Salvadoran Semita – Recipe!

My first taste of Semita, (a Salvadoran jam or marmalade filled pastry) was many years ago. Suegra had brought it back in her “encargos” from El Salvador and this one, although I didn’t know it at the time, was of great quality and very fresh. Suegra brought many Semitas with her and to keep from eating them I put them in the freezer – I soon found that they taste just as good frozen, (though that’s probably a very gringa thing to do.)

Once my stash of Semita ran out I was forced to buy some at the local Salvadoran-owned Latino market. I then discovered one more thing – Not all Semita are created equal. The Semitas bought locally were low quality – either because they were made to have a longer shelf life or because they weren’t and had gone stale. I vowed that one day I would bake my own Semita but I didn’t get around to it until a few weeks ago. The results were so fantastic that I would say this is one of the best things I’m able to make, (and Carlos fell in love with me all over again.)

Here is my recipe – I read a dozen Semita recipes and created my own. Sometimes straying from already established recipes while baking is asking for disaster, but in this case, it was sweet success. By the way, this recipe can also be used to make Empanadas de Piña, Pasteles de Piña or Pineapple Hand Pies.

Fun fact: There are different kinds of Semita. This recipe is for the “Semita Pacha.” The “Semita Alta” is thicker. Other fillings include guayaba [guava] and higo [fig], but Semita de Piña is my favorite and it’s the most common.

If you mention Semita to a Mexican, they might think you’re talking about Cemita – a type of sandwich from Puebla.

Semita (Salvadoran Pineapple Jam-Filled Pastries)


4 cups of flour
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature and chopped in pieces
2 tablespoons yeast
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 pinches of salt
1/2 cup water
1 jar pineapple jelly, jam or marmalade (if you can’t find at the regular grocery store, check the Latino market)


1. In a very large mixing bowl, add the flour. Create a volcano with a hole in the center for the rest of the ingredients.

2. Into the volcano, add butter, yeast, eggs, sugar, salt and water. Mix all the ingredients by hand, kneading them together. (These measurements worked perfectly – I double checked by making the recipe a second time, but if for some reason the dough doesn’t come together after a couple minutes, you can add a little more water – If too sticky after a few minutes, you can add a little flour.)

3. The original recipes call for rising time – I skipped this completely. Don’t be afraid – keep going!

4. Remove a baseball-sized amount of dough and set aside, then break the remaining dough into 4 equal balls.

5. On a lightly-floured surface, roll a ball of dough out until it’s as thick as pie crust, (not too thin or you won’t be able to pick it up.) Use a knife to cut the dough into a rectangle shape. (It doesn’t have to be perfect but you can use a ruler if you want.)

6. Place the rectangle on a greased baking sheet. Top with a nice layer of pineapple jam, (a little thicker than you’d put on a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.)

7. Create another rectangle with the second ball of dough. Place this one on top of the jam.

8. Repeat with the 2 other dough balls. You should now have 2 rectangular Semitas on separate baking sheets, 1 ball of dough and dough scraps from when you cut out the rectangles.

9. Take your dough scraps and create a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut into long strips as you see in the photos. Place on top of the 2 Semitas in a criss-cross pattern. Sprinkle each Semita with a teaspoon or two of sugar.

10. Pasteles de Piña: With remaining dough you could make another rectangular Semita or try your hand at Pasteles de Piña. Roll the dough out on a floured surface and then cut out circles using a large drinking glass. Roll out each circle a little more, trying to give it a more oval shape. Put a spoonful of pineapple jam in the middle. With a finger dipped in water, wet the edge of one side before folding over and sealing by pressing the tines of a fork against the edges. (Don’t worry if the dough breaks open a little or doesn’t totally seal. The jam actually tastes really good when it seeps out.)

