New Mexican sopapillas are soft fried dough that are often served alongside a meal, in place of bread. Many also enjoy these sopapillas drizzled with honey for dessert. We will also show you how to make stuff them with a filling to serve as an entree!
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Growing up in Texas, I have enjoyed my fair share of sopapillas. They are a common dessert at Mexican restaurants across the state! Many times they come to the table covered in cinnamon sugar, with a stack of honey packets that you can squeeze into the center of the sopapilla.
They are a messy dessert, but so delicious and fun!
New Mexican sopapillas are a little bit different from what we usually see here in Texas. In New Mexico, they are usually less sweet and are enjoyed alongside the meal, in addition to sometimes still showing up as a dessert.
Ingredient & Substitution Info
Flour: I make this recipe with regular all-purpose flour, but if you are looking for gluten-free sopapillas, a reader has made these with the same measurement of coconut flour and reports that they work well!
Milk: The addition of milk makes the sopapillas soft and light. For a crispier texture, replace the milk with water.
Shortening: Traditionally, sopapillas are made with shortening. However, you can substitute butter, coconut oil, or canola oil in place of the shortening.
Baking Powder: The baking powder helps the dough puff up. Make sure your baking powder is fresh and not expired!
Salt: Using salt brings out the delicious flavors in this pastry.
Sugar: Adding sugar is optional. I recommend the addition if serving as a dessert, but I leave it out when I make stuffed sopapillas or when serving as a side.
How to Make Sopapilla Dough
This dough is very simple to make!
Use a pastry cutter or fork to cut the shortening into the flour. Continue until the largest crumb is smaller than the size of a pea.
Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the warm milk all at once.
Use a large spatula to mix the dough until it comes together into a ball. Some crumbs in the bottom are okay.
Turn onto a lightful floured surface and knead for 2 minutes, then let rest for 20 minutes.
When ready to fry, roll the dough into a large rectangle, ⅛-inch thick. Cut into 3-inch squares using a pizza cutter.
The easiest way to fry is using a deep fryer. The fryer will self-adjust to maintain the proper temperature.
But I don't have a deep fryer and you don't have to have one either.
The trick to deep frying without a deep fryer is to have a good fryer thermometer and keep an eye on it, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain the right temperature.
Make sure that the temperature of your oil is between 370-375°F before placing your dough into the oil.
Why Aren't My Sopapillas Puffing?
There are three reasons why your sopapillas might stay flat instead of puffing up like a pillow.
- They are too thick. The dough should be ⅛-inch thick. If it is thicker then the inside of the dough will not heat fast enough, which prevents the dough from puffing.
- The oil is not hot enough. I have said it before, but it is worth repeating. Make sure your oil is between 370-375°F before putting your dough into the oil, otherwise they will not puff up.
Bonus tip: If the dough does not begin to puff within 10 seconds of rising to the surface of the oil, gently spoon some hot oil over the top of the sopapilla. This will help it begin to puff up.
Sopapillas can be stuffed with ground beef, carne asade, or even chicken fajita meat! In New Mexico it is popular to serve topped with chile verde sauce.
Cut the dough into 5-to-6-inch squares and fry according to the recipe.
Once cool enough to handle, cut ¼-inch off the top of each sopapilla. Fill the pocket with cooked meat. Top with cheese and/or desired sauce.
Place in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and all of the ingredients are heated through.
Frequently Asked Questions
To keep the cooked sopapillas warm while you fry the remaining batches, put them on a cookie sheet in a 200°F oven for up to an hour.
The sopapilla dough can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. It will also keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw completely, then leave at room temperature for 30 minutes, before rolling and frying.
Store leftover sopapillas in a single-layer in an airtight container, being careful that they are not smushed. They will keep at room temperature for 2 days, or in the freezer for 2 months. Reheat in a 300°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until warm.
More Fried Desserts You Will Love
New Mexican Sopapillas
- 4 cups (520 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar (optional: leave out if making savory sopapillas)
- 2 tablespoons shortening
- 1 ½ cups warm milk (90-110F degrees)
- 2 quarts oil for frying
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the shortening until it is in fine crumbs (the largest piece should be smaller than the size of a pea.)
- Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour in the warm milk all at once.
- Stir with a large spatula until the dough comes together to form a ball.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.
- Place back in the bowl, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, heat the oil to 375 degrees F.
- Roll the dough to ⅛" thickness and cut into 3-inch squares with a pizza cutter or knife.
- Working in batches, cooking 3 sopapillas at a time, place the dough carefully into the hot oil and fry for about a minute, until golden brown on the bottom. Then flip over and cook an additional 30-60 seconds. (Note: If the dough does not puff up after 10 seconds or so, spoon a little hot oil over the surface of the sopapillas.)
- Remove the cooked sopapillas to a paper towel-lined plate and continue cooking the remaining batches.
- Serve with honey while warm. Or fill with meat for an entree.