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Cheese Arepas, Cornbread Cakes (VIDEO)


Soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, these Arepas are so tasty and surprisingly easy to make. All you need are a few ingredients to make them at home. Arepas are so versatile as you can stuff them with all the fillings your heart desires and enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

corn cakes on a red plate with salsa near by

The guest, who is also a friend, in my kitchen today is sharing her favorite recipe for Arepas. This is her specialty and she can make them in her sleep. Leyla, who is originally from San Luis Potosí Mexico, grew up with this dish and made it with her mom many times.

corn cakes on a griddle

This dish has a deep history with roots dating back to pre-Columbian time.

Many generations grew up on this comfort food and you can find under the name Arepas all over South America or Gorditas in Mexico. All South American countries make some sort of corn cakes.


Here is another recipe, that Leyla made in my kitchen;

spooning sauce over the pepper

WHAT IS AREPAS?

Arepas (ah-RAY-pas) is a traditional comfort food from South Amerika. It is simple cornbread cakes that can be served as a snack or as part of any meal. They are very versatile. Once you learn the basics of making them you will be able to do variations. They can be stuffed with pretty much anything, leave plain or use them like pita pockets.

But the thing that makes all arepas unique from other corn-based breads is the type of cornmeal used to make them.


WHAT KIND OF CORNMEAL IS USED TO MAKE AREPAS?

Arepas must be made with cornmeal from pre-cooked ground corn (harina de maìz precocida). If you don't see it at your local grocery, check any Latin American markets in your area. I have to mention it is not the same as masa harina.

Always make sure that the cornmeal you purchase is specifically labeled arepas flour, arepas harina, or masarepas flour.


WHAT CAN I STUFF WITH AREPAS?

More often these corn cakes are stuffed with savory fillings but there are no limitations here.

Stuff them with cheese, meats such as BBQ chicken or pork, with black beans, or really anything you wish. Seriously, anything that you have in the fridge and needs to be used up can be used to stuff your arepas!

In the video, I used fresh mozzarella and cooked leftover pulled chicken (leftovers from a Caribbean style dinner party).


The Basic Recipe for Arepas

You only need 4 ingredients to make basic arepas, which are water, flour, salt and butter or another fat such as lard (it's more traditional), coconut oil, etc.

Also if your griddle is not greased well, you may need a little oil for cooking. So, in a way, all your staple ingredients that every household has is needed.

There's only ONE INGREDIENT, which you may not have as a staple and that is of course, the arepas cornmeal.


STEPS ON HOW TO MAKE AREPAS

  1. Whisk together the salt and arepas cornmeal and create a well in the middle using your hands.

  2. Pour warm water into the well.

  3. Add some room temperature butter.

  4. Add shredded cheese of your choice.

  5. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms.

  6. Make a ball using your hands and see if it's not cracking, and if it is, then add more water.

  7. Make a ball, flatten it and add the filling that you desire, press and close up. Roll again into a ball. Then flatten it again.

  8. Place on a hot griddle immediately and cook on low-medium heat for about 5 minutes per side.

  9. Repeat with the rest of the dough.


TIPS FOR MAKING AREPAS LIKE A PRO

The dough should be just barely sticky on your fingers. Just add a little cornmeal or warm water, depending if the dough is too sticky or dry, to get to that texture. Also, don’t worry if the dough seems a little watery at first. It firms up quickly as it cools. Once you prepare the arepas and not cook them immediately, they may start to crack. No worries if that happens, just use a little bit more water to smooth up again.

HOW TO SERVE AREPAS?

You can serve with any popular Latin America dish. I like to keep it simple, since my arepas have so much flavor. They go beautifully with salsa as a great starter or can be eaten as a light lunch or dinner.

salsa in a jar and tomatoes

Let's make it...


Prep time: 5 minutes

Making time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Author: Inna of innichkachef.com

Yield: 8-10 pieces

ingredients

Ingredients for the arepas

2 cups precooked white corn flour (see the note above on where to find it)

2 teaspoons pink salt 2-3 tablespoons room temperature butter

1/4 of a pound mozzarella cheese grated, or any cheese

2 teaspoons garlic powder (optional, but really gives nice flavor to savory arepas)

1&1/4 cups warm water or more if needed (see tips above)

Coconut oil for the griddle (you may not need)


Ingredients for the filling (its optional)

Fresh mozzarella cheese or the cheese of your choice

Leftover pulled chicken, or meat of your choice


Directions

  • To make the dough, in a bowl add flour, salt, garlic powder and shredded cheese. Mix all together using your hands.

  • Add butter and try to mix everything together. It will be dry, but that is ok. Now start adding water, and you may need more than I added. To test to see if your dough is good to go, make a little ball and see if it's completely smooth. If it has cracks that means you need more moisture (water).

  • To make arepas, take about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll in your palms. Then make flat and add the filling of your choice. Close with your fingers, and reshape into a ball and then flatten between your palms again.

  • Place on a hot griddle and cook for a few minutes per side. They should be nice golden brown, very crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The sides during cooking will change color too. Pay attention because if the arepas are doughy, then it hasn't cooked long enough.

  • Cook arepas in batches, don't wait until you make them all (about 12). It is best to cook as you go.

  • Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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