Grandma Salazar’s Sopaipillas

Say the word “sopaipilla” and a lot of people get excited. Are you one of them? I have memories of Grandma Salazar’s sopaipillas dating back to my earliest years, along with the memories of piping hot ones straight from my mom’s kitchen. Visit either woman to this day and you might just talk her into a fresh batch. What was normal fare for us, turned out to have a cult-following among friends we’ve known through the years. I have to admit, I never eat any that aren’t homemade. So, the ol’ restaurant sopaipilla sundae topped with chocolate drizzle was always a foreign thing to me.  Why would you abuse your sopaipilla like that?

My grandparents grew up in Questa (orig. Cuesta), New Mexico, just north of Taos. Standard fare included pinto beans, potatoes, eggs, roasted green chiles, enchiladas, tortillas, sopaipillas and other simple but delicious food. I am thankful, because this is the food my mom and her brothers and sisters were raised on, and then it was our turn! Sure, my siblings and I were subjected to some casseroles during that craze in the ’80s, but the old standbys were northern New Mexican cuisine. We ate well. So well.

Friends were always quick to say “yes!” to a dinner invitation at our house, and I was so proud of the food my mom and Grandma cooked. My little brother and sister started throwing sopaipilla parties in high school, and of the few things I attempted to cook in a college dorm, sopaipillas was one of them. They are a crowd pleaser every time. But something you should know: sopaipillas served our way come with dinner. My family’s favorite way to eat them is to tear them open, and fill  the hollow center with creamy pinto beans which have been cooking all day. Once we’ve had enough of those, we  drizzle the last one or two with honey. The end. It’s that simple.

Not everyone has grandmas who make homemade tortillas and sopaipillas at a moment’s notice, which is one of the reasons I am sharing.  Now you can perfect the art in your own kitchen. Buen provecho!

Grandma Salazar’s Sopaipillas

by Maria Elucresia Salazar, adapted by Stephanie Kunstle

Serves about 8 people

Note: the original recipe uses shortening as the fat for the dough and for frying. I’m sure that lard was the more flavorful original long ago, but I find that butter works just as well in the dough and regular olive oil is perfect for frying (and so much better on the body). Also, if you are at “high altitude,” you may want to decrease the baking powder for best results.


  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2  tsp. salt
  • approx. 1 cup warm water
  • olive oil for frying (not extra-virgin, as it will burn)


  1. Combine the dry ingredients with a wire whisk. Cut in the butter until the flour mixture appears slightly lumpy.
  2. Using your hands to mix, gradually add the warm water, adding only enough to make the dough form into a soft ball, and knead it to make it smooth and elastic in texture.
  3. Let the dough rest in the bowl, covered with a damp cloth (not wet and not at all dry). For best results, let the dough rest at least 30 minutes. An hour is better, and any time beyond that will just add to the lightness of the sopaipillas. Just be sure not to let the cloth, or dough, dry out.
  4. Pour about 2 inch depth of olive oil in a medium-sized pot (you want the sides to be high to keep the oil from splashing), and heat over medium flame until temperature reaches about 310-320 degrees F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, watch for the oil to look like it’s moving gently on it’s own. Test a tiny piece of dough to check heat. Dough should instantly sizzle and fry upon touching oil.
  5. Divide dough into two parts, keeping one covered. Roll out 1/2 portion of dough to 1/4 inch thickness (1.5 mm) or even a bit thinner on an unfloured, clean surface.
  6. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough lengthwise and then across the opposite direction to form diamond and triangle shapes.
  7. Fry each sopaipilla one at a time, placing the side that was exposed to air (the side of dough that touched the rolling pin) face down in the oil, sliding it in from the tip (no dropping it in!). The oil will sizzle furiously, and then begin to slow down, while the dough puffs. With a long set of tongs, roll the sopaipilla over to let it sizzle on the other side, aproximately 15 seconds or so on each side, until the sopaipilla is just barely golden.
  8. Remove from oil and place in a bowl lined with paper towels (to absorb extra oil). Repeat with each piece.
  9. Serve hot!


