Venezuelan Arepas: Arepa Venezuelan Recipe
Image Credit: The Frugal Chef
Learn how to make arepas, which are delicious cornmeal pockets filled with favorite vegan dishes like jackfruit carnitas, scrambled tofu, black beans, guacamole, and fried plantains and can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Have you ever wanted to learn how to make arepas?
You can now make your own arepas at home and stuff them with your favorite filling or serve them plain as a side dish.
What Is An Arepa?
The word Arepa comes from the indigenous word Erepa, which means corn. Arepa is a pre-cooked cornmeal griddle cake popular in Colombia and Venezuela, where it is served daily with a variety of toppings to complement it. Traditionally, they were cooked in a pan called a budare.
They can, however, be grilled, fried, or baked.
Colombian arepas are sweeter, thinner, and more cheese-filled than Venezuelan arepas, which are smaller and thicker.
Arepas can be eaten in a variety of ways, including stuffed with a variety of fillings or eaten plain.
Indigenous tribes across Venezuela, on the northern tip of South America, cooked arepas hundreds of years ago.
Arepa gets its name from the indigenous word Erepa, which means “corn.”
Corn, the main ingredient in the arepa, has been a popular dish in Colombia for over 3,000 years and in Venezuela for over 2,800 years, according to anthropological data.
Corn, like oats or wheat in Europe, was a staple of indigenous diets; the Chibcha people of what is now Colombia even considered corn a divine gift.
In most tribes, women were in charge of its preparation, from soaking the corn to processing it into flour, which was then turned into dough.
Nobody knows for sure when or where the first arepas were eaten, though the Cumanagoto people of what is now Venezuela are said to have called their cornbread “erepa.”
The arepa has become the most well-known symbol of Colombian and Venezuelan culinary traditions, whatever its origins.
Arepas are corn patties that have become increasingly popular in Colombian and Venezuelan cuisines. Imagine a corn tortilla combined with a tamale in the form of an English muffin.
Arepas are a versatile accompaniment to any meal because they can be stuffed with fillings or eaten plain.
Arepa dough was traditionally made by cooking dried corn, mashing it, and drying it into flour.
However, you can now buy masa arepa, which is a dehydrated, cooked corn flour (also known by its brand name Masarepa or Harina PAN).
You should be able to find masa arepa in a well-stocked Latin grocer, or you can order GOYA Masarepa or Harina PAN online.
This is not to be confused with masa harina!
Masa harina is a white corn flour made from nixtamalized corn, which has been soaked and treated with slaked lime to remove the husks. Because it is not pre-cooked, it has a slightly different flavor and texture.
You can make corn tortillas, tamales, atole, enchiladas, and other dishes with masa harina, but not arepas. Arepas get their distinct texture and flavor from Arepa Flour/Masarepa.
Where Can I Get Arepa/Masarepa Flour?
Masarepa is available in white or yellow varieties and can be found in most supermarkets’ Latin sections.
This recipe calls for white flour, but you can use whatever flour you prefer.
Two well-known brands are Goya and P.A.N.
Is Masa Harina suitable for making arepas?
However, the first time we made arepas, we couldn’t find masa arepa in any of the stores nearby, and dinner was already planned. We decided to try it with masa harina.
What could possibly go wrong? We can tell you from personal experience that it works, but it isn’t ideal.
Masa harina absorbs moisture differently than masa arepa, which is obvious. For starters, we needed a lot more masa harina than we had.
Second, rather than being soft and chewy in the center, our masa harina arepas were noticeably doughy. They simply didn’t taste cooked properly.
When we finally ordered some Harina Pan and tried again, the texture difference was significant enough for us to know that this was the correct way to make arepas.
Can you do it? Sure. But be aware that you will be missing out on some things.
What You Need to Make Venezuelan Arepas
There are only three ingredients in the Venezuelan arepas recipe: masa (corn flour), salt, and water. It’s that easy!
What is masa?
P.A.N. is the most popular brand of masa or corn flour for making arepas. This brand originated in Venezuela and is now sold all over the world.
This masa (corn flour) comes in two colors: white and yellow. For Venezuelan arepas, use the white one.
