Arepas are tasty corn based griddle breads that are typically stuffed with cheese, meats such as BBQ chicken or pork, or with black beans.
Vegan and Dairy-Free Version Gluten-Free Easy 30-Minute RecipeJump to Recipe
What Are Arepas?
Arepas (ah-RAY-pas) are naturally gluten-free corn cakes traditional to Venezuelan and Colombian tables going back thousands of years. And like many other griddle breads, they're crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Kind of like a cross between a tortilla and a pancake.
I've seen a lot of variations, similar to so many families in Italy having a slightly different pizza dough recipe from each other. For example, Venezuelan arepas are thicker than the ones found in Colombia, and often sliced like a bun.
But the thing that makes all arepas unique from other corn-based breads is the type of cornmeal used to make them.
What Kind of Corn Meal Is Used To Make Arepas?
Arepas must be made with corn meal made from precooked ground corn (harina de maìz precocida). If you don't see it at your local grocery, check any Latin American markets in your area, or use this link -> -> to order it online. I use Precooked White Corn Meal by P.A.N., and says on a side label that it’s suitable for making arepas.
Always make sure that the corn meal you purchase is specifically labeled arepas flour, arepas harina, or masarepas flour. Or somehow mentions arepas, and made from precooked ground corn. It is not the same as masa harina.
How To Make Arepas – Basic Recipe
You only need 4 ingredients to make basic arepas, and that includes water, salt and oil for cooking. So, in a way, it's only ONE INGREDIENT. Which is, of course, the arepas corn meal.
And, they're easy to make in about 15 MINUTES. Below are the 5 easy steps for making basic arepas.
- Whisk together the salt and arepas corn meal and create a well in the middle using your hands.
- Pour an amount of warm water equal to the amount of arepas corn meal into the well. So if you're using 2 cups of corn meal, you'll need 2 cups of warm water. If you live in a dry area, you may need more water, up to 2 1/2 cups.
- Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.
- Cover and allow the dough to hydrate for 5 minutes.
- Knead a few times and tear off pieces of dough. Next flatten them into a disc and fry on a griddle or frying pan.
The dough should be just barely sticky on your fingers. Just add a little corn meal or warm water, depending if the dough is too sticky or dry, to get to that texture. Also, don’t worry if the dough seems a little watery at first. It firms up quickly as it cools.
Remember, you're going to split them – so don't flatten them too much!
Arepas Recipe Variations
If you find them a little plain, feel free to experiment with some flavors as I did. The dough is a wonderful blank canvas for a wide palette of flavors. Here are some ideas:
- Kick up the dough with spices. For example ancho chili powder, smoky paprika or oregano all work great here.
- Or, add grated cheese to the mix such as Mexican cheeses.
- If you love garlic like we do, smash garlic cloves into a paste and add it to the mix.
- Add 1 teaspoon sugar to the water before adding it to the dough.
Arepas Fillings Ideas
Arepas are typically filled with something, similar to a bun. Here are some ideas for you:
- Stuff some arepas with scrambled eggs, avocado and black beans for breakfast.
- If you have meat eaters at the table like I do, go with BBQ chicken or pork.
- Mix up some black beans, minced jalapeño pepper, cheese and guacamole.
- Slather them with butter, and call it done!
- Fill them with your favorite cheese move the stuffed arepas back to the griddle to melt the cheese. Mozzarella, Monterey Jack Cheese and Mexican cheeses all work great! Put a spoonful of salsa on each of them for some pizzazz.
Or use the ideas in the below recipe!
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Arepas Recipe + Fillings
- 10 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano, or regular dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
- pinch dried red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 cups arepa corn meal made from precooked ground corn
- 1/2 cup grated manchego cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 1/2 cups hot water
- olive oil
- Use a fork to mash the garlic into a paste. Place in a small bowl and add the salt, oregano, ancho, and red pepper flakes. Continue to work the paste until the spices are completely mashed into the garlic. Add the olive oil and mix it into the paste.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cheese, and salt. Add the spicy garlic paste and use the fork and your fingers to disperse. Add the hot water all at once, stirring it into the flour mix with a fork until a dough forms.
- As the dough slightly cools, it will immediately begin to thicken. Place the dough on a work surface and knead a few times until the dough firms up. It shouldn't be sticky at this point.
- Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each piece between your hands and flatten into a disk. For thick disks, flatten to about three inch diameter disks. For thin disks like the ones pictured, flatten to about five inches in diameter.
- Heat a glug of olive oil in a sauté pan or griddle, just enough to slick the surface, over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the disks of dough. Cook for five minutes each side, or until each side looks like the surface of an English muffin.
- Toss together the shredded, cooked roast chicken with a little of your favorite BBQ sauce. Place on top of half of the arepas for the meat eaters at the table.
- For every 1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans, add 1/2 minced and seeded Serrano pepper, 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Toss together and spoon some on the top of half of the arepas for the vegetarians at the table.
- Place a slice of Jack cheese on all of the arepas with either chicken or black beans on them.
- Slice some avocado and mango into thin strips, and lay on top.
- Add some pickled red onions (I'll be posting my favorite recipe for these on Monday.)
- Mix together 1 avocado with 1/4 cup light sour cream and a pinch of salt to make a quick avocado cream and smear it on the arepas that will go on top of each arepa rellenos. (I'll be posting my go-to avocado cream recipe for when I want something special on Wednesday.)