Pinto Bean Soup

An ancient recipe…


  • 3-4 cups pinto beans
  • salt to taste (pepper, optional)
  • fresh water for cooking


  1. Sort beans into a collander (pick out any debris, rocks, etc.) and rinse well.
  2. Pour beans into a large pot, and cover with plenty of water as they will expand.
  3. Allow to soak for about 8 hours.
  4. Pour beans back into large collander and rinse again.
  5. In a large pot, cover beans with water to cover by about 2 inches or so, and simmer for about 8 hours, adding water when necessary to keep them from burning. They can also be cooked in a slow-cooker on high setting all day. (When done in a slow cooker, you can even go for a nice long 24 hour cook which makes them incredibly creamy or try for about 12 hours of cooking on the stove- just keep adding water as needed).
  6. Using a potato masher, gently crush the beans that are near the bottom of the pot to thicken the soup.
  7. Salt (and pepper) to taste.
  8. Serve with the freshly fried sopaipillas and enjoy one of the simple pleasures in life.
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27 Responses to Grandma Salazar’s Sopaipillas

  1. Tío says:

    Yeah, who needs a keg when you have a sopaipilla recipe? Very telling about my high school experience…

  2. Rita says:

    Another mouth-watering post! Hmmmm.It’s the good life! And what’s convenient about this recipe is that you can cut it in half and make a smaller batch when it’s dinner for four. This was a common Friday night meal at my house when I was growing up. One of my fondest memories is of when my girlfriend Sheila Collins would come by a little early to pick me up for a Friday night basketball game (interesting that she would backtrack and drive miles out of her way to give me a ride, now that I think about it:) and would always be welcomed to join us for a steaming bowl of beans with sopapillas. Sheila was a bright girl.

  3. Amy says:

    Mmmmmm…..true comfort food! I remember a night of (very) strong Jake-mixed margaritas, delectable chicken enchiladas and FABULOUS sopas at your Mom’s house when you guys were engaged. When my margarita-vision cleared enough to remember my name, I remember well my anticipation to sit at your mother’s table and dine. What a wonderful experience, lucky children that you are! Thank you so much for sharing two recipes from that night! I am always disappointed in my beans….I think I rush them….will slow cook. Stay warm today, Stephanie, and thank you again!

  4. Rudilee says:

    Hi Steph! I still use this recipe…..I remember when you taught me how to make these back in our college days at your house! They are so yummy!!!!

  5. Auntie Meg says:

    Yes. Yes. YES! Im making sopapillas tonight…nothing better to do, but already too late for beans. Blast! Thanks for the inspiration, Stephanie.

  6. Pop says:

    Now you’re talking my kind of treat. Far too many people live life without experiencing some of the most simple and wonderful pleasures. You know how I love a big pot full of beans and those wonderful sopaipillas. Hmmm, what for dinner?

  7. Em says:

    Sopaipilla vs. sopapilla? Regardless of the spelling, it all tastest good! Steph, well done! My mouth is watering and now I’ll probably have to make some myself. You’ll have to print this out and mail it to Grandma. She’ll be so flattered.

  8. DeeDee says:

    Tomorrow is a snow day — big blizzard blowing in tonight. Chris and the boys are out walking in it right now. I am going in to put the beans on right now and we’ll have sopaipillas for lunch! I am hoping they’ll work with Spelt flour as one of our boys has an issue with regular wheat flour.

    My kids have never had sopaipillas — I can’t wait to make them…maybe breakfast is a better idea! Thanks for the inspiration, Stephanie!

  9. Stephanie Kunstle says:

    Hey DeeDee! Let me know how it goes with the spelt- I’m so curious. Happy snow day!

  10. DeeDee says:

    What a success! My day is complete — the boys were out with their cousins building snow forts while Olivia and I had a ball rolling out the dough and frying the bread (I KNEW I needed that candy thermomenter at that garage sale last summer!) . What a fun moment to carry warm sopaipillas and hot chocolate out to the porch for a warm-up break. The boys were in heaven, and I felt like the best mom on the block! Kool-aid Lady, eat your heart out… Thanks for the inspiration, Stephanie. p.s. the spelt flour worked beautifully, no one knew the difference!

  11. Stephanie Kunstle says:

    DeeDee- hooray for great results and boy are you are supermom! To the rescue! What a great way to enjoy a blizzard. Thanks for sharing!

  12. ~Beth~ says:

    Yeahhh. I remember making these with your family, and my brothers!!! way back when, first thing I learned to cook. Owen is now a sopapilla monster. Love all your warm recipes!!!

  13. Shandee says:

    I vividly remember your mom making these when we were kids and she even made them one time when we came to visit in Durango and I am so thrilled to have the recipe so my kids can experience real sopapillas-without chocolate syrup!! Thanks for sharing and I think i will make them tomorrow!

  14. Stephanie Kunstle says:

    Shandee and Beth- love hearing your sopaipilla memories…and so happy to hear you continue to enjoy them with your kids!

  15. shandee says:

    Made these last night-the beans cooked all day while we snowmobiled. My dad said it was one of the best meals he has had in a long time and Jordan ate more than she usually eats in 3 meals!

