Arepas are a gift from Venezuela and Columbia. However, they are found throughout the Latin countries and the Caribbean. They are made of precooked cornmeal, either white or yellow with very fine granules, sometimes called Harina de Maiz, not to be confused with Masa Harina which is used for tortillas. Arepa flour, Instant Precooked Cornmeal, is available in Latin and Caribbean markets. P.A.N. and Goya are two common brands. If you can’t find Instant Cornmeal, look for Instant Polenta in the Italian isle of major supermarkets.
The traditional recipe is instant cornmeal, salt and boiling water, fried on a dry griddle and baked in a hot oven until they sound hollow when tapped. IMUSA has an electric arepa maker that browns and bakes them in about 10 minutes depending upon their thickness. The Imusa Arepa Maker can be found at Target stores and Amazon.com. They’re also available direct from Imusa.
There is not much flavor to arepas but they’re terrific as a slider with meat, cheese, and veggies or as a breakfast biscuit with honey and butter. Quick, easy and cheap arepas can be served for game night, cocktail parties or whenever you need a quick bread for chile, soups or stews. You can make the patties as large as desired but 3-inches to 4-inches is the norm. Add fresh herbs and cheese to the dough for a savory version or sugar and spices for a breakfast variation.
Try these filled with BLT fixin’s or pulled pork and salsa, chicken salad, avocado and bacon, mozzarella, tomato and basil, or sausage and eggs.
- 2 cups of Instant cornmeal (Arepa Cornmeal or Instant Polenta)
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups boiling water (may not need all)
- Mix the cornmeal with the salt, add water a cup at a time until cornmeal comes together in a soft dough. The dough should be slightly sticky. Let rest for 5-10 minutes so cornmeal has a chance to absorb the water.
- With wet hands, scoop up enough dough to make round patties, 3-inches in diameter and 3/8-1/2-inch thick. If the dough cracks around the edge, it is too dry. Mix a tablespoon of water at a time into the dough until it forms a smooth patty.
- Over medium high heat spray a non-stick skillet or griddle with cooking spray or wipe it with some cooking oil.
- Fry the patties 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until they are nice and golden brown. Patties can be frozen at this point.
- Bake in 400° F. oven for 15 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped. They’ll puff up when done.
- Split patties and fill as desired.
- Add 1 Tbsp fresh basil chopped fine (cilantro or other herb of choice) to cornmeal mixture.
- Add 1/4 cup queso blanco crumbled (grated cheddar cheese, Parmesan or other cheese of choice) to cornmeal mixture.
- Use warm milk instead of boiling water.
- Add 1/4 cup of self-rising flour to cornmeal.
- Check out Chef John’s version made with cream cheese http://youtu.be/xcbjUZoFESU