How to make perfect arepas

These cornmeal cakes, which are a staple in Colombia and Venezuela, are extremely versatile.

By Ruth Christianson-Monroy
Published 28 Jan 2023, 08:00 GMT


Photograph by Getty Images


Arepas are served with most meals in Colombia and are popular in Venezuela, too. The classic Colombian kind are made with milled corn, while arepas de choclo, named after the Quechua word for maize, are thinner, sweeter and often mixed with whey cheese.


These days, arepas are usually made with pre-cooked corn flour, rather than the traditional dried, raw corn kernels. Add 900ml water, 15g sunflower oil and salt to 500g flour, mixing well by hand until there are no lumps. Leave to rest for 10 minutes to absorb the water.


Lightly oil your palms and weigh out 150-200g of dough for each arepa. Next, roll each piece of dough into a ball between your palms using light pressure. Gently pat the dough balls flat with your hands until you have a disc about 1.5-2cm thick.


The healthiest way to cook arepas is by griddling. On a medium heat, lightly oil a hotplate or pan. Cook the arepas for a few minutes on each side, gently turning them over when they start to puff up with air. They should be toasted and golden on each side.


Frying is a popular way to make arepas de huevo (with egg). Form the dough as normal and then lightly deep-fry for 2-3 minutes. Cool the arepa and carefully slice it open, before cracking an egg inside and sealing the hole with more dough. Re-fry for 3-4 minutes.


In Colombia, arepas are often served with butter or cheese, while in Venezuela they tend to be filled with meat. However, they’re versatile. Cut your cooked arepas half open and fill with things like grated cheese, pulled meats, plantains, beans and salsa — practically anything goes.

Ruth Christianson-Monroy is founder of London-based modern Colombian cuisine company Maize Blaze.

Published in Issue 18 (winter 2022/23) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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