Arepas are gluten free corn cakes, eaten in Venezuela in place of bread. They're crunchy outside, tender inside, and delicious when filled with chicken or cheese or anything you like. This authentic arepa recipe pairs homemade arepas with a scrumptious Venezuelan chicken and avocado salad.
My good friend Sonia is from Venezuela. Last week we spent a really fun afternoon together cooking in her kitchen. She taught me how to make one of her favorite authentic recipes from back home, Reina Pepiada: Venezuelan arepas with chicken and avocado.
What Are Arepas?
Arepas are english muffin-shaped cornmeal cakes that are eaten in place of bread in Venezuela. They are typically served warm from the oven, split open, and filled with a variety of savory stuffings such as shredded beef, grated cheese, scrambled eggs, or chicken and avocado. They have a mild corn flavor and are firm and crunchy on the outside, soft and tender inside. The filling is what sets them apart.
Reina Pepiada is Sonia's family favorite - shredded white meat chicken tossed with tender avocado, mayonnaise, garlic, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno and cilantro. It's easy to imagine how delicious this chicken salad would be just from reading the ingredients, right? Just wait until you try it sandwiched between an arepa that's still warm from the oven!
How To Make Arepas
Arepas are made from just three ingredients: corn meal, water and salt. Made from a special type of corn flour, arepas are naturally gluten free. The corn flour used for arepas, also called Masarepa, is precooked and ground. The most common brand is P.A.N. I had no problem finding it at a few different stores, including Stop and Shop. Or you can order it on line.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed sinking my hands into the bowl of warm water and corn flour and kneading. Sonia commented, too, about how this part of the recipe - the feeling of the dough in her hands and the smell of the warm corn flour - transports her back home to Venezuela and back to her grandmother's kitchen, where she learned to cook arepas.
After you shape the arepas, you sear them in a hot skillet with just a bit of oil. Sonia explained that you just want to seal them and get them a little brown.
Once they're seared, they finish cooking in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes.
Remove the arepas from the oven, split them open, stuff them, and enjoy them while they're still warm.
Venezuelan Arepas (Arepas Venezolanas)
In Venezuela you can find arepas for every occasion - arepas appetizers, arepas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. There are also many restaurants around town called areperas, where you can grab a quick arepa with the filling of your choice.
Once you learn how to make arepas, you can get creative with what you put inside. Butter and white cheese (or substitute feta) is another version that Sonia recommended to me.
Reina Pepiada is an exceptionally good arepa. By the way, in case you're curious about the name, the literal translation of Reina Pepiada is "curvy queen." Apparently, as the story goes, back in 1955 a Venezuelan woman won the Miss World title. This scrumptious chicken & avocado arepa - recognized as a thing of beauty - was named in her honor.
Here's the Venezuelan Arepas Recipe. If you make this I hope you'll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think!Print
Arepas with Chicken and Avocado
- Total Time: 1 hour 15 mins
- Yield: 6-8 servings 1x
Venezuelan corn meal cakes filled with chicken & avocado salad. [gluten-free]
For The Poached Chicken (or skip this step and use 3 cups cooked shredded chicken)
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- ½ small onion, sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon salt
For The Chicken & avocado salad
- 1 pound shredded poached chicken (about 3 cups) (see recipe below)
- 2 Haas avocados, peeled, pitted, roughly mashed
- 2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- ½ red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- ½ jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic (2 medium cloves)
- ½ teaspoon salt or more, to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper
For The Arepas
- 3 cups precooked white corn flour (P.A.N. or Masarepa)
- 3 ¼ cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Poach the chicken Put the chicken onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt in a medium saucepan. Cover by an inch or two, with cold water. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer gently (water should vibrate but not bubble) for 10-14 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (Check for doneness after 10 minutes. Cut into the largest piece to make sure there's no pink color). Remove chicken from the pot, let it cool for a few minutes, and shred it.
- Make the chicken avocado salad In a medium bowl mix the mashed avocado with mayonnaise and lime juice. Add the rest of the ingredients: chicken, bell pepper, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and store in the fridge until you're ready to eat. Can be made a few hours ahead and kept covered in the fridge. Will be delicious the next day too, but green color may not be as vivid.
- Make the arepas Preheat oven to 350ºF. Pour the warm water into a large bowl. Stir in salt to dissolve. Pour in the corn flour and immediately start kneading the mixture with your hands, being sure to squeeze out any lumps. Allow the dough to sit for 3-5 minutes. Divide dough into 8 pieces. To shape an arepa, roll the dough into a ball and then pat it, between your hands, into a disc. Press your thumbs around the outside of the disc to form a nice edge. Discs should be 3 ½ - 4 inches in diameter and ⅓ to ½ inch thick. Set discs on a large platter or baking sheet as you form them. (If the dough seems dry or cracks when you roll it, add a more warm water)
- Sear the arepas in a skillet Lightly oil a large non-stick skillet (cast iron is great). Turn the heat to medium and get the skillet nice and hot. Brown the arepas in batches, about 4 minutes per side, until they are seared with some brown areas on both sides. Set them back on the platter or baking sheet as you go.
- Finish the arepas in the oven When all the arepas are seared, set them directly on the wire rack in the center of the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until they are puffed up a bit. They will have a very taut outer skin. Set them back onto the baking sheet for just a minute or two until they're cool enough to handle. Cut them open. Fill them with Reina Pepiada chicken & avocado salad. Serve warm. Enjoy!
- Prep Time: 40 mins
- Cook Time: 35 mins
- Category: Lunch or Dinner
- Method: oven
- Cuisine: Venezuelan
Keywords: Arepas with Avocado Chicken Salad
I'm obsessed with arepas and make them all the time... but this filling is KILLER! So good. Thanks for the recipe 🙂
Glad you you enjoyed Michele - I agree!!
Hi Lisa! I have a question. How long will the filling keep in the fridge? How long for the arepas? I'm going to separate them instead of assembling each arepa. I'm making the whole recipe and saving it for lunch throughout the week.
Jess, normally chicken salad can keep in the fridge for 3-5 days. Because this one is made with avocado, there's a chance it will discolor a bit over time, but with the lime juice in there it might not discolor. If it discolors just give it a toss and it should look fine. It will definitely still taste great! As for the arepas I suggest that you shape and sear the arepas in a skillet and then store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Heat them in the oven for 20 minutes or so before stuffing and eating.
How the reina pepiada got its name.
Your recipe of Reina Pepiada looks amazing, and so is your blog btw, thanks for sharing all those original recipes 🙂
I will definitely try this one this week-end, making the arepas myself 🙂
My neighbor is from Columbia and she makes taught me to make these! I love how you filled these!
Helene D'Souza | Masala Herb
Working with dough is something so relaxing. I discovered a new food today, thanks for the share! 🙂
Will Maseca brand corn flour work for the arepas?
Lisa, I LOVE your recipes. I've made so many of them and they've become many of my go-to dishes. Thank you.
This week I was so excited to make the Arepas because I'd had them in Montreal and Manhattan and they are scrumptious. So I know I did something wrong. It took a LONG time for the sides to get brown (even a little brown) in the pan, even tho it was med-to med-high on a teflon pan. I baked them about 20 minutes. They were delicious but hard as a rock. It must have been the pan part. What should I do? They really weren't brown at all after 4 min on one side. Thanks for your help!
Hi Wendy! I'm so glad that you've enjoyed a bunch of my recipes! And I'm so sorry your Arepas didn't work out so well. From what you've told me I think you may have overcooked them in the pan, in an effort to get them brown. I don't use teflon, but my guess is that it's not as good or quick at browning food as cast iron is. I suggest not worrying about getting them brown. Next time just sear them in the pan for a few minutes per side just so they're firm enough to set on the oven rack. They will be delicious whether they're brown or not, and hopefully they'll be a lot more tender next time! Let me know how it goes, if you decide to give it another try.
What kind of oil should be used? Would coconut work?
I think coconut would definitely work. It might add a hint of coconut flavor to the arepas but I think that would be fine. You could also use olive oil, canola, grape seed, or really any cooking oil that you like to use for sautéeing.
I made these tonight and they turned out so well! Thank you for the delicious and detailed recipe! I'm looking forward to checking your page often for new dinner ideas.
Hello from Germany,
Thank you very much for spending this!!!
I enjoy it!
Krista @ Joyful Healthy Eats
OH my mother in law makes these! They are the best!!!
I've never had arepas, but your post makes them look so delicious and intriguing that I may just have to hunt down the proper flour. Of course the chicken salad looks pretty wonderful too:)
Hi! Can you use masa flour instead of the pan? thank you.
Hi Patti, Yes, I believe Masa flour or Masarepa is the same as Masa Harina.As long as the description says: precooked yellow or white cornmeal, you should be fine.
Masa Harina is not the same as Masarepa. I don't know if Masa Harina would work (I use it for making tortillas but was warned away from making arepas with it). I would highly recommend finding and using Masarepa (also known as Masarepa Blanca). It's definitely a different product.
As a Venezuelan I've never before seen such beautiful pictures of a Reina Pepiada! Your recipe is so detailed and provocative that I'll do it this weekend. Congrats!
Thanks so much Macy!
Can you freeze the Arepas at any stage? They look delicious.
Carolyn, I haven't tried freezing them, but I did some research and it looks like the best technique is to sear the arepas and then freeze them. You can then just pop them in the oven right from the freezer, when you're ready to enjoy them. They should last in the freezer for several weeks.
They freeze beautifully! When I warm them up after they have been frozen I use the George Foreman grill (though any sandwich griddle will do). The grill heats on both sides and works really well for defrosting arepas. They will be a little crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside after you cook them from the frozen state.
I make arepas in the Colombian style, with Mozzarella cheese, and freeze them all the time. You can also cook them on a charcoal grill, either fresh or frozen.
how far ahead can I make these? Can they be reheated?
Hi Kelly. You can make them a day ahead and keep them covered in the fridge. Wrap them in foil and reheat them in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes - until heated through.
I was so excited to see this recipe. My son spent 4 months in Venezuela and fell in love with the food. Finding recipes has proved to be a challenge. at least ones I can readi n English. hahaha!!!!!!
I made these for dinner tonight following your recipe exactly. I found i needed to bake the arepas a little longer as they were still a little moist inside. I'd also add a full jalapeño next time as we like a little more heat. But otherwise, LOVED the recipe! Thank you!
Amy | Club Narwhal
Lisa, I adore arepas but have never made them at home. You're lucky you could cook up a storm with Sonia 🙂
Carol at Wild Goose Tea
I opened this post, saw the picture and asked myself literally aloud---What is that luscious 'thing'. I love the arepas. How totally specially. I am not sure how one would actually pick this up and eat it. It's BIG. But I won't let that stop me!