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The Recipe for the Ultimate Venezuelan Arepa

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

Ever since I’ve had a conscience, arepas have been a staple in my Sunday breakfasts at home. No matter what country we lived in, or whether we were traveling, I have a clear image of my dad waking up a little earlier to start the arepa-making process for my family. I’m sure this (or a variation of it) is a universal experience in every Venezuelan household, where arepas are a symbol of unity, tradition, and comfort. The experience can range from a simple yet fulfilling ham and cheese arepa wrapped in aluminum foil to take on-the-go, to a Sunday brunch with the extended family where the table barely has any space left due to the immense variety of fillings available. How arepas are made and what we put in them varies from home to home, but what you can always find in a Venezuelan household is a bag of Harina PAN, in some cases secured with a bright-colored plastic clip. It’s one of those products that brings an entire nation together, and we all know we could not live without our beloved bright yellow bag of corn flour.

What are arepas?

Put in simple terms, arepas are cornmeal cakes usually cooked on a griddle and are eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. As a Venezuelan, I will always say that arepas are from Venezuela only, no questions asked, and that Colombia copied us. However, these are also very common in Colombia, and you might hear Colombians defend the meal “as if” it was native to their country. There are different ways to prepare and eat arepas, not only with the extra ingredients you could add but also the way these can be cooked. As I said, they’re most commonly made on the griddle, but they can also be baked, fried, or boiled. They are usually salty in flavor, but by adding anise, panela, or plantain, they can become a sweet addition to a variety of dishes.

As a community, we have named our arepas in many different ways according to what we put on them. Some examples are La Reina Pepiada (filled with a mix of shredded chicken and avocado), La Pelúa (filled with shredded beef and shredded yellow cheese), La Dominó (filled with black beans, or caraotas, and shredded salty cheese), and La de Pabellón, my favorite (filled with shredded beef, caraotas, sweet plantains, and shredded salty cheese).

how to make arepas

Ingredients for the arepas themselves (8 counts):

  • 2 cups of Precooked white cornmeal (for an authentic experience, try Harina P.A.N.®, the bright yellow bag)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water
  • Optional: shredded mozzarella cheese, measured with the heart

Possible fillings:

  • Butter, ham, and cheese
  • Shredded beef (carne mechada) and yellow cheese
  • Shredded chicken with avocado (reina pepiada)
  • Shredded cheese (on the salty side) with black beans (queso rallado con caraotas, AKA dominó)
  • For a Texan twist to it, pulled pork (trust me, it’s REALLY good)

Procedure: (this varies from house to house, so I’m sharing how we do it in my family)

  • Mix cornmeal and salt in a bowl to evenly distribute the salt (if you’re adding cheese, now is the time!)
  • Gradually add the water until the mixture forms a malleable dough (you won’t always need all the water)

You’ll know the dough is ready once you can knead it against the bowl walls and it doesn’t stick to your fingers.


  • Divide dough into 8 even-sized pieces and shape them into arepas (should look similar to hamburger patties)
  • Heat up a *little bit* of oil on a griddle or a large skillet, and once the surface is hot, put it on low-medium heat.
  • Add your arepas to your surface (make sure they don’t collide with one another) and let them cook for around 4-5 minutes per side or until golden brown.
  • Flip them and finish cooking (without burning them!)
  • Once you take them out of the heat and let them cool for a bit, take a knife and slice through them horizontally halfway like a pita pocket or all the way like a hamburger bun.
  • Add your fillings (measured with the heart) and enjoy!

As I think about the classic Arepa recipe, I can’t help but get a little nostalgic. A meal with an arepa can represent families in so many ways. And right now, being swamped with midterms and away from my family, it makes me miss those Sunday breakfasts a bit more. But whenever that nostalgia kicks in, I invite over a couple of my closest friends, make arepas for all of them, and remember why a dish like this one unites an entire country the way it does. #MásVenezolanaQueLaArepa

Ana Applewhite is a member of the Her Campus TAMU chapter and is currently exploring her interests as a writer. She is passionate about digital media and finding the best way to communicate exciting experiences. Beyond Her Campus, Ana is the VP of Administration for the Aggie Advertising Club and the Recruitment and Events Director for the Venezuelan Student Association. She is pursuing a degree in Marketing which is her absolute favorite thing in the world, and every time she learns something new about it, she falls in love with her career a little bit more.