This recipe for Colombian Arepas uses four ingredients and takes 30 minutes from start to finish. And they’re just dripping with mozzarella cheese. Keep reading for the recipe!
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The year is 2016, and I’m a spry 19 year old living in Manhattan. I’ve scored two summer internships in New York City in the publishing field and suddenly this midwestern girl had moved herself to the big city.
New York City was exciting for a lot of reasons, but as someone that has always been interested in food, I’m sure you could guess that I had reached my heaven. NYC is the epitome of a food lover’s paradise, and I was suddenly surrounded by so many delicious treats I couldn’t find enough time in three months to try them all.
One Saturday I was on my way to the bookstore down the block and stumbled across a farmers market/food festival happening on the avenue near my apartment. I bought a dress and a smoothie, but then suddenly my eyes found them…. Arepas.
The food truck that was selling arepas that day had packed them with fillings, specifically ooey, gooey mozzarella cheese. They were overflowing with cheese and I HAD to buy one!
Since that moment, I had been daydreaming about arepas. Obviously, it is a dream come true that I can now make them for the blog and share the recipe with you all.
So What is an Arepa?
An arepa is a patty made out of cornmeal and water. They can be baked or fried and then eaten plain or with fillings.
Arepas originally began as just a plain snack that is eaten on a daily basis in Colombia and Venezuela (they’re very similar to Pupusas from El Salvador). Eventually, the fillings evolved into more elaborate and creative combinations. There’s nothing you can’t fill your arepa with! But for the sake of this recipe, I’ll tell you: You can never go wrong with cheese. Especially if you dip them into some Red Chimichurri sauce to sauce it up!
What Ingredients Are in Colombian Arepas?
Vegetable oil, for pan frying
For full ingredient measurements, visit the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
What Flour Should I Use for Colombian Arepas?
The internet seems to have a lot to say on this topic, actually. I’ve read many a traditional recipe that insist that you must use masarepa in your Colombian arepa recipe.
Masarepa is a very specific type of corn flour. It is precooked and ground cornmeal that exists specifically for making arepas.
When I was buying ingredients for my arepas, I almost made a very common beginner’s mistake: purchasing masa harina instead of masarepa. Masa harina is very similar to masarepa, but it is made from corn that doesn’t have an outer lining. These corn kernels are dried and then ground into a fine cornmeal. Masa harina is best for making tortillas.
The texture of your arepas will vary significantly based on which kind of flour you use. To buy masarepa, you can visit any Latin American grocery store or purchase the ingredient online. I bought mine off of Amazon.
How to Make Arepas
In a large bowl, place the masarepa and the salt. Stir to combine, then form a well in the middle.
Little by little pour the water into the well. Use your hands to mix and knead the dough lightly until all water is combined. Cover with a towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
Separate the dough into 8 sections and roll each section into a ball. Press the ball flat in your hand until about ½” thick.
Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet until warm. Place four arepas in the pan, cover and heat over low-medium heat for 6 minutes. Flip, cover, and heat on the other side for about 8 minutes, or until a crust is formed on both sides.
Remove the arepas from the stove. When cooled enough to handle, use a serrated knife to slice the arepas in half. Layer the inside with mozzarella cheese. Place back in the cast iron for about 5 minutes, just until the cheese gets melty. Enjoy!
History of Arepas
Arepas originated very long ago; they were first eaten by indigenous tribes in the land that now makes up Venezuela and Colombia.
The indigenous tribes would grind up the corn that they grew and make arepas from the flour. In fact, arepas used to be spelled erepas, because that is the indigenous word for corn.
Arepas were eaten every day, and were a definite staple in the lives of indigenous tribes. These days, arepas are still popular and are becoming more trendy.
Restaurants that make and sell arepas are called areperas! Areperas have recently stepped up their game and are starting to offer exciting new fillings for the age-old arepa.
How to Eat Colombian Arepas
As I mentioned before, Colombian arepas can be eaten plain or with fillings. Either way, they are a handheld food, often being served as street food in Colombia (and Manhattan! haha).
Arepas are wrapped in paper when served and eaten like a sandwich. But truthfully, there’s no wrong way to enjoy this easy and delicious snack.
Did you like my recipe for Colombian Arepas? Post a photo on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #TheForeignFork and tag @TheForeignFork. And if you liked this recipe, you’ll be sure to also like:
- Garnaches from Belize
- Argentinian Empanadas
- Pastel de Choclo (Shepards Pie with Corn Topping) from Chile
- Pispilli Cornbread from Albania
Colombian Arepas with Cheese Filling
- 2 cups Masarepa, I use yellow
- 1 tsp Salt
- 2 tbsp Vegetable oil for pan frying
- 2 cups + 2 tbsp Water
- ¾ lb mozzarella cheese, cut into strips
- In a large bowl, place the masarepa and the salt. Stir to combine, then form a well in the middle.
- Little by little pour the water into the well. Use your hands to mix and knead the dough lightly until all water is combined. Cover with a towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Separate the dough into 8 sections and roll each section into a ball. Press the ball flat in your hand until about ½” thick. Press the edges with your hands so that no cracks form.
- Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet until warm. Place four arepas in the pan, cover and heat over low-medium heat for 6 minutes. Flip, cover, and heat on the other side for about 8 minutes, or until a crust is formed on both sides.
- Remove the arepas from the stove. When cooled enough to handle, use a serrated knife to slice the arepas in half. Layer the inside with mozzarella cheese. Place back in the cast iron for about 5 minutes, just until the cheese gets melty. Enjoy!