Masarepa is precooked, ground corn flour that is used to prepare arepas, a type of corn cake that is popular in both Venezuela and Colombia.
Arepas used to be traditionally made by soaking dried corn and then manually pounding the grains to remove the seed germ and the outer lining. The remaining part of the corn was then cooked and ground and made into arepas.
Fortunately for the modern, time-pressed chef, the labor-intensive process for making masarepa is now done on an industrial level. Most grocery stores carry dried pre-cooked corn flour that can be used for making arepas quickly and easily.
Don't Confuse Masarepa with Masa Harina
For newer chefs or those who are new to South American cooking, a common mistake is mixing up Masarepa with masa harina. A corn dough that is first dried and ground into a fine cornmeal, masa harina is made from corn treated with lime in order to remove the germ and outer lining before it is ground. Masa harina is used for making tortillas, pupusas, and gorditas.
Masarepa can be found in Latin food specialty stores and online. It is sometimes called masa al instante and harina precocida. Common brands are Harina PAN, Areparina, Harina Juana, and Goya (which comes in both white and yellow varieties). Look for the words "harina de maiz refinada precocida," or "refined, precooked corn flour" on the package.
Popular Dishes Made with Masarepa
Arepas are corn cakes that are crispy on the outside and soft and creamy in the center. They're a bit milder than tortillas or tamales and are a staple in Colombian and Venezuelan dishes. The Colombian variety is usually thinner than Venezuelan arepas. In Venezuela, arepas are usually used to make sandwiches filled with meat or cheese, such as reina pepiada.
Depending on the dish you'll be serving them with, arepas can be grilled, baked or deep-fried. They're almost always prepared with masarepa, but some varieties call for hominy or even quinoa.
Arepas are such a huge part of culture and cuisine in Colombia that several large cities have annual arepas festivals. There's a wide variety of ways to make Colombian arepas, and each region has a different take on the classic dish.
Empanadas are another Colombian dish frequently made with masarepa flour. It's not required but for more traditional varieties, empanadas, which are deep-fried turnovers usually filled with meat, vegetables or cheese, call for masarepa.