11. Put the Pasteles on a greased baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar.

12. Baking Time & Temp: Both the Semitas and the Pasteles should be baked on the middle rack of a 350 F oven until golden brown. (You probably won’t be able to bake them all at the same time.) The rectangular Semitas need 30 to 40 minutes in the oven and the Pasteles might be done after 15 to 20 minutes – check them and decide based on color.

Makes: 2 normal-sized Semitas and 12 individual half moon pies/pasteles/empanadas.
Or: 3 normal-sized Semitas, or 36 half moon pies/pasteles/empanadas.
Note: A “normal-sized” Semita serves about 9 people.


    • Yay! Thanks for the comment, Michelle. Glad it came out for you and that your husband loved it. I made it a third time this afternoon, this time with guava/guayaba jelly. It’s cooling right now so I haven’t tasted it yet, but it looks good. The guayaba jelly from Goya seems to me more liquid-y than the McCormick piña so some leaked out from between the 2 layers, but I think it’s going to be fine :)

  1. I’m eating my freshly baked semita while writing this!! I woke up early this morning and the previous commenter inspired me to try it. Although I did have to make a substitution…strawberry jam for piña…it’s what was on hand. I often make biscuits from scratch in the morning, and they kind of taste like biscuits already jammed, only a little sweeter.
    Interesting you don’t have to wait for them to rise. I wonder if it would taste different. A helpful tip I’ve read on line before and use for the butter is to grate it on the large holes of a cheese grater. It seems to be easy to mix in this way.
    The rest of the familia is still sleeping (and the BIG semita is still cooking)…looking forward to hear what they think about it!

    • Semita de fresa! LOL, sounds good to me :)

      Discovering that the dough didn’t need rising time was an accident. I was in a rush to make it the first time because we were planning to go to a friend’s house within the next couple hours. I decided to just push ahead and hope for the best. Without rising time the semita tastes just the same as semita I’ve had in El Salvador so I have no idea why one would want to give it time to rise although I don’t think it would hurt anything. More rising time, I suspect, would change the texture slightly.

      As for mixing the butter in, that’s a cool tip about using the cheese grater, but then I’d have to clean the cheese grater. LOL. I prefer to just let mine sit at room temp. until it’s squishy and easy to mix in by hand.

      Thanks for trying the recipe, Susan! :)

      • Ha! Funny!…but just some hot water and the butter washes right off. Actually, I like to think of it as a little arm workout…my arms sure are tired after doing it.

  2. I have to try this!!! Thanks for sharing your recipe! Just ate a pupusa and now I want semita…

  3. try it with “cajeta” (boiled condensed milk) and nuts instead of any jelly, (that’s Monterrey, Nuevo Leon style) it’s simply delicious.

    • Sorry, real Salvadoran pasteles de piña, I haven’t made yet – but these little semita-flavored pasteles de piña are really good :)

  4. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me due to my family’s European ancestry, I was born in in San Salvador, El Salvador. My mother, a Salvedoreña, was married to by dad, an American at the time. When I was about 18 months old, we moved to the US. As a child we frequently visited El Salvador, but not enough to learn and speak fluent Spanish (my Spanish is horrible and broken). Plus, my cousins all say that I’m very “gringa” in my mannerisms because I eat peanut butter and I do not verbally punctuate my sentences with: “al la puchica!” I rarely visit El Salvador because it is ungodly expensive to fly there; however, family will often visit here in the states. The love to bring my favorite treats like: semita, pupusas, tamales, quesadillas, aderogyl (a vitamin supplement), etc… I will try your recipe, as I just ran out of frozen semita, and my prima will not be back until April for a coffee growers convention.

    • Nice to meet you and thanks for sharing a little about yourself :) I hope the recipe works out for you – feel free to drop in and let me know!

      (As for freezing semita, I used to freeze the ones we’d get from El Salvador, partly so they would keep longer and partly so I wouldn’t eat them all at once — eventually I discovered I liked the taste of them frozen, too LOL.)

