We have a serious thing for the Portland restaurant Teote. It’s Latin American-inspired and celebrates the arepa in all forms.
I’d never had an arepa before dining there, but since that first bite, I’ve been back almost weekly. (It doesn’t hurt that they have a killer vegan bowl there, which inspired this Vegan Black Bean Plantain Bowl!)
I started testing arepas of my own recently, but all of my attempts fell slightly short of Teote’s glory. So I did what any sane, normal human would do: I called them and asked for their recipe. And guess what? They basically gave it to me. Well, at least their secrets. And I totally ran with them.
So this, my friends, is it. The key to unlocking perfectly flavorful, crisp-on-the-outside, tender-and-fluffy-on-the-inside arepas! Let’s do this.
What are Arepas?
Arepas are cornmeal cakes that originated hundreds of years ago in a region that now makes up Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama. Traditionally, they were cooked on a pan called a budare. But they can also be grilled, baked, or fried.
Venezuelan arepas tend to be smaller and thicker, while Colombian arepas tend to be sweeter, thinner, and stuffed with cheese. Our version more closely resembles Venezuelan arepas. You can find more traditional recipes for Venezuelan arepas here and Colombian arepas here.
How to Make Arepas
This recipe requires 30 minutes, 1 bowl, and just 3 ingredients: salt, water (which we don’t count as an ingredient), oil for cooking, and areparina or masarepa, which is a special pre-cooked corn flour specifically for making arepas.
How to Make Arepas with Masa Harina
If you don’t have masarepa (an ingredient that can be hard to find, especially organic and non-gmo), I’ve found a workaround that keeps these gluten-free! (Please note it’s not traditional.)
Simply sub the full amount of masarepa (2 cups as the original recipe is written) for 1 1/2 cups masa harina (works far better than cornmeal, but cornmeal can also work), 1/4 cup coconut flour, and 1/4 cup gluten-free flour or arrowroot starch. I also like adding ~1 tsp baking powder when I add in the flours for some rise. Add more gluten-free flour or arrowroot starch as needed until the dough is moldable and not tacky or crumbly. Proceed with the recipe as instructed.
The process is simple: Dissolve salt into the water and slowly add the masarepa until a loose dough forms, stirring with a spoon or your hands.
I use my hands because, when Colombian and Venezuelan grandmas use their hands, you follow suit.
Now, the Teote secret lies in two deviations:
1) Mixing both white and yellow masarepa (which I also recommend doing, as it creates a nice golden color but a light texture and a slightly less bitter flavor).
2) Deep frying (no wonder they taste so good). We did opt for pan frying and then baking to cook the middle all the way through, but by all means, fry away if you want!
Once you get your dough where it should be, let it rest for 5 minutes. Then scoop out fist-size portions and form into a ball.
If the edges crack easily or it feels too dry, add a little more water to moisten. It’s a simple dough to work with. Then it’s as easy as rolling into balls and gently forming / smashing into discs.
Once your arepas are formed, simply pan-fry in a little oil to form a crust (a little deep blackening is OK!), and then finish in the oven to ensure the centers are cooked through (optional but recommended). Then enjoy!
We hope you all LOVE these arepas! They’re:
Crispy on the outside
Tender on the inside
Easy to make
& SO versatile
Arepas can be enjoyed plain, on the side of dishes like our Plantain Black Bean Bowl, or cut into a “pita pocket” and stuffed with just about anything, including rice, Black Beans, Vegan Barbacoa, Jackfruit Taco ‘Meat’, or Guacamole (the options are endless). You could also enjoy them with a little vegan butter and maple syrup as a special treat. Mmm.
If you’re into arepas, also be sure to check out our Fluffy Cornmeal Pancakes, Perfect Vegan Cornbread, and Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins! And stay tuned, as we have an arepa sandwich coming up that’s gonna blow your minds.
If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!
How to Make Arepas (3 Ingredients!)
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 heaped tsp sea salt
- 2 cups areparina* (a.k.a. masarepa – not cornmeal or masa harina // we mixed white and yellow from PAN and GOYA brands – see notes for masa harina modification)
- 1 Tbsp avocado, coconut, or vegan butter for cooking (if avoiding oil, just omit and be sure your pan is non-stick)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Set out a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. And to a large mixing bowl, add water and salt. Stir to combine and dissolve salt.
- A little at a time, add the areparina and stir with a whisk or your hands (our preferred method). You may work your way all the way up to two cups, although we typically have 1-2 Tbsp leftover. You’re looking for a dough that doesn’t easily stick to your hands, is moldable and moist, and can be rolled into a ball. Once you have that consistency, cover with a towel for 5 minutes. We did mix both white and yellow areparina as inspired by Teote (optional).
- Uncover, grab a large handful of dough, and roll into a ball (as the recipe is written, our batch made 6 large arepas, but it could also make 8-10 smaller arepas).
- Carefully press the ball between the palms of your hands to form into a roughly 1/2-inch thick disc (for thinner, crispier arepas, press closer to 1/4 inch). If it cracks a lot on the sides, your dough may need 1-2 (15-30 ml) more water. A little cracking is OK – just use your hands to close the cracks by gently patting along the edges (see photo).
- Once the arepas are formed, heat a large cast-iron or non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add a little oil and swirl to coat. Then add arepas, giving them a little room in between so they don’t touch. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until deep golden brown (a few blackened spots are OK). You’re looking to form a crust. Then flip and cook for 2-3 minutes more or until the underside is also browned.
- Transfer to your parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes or until slightly puffed up and a little more golden brown in color. Some people like to slice into them immediately, but I find they can be a little doughy in the middle at that stage, so I prefer to let them cool for 5-10 minutes and serve while they’re warm but not piping hot.
- To enjoy, slice in half and enjoy as is, spread both sides with vegan butter and a little maple syrup (YUM), or cut the arepa 3/4 of the way around, leaving a seam on the edge so you can “stuff” it like a pita. Fillings could include everything from black beans to rice to guacamole or even our Vegan Barbacoa!
- Best when fresh. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 3-4 days or in the freezer up to 1 month (cooked or uncooked). Reheat in a 350-degree F (176 C) oven until warmed through. If reheating frozen uncooked arepas, I’d recommend letting them thaw first and cooking them as instructed.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate based on 1/6 of the recipe (as written) calculated with 1 Tbsp avocado oil for cooking.