Updated: Aug 20
A staple food in both Colombia and Venezuela, Arepas are a very special type of corn cake that is crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. If you’re Colombian or Venezuelan, you’ve ever travelled there, or if you’ve become interested in the cuisines of these countries, you’ll know that arepas are as varied in their styles as they are popular!
Not only are they delicious, arepas are a fantastic alternative to bread for those with dietary restrictions. In their classic form, Arepas are 100% gluten free and dairy free, and can easily be made vegetarian or vegan.
There are so many different ways to prepare and enjoy these delightfully satisfying corn cakes. Whether you’re after a unique, tasty breakfast, a new take on a sandwich, a sweet treat, or you just want something to lather butter over, arepas could be your new best friend.
The key ingredient in arepas is a special type of precooked corn flour called “masarepa” or “areparina”, which is sometimes also known as “arepa flour”.
What is the key Ingredient for Arepas?
Masarepa or Areparina is a special precooked corn flour that is used in most arepa recipes. Traditionally, this ingredient was made by soaking dried corn, and then pounding it to remove the outer lining and seed germ. The remaining part of the corn was then cooked and then ground into a fine powder. Sounds like a lot of work, right? And sure, you can still do it this way, if you’re into that sort of thing. For the rest of us, thankfully, masarepa can now be produced on an industrial level, taking the element of labour right out of the process of making arepas. In order to make a dough, using the right corn flour, it only needs to be combined with water and salt. Easy! You can buy this speciality corn flour online in New Zealand, and it means that arepa recipes are now super simple and quick. You can also get white or yellow arepa - this usually comes down to personal preference.
Corn Flour and Arepas in New Zealand
In New Zealand, corn flour, which is also known as cornstarch, is mostly used as a thickening or binding ingredient, and not usually as the base ingredient for a recipe. Some people may mix it with milk and sugar to make a pudding, but that’s about the extent of it. If you say “corn cake” to a New Zealander, they’ll probably think about corn fritters or dry puffed corn crackers. We’re seriously missing out!
In Colombia, Arepas can be enjoyed for any meal - cooked with an egg inside them for breakfast, prepared as a sandwich for lunch, topped with shredded meat or plain as a dinnertime side. They’re also Colombia’s answer to doner kebabs - food carts capture the foot traffic of those leaving parties and evenings on the town.
Masarepa or arepa flour, for the Kiwis out there, is very different from regular corn flour. Not only is it produced differently from more common varieties, it is also finer, and has a lighter flavour. If you want to get on board with arepas (and we highly recommend you do!), you’ll need to make sure you get yourself some masarepa.
What’s the difference between Colombian and Venezuelan arepas?
Usually, Colombian arepas are thinner than Venezuelan ones, which are often filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables and served sandwich-style. However, this somewhat simplifies the variety of arepas you’ll encounter in these places. In Colombia, for example, each region has a different arepa style associated with it. Anyone you talk to will have their favourite arepa style, and major cities regularly have arepa festivals. For example, in Bogota, a favourite style is to grill them with melted cheese in the middle (an arepa cheese toastie!), while in the Colombian Carribean coast, a popular method is putting an egg into a lightly fried arepa, sealing it, and then deep-frying it until the egg is cooked inside.
Also read differences between White Arepas and Yellow Arepas
What Ways can Arepas be Prepared?
Oh, the options are endless! First of all, you have plenty of options for cooking methods: arepas can be baked, grilled, or deep-fried. Depending on what you feel like, you can have them plain, stuff them with fillings, or add tasty toppings. You can alter the base recipe, the thickness, and the texture.
What else can you make with Arepa Flour?
We think you’ll be pretty busy experimenting with the many varieties of arepa. If Colombian cooking is your bag and you want to try something else, then you can also use masarepa in some empanada recipes. These are deep-fried turnovers that are usually filled with meat, vegetables, or cheese. It isn’t always called for, but more traditional recipes tend to require masarepa.
Can you get Arepa-Flour in New Zealand?
You sure can! You can get it right here. Order Online and we will delivery it to your home!
A Colombian brand is called: Doñarepa [shop now]
The famous Venezuelan brand Harina P.A.N. [shop now]
Or a recommended alternative: Su Sabor [shop now]
Thanks for Reading!