Homemade South American Arepas

Homemade South American Arepas

The Spruce / Julia Estrada

Prep: 45 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 12 to 18 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
75 Calories
2g Fat
13g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 18
Amount per serving
Calories 75
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 4mg 1%
Sodium 90mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 3mg 0%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 49mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Arepas, a staple food in both Venezuela and Colombia, are corn cakes that are made from special precooked corn flour. You can find this cornmeal/flour in Latin food stores, labeled masarepa, or "masa al instante."

Arepas are crispy on the outside with a soft and creamy center. They have a milder corn flavor than tortillas or tamales and are nice to have on your plate for soaking up the juices of cooked meat, beans, or aji salsa.

Arepas are scrumptious when slathered with butter or cream cheese for breakfast or as an accompaniment to any meal. Just like a piece of toast or bagel, arepas are commonly eaten as finger food.

Colombian arepas tend to be thinner than the Venezuelan variety. Venezuelan arepas are often stuffed with meat and cheese to make sandwiches, such as the famous reina pepiada. Arepas can also be grilled or deep-fried and are sometimes prepared with other grains such as fresh corn, hominy, or quinoa.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 1/2 cups masarepa cornmeal

  • 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 cups hot water

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, or vegetable oil

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Homemade South American Arepas ingredients

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  2. In a mixing bowl, stir the salt into the masarepa cornmeal.

    stir the salt into the masarepa cornmeal

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  3. Pour 2 3/4 cups of hot water over the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon.

    Pour hot water over the flour and mix well

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  4. Stir in the melted butter.

    Stir the melted butter into the flour mixture

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  5. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.  

    cover the flour mixture with plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  6. If you want thicker arepas, separate the dough into 12 pieces. For thinner arepas, divide the dough into 18 pieces.

    separate the dough into pieces

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  7. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Add more water if needed—the dough should be moist enough so that you can shape the arepas without the dough forming lots of cracks around the edges. 

    Shape each piece into a smooth ball

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  8. Place each ball in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and flatten gently with the bottom of a pot. Thick arepas should be about 3 inches in diameter and almost 1-inch thick. Thin arepas should be about 3 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick.

    Place each ball in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and flatten gently with the bottom of a pot

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  9. Use your fingers to smooth out any cracks along the edges.

    Use your fingers to smooth out any cracks along the edges of the dough

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  10. Place the shaped arepas on a cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap.

    Place the shaped arepas on a cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  11. Heat a cast iron skillet on low heat. Put 1/2 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil in the skillet.

    Heat a cast iron skillet with butter

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  12. Place several arepas in the pan, leaving room to turn them.

    Place several arepas in the pan

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  13. Cook the arepas for about 5 minutes on each side. The surface should dry and form a crust. They will brown slightly but do not let them brown too much. They should look like an English muffin. If they are browning too fast, lower the heat. Add more butter or oil for subsequent batches as needed.

    Cook the arepas on the other side

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  14. The thinner arepas are done when they have formed a nice crust but are still soft on the inside. For thicker arepas, finish cooking in the oven: After they have formed a crust and are just a bit browned, place them on a cookie sheet and heat for 8 to 10 minutes at 350 F.

    Homemade South American Arepas on a wood board

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

How to Store and Freeze Arepas

  • Cooked arepas can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for three to five days.
  • Freeze arepas by putting them in a freezer-safe container and placing parchment paper between each layer to prevent them from sticking together. Arepas can be frozen for up to one month.
  • For best texture, reheat them in an oven or toaster oven.