Masarepa is another name for corn flour.
What’s the difference between the different kinds of corn flour I see in the store?
Venezuelan masa, also known as corn flour, is made from cooked corn that has been dried and ground into flour. It is made with plain cooked corn rather than nixtamalized corn. P.A.N. masa is the most popular brand in the United States, and it can be purchased from grocery stores or online retailers such as Amazon.
Maseca, for example, is a Mexican brand. Masa harina is a type of corn flour that is made differently, using a process called nixtamalization.
The flour is made by immersing whole corn kernels in water containing lime and calcium in this process.
This method makes removing the outer skin much easier. The remainder is dried and ground after the skin is removed. The masa’s nutrients are concentrated during the process.
Cornmeal is another corn product that can be found in stores. This product is not the same as masa or masa harina because it is made from dried corn.
Can I make Venezuelan arepas with masa harina or cornmeal instead of masa?
Yes, you can make arepas with one of these products instead of the more traditional masa and get decent results, but they won’t be authentically Venezuelan.
The flavor and texture will undoubtedly differ.
If you have access to purchasing masa for making Venezuelan arepas, I highly recommend investing in a package when making your arepas.
I experimented with adding vegetables to the dough to create different eye-appealing colors and add a bit of flavor and nutrition to the arepas while making this Venezuelan arepas recipe.
We used a variety of winter squash, sweet potato, yucca, and beets to test this Venezuelan arepas recipe.
Here’s a rundown of the ingredients we used in the arepas, as well as how they turned out:
Vitamin C is abundant in this root vegetable, with 22 milligrams per 12-cup serving. Yucca is also high in manganese and contains antioxidants called anthoxanthins, which are found in the white pigment.
Yucca has a thick consistency, so it didn’t have as much of an impact on the texture of the Venezuelan arepas dough as some of the other ingredients did.
The sweet potato is a root vegetable. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, which is necessary for eye health. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamins C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and a variety of other nutrients.
For both myself and Nhai, the sweet potato was one of the day’s overall favorites.
It does add sweetness to the cooked arepa, which has a lot of sweet potato flavor. The sweetness of the sweet potato had little effect on the final arepa dough. We used a potato-to-arepa dough ratio of 1:3.
This root vegetable is high in folate, vitamin C, and antioxidants, among other nutrients. Beets also contain nitrates, which may aid in blood pressure reduction.
With its vibrant pink color, the beet was the clear winner in terms of appearance. However, because beets have a strong earthy flavor, it was evident in the cooked arepa.
If you dislike beets, you will almost certainly dislike this dish.
Because the beet puree we used was quite wet, we used a 1:4 ratio of beets to arepa dough. We definitely needed to add more masa after mixing it in to get the consistency back.
Winter squashes are high in vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and other nutrients.
The squash adds a yellow color to the arepa, depending on which one you use, and it worked out well in terms of flavor, texture, and color.
The squash variety I used had a lot of liquid in it. When making arepas with winter squash, it’s difficult to say how much to add.
You’ll want to check the consistency of your squash puree and add a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Arepas Recipe: How to Make Arepas
Learning how to make arepas is simple once you have your masa arepa.
Simply combine warm water, salt, and oil for the Venezuelan version we’re making today. The masa arepa is then added, and the dough begins to come together.
Your dough will appear moist at first, but after 10 minutes of resting, the flour will absorb more moisture and your dough will feel like something you can shape.
The dough for the arepas is then shaped into 1/2-inch thick patties. It’s then time to cook!
Arepas can be grilled, baked, or fried.
Arepas can be prepared in a variety of ways, but the most traditional method involves cooking them on a large flat griddle. (We used our cast iron skillet, which worked perfectly.)
Grilling Arepas, the key is to seal the arepas for about 3-5 minutes per side at a high temperature on an oiled griddle.
Then continue to flip them to finish cooking at a lower heat for 8-10 minutes per side, or until the arepas are cooked through.
If your pan is too hot during this cooking period, your arepa will appear golden on the outside but not be fully cooked on the inside.
To bake arepas, first, seal them on a hot griddle for 3-5 minutes to achieve that lovely golden color.