  16. Stephanie Kunstle says:

    Shandee- good for you! What a great way to end a beautiful Colorado day!

  17. Dina Samuel says:

    Hola Stephanie! This is your cousin Dina (Herrera) Samuel, Tio Felimon and Tia Frances Herreras daughter. I was so excited to see this online I sent the link to the entire family, and you know that is A LOT of people (well, not everyone, but all that I had an email address for :-) We are currently living in North Carolina and I can’t find any authentic tamales like the ones we grew up on. So I decided that I just needed to make the time to make our own. It had been awhile since I’ve had them so I started searching online to find a recipe close to our families so I wouldn’t forget anything, and I was pleasant surprised to find my own Tia’s recipe and the story of our very own family. It brought tears to my eyes as the memories came back to me oh so vividly. I even remember the time I came to stay with your family for a short time when I moved to Colorado Springs to go to college. And tell your dad thanks again for the time when he had to come rescue me on the interstate when my tire blew out! This is truly a wonderful family and such a blessing to be a part of. Thank you for taking the time to do this, and you are so right, the sopapillas at the restaurants don’t do them justice, fresh beans and honey are the only true way to enjoy them! Buenos noches prima y buen trabajo! Los amo a todos!


  18. Stephanie says:

    Hola Dina! What a wonderful suprise to get your comment, and I am SO glad you were able to find Grandma Salazar’s tamales recipe on It was a priviledge to be able to write that for my dear friend Nicky’s blog (and she actually ended up including the recipe in her first cookbook, Delicious Days by Nicole Stich), and now with my own blog, I plan to continue to document some more of our favorite recipes from Abuela, starting with these sopaipillas! I’m so happy to be reconnected with you — enjoy North Carolina, and now you all know where to find us, ha! ha! Estoy aqui . . . cocinando!

  19. Dina Samuel says:

    The tamales turned out great and we made fresh tortillas and sopaipillas with frijoles and chili tonight, it brings back so many wonderful memories. Please tell everyone hello and we love and miss you all, please keep in touch.

  20. Stephanie says:

    I’m so happy to hear that, Dina! I will greet the family for you, and we’ll be in touch!

  21. Pingback: Mama Rita’s Tortillas & the Pueblo Chile Festival | The Triangle Plate

  22. I’d be interested to know if Deedee has a good bread recipe. Something for sandwiches and that toasts well…

  23. Dina Samuel says:

    Stephanie, I heard that you did some research on our family heritage, could you email me the info? Or let me know where you found the info so I can research. Thank you! Your cousin Dina

  24. Stephanie says:

    Hi Dina- my sister Emily did the research. I will email you her info!

  25. wow i first looked at the tamale recipe i almost cried ! thats my family ! my dad was paul your grandmas brother so hey im uncle scott im 47 this year i have 2 kids jeff 23 married last year, and alicia 25 will get married this year she has a girl 2 , so im a grampa too! have 1 real sis paula, 3 half siblings , i live in drain or, am a big foodie i make all my own bread .pizza crust, tortillas,ect. i make all my food from scratch, as well as pinto bean soup w/soapapias, luv it well have a great day! friend or email me! peace from drain!

  26. Stephanie says:

    Hellooo Scott! Such a pleasure to meet you and so excited to connect with family! Just friended you… Let’s talk! As for the food- it’s in our blood. Make Grandma’s tamales, and then you WILL cry for happiness.

  27. guy DiFonzo says:

    I’m 68 years old and went to college in Santa Fe , NM in the late sixties. I cater now that I retired from 30 years of software development. But local and international cuisines and food preparation has been my life’s inner passion including owning a restaurant for 20 years in CT. I had my first STEAMED tamale from a street vendor in 1966 while watching a parade on the plaza in Santa Fe. I married an Espanola Valley native and got a thorough education from her family in the valley and from the various region restaurants about the local chili’s and northern NM specialties. I only use personnally roasted fresh green and red dried chili powder from Dixon, NM south of Tacos. While a senior in college, I managed, along with my my fraternity, and ran a Fiesta booth in Santa Fe and won first prize by the SFF council in 1968 for the best food and booth. i was first non native to achieve that distinction. My first job out of college was as plast cost manager at the huge food commissary for the Howard Johnson where 70 % of their offerings were processed for their restaurant food chain. So after 40 years of family cooking, local restaurant samplings and commercial experience, I can say that your honest and authentic home quality Tamale and Sopaipilla recipes brought me back to my earliest and fondest recollections of the great Northern NM cuisine. Thank You for sharing your great recipes with the public. I only wish everyone could experience the special Northern NM cuisine.

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