador’s meat speciality, lomo relleno is made from the stuffed loin. The meal features either beef tenderloin or pork.

The meat is cut open and pounded lightly to make it even softer. Afterwards, it is rolled around a fillet. 

Mustard sauce is used to brush both sides of the meat, and then it is seasoned with spices.

Chopped carrots, potatoes, eggplants, onions, green beans, capers, piled eggs, olives, mushrooms and garlic are some of the vegetables added to the meal. Locals also include a slice of bacon or ham. 

Torrijas

Although torrijas come from Spain, they are now a part of Salvadoran cuisine. They are made from bread slices that are soaked in milk, dipped in eggs before they are fried with olive oil.

Then the result is doused in honey and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. The bread slices used to make torrijas are usually stale.