What’s a pupusa? Here’s why it’s being celebrated this weekend in DC

An El Salvadoran staple is being celebrated this Sunday on National Pupusa Day — and a D.C. restaurant owner who’s planning to serve up thousands of pupusas in the coming days hopes customers can dig into the culture too.

For starters, what is a pupusa?

“It’s almost like a corn tortilla stuffed with different fillings,” said Ana Reyes, whose family owns El Tamarindo in Northwest D.C. “The most popular one is going to be the ‘revuelta’ — which is a pork and cheese mix.”

The right amount of Maseca instant flour and water keeps pupusas from getting too dry or soggy. And the dish is traditionally served alongside curtido — a lightly pickled slaw — and a tomato-based sauce.

Pupusas aren’t married to any particular meal time.

“You can eat pupusas by yourself. You can have pupusas with your neighbor or with a group of people. It’s always a good time for pupusas,” Reyes told WTOP. “In El Salvador, they’re literally (eaten) throughout the entire day.”

a woman in a restaurant's kitchen rolls up dough for pupusas
Staff at El Tamarindo are getting ready for National Pupusa Day. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
two pupusas with various toppings
The El Salvadoran dish features a thick corn tortilla that can be stuffed with a number of fillings including beef, cheese or beans. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
a mural outside of el tamarindo shows a person's face
Ana Reyes said the restaurant will have music and dancing on Sunday. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
a sign shows a list of events for National Pupusa Day
For those interested in learning how to make pupusas, the restaurant is hosting workshops. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
a wall that says El Tamarindo inside the restaurant
The family business opened its doors in 1982. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
a woman in a restaurant's kitchen rolls up dough for pupusas
two pupusas with various toppings
a mural outside of el tamarindo shows a person's face
a sign shows a list of events for National Pupusa Day
a wall that says El Tamarindo inside the restaurant

National Pupusa Day is always held on the second Sunday of November, but Reyes said the restaurant is celebrating all week long.

The culmination of the celebration comes Sunday, when the restaurant will have Latin dance performances, all-you-can-eat and drink passes and products by Salvadoran artisans.

Attendees interested in learning about (not just eating) pupusas can sign up for a hands-on workshop.

The restaurant has welcomed in other D.C. chefs who have created their own pupusas as part of the celebration.

“It’s not just the Salvadoran community that eats pupusas — everybody eats pupusas,” Reyes said.

Some of the participating chefs include Daniela Moreira from Call Your Mother who has created a beef brisket pupusa and Doron Petersan from Sticky Fingers with a vegan mozzarella pupusa.

But no matter the filling, Reyes encourages people to try a pupusa and said she’s rarely encountered a person who dislikes the dish.

“Traditionally, they’re eaten with your hands, but this is a judgment-free zone,” she said. “You can eat them with the fork and knife.”

40 years of pupusas

Reyes’ parents opened El Tamarindo back in 1982, which happens to be the same year she was born.

“My parents started the business with the idea of creating a good opportunity for their family, which is exactly what they’ve done. And pupusas have been a major, major element in how my family was able to grow financially,” she said. “They’re kind of a big deal in our world.”

This weekend is an opportunity to teach people about Salvadoran culture through food, Reyes said.

“The beautiful thing about food, any food, is that oftentimes, it’s the first introduction that somebody will have to a different culture,” she said. “For us, it’s really an honor to be able to share our culture through our food and share the beautiful things that the Salvadoran community, and culture, has to offer.”

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up