Venezuelan-Style Arepas (Arepas Rellenas) Recipe

These thick Venezuelan corn cakes are split and filled with beans, cheeses, or meats.

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Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why It Works

  • Adding a little oil to the dough yields tender, moist arepas.
  • Shaping a portion of the dough to check its consistency before working in additional water ensures the arepas do not become dense and gummy.
  • Finishing the arepas in the even heat of an oven allows them to cook through without burning the sides.

Arepas are corn cakes traditionally made by dried corn pounded in a pilón—a large mortar and pestle—and formed into a pliable dough. While in Colombia you're far more likely to see wide, thin arepas made with toppings, in Venezuela, arepas tend to be thicker, with fillings sandwiched into them after splitting.

The method for making these is pretty much exactly the same as Colombian-style arepas. Since Venezuelan-style arepas are thicker, they will need to be cooked longer and more gently to avoid burning the exterior. This is best accomplished by starting them in a skillet, then finishing them in an oven. (If you are grilling the arepas, move them to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking instead.)

The simplest filling is a bit of shredded or sliced cheese, most commonly Guayanés, a soft, slightly sour fresh cheese similar to low-moisture mozzarella (you can use mozzarella if you'd like). Waxy-fleshed avocados similar to the Fuerte cultivar we find in the U.S. (not to be confused with the creamy Hass avocado) are also a common filling, as is shredded chicken, black beans, chicharrón (crispy pork skin), shredded stewed beef, or cuts of grilled beef. For a delicious, non-traditional filling, see my recipe for arepas rumberas.

April 19, 2012

Recipe Facts

Active: 25 mins
Total: 25 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups masarepa (see notes)

  • 1 cup water, plus more as necessary

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons butter

  • Fillings as desired, such as cheese, beans, shredded chicken, or Pulled Pork

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Combine masarepa, water, and vegetable oil in a medium bowl and knead with hands until a dough is formed. Take a small amount and flatten it between your palms. If the edges crack, knead in more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is supple and smooth but not sticky. Season dough to taste with salt, then cover and set aside for 5 minutes.

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  2. Divide dough into 4 even pieces and roll into balls. Working on a wooden cutting board or a regular cutting board with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper on top of it, flatten each ball down to a disk about 4-inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick.

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  3. Melt butter in a 12-inch cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-low heat (see notes). Add arepas and cook, moving them around the pan and rotating them occasionally, until first side is charred in spots and a dry crust has formed, about 5 minutes. Flip arepas and cook on second side until a dry crust has formed, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest 5 minutes, split, fill, and serve.

Special Equipment

12-inch cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet

Notes

Masarepa is dehydrated cooked cornmeal. It is available in the Latin section of most supermarkets in either white or yellow varieties. This recipe calls for white, but they can be freely substituted. Popular brands include Goya and P.A.N.

Arepas can also be cooked on a greased panini press or a grill over low heat.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
193 Calories
5g Fat
35g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 193
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 5mg 2%
Sodium 191mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 132mg 3%
*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.)