On the menu today and forever: arepas arepas arepas.
Just warning you in advance that you’re about to make a hot arepa mess and your life will never be the same.
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These are a really big deal in my life right now.
Arepas! Have you had them? Let’s talk about what they are.
What Are Arepas?
Okay, these gems are South American pockets of fried cornmeal-like dough (harina precocida if you want to get technical) and they’re stuffed with every possible good thing you could ever want stuffed in a pocket of fried cornmeal-like dough.
Dream with me for a minute here. Slow cooked carnitas. Chipotle chicken. Shredded beef. Grilled sweet potatoes. Slices of avocado and tomato and other vegetables that I can’t think of right now because THE MEATS. So distracted by the meats. Chimichurris and aiolis galore. Halloumi (except that one little detail that I’ve never actually made halloumi, but this idea is just coming to me right now and I sense that it would be so epic). Black beans. Fried plantains. Pickled red onion. Magic Green Sauce, but I mean, obviously.
I first jumped on the arepa train when my friend Melissa moved to Minneapolis and introduced me to Hola Arepa which is an arepa hot spot here in our little city. Funny (or sad? can’t think about it too much) that sometimes it takes someone else moving into your area to really show you what you’ve been missing out on. Like I’ve lived here for… EVER? and never really knew about this place? WHAT? Major heartbreak. Sometimes I just get so zoned in on the sushi takeout situation that I forget about other foods.
If you live in Minneapolis, spare yourself this heartbreak and pls run to Hola Arepa and get the Carnitas and Sweet Potato Arepa with yucca fries and spicy green aioli. Go now. Tonight. This is not a drill.
Truth: anytime you come across a recipe that requires just *ONE* special ingredient, it can seem daunting and overwhelming and like you can’t even do it because WHAT IS THAT INGREDIENT.
But another truth: friends do not let friends miss out on food this good, so I’m gonna push you.
You’re going to need just ONE new ingredient. It’s called harina precocida or in more familiar terms, pre-cooked cornmeal.
Everything You Need To Know About Harina Precocida, a White Corn Meal
I am generally not super pumped about buying food things online, but in this case I make an exception because overloaded carnitas sweet potato lightly fried arepas and straight-to-my-front-door 48 hour delivery – these are not things I take lightly. I buy this harina precocida on Amazon. For $8, you get a big bag of this stuff that makes you many arepas for many days, and it ships right to your front door in two days because Amazon loves us like that. You could also drive to a grocery store that specializes in Central or South America foods. But honestly. God bless Amazon Prime.
Now, this is important – this is not the same as masa harina which is uncooked. This version is COOKED which means you don’t need to bake it all the way through in the same way as you would with masa harina. I am not sure how substitutions would work – but from what I’ve read, the arepa flour really does get a better texture both inside and outside. #worthit
Let’s Make Arepas
Here’s what the arepa flour / precooked cornmeal looks like:
And here’s the sweet potatoes after you saute them and before you stuff them in the arepas with all your other toppings to the point where they become unrecognizable in the delicious mess:
And here’s where you form the dough discs into little 2-inch thick circles and pan-fry them over medium-high heat in a large skillet. You can fry them in vegetable oil or butter. Flip the arepas once they turn golden brown. If your pan is small, it helps to do this part in batches.
And here’s where the delicious arepa mess makes its way to your hungry mouth.
Zero percent regrets. This is food straight from heaven. Pillowy and loaded with flavor.
Arepas: Frequently Asked Questions
This looks delicious! Any vegetarian protein ideas to put inside the arepas?
Shredded chipotle jackfruit would be delicious! Otherwise, the black beans will provide a protein boost, too.
What is the texture of the arepa like?
The texture of these is a little corn-cakey, so if the insides are a little sticky that’s okay and good.
How long do arepas last?
You can store any leftover fried arepas in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
sweet potatoes, sliced into thin pieces and sautéed in olive oil and salt
red onions (pickled? yum)
Mix the precooked cornmeal and the salt. Add the water and whisk remove any lumps, then stir until combined. Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes.
Using your hands, divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten in gently to create a disk, about 1 inch thick (see pictures).
Heat a thin layer of oil (about 1/4 inch deep) in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the arepas and fry for about 6 minutes on both sides. The arepas should get a dry fried exterior without getting overly brown. Set on paper towels to drain and cool.
Cut the arepas in half and stuff with your fillings!
*Note: I have studied arepa recipes a little bit to make sure I’m generally going in the right direction here, but as usual, I claim no authority or authenticity on my arepa skills other than THESE ARE DELICIOUS. If you want to share how YOU make arepas, I’d love to hear. Please leave a comment!