When I first came to the United States just about 16 years ago, it was hard for me to explain to the majority of people I ran into what Arepas were. In many of my attempts to explain to friends what an Arepa was and the shape of it, I recalled friends from Mexico saying they are like a “fat tortilla” or in many cases a “big white corn meal cookie” that was about a half inch thick. Now, fast forward all of these years later, I’m happy to see more Latino and Venezuela restaurants offering Arepas, which gives me more time to explain the things you can fill them with. In Venezuela, you can eat Arepas at anytime—for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
To keep things a bit simple, let’s make my favorite Arepas with ham and cheese.
What you need to buy
- You need to buy precooked cornmeal, better known as “Harina P.A.N”. You can find the yellow bag of flour in many Latino or International Supermarkets.
- Oil (any kind of oil is fine).
- A good cheese—the one that melts, I recommend Chihuahua Mexican cheese.
- Butter – I like a good, all natural butter, so I suggest Irish Butter or an Amish butter roll.
- Ham – any ham is good.
1 lb of Harina P.A.N (other brands like Maseca or Masarepa)
1 Tablespoon of salt
1 Tablespoon of oil
4 cups of warm water
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
- Slowly start adding the flour, start mixing all ingredients with your hand to avoid lumps.
- Start making balls about the size of your hand and then flatten to about ½” thick.
- In a hot pan, place the Arepas and let them cook on each side for about 6-9 minutes (just don’t let them burn!).
- Once both sides are cooked, make sure you tap them in the middle and if the sound is hollow they are ready to eat.
- With a knife slice though the middle, remove the excess of cooked cornmeal and create a pocket.
- Place your ham and cheese inside the Arepa and eat!
Side note: You can also fry Arepas (Arepas Fritas) or make Sweet Arepas (Arepas Dulces – just add sugar to step 2)