Traditional Foods from El Salvador

El Salvador meal spread on table
Dennis Tang/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

El Salvador food is probably the most popular among the Central America cuisines. You'll find Salvadoran food in many cities in the U.S. including that sold at small food stalls and served in fine dining restaurants.

However, traveling in El Salvador is the best way to immerse yourself in the culture of the country and the local foods. Here are a few popular dishes and drinks you should try during your travels in El Salvador including pupusas, tamales, and fried plantains. 

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Pupusas on a plate

Pupusas are El Salvador's staple food. The tradition of having pupusas for a meal or a snack has been passed down from generation to generation and originated with the Mayan-Pipil culture.

Basic pupusas are made of corn tortillas, or flatbread, stuffed with cheese, pork rinds, squash, or beans, or a combination of several of these ingredients.

Usually, pupusas are served with cabbage slaw (curtido) and a tomato-based salsa.

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Salvadoran Breakfast

El Salvador Breakfast

An El Salvador breakfast, often includes refried beans, queso fresco (fresh cheese), and fried plantains, a banana-like fruit that is ideal for cooking. You'll see plantains served with other meals as well. Plantains, especially the green ones, are dry and denser than bananas so cook well. 

Breakfast in El Salvador typically includes various Salvadoran foods. You may see eggs scrambled with vegetables (huevos picados) accompanied by fried plantains. Often fresh local fruits are sliced and presented alongside the hot ingredients. 

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Curtido salad

Curtido, a spicy, vinegar-based condiment made from cabbage, carrots, and other veggies is often served with pupusas. Curtido is the Salvadoran style of pickled vegetables and can often be spicy.

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Yuca Frita

Yuca Frita and sides on a plate

Yuca frita, or deep-fried yuca (cassava root), is often served with chicharrón (deep-fried pork cracklings or pork rind). Yuca frita is made from a root vegetable known as cassava which has the consistency of potato and then fried. You may find it served with soups, pupusas, tamales, or roast meats as a side dish.

Yuca con chicharrón (yuca with pork cracklings) is one of the most popular foods in El Salvador. It is often served with curtido, then topped with chicharrones, tomato salsa and a dressing called mojo, containing oil, garlic, onion, spices, and citrus juice.

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Ensalada Drink

Ensalada Drink

Ensalada in El Salvador aren't just salads—they're also fruit drinks, made of chopped-up fruit called refresco de ensalada de fruita.

To make the drink, fruit (both sweet and sour) is chopped into small pieces with water and juice added, some sugar, and a pinch of salt. It then sits to infuse the water with the flavors of the fruit. It can be held in the refrigerator overnight or for a few hours.

It is not blended and is poured directly from the pitcher.

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Horchata drink

Horchata, a milky, rice-based drink flavored with sugar and spices is found at street stands and restaurants in El Salvador. The usual Horchata is a creamy beverage with hints of cinnamon and vanilla.

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Empanadas de Leche

Empanadas de Leche

Empanadas de Leche, an El Salvador dessert pastry, is often made with plantains, sugar, and cinnamon. The empanada dough (like a little pie) is stuffed with a creamy sweet food and then fried just as the savory version of empanadas are. 

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One way of serving tortas is with tortillas and crispy egg patties packed with shrimp.

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Tamales tied with corn husk ribbon
Misha Gravenor/Getty Images

Tamales, a traditional Latin American dish made of steamed cornmeal dough (called masa), are filled with meats, cheeses, dried fruit, or sweet corn.

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Sopa de Pata

Sopa de Pata

Sopa de pata (soup of cow's feet) is a hearty Salvadoran stew made of plantains, green beans, corn, and yuca as well as tripe (cow's stomach) and cow's feet. 

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