Then bake them at 350°F for 18-20 minutes, or until they puff up slightly.
To Fry your arepas, you will want to cut them into smaller, thinner rounds so they can cook faster in the hot oil.
They only take about 10 minutes to crisp up to golden brown perfection!
We’ve been dreaming up different fillings to stuff in arepas now that we’ve tried them. Dinner: Carne mechada (shredded beef from Venezuela), breakfast: fried eggs, lunch: butter and cheese!
When stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, arepas keep and reheat well. They taste just like fresh when reheated in a warm oven or toaster oven.
What distinguishes arepas from pupusas and gorditas?
Many people mix up arepas, pupusas, and gorditas. While all three are stuffed, thick tortillas, there are some significant differences between them (aside from their countries of origin).
The short version is that the filling for pupusas is sealed inside the tortilla. We have articles on each of these that go into more detail on the specifics.
While gorditas resemble arepas in appearance, they are made with a different type of corn flour.
Take a look at the individual articles if you want to learn more!
15-minute prep time
Time to cook: 25 minutes
10 minute rest period
50 minutes in total
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups masa arepa (Pan or GOYA brand, pre-cooked corn flour NOT masa harina)
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, oil, and salt. To dissolve the salt, mix everything together.
- Slowly drizzle in the masa arepa, stirring constantly.
- Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the dough to rest. If the dough is too dry to hold together after resting, add 1 tablespoon of water.
- Cut the dough into six roughly equal pieces and roll each into a 12-inch disc (roughly 4 inches in diameter).
How to Grill Arepas
- Preheat a cast iron griddle to medium-high. Brush a little oil on the griddle before adding the arepas.
- Seal the dough by cooking the arepas for 3-5 minutes on each side. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and cook the arepas for another 8-10 minutes per side, until golden brown and lightly charred, lowering the griddle’s heat as needed. (When tapped, the arepas should be slightly puffy and sound hollow.)
- Remove the arepas from the pan and cool for about 10 minutes on a wire rack.
- If you’re going to fill the arepas, cut them in half almost all the way through with a sharp knife.
- Stuff and serve immediately!!
How to Bake Arepas
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Seal the arepas for 3-5 minutes on each side on a hot griddle brushed with oil.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the arepas have puffed slightly and sound hollow when tapped.
- Allow 10 minutes for the arepas to cool before slicing.
- Stuff and serve immediately!!
How to Fry Arepas
- (If you want to fry your arepas, cut them into 12 rounds.) Make smaller 14-inch thick discs out of them.)
- In a large skillet, heat 1 inch of oil. (The oil should be around 370 degrees Fahrenheit.)
- Fry the shaped arepas in hot oil for 10 minutes, or until golden.
- Remove the fried arepas from the hot oil and place them on a platter lined with paper towels to drain.
- Serve hot!
Cooked arepas keep for 2-3 days at room temperature in an airtight container. Keep them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days if you plan to keep them longer.
For the best texture, reheat them in the oven or toaster oven.
Information on nutrition:
Serving Size: 2 arepas Yield: 3
Per Serving Amount: 389 calories
Recipes for Cornmeal
- Tamales Vegan
- Cornmeal Pudding from Jamaica
- Cornmeal Porridge from Jamaica
- Mix Cornmeal
- Grits (vegan)
- Gluten-Free Vegan Cornbread
Arepas with Masa Harina: How to Make Them?
If you don’t have masarepa (which can be hard to come by, especially organic and non-GMO), I’ve found a gluten-free alternative!
(Please keep in mind that this is not a traditional technique.)
Simply replace the full amount of arepa flour with 12 cups masa harina, 14 cups gluten-free flour/arrowroot starch, and 14 cups coconut flour (2 cups as listed in the original recipe).
I also like to mix in 1 teaspoon of baking powder with the flours to help them rise. You can add more gluten-free flour or arrowroot starch if the dough is too sticky or crumbly.
Follow the recipe’s instructions to the letter.
Black bean arepas, baked plantains, and guacamole
Serve your arepas with Guacamole, Black Beans, and Baked Plantains.
Vegan Jackfruit Carnitas Arepas
Arepas with Jackfruit Carnitas and Coleslaw are a delicious combination.
