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Author Notes: I had my first Venezuelan Arepas at a food cart in Portland, OR. I had no idea what I was missing. The minute I had one, I was hooked, and decided that I must teach myself to make them at home.
After a little research, I discovered that the key to successful arepas is the corn flour. It must be pre-cooked. Everyone recommended Harina PAN, so I sent the husband on a little reconnaissance mission and he returned home with the requisite yellow bag. I'm not sure how prolific it is elsewhere in the U.S., but he had no problem finding it at a neighborhood Latin American grocery store.
The original arepas recipe is from Gluten-Free Girl and it's surprisingly easy and foolproof. I made mine vegetarian, but I'm sure they're equally delicious with meat of your choice. - clcatto
For the arepas
- 2 cups pre-cooked white cornmeal (Harina PAN)
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
- Put the warm water, salt and oil into a medium-sized bowl.
- Slowly pour in the cornmeal, while mixing with a wooden spoon (you're trying to avoid lumps).
- Use a clean hand to mix the ingredients together until the mixture feels moist and grainy. It will become drier as it sits, so don't over-mix. If the mixture is too wet and sticks to your hand, add a little more cornmeal. If it's too dry and starts to crack, add a little more water.
- To form the corn cakes, grab a chunk that's a little larger than a golf ball and form it into a ball. Pat it into a flat disc between your hands. It should be about 1/2 inch thick or a little less. If it's too thick, it won't cook all the way through.
- To cook the corn cakes, lightly coat a skillet with vegetable or canola oil. Fry the cakes over low to medium heat, taking care not to burn them. Cook each side until it's golden brown. Finish cooking them in a 350 degree oven on a baking sheet - about 15 minutes, until the insides are done (but slightly doughy).
- Slice them in half and serve with your filling of choice (see below for mine).
For the black beans and citrus slaw
- 1-2 cans black beans (don't rinse), or soak your own
- 1 bay leaf
- cumin, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, to taste
- For the citrus slaw:
- 2-3 cups worth of shredded jicama, green and purple cabbage, and carrots
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- handful of cilantro, chopped
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- For the black beans: Add all the ingredients to a medium size saucepan and let simmer over medium heat while preparing the arepas. Remove the bay leaf before serving.
- For the citrus slaw: Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, taste, and adjust to your liking.
- Once the arepas are ready, split them in half and layer them with black beans and citrus slaw, topped off with a sprinkle of cotija. Serve with a side of tostones (fried plantains).