Venezuelan Arepas – Chef’s Pencil


For any Venezuelan, there’s much to be said about arepas; first and foremost, let’s make it clear that they meet all the criteria to be considered “bread.” Yes, arepas are a type of bread. According to the RAE (i.e. Real Academia Española), bread is defined as a food made from flour, water, and yeast or baking powder, typically baked and often covered with butter or other spreads. Now, isn’t it amusing how this definition perfectly fits the description of an arepa?

So, what exactly are arepas? They are flat discs made of cornmeal dough. Nowadays, they are commonly made using pre-cooked cornmeal, but dating back to pre-Columbian times, indigenous people would grind corn using a mortar and pestle. Even further back, evidence shows that indigenous tribes prepared arepas by grinding maize in stone bowls. This historical tidbit dispels the controversy over whether arepas are Colombian or Venezuelan, as they were prepared in the region long before the concept of Venezuela or Colombia existed.

In both countries, there are countless recipes for arepas. For this post, I made three of the most famous: the traditional arepa cooked on a budare, the fried arepa, and the delicious sweet arepitas, which, in addition to cornmeal, contain wheat flour, panela sugar (papelon), and anise seeds.

Arepas are typically enjoyed filled with a variety of delicious ingredients. To fill an arepa, you can carefully slice it horizontally along one side to create a pocket, being careful not to cut all the way through. This pocket allows you to stuff the arepa with your favorite fillings, which can vary depending on personal taste and regional preferences.

Some of the most famous arepa fillings in Venezuela include shredded beef (carne mechada), chicken salad (pollo mechado), black beans and cheese (caraotas con queso), avocado and cheese (aguacate con queso), and perico (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions).

Enjoy this traditional Venezuelan arepa recipe!

Arepas

Venezuelan Arepas

Janice Díaz Santana

These delicious traditional cornmeal patties, crispy on the outside and soft inside, are popular in both Venezuela and Colombia. They are a staple in Venezuelan cuisine and enjoyed at any time of the day.

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 20 minutes

Total Time 35 minutes

Course Breakfast

Cuisine Venezuelan

Ingredients 

 

  • 420 g pre-cooked cornmeal
  • 1.2 l warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 splash of cooking oil for greasing the skillet/budare

Instructions 

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the pre-cooked cornmeal and salt.

  • Gradually add the warm water while mixing continuously with your hands until a soft and pliable dough forms. The dough should hold its shape without being too dry or too wet.

  • Knead the dough for about 3-5 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.

  • Divide the dough into equal-sized portions and roll each portion into a ball.

  • Flatten each ball of dough into a disc shape, about 1/2 inch (1 ⅓ cm) thick and 4-5 inches (10-12 cm) in diameter. You can use your hands or a tortilla press to do this.

  • Heat a non-stick skillet or budare over medium heat and lightly grease it with oil.

  • Place the flattened arepas on the skillet or budare and cook for about 5-7 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crispy.

  • Once cooked, transfer the arepas to a plate and let them cool slightly before serving.

  • Slice each arepa horizontally to create a pocket for filling.

  • Serve warm with your favorite fillings such as cheese, ham, avocado, black beans, or shredded meat.

Related: 23 Foods to Try out in Venezuela
Related: Top Venezuelan Christmas Foods
Related: 15 Most Popular Venezuelan Desserts

Janice Díaz Santana

Chef and gourmet photographer with over a decade of experience. I’ve collaborated on numerous gastronomy blogs and books, and have conducted cooking classes in my home country, Venezuela.

Cooking has always been a profound connection to my happiest memories and cultural heritage. In my family, expressing love often involved preparing delicious meals for our loved ones. While my initial career path led me to graduate as a computer engineer, I found myself drawn back to the world of art.

Photography became my newfound passion, and I dedicated years to studying and honing my skills in this field. Today, as a trained chef, I’ve successfully merged my two greatest passions—photography and cooking. This harmonious blend is evident in each of my images and recipes.



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