Trader Joe’s Chicken, Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas Review

Trader Joe's Chicken Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas
Trader Joe’s Chicken Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas

I am always excited to see a new product from Trader Joe’s that I have absolutely no idea where they come from and their whole history and Trader Joe’s Pupusas are no exception. I really like it because it makes me think outside my normal box and try new cuisines from around the world. I do thank Trader Joe’s every day for that!

What are Pupusas and Where Do They Come From?

Pupusas are two thick corn tortillas that are put together with some kind of stuffing between them. Usually, it’s some type of cooked meat, refried beans, cheese, and sometimes exotic food like squash blossoms. The edges are sealed and the pupusas are pan-fried in something called a Comal grill, which looks to me like a Paella pan from Spain. 

Once the Papusas are cooked they are traditionally topped with a spicy coleslaw called Curtido which is made from Cabbage, carrots, onions, and a range of spices.

Pupusas are traditionally from El Salvador and Honduras regions but with the diaspora from those countries with some looking around, you should find a restaurant in the United States near you that serves them. Honestly, I have not had much Central American food. The Latin population here in the Seattle region tends to be mostly Mexican, and LOVE Mexican food so I am sure this is very similar. Some comments on Reddit dissed these as nontraditional because chicken, cheese, and chilis were not something they’d ever had before in El Salvador. I couldn’t tell you but it sounds traditional to me.

Trader Joe's Chicken Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas back
Trader Joe’s Chicken Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas back


The packaging of this product is appealing in a traditional Trader Joe’s way. You might blow right past it in the freezer section if you aren’t careful. I know I did when I was specifically looking for it because, frankly, many Trader Joe’s products look the same. But the box has a cheerful green and yellow motif probably reflecting the chile and corn in the papusas.

There are three Pupusas in the box in a clear plastic bag and they are frozen solid and you have to prepare them from the frozen state otherwise, they will fall apart.

Trader Joe's Chicken Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas inside
Trader Joe’s Chicken Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas inside


Trader Joe’s recommends two methods to make these, the Stovetop and an Air Fryer. I didn’t want to haul out the Air Fryer so I just heated up a nonstick pan to fry them in (This is critical otherwise the corn will stick to everything). I sprayed the pan with Trader Joe’s Olive Oil Spray put the frozen Pupusas in the pan and let them fry for a good five or six minutes until they were getting golden brown.

You want to be careful here because the corn meal that makes the tortillas is pretty loose and you need to make sure they are cooked enough to flip without falling apart.

I flipped them over and let them cook until golden brown on the other side too. These things are really like thick corn pancakes.

Trader Joe's Chicken Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas cooking
Trader Joe’s Chicken Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas cooking

Here is what Trader Joe’s says on the box:


STOVETOP: (Recommended): Remove pupusa from all packaging.

Heat 1 tsp of oil in a skillet over medium heat and add frozen pupusa.

Cook for 5 to 6 minutes per side until golden brown or internal temperature reaches 165°F. Let stand for 1 minute and serve.

AIR FRYER: Remove pupusa from all packaging. Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. (Optional: Lightly oil pupusa on both sides for a crispy texture.)

Add pupusa to the air fryer, cook for 5 minutes, and flip pupusa. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°F

Let stand for 1 minute and serve

Trader Joe's Chicken Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas cooked
Trader Joe’s Chicken Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas cooked

Taste and Texture:

Once I tested the temperature with my handy thermometer because Trader Joe’s recommends that they get to 165 F before you eat them. 

They looked inviting and sitting on the plate. Cutting into them with my fork showed that they are very much like a thick corn pancake or in reality a couple of thick corn tortillas. You can see some cheese, chicken, and chilis but really not all that much to see.

I could smell the fried corn tortilla and some slight aromas of chili and cheese.

Cutting into them, they were fairly crumbly and dry. I don’t know how traditional these are but I was expecting more stuff in the middle. Eating them was also a dry experience. They really needed something like a sauce, salsa, or that Curtido coleslaw mixture on top. Something to give it some moisture to make it easier to eat.

I ended up grabbing some Trader Joe’s Salsa to eat with it and it made it so much better. I really liked the melange of chicken, cheese and chilis and it was all very good.

Value for Money: 

Trader Joe’s Chicken, Cheese and Green Chile Pupusas are $4.79 for 12 0z of food. They come in at 680 calories for the three of them, which for me is a whole meal. I don’t know many places where you can find 680 calories for $4.79 and have an interesting meal out of it, but this is what Trader Joe’s excels at.

The Final Verdict:

I really appreciate what Trader Joe’s attempts to do by introducing us to a wide variety of foods from around the world. I probably would never have a Pupusas if it wasn’t for Trader Joe’s, now I want to find a place that sells real ones because I don’t think that what Trader’s is selling here is all that great. It’s got some mildly interesting flavors and could make a part of in interesting meal if you bring it all together with the traditional coleslaw mixture. To be fair, they do mention eating them with one of the salsas on their website, once I did that the Pupusas were transformed into a much more interesting eating experience.

At the end of the day, I am going to give these 7 out of 10 Bells. I think I would like a little more stuffing in the middle but maybe that’s just me. Now I will seek out some real Pupusas to compare!




  1. Trader Joe’s

    I just wanted to say that Pupusas are not made from tortillas at all. They are made from a masa harina , formed into a purse shape that contains the ingredients. A typical pupusa might have beans and cheese. They are either padded or rolled into shape as I’ve seen it done both ways. If there’s any possibility of a whole being formed, they just pinch it together with her fingers. It’s then placed on a grill at a medium/ medium low, low heat and cooked for several minutes on both sides and are slightly browned but never crispy. They’re very firm, but tender.

    They are served with a cabbage slaw that is basically cabbage and vinegar and sometimes hot sauce. There’s different recipes for this. I just make mine with shredded cabbage and white vinegar and a splash of Cholula sauce. And I leave that sit for a short while or overnight in the fridge.

    Along with the cabbage type salad, it’s served with a red sauce and is sometimes quite liquidy. At home, I am just use Cholula sauce as it’s my favorite. They are extremely filling .

    I love the Trader Joe’s version even though I’ve never had one with this combination. I came across this article just after I had come home from having my once a year treat at a Pupuseria; the bean and cheese with the cabbage slaw and very watery hot sauce in this particular location.

    So I immediately went out and picked up the TJ’s pupusas and tried two of them the next dayOne each for breakfast and lunch. The first one I made was way too crispy. But still good.

    I put less oil in the next time in a nonstick pan, and lowered the heat to just under medium. I was very careful to check underneath the pupusa to make sure it wasn’t brown but not crispy. I wanted to be sure I kept it on the stove for 5 to 6 minutes on each side to be certain the interior was cooked to 165° it and was not crispy. I continued lowering the heat when necessary.

    Since I have some Queso Fresca in the refrigerator, on the last one, I will add extra cheese on top just before I’ve finished cooking it. Igor me it needed more cheese. Then I will put my cabbage slaw on top.

    Grateful that these are around! So glad I came across your post! These are such a great price as I paid almost 4 dollars for my one at the Pupuseria. Pretty much the same size in diameter but had a little more filling.
    Thank you!

  2. My local supermarket sells a frozen pupusas product which has 4 in the box. As I was unfamiliar with the product, I cooked it for breakfast and topped with a fried egg and salsa some mornings and guacamole on other mornings. It was delicious.

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