Venezuelan Arepas: All You Need to Know

Arepas are the daily bread for Venezuelans. The difference? It is made with precooked corn flour, it is round and white -like a full moon- and spongy and soft on the inside, while crusty and crunchy on the outside. Also, it has a very soft corn flavor, sometimes it is so soft that some people believe the filling is what provides the taste.

Although Venezuelans tend to eat arepas for breakfast, this is not written in stone. Some people have them for dinner and even for lunch, so you can have it any time of the day without a problem. 

Ingredients of Venezuelan Arepas:

  • 1.6 lbs of Pre-cooked cornflour
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1 tsp. of oil or butter

How to make Venezuelan Arepas?

  1. Add some water to a bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt and dissolve it. Then, add the precooked corn flour little by little or in parts. 
  2. Mix and knead it until forming a soft dough. It should be a little sticky but manageable. 2 or 3 minutes should be enough
  3. Once it is well-knead, let it rest for 2 or minutes and knead again. If it is too dry, pour your hands in water and knead with that water, it should be enough to make it soft again.
  4. Make small dough balls -as if you were doing meatballs- and flatten them until they are around half-inch thick or so (depends on you).
  5. Add a teaspoon of oil to a pan and extend it over the surface. Heat it a little and place the arepas on top. Lower the heat and let it cook until it hardens on the bottom (around 3 to 5 minutes). Turn it over and repeat.
  6. When there’s a crust on both sides take it to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Ready? Take them out of the oven and cut them on a side (Careful! They are hot!). Fill it with whatever you want and serve!

Popular Fillings and Stuffings for Arepas

Arepa Sifrina

Sifrina Arepa
The arepa Sifrina is made with Reina Pepiada and any grated yellow cheese.

Arepa Domino

Domino Arepa
The Arepa Domino consists of young grated white cheese and black beans.

Arepa Pelúa

Arepa Pelua
The Arepa pelúa is pulled or shredded beef with any grated yellow cheese.

Arepa Rumbera

Rumbera Arepa
The Arepa Rumbera contains pork leg and any grated yellow cheese.

Arepa Llanera

Arepa Llanera
The Arepa llanera is filled with grilled beef, grated hard white cheese, avocado and tomato.

Arepa con Perico

Arepa con Perico
The Perico Arepa is made with a popular egg preparation in Venezuela called Perico.

Arepa Catira

Catira Arepa
The Arepa Catira is filled with Shredded Chicken and Grated Yellow Cheese.

Reina Pepiada

Reina Pepiada Arepa
The Arepa Reina Pepiada is filled with chicken, avocado and different vegetables.

Other Stuffings and Fillers of Arepas

  • Arepas con Queso: The most popular ones are yellow cheese, guava cheese, telita cheese, or grated white cheese, with or without butter.
  • Al Caballo: It is an arepa with a fried egg on top.
  • Gringa: It is like a traditional hamburger, but instead of bread, all the ingredients are placed inside an arepa.
  • Pabellón: Larded meat, black beans, and fried ripe plantain slices, some add grated white cheese.
  • Potato: Grated cheese, black beans, and sliced avocado.
  • Pernil: Baked pork leg, accompanied by tomato and mayonnaise.
  • Mattress Breaker (Rompecolchón): It contains a mixture of several kinds of seafood like octopus, squid, oysters, and shrimps in vinaigrette.
  • Santa Bárbara: It contains a beef steak, accompanied by cheese and avocado.
  • Viuda: It is a single arepa without filling.
  • Arepa with ham and cheese.
  • Arepa with butter and whole or grated white cheese.
  • Arepa with chicken salad.
  • Arepa with pulled or ground meat.
  • Arepa with black roast.
  • Arepa with chicharrón.
  • Arepa with chorizo, sausage, or bologna.
  • Arepa with chicken.
  • Arepa with tuna with tomato, onion, and mayonnaise.
  • Arepa with dogfish.
  • Sweet arepas with raw sugar and aniseed.

Why are they called Arepas?

According to some historians, the origin of the name arepa comes from the Cumanagotos Indians who inhabited the region known today as the state of Anzoátegui in Venezuela, who called erepa the round corn bread they used to eat. The current name may have come from a modification of the word erepa by the Spanish conquerors.

Other more ancient records indicate that different indigenous peoples in Colombia and Venezuela already used the word arepa to refer to a food based on ground corn when the Europeans arrived to the continent.

The oldest reference to the word arepa is provided by the Italian, Galeotto Cei, in his writing published in 1560, Viaje y descripción de las Indias.

Fun Fact: The word arepa was accepted by the Royal Spanish Academy in 1884.

Where do Arepas come from?

The arepa already existed before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors to America and along with the yucca, to make the cazabe, it was part of the basic diet of the Indigenous peoples in the area. Arepas resemble the pupusas and gorditas of Central America and Mexico.

History of the Arepa

According to several historians and archaeological data, the origin of the arepa begins about 3,000 years ago in the indigenous territories that were shared by Colombia and Venezuela in ancient times. The preparation of the arepa was the result of the production of corn, an essential food of the indigenous peoples in the American continent.

In the current territory of Venezuela, the tribes cultivated several types of corn: the white, for roasting; black and white, long corn, ash color and the one called by the Spaniards cariaco corn, while the cumanagotos called it erepa, which could give origin to the name of arepa.

In 1548, the king’s accountant in Venezuela, Pedro Ruiz de Tapia, pointed out that corn arepas were the food of the Indians for lunch and dinner.

In 1554, the Spanish conqueror, chronicler and historian of the Andean world, Pedro Cieza de León, in his work Crónica del Perú, whose second part, El señorío de los Incas, published in 1871, records the consumption of arepa in the province of Cartagena.

In 1626, the Spanish Franciscan, professor and chronicler, Pedro Simón, registered the consumption of Arepas in his work: Noticias historiales de las conquistas de Tierra Firme en las Indias Occidentales, 1626.

Fun Fact: In Colombia, the existence of corn dates back to 3,000 years ago, while in Venezuela, it is about 2,800 years old. But, this cannot assure that the origin of the arepa is Colombian, since the arepa as it is known today could have originated years later.

Venezuelan Arepas FAQ’s

Are Arepas, Gorditas and Pupusas the same?

Even though, Arepas, Gorditas and Pupusas are very similar, they are not the same. Differently to Gorditas and Pupusas, which are used as side dish, Arepas are stuffed with different fillings and they are considered a main dish. Also, the cooking ingredients (precooked corn flour) and methods are different, as Arepas can be baked, grilled or fried.

Do Arepas need to be refrigerated?

Once they are done, they do. They will be good for 2 to 3 days, but it is important to water them and bake them in the oven for a few minutes before eating them again. If you do it in the microwave, the dough will change its original texture and flavor.

Do Arepas have gluten?

No. Arepas are made with corn and this is a gluten-free ingredient. In other words, Arepas are safe for celliacs and people who can’t -or don’t want to- eat gluten.