Except in large cities, which have supermarkets, most Salvadorans shop daily for groceries at an open air market. Beans, rice, tortillas and tamales (a type of corn dumpling wrapped in banana leaves) are the basic staples of the Salvadoran diet, as common as bread and butter are to North Americans.

Salvadorans eat three meals a day. A hearty rural breakfast usually consists of eggs with tomato sauce, fried plantain (a type of green banana), fried beans combined with rice (casamiento), cheese or cream, coffee and tortillas. Tortillas are made from cornflour rolled out into a flat, round shape, baked, then cooked on round grills.

Lunch (almuerzo) is the largest meal of the day. The menu may include soup, rice and beans, steak or chicken, salad and tropical fruit such as mangoes, watermelon or jocotes, a deep-red, pitted fruit. Dinner is often similar though smaller, with more beans and rice, a meat dish and fruit. Arroz, a rich yellow rice, is a common dish, as are pollo dorado (roasted golden chicken), carne asada (roast meat, usually beef), and pollo or carne encebollado (chicken or meat stewed with vegetables). Mariscada is a type of fish stew that includes lobster, crab, shrimp and other fish.

A favourite fast food unique to El Salvador is pupusa: a tortilla stuffed with cheese, refried beans and other fillings such as beef or pork rinds. Salvadorans enjoy pupusas served with spicy pickled cabbage and hot sauce. Street vendors often sell pupusas, as well as pasteles, which are pockets of cornflour dough stuffed with meat, worked into a crescent shape and deep fried. Pasteles are also eaten at special celebrations and gatherings such as weddings, funerals and social events.

Salvadorans’ preferred drinks are coffee and hot chocolate. Licuados and refrescos (fruit drinks) are also popular. Horchata and cebada are barley-based drinks with cinnamon. Common alcoholic drinks include light beers and Tic-tac, a brand of aguadiente (liquor made from sugarcane).

  Salvadoran Quesadilla

1 stick butter
240 ml sugar
3 eggs
240 ml flour
1 tsp baking powder
240 ml sour cream
115 g parmesan cheese, grated
sesame seeds


Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). In a large mixing bowl, blend the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, blending after each addition. Combine the flour with the baking powder separately, then gradually blend into the butter mixture. Add the sour cream and cheese, and mix well. Spread the mixture evenly on a greased baking dish or pan. Top with sesame seeds. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes.

  Did you know?
Coffee beans are initially green and take up to seven months to mature to their red shade. They turn brown only after roasting.