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Best El Salvador Food | 12 Must-Try El Salvadoran Foods

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There is a great deal of cultural diversity in Central America, reflected in its food. The cuisines of Central America are influenced by a wide variety of flavors and cultures from around the globe.

El Salvador Food: El Salvador

El Salvador food features many dishes that are similar to ones in neighboring Guatemala. However, despite their differences, they share the same name. For example, quesillo in Nicaragua or Costa Rica differs from quesillo in El Salvador, but they are the same dish.

El Salvador’s cuisine can be described as exotic, spicy, and hearty at the same time. There is a strong Spanish influence on wine, cheese, and coffee. Native American traditions left behind food based on maize, beans, and rice, such as tortillas, tamales, and atoles.

The culinary tradition of El Salvador is fantastic, and the tortillas made there are among the best you’ll ever eat. Sadly, most people haven’t had the chance to try El Salvadoran food. So check out this list of food you should put on your bucket list.

If you are traveling the whole of Central America, don’t miss out on some delicious 11 Mouth-Watering Honduran Foods.  

Best El Salvador Food

Pupusas – The National Dish

Biting into a pupusa will instantly reveal the authentic taste of El Salvador. Usually filled with cheese, spinach, garlic, or ayote, a rich squash popular in El Salvador, these handmade corn flour discs are filled with melted cheese.

These warm, grilled tortillas are finished off with salsa roja, a tomato-and-onion sauce that has a hint of heat. They are rolled up and toasted until golden outside and warm inside. People on the go, who are rushing to get ready for their day, turn to this inexpensive dish to fuel them for the day.

El Salvador Food: Pupusas

And, a quick word on pronunciation; pupusa is pronounced poo-poo-sah. But don’t worry if it doesn’t come out right the first time; Salvadorans may appreciate your effort more than your pronunciation!

Yuca Frita – Deep-Fried Yuca Fries

Yuca Frita is one of my favorite El Salvadoran dishes. It’s an integral part of the local food and culture, but it’s also one of the most underrated. 

This deep-fried root vegetable comes sliced into thick wedges and has a slightly juicy, starchy inside, high in carbohydrates and low in fats. They are also somewhat bitter and need to be boiled or baked before consumption.

El Salvador Food: Yuca Frita

Yuca is fried with literally huge flames coming out of a vat of boiling oil right beside it. This is deceptively delicious comfort food.

You’ve got to try this one if you’re in El Salvador. But, first, make sure you go to one of the food trucks with the massive vats of burning hot oil and long sticks for frying the Yuca.

Salvadoran Tamales

Salvadoran Tamales called Tamal de Pollo are made with savory corn batter filled with chicken and vegetables and topped with a delicious and tangy Recaudo sauce. You will enjoy the sweetness, aroma, and texture that are enhanced and encircled by green banana or plantain leaves.

As the tamales steam, they cook and release their natural flavors.

El Salvador Food: Salvadoran Tamales
Photo credit: Doran

Tamales are an old tradition in El Salvador, which locals consider a delicacy. Everyone makes tamales the same way, but each family has its special recipe.

This delicacy is so popular among Salvadorans that it remains a household dish that requires the combined effort of several family members to complete.

Salvadoran Quesadilla – Cheese Cake

In Mexico, quesadillas are usually grilled and melt cheese, meat, or veggies. But in El Salvador, an entirely different type of cuisine is available. When most people think of quesadillas in El Salvador, they imagine the sweet, cheese-filled dessert that takes them back to their childhood.

El Salvador Food: Salvadoran Quesadilla

Quesadilla or Quesadilla Salvadoreña is a very iconic and popular El Salvador food. Traditional quesadillas and Salvadorean Quesadillas differ in the kind of cheese they use.

A wholesome, salty, cheesy breakfast treat topped with sesame seeds pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate at breakfast.

Pan Con Pavo/Pollo – Sandwiches With Turkey Or Chicken

A Pan is a sandwich filled with turkey or chicken. It is another popular dish in El Salvador. The dish consists of bread filled with meat, traditionally accompanied by a side salad consisting of jalapeño slices and tomato wedges. 