Arepas with Tofu Scramble
De’ Arepas stuffed with Mexican Style Scrambled Tofu or this Easy Scrambled Tofu Recipe are both delicious breakfast options.
The Arepas filled with my Vegan Ackee would be fantastic for a Jamaican breakfast!
Arepas from Venezuela vs. Arepas from Colombia
Venezuelan arepas have a little more fat in the dough than their Colombian counterparts, making them a little greasier.
Venezuelans eat arepas as a snack or late-night meal, and they’re usually stuffed with savory fillings like shredded beef from Venezuela, black beans, and fresh cheese.
Colombian arepas are popular breakfast foods and are commonly eaten with the “fillings” piled on top.
They can, however, be eaten at any time of day, especially the version with cheese inside!
If you want to eat Colombian arepas straight up, the dough contains no salt or oil, making them a little bland.
However, the crunchy exterior and soft interior make them ideal for cheese or butter toppings.
Is the Arepa Colombian or Venezuelan?
Arepas originated in what is now Venezuela, Panamá, and Colombia, and are a pre-Columbian dish.
The tools used to make the arepas’ flour and the clay slabs used to cook them were frequently discovered at archeological sites in the area.
What Are the Ingredients in Venezuelan Arepas?
Arepas are traditionally made by soaking corn and pounding dried corn in a pilón, which is a large mortar and pestle.
The moist compacted dough was formed into cakes and cooked. Most people nowadays buy masarepa—arepa flour—that only needs water and salt to make a dough.
How Do You Eat Arepas From Venezuela?
It can and should be consumed without the use of utensils or costly dishes.
All you need is a napkin and the ability to eat with your hands without making a mess, I lack that ability, but I’ll gladly give up my elegance for a delicious arepa.
Types of Arepa
- Repa de Huevo
- Arepa Andina
- Arepa Paisa
- The Arepa de Choclo
- Arepa Reina Pepiada
- Arepa Boyacense
- The Arepa Santandereana
- Arepa de queso
- Arepa fritaare
Are Arepas Freezable?
Arepas reheat beautifully! Cooked arepas can be stored for up to 3 days at room temperature or 3-5 days in the fridge in an airtight container.
Arepas, both uncooked and cooked, can be frozen for up to three months.
The following are instructions for freezing homemade Venezuelan arepas:
- Allow the arepas to cool completely before serving.
- To keep it fresh, wrap it in aluminum foil and then plastic wrap.
- Freeze in a large freezer Ziploc bag for up to three months.
Is it possible to air fry arepas?
Yes! Brush both sides of the arepas with oil and arrange them in a single layer in the fryer basket for air-frying (you will possibly have to cook them in batches).
Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on the other side, or until golden brown and crisp on both sides.
What Do Masa Harina And Masarepa Have In Common?
Masarepa flour is the flour of choice for making arepas.
Masa harina, on the other hand, is made from nixtamalizing corn, which means the germ and outer layer of the kernel are removed before grinding.
Arepas and What to Eat With Them
It is entirely up to you how you eat your Venezuelan arepas. You can stuff them or simply eat them with the rest of your meal like bread.
Of course, there are numerous popular variations and traditional ways of eating Venezuelan arepas stuffed with sandwich-like ingredients.
Here are some of Venezuela’s most popular vegetarian arepas.
- El Perico: Scrambled eggs, tomato, and onion arepa sandwich.
- La Dominó: My personal favorite arepa, filled with black beans and white cheese!!! Because the black beans and white cheese resemble black and white dominoes, it’s called The Domino.
- La Viuda: An arepa with no filling. It’s usually served alongside another dish in this case.
- La Bomba: El Perico’s breakfast version, with scrambled eggs, tomato, onion, and some delectable cooked black beans.
- La Pata-Pata: To make this delicious arepa, replace the white cheese in the La Domino with gouda cheese and add avocado.
Guasacaca sauce, made with avocado, bell pepper, parsley, cilantro, vinegar, and a few other ingredients, is frequently served with Venezuelan arepas.
The avocado gives it a silky, creamy texture, but the bell pepper and vinegar give it a bright, tangy flavor.
