Mad For Memelas

At a Mexican restaurant one night, celebrating a friend’s birthday, I tried an amazing veggie dish whose base was the same Maseca used in making pupusas (

The dish was called Vegetable Memelas. The Memelas start like pupusas, but after making the dough and forming them into discs, you fry them unstuffed and top them as desired. At the restaurant, my Memela was topped with a pile of delicious sautéed veggies and cheese, but Maseca has such a delicate texture and flavor, you can top the resulting discs or shells pretty much any way you like.

In experimenting with the dough, I started pressing up the sides to form little tart shells so that I could also use them for liquid-based ingredients. I’ve made breakfast dishes with eggs and cheese, mini pizzas, and veggie-bean chili, to name a few, and the dishes have ranged from meat-based to vegan.


Memelas/ Memela Tart Shells
Copyright 2014 Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)


~ 2 cups Maseca cornmeal
~ up to 2 cups water
~ pinch salt


~ Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

~ In a bowl, place the Maseca and salt and lightly stir to distribute.

~ Using your hands, begin incorporating the water, starting with one cup and adding as you knead the dough. You want to have dough that has, essentially, the consistency of play-doh. You’ll be able to form smaller balls that are pliable and don’t crack.

~ Divide the dough into equal portions of the size you desire, and form them into balls. For Memelas, I usually form four balls from this batch.

~ Place a ball into a plastic bag and lay on a flat surface. Then, with a flat and solid plate, flatten the ball to a disc of 1/2 inch-thick consistency. Repeat with all dough balls until you have all discs. From here, you have two options.


~ Place a small amount of oil in your skillet, just enough to brush all around the bottom and sides. You’re more sautéing these discs than frying.

~ Cook each disc until golden brown, serve topped as desired.

OPTION TWO: Memela Shells

~ Line a cookie sheet pan with parchment, as you’ll be baking the shells.

~ Place each disc on the lined cookie sheet with a little separation from each other. With lightly wet hands, press a 1/4 inch around the edges of each circle up to make free-form tart shells like the picture above.

~ Bake the shells for about 5-10 minutes, or until they start to firm up. Each oven varies, especially nowadays when convection and conventional ovens are widely available, so start checking after 5 minutes.

~ Remove from the oven and fill as desired. See NOTES.


~ For breakfast dishes, I place leftover veggies or veggie chili in the baked shells, top with an egg, and bake until the egg is cooked to the desired level.

~ For the creamy-coated dish above, I placed leftover veggie chili and then salsa in the shell and baked until warm, topping with a purée of cannellini beans and Sriracha drizzle. This can also be created by placing a cooked Memela disc on a plate, and topping with warm chili along with cheese or creamy sauce.

~ For Memela pizza, fill the shell with some tomato sauce or sliced tomatoes and then your melty cheese of choice, and bake until cheese has gone all sorts of gooey.

~ These discs and shells go well with cold salads too, but to ensure that they don’t get soggy before eating, place dressed salad in shells shortly before serving.

~ As with pupusa dough, feel free to add herbs or spices to the raw dough.


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