Cook the Book: Arepas de Queso

Cook the Book: Arepas de Queso

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

When Jim Leff, founder of Chowhound, came upon The Sainted Arepa Lady on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens a legend was born. Food folks would make the pilgrimage to her cart located under the train tracks for her incredible arepas, only available late-night (really late—think 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.) and only on Fridays and Saturdays. If taking an hourlong train ride late at night to an unfamiliar territory sounds a bit extreme that's probably because you've never tried her arepas.

These Arepas de Queso from Food Trucks by Heather Shouse are a top seller after last call. Little cornmeal cakes kneaded with shredded mozzarella and griddled in plenty of margarine (yes, margarine) are topped with squeaky curds of queso blanco. The magic of these Colombian arepas comes from the cheese that's incorporated into the dough making for sweet-salty little cakes with mild mozzarella.

Arepas are anytime food but it's easy to see the stomach settling appeal of these starchy, cheesy cakes on the way home from a night that involved a few too many cervezas.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Food Trucks to give away this week.

Adapted from Food Trucks by Heather Shouse. Copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

  • Yield:6
  • Active time: 20 minutes
  • Total time:30 minutes


  • 2 cups masarepa (arepa flour)
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 tablespoons margarine
  • 1 cup queso blanco (crumbly white farmer's cheese)


  1. 1.

    Mix the masarepa, hot water, and salt in a large mixing bowl and let rest for about 10 minutes. Knead the dough until it starts to take on a sheen, kneading in the shredded mozzarella as you work. Form 6 round patties about 1/2 inch thick and set aside.

  2. 2.

    Heat a large nonstick pan or griddle over medium heat. You’ll use about 11/2 teaspoons of margarine per arepa, so add the margarine to the pan according to how many will fit at a time without crowding. After each arepa browns on one side, flip it and immediately baste the top with a little of the margarine from the pan.

  3. 3.

    Continue to cook until both sides are browned and lightly crispy. Transfer each arepa to a plate and top with a sprinkle of the queso blanco before serving.