You can top or stuff your arepas with your favorite ingredients in addition to the more traditional styles of stuffed Venezuelan arepas.
Consider arepas to be a piece of bread that you can top or fill with whatever you want. Arepas are naturally gluten-free because corn does not contain gluten.
Some of my favorite ways to prepare them are as follows:
- Mashed Chickpeas Salad
- Sliced tomato, basil, and mozzarella
- Avocado or guacamole with white cheese
- Melted cheese
- Hummus with lettuce, tomato, and red onion
- Roasted eggplant spread with spinach, red peppers, and red onion
Questions Frequently Asked
What are the ingredients in Venezuelan arepas?
Arepas are corn cakes that are traditionally made by pounding dried corn into a pliable dough in a pilón (a large mortar and pestle).
While wide, thin arepas with toppings are more common in Colombia, arepas in Venezuela are thicker and have fillings sandwiched between them after splitting.
What’s the difference between Colombian and Venezuelan arepas?
Each type of arepas has two significant differences.
The main difference between Colombian and Venezuelan arepas, according to the Latin American Post, is the ingredients.
Arepas in Venezuela typically have a variety of fillings and options, whereas arepas in Colombia are typically only stuffed with cheese or eggs.
What do Venezuelans call arepas?
It is an important part of the daily diet in both countries. It’s known as “arepa” in Colombia and Venezuela, a corn-based round dough.
In both countries, the arepa is a traditional dish.
What is the significance of arepas in Venezuela?
The arepa is regarded as a staple of the Venezuelan diet; prior to the 2015 food shortages, it was estimated that the average Venezuelan consumed 30 kilos of the corn flour used to make arepas each year.
Are arepas and empanadas the same thing?
Locals in each country put their own spin on the foods we now know as arepas, pupusas, and empanadas.
Because their dishes are so similar, Colombia and Venezuela claim arepas as their own, and Colombia and Argentina claim empanadas as their own.
No one, however, even tries to compete with El Salvador when it comes to pupusas.
What is the flavor of arepas?
However, comparing them to the more popular tamale may be the best way to think about them. Both foods are made from cornmeal, and while tamales are usually steamed, arepas are usually pan-fried — but the flavor profiles are very similar (via Minimalist Baker).
They’re similar to tortillas and have a slightly sweet taste because they’re made with cornflour, though they can also be made with cassava or yucca.
Are arepas fattening?
A traditional preparation of arepa stuffed with cheese has a higher calorie count: 270.
Both stuffed and plain arepas have 2 g of saturated fat, a bad type of fat that can cause heart disease.
Arepas’ saturated fat content may impair your body’s ability to heal.
Are they gluten-free Arepas?
Yes, anyone looking for a gluten-free bread substitute should rejoice. Gluten-free arepas are available.
Because of this feature, arepas are becoming more popular than ever.
Is Arepas Good For Losing Weight?
For those on a gluten-free or low-sodium/heart-healthy diet, the arepa may be a better option than a sandwich; just make sure you fill it with nutritious fillings like cheeses and other vegetables or proteins that you are allowed to eat.
Is Cornmeal an acceptable substitute for Masarepa?
Cornmeal is preferred over masa harina, but it can also be used.
Are Arepas Like Pupusas And Gorditas?
Arepas, pupusas, and gorditas are frequently confused.
While all three are thick, packed tortillas, there are some key differences between them (apart from their origin countries).
The pupusa filling is stuffed inside the tortilla. While gorditas look similar to arepas, they are made with a different type of cornflour.
If you’re interested in learning more, click on the embedded links.
Are arepas nutritious?
Arepas made in Venezuela contain only masa, water, and salt and can be included in a well-balanced diet.
When do you eat arepas?
Anytime you want!! They’re perfect for breakfast, lunch, or a snack. You can also use them as bread for soups, stews, or chili at dinner.
I hope you as much as we do enjoy these arepas! Because they’re crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
- They’re savory
- They’re easy to make and versatile. You can stuff them with whatever you want and eat them whenever you want.
Take a chance on this. It’s incredibly tasty and simple to make. And, as always, I welcome your feedback.
Please feel free to leave any feedback or share your own personal experience in the section below.