Among the incredible cuisines that can be experienced in LA, a standout comes from the smallest country in Central America: El Salvador. From familiar favorites like pupusas (the national dish) to comforting soups like sopa de gallina india (a chicken soup with plenty of vegetables), Salvadoran chefs, cooks, and entrepreneurs are doing their part to secure a place among the city’s diverse and fantastic food options. Here now are the 15 essential Salvadoran restaurants in Los Angeles.Read More
15 Essential Salvadoran Restaurants in Los Angeles
Where to find pupusas, tamales, chicken sandwiches, and more
Mis Raices Salvadoran Restaurant
Mercedes Rodriguez and her team have been delighting the residents of Reseda and beyond since 2008 with their deliciously authentic Salvi breakfast scrambles of eggs with loroco. The dish is served with sides of pureed black beans, rice, and thick hand-made corn tortillas.
Paseo San Miguel
Some of El Salvador’s most popular seafood dishes are on the menu at Paseo San Miguel. The camarones al ajillo (garlic shrimp) is flavorful, full-bodied, and a house specialty. Seafood classics like sopa de siete mares, which gets its name from the seven types of seafood stewed in a creamy, tomato-based broth, is also highly recommended.
La Pupusa Urban Eatery
Pupusa power couple Stephanie Figueroa and Juan Saravia remix Salvadoran flavor with LA style, delivering fun mashups like the carne guisada burger — slow-cooked beef layered with curtido and greens on a brioche bun. On the sweets side of the menu is a Salvi-inspired dessert, carney plátanos — carnival-style battered and deep-fried plantains lightly dusted with powdered sugar, drizzled with caramel, and served with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. This Downtown eatery stands at the forefront of Salvadoran culinary innovation.
In LA’s Salvadoran community, the name Don Lencho is synonymous with mojarra (a tilapia-like fish). While most Salvadoran restaurants fry the mojarra whole, Don Lecho grills it to perfection over mesquite. There’s a reason why mojarra asada is the main attraction at this long-standing, family-owned establishment.
Mama's International Tamales
Come to Mama’s International Tamales for traditional flavors and a plant-based menu that earned a spot on PETA’s list of top Latinx-owned vegan restaurants. Owner Claudia Lopez and her mother developed the restaurant’s plant-based cheeses and proteins, and offer a line of vegan tamales like cheesy jalapeño and jackfruit verde. The non-plant-based menu includes pupusas and tamales filled with chicken and chicken verde. There’s even a vegan pan con “pollo” on the menu made with jackfruit stewed in a recaudo sauce that permeates with spices, herbs, and chiles.
Los Molcajetes (Temple)
For more than 40 years, this old-school Salvi restaurant has been well-known for its piping hot and beautifully presented molcajetes (protein- and vegetable-filled mortars). The location in Historic Filipinotown offers a unique take on pan con pollo (chicken sandwich). A large French roll is stuffed with tender and juicy chicken stewed in recaudo, an incredibly flavorful sauce made of tomatoes, spices, herbs, and roasted chiles. The recaudo’s intensity is complemented by a combination of curtido (relish), tomato, cucumber, and berro (watercress); a dollop of crema Salvadoreña tops this tasty sandwich.
Sourcing fresh ingredients from local farmers markets is paramount to Ruth Sandoval, the owner and operator of Delmy’s Pupusas. Her menu offers traditional protein- and veggie-stuffed pupusas, along with more unique takes on the iconic dish. When Delmy’s set up shop at Coachella this year, attendees were treated to organic blue corn masa pupusas filled with cheese, jalapeno, and loroco (an edible white flower widely used in Central American cuisine).
This Pico-Union treasure trove of pan dulce makes one of the most iconic sweet and savory breakfasts in LA. Come early for a Salvi breakfast and freshly baked quesadilla Salvadorena – a rich, buttery pound cake infused with cheese and topped with toasted sesame seeds. For those whose palates lean savory, order un desayuno típico. The traditional Salvadoran breakfast includes Salvadoran-style chorizo links, a vegetable and egg scramble, pureed beans, a side of crema, and thick-cut and lightly fried plantains for a touch of sweetness.
Explore a wide selection of Salvadoran fare while the jukebox plays vibrant Cumbia music at any of Sonsonate’s three South LA locations. Here, you can taste the regional flavors from the state of Sonsonate. The carne con camarones (charbroiled steak and shrimp plate) tastes of mellow garlic and sharp black pepper. Pair this Salvi-style surf and turf with a Salvadoran lager or a tall glass of freshly made fresco de maracuya (passion fruit juice).
Owner Paul Serrano’s stall inside Grand Central Market is an absolute must-eat while exploring Downtown Los Angeles. Locals and tourists flock here for loroco-studded pupusas and generous portions of carne guisada. The savory beef stew, which is typically served at family gatherings, has chopped veggies and tender cubes of beef smothered in a sauce of achiote paste, herbs, and spices. Pair this saucy meal with a pineapple agua fresca.
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This Huntington Park gem has been cooking Salvi staples like salpicón, a dish of minced beef and chopped herbs served atop a garden salad and spritzed with lime, since 2005. Served cold with a side of warm frijoles licuados (pureed black beans), rice, and a stack of hand-made tortillas, salpicón is adored for its refreshing, herbaceous, and citrusy flavors.
Rio Lempa Restaurant
Just off Pacific, the main boulevard in Huntington Park, Rio Lempa makes the tastiest sopa de gallina india, or hen soup, in the area. This is a go-to spot for dine-in or takeout, but the soup is best enjoyed in-house. The broth is slow-cooked with lots of diced carrot, potato, and squash. The soup is complemented by crispy-grilled chicken, rice, beans, salad, and hand-made tortillas.
Myra's Salvadorian Cuisine
Myra Gonzales has been serving tender pupusas de arroz (rice flour pupusas) in Downey since 2011. Chicharrón, cheese, or revueltas (a mixture of beans, cheese, and pork) come stuffed inside thick, hand-made rice flour tortillas. This rare delicacy from the country’s capital San Salvador is a must-try for pupusa fans.
With three food trucks and a permanent stall inside BLVD Market in Montebello under owner Wendy Centeno’s belt, Vchos Pupuseria Moderna has made its mark on the city’s Salvadoran food scene for the past decade. In addition to pupusas, Centeno’s menu includes Salvadoran-inspired sliders and an impressive plate of yuca sancochada con chicharrón, boiled cassava with deep-fried pork belly chicharrón.
What’s That You’re Cookin?
Eder Rivas pays homage to his grandmother’s recipes with the help of his wife Stephanie Gutierrez-Rivas. Catch this Anaheim-based duo cooking fantastic eats from their vibrantly wrapped food truck decorated with Salvadoran folk art. Order the enchiladas Salvadoreñas, featuring hand-pressed tortillas made from annatto-seasoned masa. This red-orange colored tortilla is deep-fried; loaded with a medley of ground beef and carrots; topped with curtido (relish), tomatoes, avocado, and sliced hard-boiled egg; and drenched in a spicy tomato sauce.