Sopapillas

Sopapillas

If you’re a fan of churros, you’ll likely fall in love with sopapillas (sometimes spelled sopaipillas) which are a little like a puffed-up triangular version of the cinnamon sugar-dusted tubular treats. Because sopapilla dough is unsweetened, they can be enjoyed as a dessert or as a savory meal when stuffed with your favorite vegetarian or meat filling. They’re easy to make and require just a handful of ingredients, making this traditional sopapilla recipe a versatile addition to your culinary repertoire.

Sopapillas: Distinctly New Mexican

In New Mexico, sopapillas are a sweet beloved by locals and tourists alike. They are typically served after a spicy meal, but they’re also often served as street food with fillings that you might find in a taco. It’s believed that they originate from the Spanish olive oil fried dough called sopaipas. After all, it’s the Spanish who brought their knowledge of fried wheat dough to the Southwest when they settled there in the early 17th century. 

How to Make Sopapillas

Sopapilla dough is surprisingly easy to work with and requires very little handling like you might expect when making bread. The recipe is straightforward and doesn’t call for much more than flour, baking powder, and a fat; in this case, shortening but lard is also widely used.

When submerged in piping hot oil, they immediately expand, creating air pockets that give them their signature pillowy texture and crispy exterior. A gentle tumble in cinnamon sugar and a drizzle of honey makes them absolutely irresistible.

If you’re not already gathering the ingredients to make a batch for yourself, we’re not sure what you’re waiting for as this authentic Southwest treat is a must-try.

Tips for Making Sopapillas

  • The right temperature oil (365 F) is key to making sopapillas that puff up completely. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can take a small pinch of dough and place it in the oil. If it immediately bubbles and floats to the surface, the oil is ready. The oil should never be so hot that it is smoking.
  • Don’t overmix the dough; it should be slightly shaggy before rolling out.
  • Make sure to roll the dough out thin enough (approximately 1/4 inch thick) so that the sopapillas fry and puff evenly.

Make Ahead

Sopapilla dough can be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped air-tight, for up to two days or in the freezer for up to one month. Bring refrigerated or frozen dough to room temperature before cooking.

“These delicious little sopapillas fried up into perfect pillows, sweet and slightly crisp on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside. I flipped mine every minute, and they were fully cooked in 4 minutes.” —Diana Rattray

Sopapillas A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour, more as needed

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon fine salt

  • 2 tablespoons lard or shortening

  • 3/4 cup water, about 115 F

  • 1 1/2 inches vegetable oil, about 6 cups, more as needed

  • Honey, for serving

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Line a large plate with paper towels. Set aside. 

    Ingredients to make sopapillas

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. 

    A bowl of cinnamon and sugar

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lard.

    A large bowl with flour, baking powder, salt, and lard

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  4. Slowly pour the water over the mixture. Mix the dough with your hands until it just comes together and has a shaggy, semi-smooth texture. Set aside.

    A bowl with a ball soft dough

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  5. In a large saucepan, heat the oil to 365 F or until a small pinch of dough bubbles and floats to the surface.

    A large pot of oil with a thermometer

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  6. While the oil is heating, form the dough into a semi-flat circle on a floured surface and cut into 4 equal pieces.

    A flattened piece of round dough cut into four equal wedges

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  7. Roll each piece of dough into 6-inch diameter circles, about 1/4-inch thick.

    A flat, round piece of dough with a rolling pin

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  8. Cut each circle into 4 equal triangles.

    A cutting board with cut wedges of dough

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  9. Fry 4 pieces of dough at a time, flipping often until puffed on both sides and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Let drain briefly on the prepared plate.

    Four wedges of dough frying in a large pot of oil

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  10. Toss the still-warm sopapillas gently in the sugar-cinnamon mixture and transfer to a serving platter.

    Repeat until all the dough is used.

    Freshly fried sopapillas in a shallow dish with cinnamon sugar mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  11. Drizzle with honey and serve immediately, or serve the honey on the side. 

    A plate of sopapillas served with honey

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

How to Store Sopapillas

Sopapillas are best eaten right after they're fried, but you can store leftover sopapillas in a large container with a lid without any garnish. To reheat them, place them on a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 250 F for 7 to 10 minutes.

Recipe Variation

If you want to make this a savory dish instead of a sweet treat, let cool slightly, cut open gently and stuff with your favorite vegetarian or meat taco filling.

Why Do My Sopapillas Not Puff Up?

If your sopapillas aren’t puffing up when cooking, it’s very likely that the oil is not at the correct temperature. Because adding cold dough to the oil does drop the temperature slightly, check the oil temperature before cooking each batch.

Comments

No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *