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