How to Make Arepas Venezolanas
Learn how to make authentic Arepas Venezolanas filled with black beans and a variety of toppings. What is an arepa? It’s a classic Venezuelan and Colombian corn meal pocket that can be stuffed with any fillings you’d like and enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Several years ago I visited my dear friend Liz for a weekend in New York. Liz took me to the most wonderful little restaurant, an arepa bar called Caracas in the East Village. We shared a few glasses of sangria, several types of vegetarian arepas, and lots of laughs.
I’ve meant to share a recipe ever since that night and finally have one ready for you! Arepas made with harina P.A.N. flour are a naturally gluten-free and plant-based (depending on fillings) traditional South American recipe. I enlisted the help of native Venezuelan chefs in the development and photography of this recipe to be sure of an authentic recipe.
What Are Arepas?
Arepas are a popular food made with corn flour dough that’s grilled and then filled. They are popular in northern South America, especially Venezuela and Colombia, which is why you’ll often hear them referred to as arepas Colombianas or arepas Venezolanas. They are similar to a pita pocket or South American version of a Piadina.
Arepas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and can be filled with any ingredients you’d like. My favorite fillings are black beans, cheese, and avocado, but you can find more ideas at the end of this post. I’ve even had breakfast arepas filled with eggs, avocado, and arugula.
How to Make Them
1. Make the Dough with Harina P.A.N or Masarepa
Arepa dough is a simple mix of flour, salt, and water. It is important, however, to use finely ground and cooked corn flour. This is not the same as a corn meal you’d use for tortillas. Look for Harina Pan. Masarepa, made by GOYA in Colombia, can also be used if you can’t find the P.A.N. brand.
Made by the brand P.A.N., this is the most common type of cornmeal used for arepas, and a staple in Venezuelan kitchens. Harina Pan can also be used to make pupusas, empanadas, and more. The flavor of dough made with harina pan is milder than corn tortillas. You can find harina pan or masarepa in local Latin grocery stores or online.
Knead the dough until smooth, then divide into 8 balls, and flatten into discs. Now you’re ready to cook!
2. Cooking Arepas
Use a skillet or grill pan to cook the arepas until nice and toasty golden. I find a grill pan to work best as the air is able to circulate under the arepas as they cook.
3. Split in Half
Cut in half with a knife, either completely, or just to create a pocket.
Delicious Arepa Fillings
I’ve filled these arepas with black beans, avocado, chimichurri sauce, crumbled cheese (optional), and a few radish slices. There are endless filling combinations to try though, so feel free to expirament. Here are more tasty filling ideas for your homemade arepas.
- Fried Plantain Slices
- Roasted sweet potatoes
- Shredded Jackfruit
- Guyanés Cheese or queso fresco
- Chipotle Sofritas
- Chorizo (I use soyrizo)
- Sliced Avocado
- Fresh Tomato Slices
- Fajita Veggies
- Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
- Sliced Radish
- Pickled Onions
- Pinto Beans
- Instant Pot Black Beans
- Cuban Black Beans
- Chimichurri sauce
- 2 cups Harina Pan (refined and cooked corn flour, P.A.N. brand recommended)
- 2 ½ cups warm water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups cooked black beans, warm
- 1/2 cup crumbled Queso Fresco
- 1 large ripe avocado, sliced
- 1/2 cup Chimichurri sauce
- 1 radish, thinly sliced
- fresh cilantro leaves
- For the arepas, place water in a deep bowl and add salt. Whisk to dissolve the salt (arepas will be as salty as the taste of the water at this point, so it’s a good trick to adjust to your liking at this point).
- Add the harina and knead with your hands until it’s soft and easy to handle (the quantities stated above are for P.A.N brand, you may want to check the instructions in your package to make sure what’s the right ratio for flour and water). The dough should be smooth and not crack when pressed into balls or disks. Add a tiny bit of water or harina if needed to get the proper texture as shown in the photos.
- Once the dough is soft, divide in 8 balls. While working with the dough, cover with a damp kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.
- With your hands, flatten the balls into approximately ½ inch thick disks. They will be about 3-4 inches in diameter.
- Heat a grill pan, griddle, or skillet to medium-high and spray or brush with oil. I find a grill pan works best here as it allows some air to circulate under the arepas as they cook. Grill the arepas until crunchy and golden on each side, 4-5 minutes per side.
- Cool just enough to handle, then immediately use a sharp paring knife to cut all the way in half or ¾ of the way through to create a pocket. It may seem too wet inside but will dry a bit as steam is released. Store covered with a towel until serving.
- When ready to serve, fill warm arepas with as much of the fillings as you can and enjoy right away.
Do not substitute any other type of masa or corn meal. It's important to use Harina P.A.N., or masarepa, which is finely ground, pre-cooked corn meal. Check the water to harina ratio before beginning, as it may vary slightly from brand to brand.
Here's a plant-based queso fresco that looks good.
Arepas are best just after they've been cooked and don't reheat well. It's important to cut them open while they are still hot, otherwise, the texture in the middle will not be light, and they will be difficult to open.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 arepa
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 233Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gSodium: 540mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 6gSugar: 1gProtein: 7g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your favorite calculator.