Think Albuquerque and what comes to mind is probably hot air balloons and maybe the longest aerial tramway in North America (2.7 miles.) But for foodies, Albuquerque has another claim to fame. It’s the place where, so rumor has it, sopaipillas were invented over 200 years ago.
Virtually unknown in the rest of the country, sopaipillas are uniquely New Mexican. Made from tortilla-like dough and deep fried until puffy, like little pillows, their popularity is in a class of its own. In a 2015 survey of each state’s most popular, unique food, sopaipillas easily topped the list for New Mexico.
Not only are they pretty addictive on their own, they are also very versatile and can be used as a vehicle for either sweet or savory fillings. The classic sopaipilla is teamed with honey and is a perfect foil for New Mexico chile, while savory fillings like meat, cheese, beans and chicken, can turn it into a meal in itself. Locals typically eat sopaipillas with their meal, because the honey cuts the spiciness of the chile. Out of state visitors tend to eat them as a dessert. Let your server know which you prefer – but remember they are best eaten when hot and fresh out of the fryer.
In case you’re wondering about the name, it’s thought to have come from the Spanish word ‘sopaipa,’ meaning sweetened fried dough, or ‘xopaipa,’ meaning bread soaked in oil. Also popular in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, they take a quite different form in those countries. Chilean sopaipillas are round and flat and, if eaten sweet, are dipped in chancaca (a black beet sugar) and cinnamon. If savory, they can be eaten with ketchup or mustard. In Chile, sopaipillas are also traditionally made and eaten during days of heavy rain. Fortunately for us, New Mexico doesn’t have the same tradition!
Here are some comments from our customers about our delicious sopaipillas!
“We’ve been coming to Tomasita’s for about 40 years and I think their sopaipillas are the best in town. I like to eat them as a dessert, with honey or honey butter. And if there are any left over, I take them home and stuff them, turning them into a whole new meal.” —Yolanda Montiel, Santa Fe
“I always eat at Tomasita’s when I come up to Santa Fe. The sopaipillas are delicious, especially with their honey, but they’re also good stuffed with beef or chicken and chile. You can even eat them on their own, they’re that good.” —Renee Tabor, Albuquerque
“Tomasita’s is the only place I eat sopaipillas. I’m from Mexico and I didn’t like them when I first tried them, about 15 years ago, in Albuquerque, but I love the ones here.” —Eddie Ramos, Albuquerque
“I grew up eating sopaipillas, because my Mom was a gourmet cook and used to make them. I like them crispy and fluffy, never stuffed, because that makes them soggy. I eat them with the meal, because I grew up doing that. Tomasita’s sopaipillas are as close as I can get to my Mom’s.” —Pauline Quintana, Espanola
“I was brought to Tomasita’s as a kid, as a reward for being good, and I’ve been eating sopaipillas ever since. Now I have a one year old son, who also loves them. Once he sees them, he refuses to eat anything else.” —James Peterson, Santa Fe
“I come to Tomasita’s often and I love their sopaipillas. I eat them with honey or stuffed with beans and chile – they taste good sweet or salty. I eat them warm, cold, as a snack, any way I can get them.” — Ralph Medina, Cordova