If you are looking for an easy, made-from-scratch recipe that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner in a variety of ways, this is the dish to try.
I have been a fan of homemade arepas ever since I first tried them from a fantastic little food truck I randomly stumbled upon in the park. I remember that they were giant, warm, and topped with sour cream, jalapeno, and freshly chopped cilantro.
It was such a simple idea and I started imagining all the delicious possibilities that dough could create.
Some of you may be asking, what are arepas?
They are a traditional recipe from Colombia, and each region actually has their own take to mix things up. A precooked and dehydrated corn flour called masarepa is most commonly used as the base, in either white or yellow.
Part of what makes this versatile recipe so wonderful is that it can be enjoyed at any time of day. The corn cakes can be prepared in so many different styles, and a variety of sizes as well.
Our recipe calls for finely ground traditional cornmeal to form the base of the dough, and I think it gives the cakes a more robust flavor. You could also try a white cornmeal, or even try making your own if you have a grain mill at home.
I love to give the cakes their own unique taste instead of making them with a plain dough that you stuff or top with a variety of more flavor-intense ingredients. Rather than making a smooth batter, I also like my arepas to have some serious texture going on inside, making them that much more flavorful as a vehicle for other ingredients to be piled on top.
They are crispy on the outside, warm and fluffy on the inside, with little gems of corn, jalapeno, and cheese throughout each tasty morsel.
The pop of fresh corn paired with the buttery richness of the cornmeal really brings life to every single bite. The spice of the jalapeno and the bite of sharp cheddar cheese the icing on the cake of these delightfully easy-to-make bites.
It’s really incredible how easy this recipe is to make. Usually, made-from-scratch recipes can be a little intimidating, especially if you aren’t familiar with the food type itself.
However, even if you aren’t familiar with arepas, you can make these little golden rounds of dough unbelievably easily, even if it’s your first time. You simply mix the batter, let it rest (while you enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, of course), and cook them up.
Once they are cooked, then you get into an endless slew of possibilities for serving.
I love to eat these particular arepas simply, with a dollop of sour cream on top and an extra sprinkle of chopped cilantro. But you can get as adventurous as you want with these cakes.
Top them with guacamole or salsa, or spice them up with a few dashes of hot sauce. Another option is topping them with the roasted tomatillo salsa you have leftover from these homemade shredded chicken tacos. You can even use the chicken with these as well.
Keep reading after the recipe for even more delicious suggestions!Print
Have you ever tried homemade arepas? Corn and cheese come together to make the most delicious version you’ll ever taste.
- 1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup fresh sweet corn kernels (or frozen kernels, thawed)
- 1/4 cup chopped scallion
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 3 Tbsp canola oil
- Optional Toppings: sour cream, cilantro, salsa, black beans, shredded chicken or pork, guacamole
- Add cornmeal, salt, and cheese to a large bowl. Stir to combine, and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until steam rises. And butter and stir until it is melted. Remove from heat.
- Pour milk mixture into cornmeal mixture. Stir until a thick batter is formed.
- Fold in corn, scallions, cilantro, and jalapeno.
- Let batter rest for 15 minutes. It will form a soft dough.
- Gently form dough into 3 to 4-inch balls, and flatten them into discs with your hands. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours.
- Heat oil in a large skillet. Working in batches, cook the arepas for 5 minutes on one side over medium heat. Once golden brown, flip and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove from skillet to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Serve warm with butter or sour cream on top.
- You can also slice them in half and fill them with a variety of ingredients like shredded meat, black beans, and guacamole.
Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman.
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Latin American
Keywords: arepas, corn, cheese
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
If it isn’t already prepped, grate the cheese. An aged sharp cheddar adds excellent flavor.
Remove the seeds from the jalapeno (or keep some in if you like a spicy meal), and mince it.
Remove the stems and roughly chop the cilantro. Chop the scallions as well, both the white and green parts.
Measure the remaining ingredients. Be sure to set the ingredients out in the order they are listed to make it easier to grab each as you go along.
Step 2 – Make Batter
In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, and cheese.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until it is steaming. Stir in the butter until it is melted.
Add this warm mixture to the cornmeal mixture. Stir until a thick batter forms, then fold in the corn, scallions, cilantro, and jalapeno.
Step 3 – Let Batter Rest
Set the batter aside in a room temperature location for 15 minutes.
This will help the batter to form into a soft dough, giving the cornmeal some time to absorb the water.
Step 4 – Form Patties
Using your hands, gently scoop out 3 to 4 tablespoons of the mixture at a time. Form each into a ball, then flatten them into patties.
Set them on a lightly greased platter or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper until you are ready to cook, so they won’t stick together.
Step 5 – Cook
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties in batches, frying them on one side for 5 minutes.
Flip and cook them on the other side for about 3 minutes, until golden and cooked through.
Remove from the skillet to a paper towel lined plate to drain any excess oil.
Step 6 – Top or Fill
Serve the arepas warm. You can top them with dollops of sour cream and chopped cilantro, or give butter and fresh pico de gallo a try.
An alternate serving method is to slice the cakes in half, and stuff them with shredded chicken or pork, black beans, cotija cheese, or guacamole. Get creative with your own ideas!
Always a Good Idea for Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner
I gave you a lot of ideas above about how to serve up these arepas up for lunch or dinner, but let’s take a quick moment to talk about how arepas can easily be served up as a delightful breakfast.
Since these cakes are so versatile, they go with any savory combination you can think of.
Consider topping them with a fried egg, salsa, and hot sauce for a spicy start to the day.
Alternatively, try splitting them in half and building an easy bacon and egg breakfast sandwich.
Another option is to spread them with a heaping helping of butter and raspberry preserves, giving you a sweet, savory, and spicy kick to pair with your morning coffee.
Endless options, right?
Tell us what topping or filling you would try first in the comments below or if you’re a corn lover, be sure to check out some of our other tasty recipes:
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Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon and Kelly Carámbula on September 25th, 2009. Last updated: August 22, 2021 at 10:56 am. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.