  5. Your recipe sounds very delicioso, thank you for sharing. Here in Australia, we make our own pineapple filling as we don’t get many imported Latino goods. I think it gives a tastier and thicker consistency then the bought jelly type, but I have yet to try your version.

  6. I would prefer using our homemade salvadorean pineapple jam…i dont think is jam its dulce. but this is a easy way to do it!! haha Tracy i think my parents might know your husband if he is from Santa Ana ?? He looks familiar!!

    • Hola Gabriela!

      That would be hilarious but not surprising. I swear, my suegra was always bumping into people in the United States that she had known back in El Salvador! … Carlos is actually from Soyapango, San Salvador though!

  7. Husband just came back from El Salvador and he brought some semita with him, but I’m already wondering what to do when that runs out! This recipe will be our solution. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Lissell – I used regular white flour. I have never tried whole wheat so I can’t tell you for sure if it works. If you try it, please let me know the result! Good luck!

  8. Hi!!! Thanks bunches for this recipe! I tried making it today and thought it taste good, however it didn’t come out as crumbly as yours. What do you suppose I did wrong? My husband is salvadorian and I try to make dishes he was raised on, so I really wanted to impress him 😉

    • Hm, that’s too bad that yours didn’t come out perfect. Did you follow the recipe exactly or use any substitutions?

  9. I had just bought a semita alta from a latino market. I Googled it and found ur posts. Ive lived in the d.c. area my whole life but get very sick of the same old American food so have been going to every ethnic market of store i can find. But now im going to try your recipe. The pictures of your semita look amazing and it seems by everyones comments it is. Ill post anoyher comment to let you know how it turns out. Thanks..

    • Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I get bored of American food and am always looking for something new to try too. We live in a great, diverse area and are lucky to be able to do that!

      I look forward to your thoughts on this recipe. It’s so much better than store-bought semita because it’s really fresh.

  10. Tracy, i really love your recipe I made it twice already. I added dulce de panela on top the jam and it came out really good. Thank you!

  11. Hi Tracy! I’m supposed to be coming up with some type of dish for a Spanish project at school; your recipe is amazing!! I’m definitely going to use it! Just a question for you, is it supposed to be more like a cookie(hard) type pastry, or a bit softer than that? After I baked it, it came it kind of hard, I’m not sure if I overcooked it, or it’s suppose to be that way?!

    • How fun! … Semita is supposed to be a harder texture (though not crunchy hard)… I’d compare it to being somewhat like pie crust. Hope that helps?

    • Hi Sarah, I just translated it for you. There might be some small grammatical mistakes because I’m tired, but hope this helps.

      Semita Salvadoreña


      4 tazas de harina
      1 taza de mantequilla sin sal, a temperatura ambiente y picado en trozos
      2 cucharadas de levadura
      1 taza de azúcar
      2 huevos
      2 pizcas de sal
      1 jarra de jalea de piña, o mermelada de piña
      1/2 taza de agua


      1. En un tazón muy grande, añadir la harina. Crear un volcán con un agujero en el centro para el resto de los ingredientes.

      2. En el volcán, agregue la mantequilla, la levadura, los huevos, el azúcar, la sal y el agua. Mezclar todos los ingredientes a mano. (Si por alguna razón la masa no se reúnen después de un par de minutos, se puede añadir un poco más de agua – Si es demasiado pegajosa después de unos minutos, se puede añadir un poco de harina.)

      3. Retire una cantidad de la masa que es tamaño de béisbol y dejar a un lado, luego separar el resto de la masa en 4 bolas iguales.

      4. En una superficie ligeramente enharinada, extienda una bola de masa hasta que es espesa como una corteza de pastel, (no demasiado fina o no será capaz de recogerlo.) Use un cuchillo para cortar la masa en un rectángulo. (No tiene que ser perfecto, pero se puede usar una regla si quiere.)

      5. Coloque el rectángulo en una bandeja de hornear engrasada. Cubra con una buena capa de mermelada de piña, (un poco más grueso de lo que te pones en un sándwich de mantequilla de maní y jalea.)

