Making Homemade Arepas

Venezuela always seems to get the credit for arepas, but as far as I'm concerned, they're Colombian too. Historically speaking the arepa was probably being consumed in and around the Andean region before either of these countries were even formed, so no one can truly claim them as their own - I guess that means we'll just leave it at that.

Up until today I'd been buying pre-made arepas in the supermarket. Brands like Don Maiz, Delicias del Maiz, and La Bumanguesa are all pretty good, plus there is a lot of variety available (white corn, yellow corn, with cheese, super thin, thick, with or without salt, etc.).

But on my last trip to the supermarket I decided that I should start making my own. Instead of buying a bag of arepas, I brought home a bag of white cornmeal and this morning for breakfast I made the dough and shaped 6 little arepas. I cooked one to go with my fried egg and refrigerated the rest for snacks throughout the week.

The easiest way to make homemade arepas is to buy a bag of P.A.N. pre-cooked white cornmeal. All you have to do is add water and salt, then you shape them, cook them, and you're done.

I think the most time consuming part of the whole process is making the patties. They don't have to be perfect (kinda like mine) but what is important is a consistent thickness so that they cook evenly. It's pretty simple:

Homemade Arepas
Yields 6 patties

1 1/4 cup luke warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 cup P.A.N. white cornmeal

Place the water  and salt in a bowl and stir to dissolve. Add the cornmeal and begin to mix with a fork. Once most of the water has been absorbed, start mixing with your hand until a slightly tacky dough forms.

Let the dough rest for a few minutes then get to it...

Take a handful of dough and start shaping patties - avoid cracked edges and try not to make them any thicker than 1/4 of an inch.

Place the arepas on a hot, lightly greased skillet and cook until they start to turn golden brown (about 8 minutes) then carefully flip over and repeat on the other side.

Once both sides are a little crisp and golden they should be done. Tap the arepa and it should sound slightly hollow.

Some Notes:

  • If you are making several arepas then have your oven preheated to keep them warm while you cook the rest.
  • If you want to make more arepas you can just double the recipe without any problem.
  • To make cheesy arepas, grate some cheese and add it to the dough before cooking. Another alternative is to sandwich some cheese inside the dough and seal the edges.
  • You can shape the patties and store them in the fridge for a couple of days. That way you'll have arepas ready to throw on the skillet for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
  • In Colombia, arepas are usually served with butter and salt or fresh cheese. I also like them topped with cream cheese.
  • I've never been to Venezuela but from what I gather, one major difference is that they tend to split their arepas in half and smear the inside with butter or cheese or fill them to make a kind of sanwich. Colombian arepas are usually too thin or full of cheese to split in half...

Have you ever made your own arepas? How did it go?

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