Traditional Food and Drink in El Salvador

Stacks of Pupusas
Kryssia Campos / Getty Images

El Salvador food and drink is particularly distinctive among the diverse cuisines of Central America. It is the result of a blend of indigenous and Spanish influences, El Salvador food can be as familiar as chicken soup, or as exotic as fried palm flowers.

Be sure to follow the links below for El Salvador recipes and other information on El Salvador cuisine! You can also view photos of El Salvador food and drink.

A Typical Breakfast

El Salvador breakfasts typically include an assortment of El Salvador food, such as eggs scrambled with vegetables (huevos picados), cheese, fried plantains (platanos fritos), mashed beans and tortillas. Fresh tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, and banana are also common accompaniment. If you prefer an international option like toasts and pancakes they also serve them in most restaurants.

Main Meals

Because El Salvador boasts an extensive coastline, seafood is a common ingredient in El Salvador cuisine. Soups (sopas) and stews (caldos) are extremely popular in El Salvador, especially sopa de pata, a mix of... well, see below.

Other Meals

  • Pupusas: thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, meat, squash, and/or other fillings. They are served with a sour sort of cabbage salad and homemade tomato sauce on top. 
  • Empanadas: flour pastries filled with meat, potatoes and/or cheese. In El Salvador, "empanadas" can also refer to a dessert: fried plantains stuffed with sweet cream.The salty ones are usually served with homemade tomato sauce.
  • Tamales: boiled pockets of corn dough, stuffed with meat or sweet corn and served in banana leaves. If you tried them in any other of the Central American countries you might not want to try them again here but I suggest you do. Each country has a different recipe. 
  • Sopa de Pata: a popular soup made from corn, plantains, tripe and cow's feet.

Snacks and Sides

  • Yuca frita: fried yucca, often served with chicharon (deep-fried pork cracklings).
  • Pacalla: palm flowers breaded in cornmeal, fried and served with tomato sauce.
  • Platanos fritos: deep-fried plantains.
  • Curtido: a spicy, vinegar-based condiment made from cabbage, carrots and other veggies. Much like sauerkraut.


  • Tres Leches Cake (Pastel de Tres Leches): A cake soaked in three kinds of milk, including evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and cream.
  • Pastelitos: pastry turnovers, stuffed with sweets like custard, jam or caramelized fruit.
  • Semita: coffee cake with guava or pineapple jam.


The most popular El Salvador beer is Pilsener. Characteristic non-alcoholic beverages in El Salvador include Kolachampan, a sugarcane-flavored soda; tamarind juice; horchata, a sweet herb and spice-based El Salvador drink; and ensalada ("salad"), a drinkable blend of finely chopped tropical fruits.

Where to Eat and What You'll Pay

When it comes to authentic El Salvador food, El Salvador makes it easy. The best place to get a quality El Salvador pupusa? A pupuseria, of course! What about a Pastelito? A pasteleria! Other great (and extremely inexpensive) places to try El Salvador food are street carts and open-air markets. If you're not on a budget, there are plenty of mid-range to upmarket restaurants in big cities like San Salvador, and in El Salvador's touristy coastal regions.

El Salvador food is varied, delicious, and fast in its own right. However, U.S. citizens hungry for American fast food can find it in restaurant franchises like Pizza Hut, Burger King, Wendy's, and Subway populating El Salvador's largest cities. In turn, pupuserias and other El Salvador restaurants are cropping up in the U.S.