In some cases, the meat has been mixed with mayonnaise. The sandwich is eaten as a complete meal or a snack at any time.

El Salvadorans enjoy eating sandwiches at any time of day. The name “Panes” is simply a plural of the word pan, the Spanish word for bread. Like pupusas, named after the collective, a single one being Pan con Pavo.

Also, Salvadorans take their turkey preparation seriously and far more complex than a traditional thanksgiving Turkey, the result being a moister and by far, tastier turkey so it is unparalleled in the world and one of the most underrated Salvadorean dishes.

Horchata – Ground Morro Seeds or Jicara Beverage

El Salvador’s Horchata de Morro, also known as the Salvadoran Horchata, is part of the large group of agua frescas (“fresh waters” in Spanish). In El Salvador, horchata de morro is made with ground morro seeds or Jicara fruit. It is consumed throughout the nation.

Squash seeds, white rice, sesame seeds, peanuts, cocoa beans, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander seeds and allspice can also be used to prepare this drink. It can also be prepared with sugar and vanilla extract. A very nutritious and refreshing drink. Salvadorans drink it all day long.

El Salvador Food: Horchata

The best part about horchata is that it’s full of magnesium and iron, and it’s a perfect post-exercise drink. 

The first sip will reveal a creamy vanilla flavor with touches of cinnamon and nutmeg mixed in. It has a natural sweetness from the ingredients instantly providing you with a great dose of energy to help keep your day strong and fight off fatigue.

Elote Loco – Corn

When I discovered Elote Loco in El Salvador, little did I know it would become one of my favorite things to eat there.

Once you try this dish once, you will quickly understand why I’m so crazy about it.

The Elote Loco street vendors begin by roasting corn in big metal drums on the street. Once the corn is cooked, the vendors cover it in a special sauce and sell it to passers-by for just a few dollars. 

El Salvador Food: Elote Loco

This unique sauce is similar to coleslaw and barbecue sauce and is made from a blend of sour cream, mayonnaise, and fresh vegetables, including chiles and carrots. However, the secret ingredient which sets apart Elote Loco’s sauce is lime juice.

Often found at fairs, parades, and food markets, this snack takes corn on the cob to a whole new level.

Fried Fish

El Salvador has miles upon miles of coastal shoreline bordering the Pacific ocean and advanced fishing industry. This combination ensures the country plenty of fresh seafood right from the sea, including fish. 

Shrimp is the most commonly used seafood for frying, but some restaurants also use larger fish (red snapper, grouper, or sea bass).

El Salvador Food: Fried Fish

Salvadorans love their seafood, and for an excellent reason. Fried fish is a popular dish that is enjoyed as an appetizer or served as a main dish. It always comes accompanied by a refreshing salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, and lemon.

Carne Asada – Grilled Meat

Carna Asada is a popular El Salvador food and is a cornerstone of national cuisine. The literal translation from Spanish is “grilled meat.”

Rather than the dish itself, the name refers to the way the meat is cooked. Central and South America are world-renowned for grilling meat over open fires, which forms the basis of so many social gatherings and events. 

El Salvador Food: Carne Asada

Marinating the meat before grilling in a glaze of thinly sliced onions, orange juice, vinegar, salt, black pepper, and bay leaves is common in El Salvador. It is usually served with corn tortillas or rice when grilled.

Tres Leches

Tres Leches cake is trendy in Central American countries, and it is easily one of El Salvador’s most favorite desserts. On my trip to El Salvador, I indulge in this dessert on at least two occasions. So, if you are lucky enough to run into Tres Leches during your time in El Salvador, I recommend you try it out. It is a delicious cake!

Tres Leches’ ingredients are simple, yet the flavor and tenderness of the cake are incomparable. In addition, its simplicity allows it to be easily paired with a variety of fruit and whipped cream options.

El Salvador Food: Tres Leches

Combined with sugar, baking powder, butter, eggs, flour, vanilla, and cream, this cake is very moist and creamy. Several hours after baking the Tres Leches cake, it must sit in the refrigerator before being served chilled. 

