Arepas are little corncakes that were originally made by the indigenous inhabitants of Venezuela and Colombia. These days they are sold in Venezuelan restaurants called areperías and are stuffed with all manner of fillings like a sandwich. In Colombia, arepas are made a little smaller and are spread with butter or topped with cheese.
The cornmeal used to make arepas is a special, precooked type that usually goes by the name masarepa, or masa precocida. It can often be found in Latino markets. The more commonly found masa harina is not the correct type to use for this recipe.
Makes 5 to 10 arepas
- Pre-cooked cornmeal (see notes) -- 2 cups
- Salt -- 1/2 teaspoon
- Boiling water -- 3 cups
- Oil -- 3 tablespoons
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal and salt. Pour in 2 1/2 cups of the boiling water and mix with a wooden spoon to form a mass. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Using wetted hands, form balls of dough out of about 1/4 cup of dough and press to form a cake about 3 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick. If the dough cracks at the edges, mix in a little more water and then form the cakes.
- Heat the oil in a sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the patties, a few at a time, to form a light brown crust on one side, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and brown on the other side.
- When all the patties have been browned, transfer them to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they sound lightly hollow when tapped. Serve immediately.
- Filled Arepas: Split the arepas in half when finished and scoop out a little of the soft dough filling. Stuff with your chosen filling.
- Arepa de Pabellón: Shredded, seasoned meat and black beans.
- Reina Pepeada: Chopped chicken, avocado, and mayonnaise mashed together.
- Arepa de Dominó: Black beans and crumbled white cheese.
- Arepa de Perico: Scrambled eggs with tomatoes, peppers and onions.
- Colombian Arepas: Make smaller and thicker and don't bake. Top with butter and melted cheese.
- Other possible fillings: Grated white or cheddar cheese; guasacaca, ham and cheese, hard-boiled quails eggs.
- The sautéing step is sometimes skipped and the arepas are simply baked. In the countryside arepas are often cooked on the grill.
- Small arepas can be made and served as appetizers with garnishes on top instead of inside. Or they can be eaten as small biscuits.
- Sometimes a little sugar is mixed in with the dough to form sweet arepas (arepas dulces).