Perhaps you’ve read my post about the best Venezuelan restaurants in Buenos Aires or you know me in real life; whatever the case, it’s pretty clear I LOVE Venezuelan food. Thankfully, when it came to finding the love of my life, it also came with discovering the food for my soul: tequeños, golfeados, empanadas, papelón con limón, patacones and the list goes on. But perhaps Venezuela’s greatest and best contribution to the culinary world is the arepa.
To put it simply, arepas are magical. They are ambrosia. They are a gift from God. They are made with few ingredients, can be prepared easily and quickly and are incredibly versatile—you can stuff them with ANYTHING YOUR HEART DESIRES. Venezuela saw the world using bread and said, “Oh no hunny, what is you doing?” and gave us something so much better. So for my fellow non-Venezuelans, what I’m trying to say is that arepas are sandwich bread, they are hamburger buns, they are hot dog buns, they are tortillas, they are French bread or ciabatta bread, they are bagels (ok, maybe I’ve gone too far but I would totally take a Lox bagel and replace the bagel with an arepa just to try it)…they are whatever you want them to be. And that’s the magic of arepas.
But how do you make them? Like I said, they can be made quickly and easily so let’s get started.
How to Make Arepas
Method One: Arepas Asadas / Arepas al Horno
Method One is potentially the healthier way to consume arepas, though I am not saying arepas are healthy. They are gluten free so if you want to use that to justify eating them, that’s your own life. I will say this is my preferred way of making them because it comes with a far less chance of me setting off the smoke alarm.
For this method, you will need a budare, or more practically, a cast iron skillet. A budare is the pan used in Venezuela to make arepas asadas. It’s flat and laid on top of the stove. From what I understand, budares are like, the Venezuelan version of a southerner’s cast iron skillet. What I mean by this is: people brag about how old theirs is and who they got it from. So…yes, basically a cast iron skillet just flat. I love ours dearly and will NEVER part with it and for this reason I will probably always have a gas stove even though we live in 2020, folks.
Method Two: Arepas Fritas
Ah, yes, the fried arepa. So now you see why I said the first method is a bit healthier. With this method, you will fry the arepas in hot vegetable oil of your choosing. But before we get to cooking ‘em, let’s make ‘em.
1 cup warm water
1 cup Harina PAN (I recommend this brand and ONLY THIS BRAND. You can get it at your local Hispanic grocery. Even if they’re not Venezuelans, in my experience, they always still sell Harina PAN…additionally, you can use the white or yellow mix. We prefer the white but you can try whichever way you like! The recipe is still prepared the same way.)
- Heat up 1 cup of water. You want it to be warm to the touch but not too hot.
- Pour the water in a large bowl.
- Pour 1 heaping cup of Harina PAN into the water and salt to your liking. Begin mixing with your hands. It’s like kneading dough but wetter and less sticky. You want to keep adding cold water (about 1/2-3/4 cup) to the mix as you go. Mix for 4 to 5 minutes with your hands.
- Prepare to cook them. If doing Method One: lightly oil the cooking surface and turn the stove to medium-high heat. If doing Method Two: fill a deep skillet with about a half inch of vegetable oil (we use sunflower oil but any vegetable oil will do). You want to get it hot but if it starts smoking, it’s way too hot and your arepas will burn and you will set off the smoke alarm. Trust me on this. Before placing an arepa in the oil, tear a piece off and test the frying oil to see if it’s ready.
- Form the arepas. Start by forming a ball with your hands, rolling it back and forth. It should be slightly smaller than your palm depending on what size you want your arepas. Work your hands side to side, forming the ball into what I think looks like a UFO. I can’t upload my own videos on here unfortunately BUT here’s a link to my Instagram where you can watch a Story highlight on my page called “AREPAS.” Once the UFO is formed, flatten into a round disk. Using the side of your palm, round and smooth out the edges of the disk. The arepas should be around 1” thick.
- Place arepas on the cooking surface. If doing Method One: cook each side for five to ten minutes and then tap the outside of the arepa. If it “sounds” sturdy and the outside has started to brown and get crunchy, then you’re ready Freddy. If not, cook until you get there. If doing Method Two: fry each side until brown spots form. Tip: poke a hole in the middle of the arepa before frying, either with a straw or your pinky finger. This helps it fry more evenly. Once finished, place on paper towels to cool.
- Cut the arepas BUT not all the way through!! It should be like you’re cutting into something to make a pocket and then stuff that pocket with the GOOD STUFF! Recipe for the Good Stuff below. And if you don’t like the Good Stuff, check out More Stuffing Ideas below the following recipe.
How to Make Reina Pepiada
Reina Pepiada is the Queen of my life. I love her. Dare I even say it but…I would die for her. That’s how loyal I am when it comes to Reina Pepiada. Reina Pepiada is not vegan BUT I think it would still taste delicious without the chicken and chicken stock! Other options would be to sub with grilled chik’n or chickenless chicken patties, soybeans, chickpeas or even tofu. But alas, the best way to eat reina pepiada is with chicken so…sorry.
2 chicken breasts
Water from boiling the chicken
Handful of cilantro
1 medium onion
2 ripe avocados
6 Tbsp mayonnaise
- Boil the chicken breasts with half a handful of cilantro for 25 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
- While the chicken is boiling, finely dice a medium to large sized yellow onion and add to a large bowl.
- Halve 2 ripe avocado sand scrape out the insides into the bowl.
- Cut a generous handful of cilantro and set aside.
- Once the chicken is cooked through, shred it and add 1/4 cup of the broth from boiling the chicken to the bowl (you may add more or less as you mix, up to you!)
- Mix together the shredded chicken, avocado and onion.
- Add 6 heaping Tbsp of mayonnaise to the mixture and then salt and pepper to taste.
- Finally, add the chopped cilantro and the juice of one lime. Mix together one last time, serve with fresh arepas and enjoy!
If you have any questions about making arepas or reina pepiada, don’t be afraid to reach out! This is the first recipe I’ve ever written and it was done so by watching my husband make food he’s made a thousand times so all measurements are actually just guesses while watching him cook. HOWEVER, I think it all came out okay. If you enjoyed this recipe post, please let me know so I know whether to make more! If you have any suggestions on how to improve the recipe (the way it’s written, the directions, etc.) also let me know. LASTLY, if you make arepas or reina pepiada, tag me on Instagram @literallyrachel or add a picture of your “try” to my Pinterest post.