There are various ways to decorate this cake, including grated chocolate, cinnamon, and cream.

Enchiladas

El Salvador is known for its amazing cuisine, and enchiladas are no exception. A traditional Mexican enchilada uses larger tortillas that are soaked in sauce, whereas a Salvadoran enchilada uses smaller, fried tortillas. 

The tortillas are topped with the seed from Annatto, which is ground into a paste and can be filled with various ingredients.

El Salvador Food: Enchiladas

Common Salvadoran enchilada fillings include hard-boiled eggs, cabbage, sliced tomato, fried beans, ground beef, and various sauces.

When enchiladas are topped with Parmesan cheese and rich sauces, you often have to eat them with your hands and be careful not to bite your fingers. These are incredibly tasty!

Torrejas – Sweet Toast

El Salvador’s version of French toast, Torrejas (or “Torrejas Salvadoreñas”), is by far one of the most delicious and unique dishes I have ever had in my life. 

Torrejas are made with Dalaj Literary ma’a ye or “kneading dough,” which is sweet cornmeal. The dough is then baked together with cheese, milk, and eggs to create this fluffy bread to soak up all the syrup. 

El Salvador Food: Torrejas

Unlike French toast, Torrejas is made with more than two pieces of baked bread. Instead, the Salvadoran dish uses thick peanut butter-like bread dipped in an egg for a few seconds and then fried in butter or oil till it turns golden brown.

Using yolk bread, dulce de leche instead of maple syrup, and cinnamon on top make for a moist, dense, sweetly-spiced sandwich ideal for a Sunday brunch or holiday breakfast.

Wrapping up on the best El Salvador food

Food is so essential to your travels when you’re exploring new countries. It provides a convenient way to taste the local culture and gives you the power to discover what each place offers. And Central America has so much to offer when it comes to authentic, flavorsome dishes.

Salvadoran cuisine utilizes the country’s diverse geography, pulling ripe produce from the farms and fresh seafood from the Pacific to create some genuinely divine food.

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Rene Barillas

Monday 11th of April 2022

Thank you for exposing our cuisine to the world, cuisine which has been rated within the 25 best cuisines in the world, and within the top 5 in the American continent. While there were many other dishes that were not mentioned, it is a very nice compilation of some of our most known dishes. I particularly love you mentioning our tortillas which, as you said, are the best any where. Take one right off of the comal, mush it with queso fresco and you have a masaso, a perfect after school snack. Toast some leftover ones on an open flame so you get a bit of burnt spots and break it in to bite size pieces, toss them in a bowl, add milk and a pinch of salt and you have Salvadoran corn flakes, comfort food for me and many others. While your descriptions of our dishes is for the most part accurate, I'd like to clarify a couple of details that were amiss.

To begin, Salvadorean horchata doesn't have rice in its recipe. That's Mexican horchata. Ours is made with a combination of seeds including morro or Jicara (Jicaro is the tree while jicara is the fruit or gourd).

Salvadorean tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, not coconut leaves which are comb like and not at all suitable as a wrap but can be used as tatch roofing material.

Panes (as in panes con pavo,) is simply a plural of the word pan, Spanish for bread. Like pupusas, name after the colective, a single one being Pan con pavo, like a pupusa is a single one. Oddly enough, though technically it could be considered a sandwhich, we consider it a meal since it is too big for a snack. Though you can argue that if you make it in a small French roll rather than the big bolillo normally used it could be a snack. It's worth mentioning that our turkey preparation is far more complex and involved than a traditional Thanksgiving turkey, the result being a moister and by far, tastier turkey, in my opinion, unparalleled in the world and arguably, the most underrated salvadorean dish.

Lastly, some of the pictures used were the wrong ones for the items described. Namely the tamales shown were Mexican tamales, same with the enchiladas and the horchata.

Again thank you for your service to the eaters of the world and giving a limelight to our cuisine.

Nathan

Tuesday 12th of April 2022

Rene- thank you for taking the time to leave such a detailed comment, it's very appreciated. We have updated the post and thank you for helping share the food of your country with our readers!

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