One of Elena’s Secrets: Sopaipillas

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Have you ever had sopaipillas (also called sopapillas)? Sopaipillas are tasty bits of fried dough that may be dished out as a side for savory soups or may be served as the ultimate sweet dessert.


Our family recipe for sopaipillas is modified from one we found in a favorite old book, Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking by Elena Zelayeta (1958).

Elena Zelayeta’s story, which is included in the front matter, is truly inspiring. After losing her sight during pregnancy for her second child, Elena taught herself to cook all over again through sheer determination. Can you imagine trying to measure liquids without being able to see? She became so adept, she taught cooking classes as well as wrote a series of cookbooks.



  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Earth Balance (or shortening)
  • 2/3 cup cold water
  • Oil for frying (canola)

1. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl.

2. Add Earth Balance and coarsely cut into the flour with a fork or pastry knife, as if for pie dough.

3. Mix in enough cold water for the dough to hold together, again about the consistency of pie dough.

4. Place on lightly-floured board and knead until smooth. Cover with clean towel or plastic wrap, and let rest at least 10 minutes. In the mean time, begin to prepare the oil for heating.

5. Roll the dough with rolling pin to form a rectangle. Continue to roll until the dough is very thin (preferably less than 1/8 inch thick, which makes a lighter sopaipilla). The dough will be more elastic than pie dough.

6. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares or 2 x 3-inch rectangles with a knife.

7. Heat oil in wok or deep-fryer to 375° F (190° C). Drop a few squares at a time into the oil. The oil should sizzle and the dough should soon float to the surface if the oil is hot enough. Fry until puffy and golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Flip with tongs or a slotted spoon. Remove when evenly browned, drain on paper towels, and serve warm.

Serving suggestions:  Serve sopaipillas for dessert with honey, or with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar.


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  1. Cecelia says:

    I too like sopaipillas, but I’ve never tried making them at home. Frying things takes a little extra prep and bravery in my kitchen. Yours look delicious!

  2. Kay says:

    Ah, sopaipillas – we love them. And, no, I’ve never tried to make them, but I have certainly ordered them in Mexican food restaurants here. A little honey, a little powered sugar, yum!

    The story of the woman who taught herself how to cook again after blindness is amazing!

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