This arepas recipe is a traditional comfort food from Colombia and Venezuela of simple cornbread cakes that can be served as a snack or as part of any meal. They are very versatile. Learn how to make them.
We’re making arepas in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen, my friends, and I think you’re going to love them. If you’ve never tried arepas, this is a recipe you’ll definitely want to keep in your recipe collection.
As a spicy food lover, this humble food is the perfect serving vessel for all sorts of wonderfully flavored food, from meats, cheeses, dips and more, and they’re quite tasty on their own.
What are Arepas?
Arepas are flattened corn bread patties first created by the natives of Venezuela and Colombia. This gift from South American cuisine has been enjoyed for generations by everyone in all walks of like, rich or poor, as a traditional, humble comfort food.
Originally, arepas were made by soaking dried corn, which was then cooked and ground into a type of masa, which is different from Mexican masa or corn meal. Today, arepas are made from pre cooked arepa flour, called masa al instante, or masarepa.
Arepa recipes vary from region to region, with Vezuelan arepas being thicker than the Colombian version.
These delicious corn cakes are extremely versatile, lending themselves as vessels for all manner of other foods, like meats, beans, cheeses and vegetables, or they can be enjoyed on their own with a bit of cream cheese, butter or cream.
They’re naturally gluten free as well, which is a bonus for some. We love them in our home as a simple party appetizer, or for quick and easy dinners. I can heat up leftover pulled pork or pulled chicken from a previous batch and serve them over quickly made arepas for a change to our normal meals.
They’re fun for parties with an assortment of creamy goat cheeses and ground meats that guests can stack for themselves. We also love them stuffed. There are so many ways to enjoy them.
Let’s talk about how we make arepas, shall we?
- Masarepa. Masrepa is a special corn flour specifically for making arepas, not to be confused with masa harina, which is used for making traditional Mexican corn tortillas. You can find it in Latin American markets, or order some online. Buy masarepa here from Amazon (affiliate link, my friends!)
- Warm Water
- Oil or Butter. For cooking the corn cakes. Use any vegetable oil.
How to Make Arepas – the Recipe Method
Make the Batter. Combine the masarepa, water and salt together in a mixing bowl. Mix well and let rest for 5 minutes.
Smooth the Arepa Dough. Mix the dough again until smooth.
Form the Arepas. Hand form the arepa dough into 8-10 small patties, about 4-5 inches across and 1/2 inch thick.
Cook the Arepas. Heat the butter or oil in a large grill pan or cast iron skillet to medium heat. Use just enough to coat the pan. Cook the arepas until golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes on each side. It could take longer. The outer shell will harden and form a crisp crust, with a softer or hollow interior.
Serve. Cool slightly and serve as desired.
Boom! Done! Ready to serve. They look great, don’t they? How are you going to serve them? I’d love to hear!
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Amounts Vary. Makes 8-10 arepas or more, depending on the size and chosen thickness. Colombian arepas are typically thinner, about 1/4 inch thick, while the Venezuelan versions are thicker with a doughy center, about 3/4 inch thick. Cooking times will depend on the chosen thickness.
- Cheesy Version. A popular variation is to add shredded cheese to the batter before making them. Adds a wonderful cheesy flavor.
- Baked Version. You can also bake them. To do so, lightly fry them a couple minutes per side, then bake them at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until they form a crispy outer crust.
These wonderful corn bread cakes are incredibly versatile and can be served as a simple snack, as a supporting player to any meal, or even as the star. Here are some serving ideas.
- Snack. Serve with butter or cream to be enjoyed on their own.
- Top Them. Use them as a base and top them with your favorite meats like shredded pork, chicken or cooked chorizo along with shredded or crumbled cheeses, chopped tomatoes or other vegetables and more.
- Stuff Them. Thicker cakes can be slit open and stuffed with shredded cheese, cream cheese or goat cheese. You can also stuff them with meats or a combination of meats and cheeses for more of a meal. Consider stuffing them with ground or chopped beef, pork, ham, chicken, seafood, black beans or vegetables.
- Breakfast. Replace your morning toast with them. They’re great as they are with a bit of butter.
- On the Side. Serve them to accompany any grilled meats, with thick soups or stews, or other meals.
- Sweets. Serve with honey or brown sugar as a sweet dessert.
Colombian Arepas vs. Venezuelan Arepas
Arepas are popular in both Venezuela and Colombia, and vary primarily in thickness. Colombian arepas are generally thinner, made 3-5 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Venezuelan arepas are typically made 3-5 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick, resulting in a softer interior.
That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this humble arepas recipe. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. How are you serving yours?
Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes
- Pollo Guisado
- Pollo a la Brasa
- Peruvian Pebre
- Peruvian Shrimp Ceviche
- Lomo Saltado (Peruvian Beef Stir Fry with French Fries)
- Chimchurri Steak
- Guasacaca – Venezueal Avocado Salsa
- Skillet Corn Bread
- Jalapeno Corn Bread
- Johnny Cakes (Cornmeal Pancakes)
Do you love South American cooking? Check out the cookbook “The South American Table” by Maria Baez Kijac (affiliate link, my friends). It’s just outstanding. Highly recommended! I adapted this recipe from this cookbook.
If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
- 2 cups masarepa
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups warm water
- Oil or butter for cooking as needed
- Combine the masarepa, salt and water together in a mixing bowl. Mix well and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Mix the dough again until smooth.
- Hand form the arepas dough into 8-10 small patties, about 4-5 inches across and ½ inch thick.
- Heat a grill pan or cast iron pan to medium heat and lightly oil or butter. Cook the arepas until golden brown on each side, about 10 minutes total. It could take longer. The outer shell will harden and form a crisp crust, with a softer or hollow interior.
- Cool slightly and serve as desired.