Arepas are the most traditional food from Venezuela. This specific Venezuelan arepas recipe elevates the traditional flavor to create an amazing brunch or lunch dish. Learn how to create Venezuelan arepas with our step-by-step guide and be ready to discover an amazing new dish to serve at home.
Arepas are a common dish in Latin-American cuisine, specifically Colombia and Venezuela. Traditionally arepas are filled with a variety of fillings like meat, chicken, or cheese. However, over the years people started to get even more creative with fillings and playing with flavor combinations.
People usually eat it as a sandwich or a side dish (like bread) because of its mild taste. So, what do arepas taste like exactly? Arepas are made of pre-cooked cornmeal giving them a mild earthy flavor. For some, this also makes the flavor bland. After being fried, the outside will be crunchy while the inside soft.
This Venezuelan arepa recipe is an haute-couture version of my family’s classic Venezuelan arepas with cheese. When I was young, we use to bring Dutch cheese to my family in Venezuela which they then added to their arepas. This is an ode to their creation.
What are Venezuelan Arepas Made of and What is a Substitute for Arepa Flour?
Arepa only requires three ingredients: pre-cooked cornmeal, salt, and water. The most commonly used brand for cornmeal is P.A.N. This brand is the brand of choice in Venezuela but is also available in other countries. You can either find it online and sometimes even in some ethnic markets.
Since ingredients for Mexican cuisine are more readily available than Venezuelan ingredients, people often wonder whether Maseca is the same as P.A.N. Maseca is similar and can be used as a substitute for arepa flour. Another option is Masarepa from the Goya brand. As long as the cornmeal is a pre-cooked or instant meal then it’s good enough for making Venezuelan arepas.
How to Make Venezuelan Arepas
Making Venezuelan arepas is quite easy. If you’re never made it before you may have to get used to the technique which can make the process slower. The steps below will guide you in making perfect Venezuelan arepas even if it’s your first time.
Step 1: Create The Dough
To make the dough, mix the cornmeal with a pinch of salt, sugar, and nutmeg. The sugar and nutmeg help to add a bit of flavor into the arepas as they can often be bland. Then gradually add water while kneading the dough. Keep kneading until the dough is soft and smooth. It shouldn’t stick to your hand or bowl anymore.
Step 2: Form the Arepas
Forming the arepas can be tricky the first time. You need to start by taking a bit of dough and rolling it into a ball. If you make a “bowl” with your hand, the ball should be able to easily sit inside it. Making the ball too big will make it more difficult to form the arepa.
Once you have a smooth ball, use the palm of your hand to press it down and create a disk of about 1 inch (2½ cm). When the disk is too thick, the inside of the arepa won’t cook. When it’s too thin, it will be hard to slice open and add the filling.
Avoid placing the arepas on top of each other as the dough can stick to each other. Lay them flat on a plate instead.
Step 3: Frying
This Venezuelan arepas recipe doesn’t specify how much oil you need to use. This is because it’s dependent on the size of your pan.
When frying arepas, you want to have enough oil for the arepas to float on. This helps for a more even cooking and creates a nice golden-brown crust. Before adding the arepas into the oil make sure it’s super hot because your arepas will otherwise absorb too much oil in the process.
When taking the arepas out, place them on a plate lined with paper towels. This helps absorb all excess oil so people aren’t eating something extremely greasy.
Step 4: Stuffing
You want to properly cut open your arepas so it doesn’t break. The trick is first pinch a hole using the tip of a sharp serrated knife. Then carefully glide the knife across the edge to open it up stopping about a quarter before that first incision. You can open it up completely but opening it up just a bit more than halfway helps keep the stuffinf inside when eating.
This recipe uses aged-Gouda cheese and salad green. The salad green adds freshness and a pop of color while the Gouda cheese adds sharpness to the dish. Since aged-Gouda cheese is usually hard you want to shred it first. Makes it much easier to eat and allows the cheese to slightly melt in the warm arepa.
Venezuelan Cheese Arepas Recipe
- 2 cups (300 gr) pre-cooked cornflour
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 2 cups (473 ml) water
- Vegetable oil ((see note 1))
- 1 cup (100 gr) aged Gouda cheese ( shredded)
- Salad greens
- In a deep bowl, mix the cornflour with salt, sugar, and nutmeg. Gradually add the water and knead until the water is completely absorbed and the dough no longer sticks to your hand. This takes about 8-10 minutes.
- Take a piece of dough and roll it into a ball. The ball needs to be able to easily sit in your palm. Then press the ball in between your palms to create a disk of about 1 inch/2.5 cm thick. Place it on a plate and repeat the process placing each arepa next to each other.
- Add plenty of oil into the pan (see note 1) and let it heat on medium heat. When the oil is sizzling hot, add one or more arepas without overcrowding them. Using a spoon splash a bit of hot oil on the uncooked part as soon as you add the arepas. Fry them on one side for about 3 minutes until golden brown, flip, and fry the other side for 3 minutes as well. Take them out and place them on a plate covered with paper towels.
- Using the tip of a serrated knife, poke a hole on the side of the arepa and then slice it open. Add a layer of salad green and then aged Gouda cheese.
- Serve warm.
- The amount of oil you add depends on the size of your pan, but make sure that it’s enough oil that it will cover the arepas.