      6. Cree otro rectángulo con la segunda bola de masa. Coloque éste por encima de la mermelada.

      7. Repita con los otros 2 bolas de masa. Ahora debería tener 2 Semitas rectangulares en bandejas para hornear separadas, 1 bola de masa y los trozos de masa de cuando usted cortó los rectángulos.

      8. Tome sus trozos de masa y crear una bola. Estirar sobre una superficie ligeramente enharinada y cortar en tiras largas como se ve en las fotos. Coloque en la parte superior de los 2 Semitas en un patrón cruzado. Espolvorear cada Semita con una o dos cucharadas de azúcar.

      9. Pasteles de Piña: Con el resto de la masa se podía hacer otra Semita rectangular o Pasteles de Piña. Extienda la masa sobre una superficie enharinada y cortar círculos utilizando un vaso de vidrio (lo que utilizes por tomar agua.) Estirar cada círculo un poco más, tratando de darle una forma más ovalada. Ponga una cucharada de mermelada de piña en el centro. Con un dedo mojado en agua, mojar el borde de un lado antes de doblar una y presione los bordes con los dientes de un tenedor para sellarlo.

      11. Coloque los Pasteles en una bandeja de hornear engrasada, espolvorear con azúcar.

      12. Hornear Hora y Temperatura: La Semitas y los Pasteles deben ser al horno en el estante medio de un horno a 350 F hasta que estén doradas. (Usted probablemente no será capaz de hornear todo al mismo tiempo.) Los Semitas rectangulares necesitan entre 30 y 40 minutos en el horno y los Pasteles pueden ser terminados después de 15 a 20 minutos – comprobar y decidir basan en el color.

      Rinde: 2 Semitas de tamaño normal y 12 pasteles individuales.

      O: 3 Semitas de tamaño normal, o 36 pasteles individuales.

      Nota: Una Semita “tamaño normal” sirve alrededor de 9 personas.

  12. Such an easy to follow and delicious recipe. Made it for my suegra’s birthday, and she was thrilled! <3

  13. I’m so excited to find this!! We have a teacher from El Salvador staying with us for a semester. She brought us Semita de Guayaba and it is the most scrumptious thing!! I want to try and make her some!! Do you have as fabulous of a recipe for pupusas???!! I want to make her some of those too!! : ) THANK YOU!!

    • How fun! As for pupusa recipes, yes, of course. Just navigate to the RECIPES tab at the top of the page. You’ll find a few there. Good luck!

  14. I am making these for a school project and I was wondering if they have to be refrigerated. I would appreciate it if you could get back to me soon.

  15. Hi Tracy! I love and appreciate your blog, as I am a gringa wife of a Salvadoran man as well. I was wondering if you know any recipes for galletas margarita or another pan duro que se puede comer con cafe?! Or if you know of a site where I could find the recipe? Thanks so much!


    • Hi Christina! Thanks so much for your comment. The only recipes I have at the moment are in the Recipes section. I know you’re looking for pan duro, but my quesadilla recipe is one of my best. I hope you give it a try. I tend to like the softer breads, but I’ll look into making a hard one and adding it here. Saludos!

  16. What about using afrecho (bran) in the recipe… The original calls for it. Have you ever made it with afrecho?

    • Hi Rosa! I haven’t tried using bran in my semita before. To my knowledge, “afrecho” is “bran” as you say, and “harina de fuerza” is “bread flour.” I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I have personally never seen a recipe for semita with bran, but I have definitely seen semita recipes that call for bread flour.

      Anyway, bread flour should work perfectly fine, but I haven’t tried it before so I can’t make any guarantees. If you do try it, (with either bread flour or bran), please let me know how it turns out!

Note: You are not required to sign in to leave a comment. Please feel free to leave the email and/or website fields blank for an easier commenting experience.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.