The first time I had Venezuelan arepas was just before we moved to Michigan, when Warren and I stayed with our much cooler friends in New York City. They, of course, knew all the good places to eat and immediately trotted us down to an arepas shop and promised that we would not regret the eons-long line.
And, friends, we did not. We huddled in our little corner of the teensy joint and ate arepas like we were NomNom internet memes. We chowed down, arepa after arepa, until we were so full and delighted with life we just had to cram one more down for the team.
So why did it take us so long to try our hand at arepa-making at home? It all boils down to one thing:
We love those El Salvadoran cousins of the Venezuelan arepa so much and failed so incredibly when we tried making them at home that we just hung our head and mourned the loss of any homemade Latin-inspired corn cakes.
They were just not for us. Not for lack of trying, they just did not like us. Or our kitchen. And so we resigned ourselves to an arepa-free life.
And all it took was for our firstborn to blow past his due date for me to work up the gumption to say, “We are making arepas and that is final.”
In fact, we decided to make arepas for a whole crowd of people because when the child you grow in your womb for nine months decides to overstay his welcome by a week a lady gets desperate. Like, let’s throw a dinner party for our nearest and dearest and make a food that terrifies us because I, 41 Weeks Pregnant Lady, laugh in the face of danger!
Ha! Hahahaha! Heh…?
Also, I really hoped that preparing a dinner party with a food that terrified me would be enough of a butt-kicking for the kiddo that it would induce labor and I wouldn’t actually need to cook said terrifying food.
Felix, of course, did not agree. He sat pretty all up in that womb while his mom and pops made arepas.
In fact, it was kind of great. One might even say fun.
It turns out that we had used the wrong kind of cornmeal when we tried our hand at pupusas, which is why they failed so epically. It also turns out that if you use the right kind of cornmeal to make arepas (it’s called masarepa and it is pre-cooked corn flour that’s found in the Latin food section of your local box supermarket, arepas become–ever so magically–arepas.)
We stuffed these delicious corn cakes with our new favorite Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas, sprinkled the little pockets with cotija cheese, and doused the whole kit and caboodle with guasacaca, which is a green sauce comprised of avocado, parsley and cilantro that will change your life.
I do not say that lightly.
I kid you not: you will want your whole life to be guasacaca-flavored after trying it.
Warren, an avowed avoado hater (how did I manage to marry a man who hates both avocados and shrimp?), even said it was–and I quote–“good.” High praise from that avocado hater of mine.
I love that arepas are both naturally gluten free and demand you to be infinitely creative. We went to an arepas joint in Detroit (El Rey–so good!) a few days ago and got super giddy about trying breakfast arepas–corn cakes stuffed with scrambled eggs, copious amounts of cheese, and beans.
Such a good idea that I need to replicate immediately.
Our arepas dinner party did not encourage Felix to get here any sooner but it did help me conquer my arepas-making fear. And now my only fear is that arepas-making will become an all-consuming obsession because I can’t stop thinking about different versions.
- For the Arepas
- 2 cups white masarepa* (pre-cooked white corn meal. I used Goya band)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups warm water
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- butter for grilling
- For the Guasacaca
- 1 white onion, peeled and cut into fouths
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
- 3 tablespoons white rice vinegar (or other white vinegar)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 cups fresh parsley
- 2 cups fresh cilantro
- salt to taste
- 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- To Assemble Arepas
- 1 batch Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas (link below)
- cotija cheese, for crumbling
- fresh chopped cilantro, for garnishing
- For the Arepas
- In a medium bowl, combine masarepa, salt, and water. Mix with your hands until mixture resembles playdough. Add oil and mix to combine. If the mixture is too dry after adding oil, add a tiny bit more water. Let mixture stand for five minutes.
- Form dough into discs 4-5 inches wide and ½ inch thick. Goat griddle or nonstick pan with butter and cook on medium until arepas are browned on each side (about 7-9 minutes per side). Cooked arepas will sound hollow when tapped. Let arepas cool slightly and cut horizontally ¾ of the way through to form a flap. Stuff with carnitas, cotija, and guasacaca!
- For the Guasacaca
- Toss all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If you have a cheap blender, you'll want to go in batches so it doesn't burn out he motor.
Arepas adapted from Goya
Guasacaca adapted from Use Real Butter
Our favorite Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas
Love tacos? Check out my Taco Tuesday Pinterest board for more ideas!