How to make arepas — delicious 3-ingredient pan-fried cornmeal cakes stuffed with all your favorite fillings like refried beans, avocado, dairy-free cheese, and more. A quick, easy, gluten-free, vegan appetizer, snack, or main at breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Southern American cuisine absolutely spoils us with the options for quick, simple, and delicious hand-held treats. Between empanadas, pupusas, tacos, and arepas (to name just a few), there isn’t a week that goes by without at least one featuring on my weekly menu. However, I’m currently enjoying making simple stuffed arepas as a satisfying snack or for any meal of the day.
Not only is this arepas recipe quick and easy, but it requires minimal ingredients and a low-fuss process even children can get involved with. Just prepare the dough, cook it, slice it open, and stuff. Once cooked, the cornmeal cakes are crispy outside and slightly chewy beneath, with a tender inside and a mild corn flavor – ready to fill with all your favorite fillings.
What Is an Arepa?
Arepas are a popular South American food (originating in Colombia and Venezuela) made of an unleavened ground maize dough, traditionally cooked on a budare pan (though they can be grilled, baked, or fried, too) until crisp outside and tender in the middle.
They are then either cut open and stuffed (like a pita pocket – called arepa rellena/stuffed arepa) or eaten alongside cheese, refried beans, meats, seafood, eggs, avocado, salad, etc.
For this version, I make Venezuelan arepas (rather than arepas Colombianas), which are generally slightly thicker and better for stuffing. Though, make them thinner if preferred. Best of all, these tasty cornmeal cakes require just 3 ingredients for the dough, 1 bowl, and about 30 minutes of your time.
All you need for delicious homemade arepas are just three simple ingredients, and two of those are salt and water.
- Masarepa: Arepa dough calls for masarepa, a pre-cooked corn flour (NOT masa harina, which is instant corn masa flour).
- Water: It’s best to use warm water to rehydrate the flour.
- Salt: Just a little to season the arepa dough.
You’ll also need a small amount of neutral cooking oil (like vegetable oil or avocado oil) to pan-fry the arepas.
The Best Vegan Arepa Fillings
Stuff your arepa however you please. I relied on some of my favorite options for delicious meat-free versions. You can use any combination of the below ingredients to make the best vegan arepas.
- Instant Pot refried beans
- Vegan mozzarella cheese
- Tofu scrambled ‘eggs’
- Shredded Jackfruit
- Mushroom ‘gyros’
- Vegetables (like cucumber, tomatoes, pickled red onions, etc.)
Arepa Filling Combinations
- Just dairy-free cheese for arepa con queso
- Scrambled tofu + sliced tomato (or salsa) + avocado
- Tofu scrambled eggs + DF cheese + salsa
- Refried beans + DF cheese + (optional) avocado
- Shredded jackfruit/mushrooms + avocado (or guacamole) + lettuce + tomato
- Shredded jackfruit/mushrooms + pickled red onions + lettuce
You can also rely on other simple ingredients to create simple vegan arepa fillings like:
- Mushrooms + chimichurri sauce
- Sweetcorn + DF cheese
- Sautéed spinach + mushrooms + DF cheese
- Refried beans/black beans + sweet potato/plantain + (optional) DF cheese and/or pickled red onion
- Refried beans + sweet potato + avocado + pickled red onions
- Grilled/roasted vegetables + chimichurri + (optional) DF cheese
Please read the recipe card below for the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information.
How to Make Arepas
- First, pour the warm water into a large bowl with the salt and gradually sprinkle in the pre-cooked corn flour (masarepa), stirring between each addition.
- When it’s cool enough to handle, use your hands to gently knead it for a minute, then allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. When ready, it should be moist but not sticky.
If the dough is too dry (cracking a lot when shaping), add a little more water. If it’s too wet, add more flour (the flour brand, climate, and humidity can all affect this).
- Next, divide the arepa dough into 6 portions (about 110-120 grams per arepa) and roll each into a ball before flattening them into disks about 1/2-3/4-inch thick.
If any small cracks appear, use wet fingers to gently pat them until smooth (refer to the video for visual guidance).
- Heat a large non-stick pan (or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet) over medium heat and add a swirl of oil. Working with 3 arepas at a time, cook them for about 5 minutes per side until they are golden brown on both sides.
- If you want the arepas to be very crispy, then bake them in the oven for 10 minutes at 360 °F/ 180 °C (highly recommended).
- Finally, allow them to cool for just a few minutes before cutting each arepa (a serrated knife works best while holding the warm arepas with a kitchen towel) about ¾ of the way around to create a pocket and stuff them with all your favorite fillings—Enjoy!
You can enjoy these stuffed arepas alone as a snack or light meal, or alongside:
- Fried/ baked plantains
- Yuca fries
- Sweet potato fries
- A simple leafy green side salad
How to Make Ahead and Store
Make ahead: You can prepare the arepa dough and most of the various fillings 2-3 days in advance, storing them in separate airtight containers in the fridge. Allow the dough to come to room temperature before shaping and cooking the arepas.
Store: Allow the (unstuffed) arepas to cool completely before wrapping them in plastic wrap/foil, transferring them to a Ziplock bag or airtight container, and storing them in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Freeze: Either spread them across a tray to flash freeze or individually wrap them, then pop them in a Ziplock and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow one/them to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Reheat: You can reheat arepas in the oven (at 350 °F/175 °C for 10-15 minutes) or in a toaster.
- Use the right arepa flour: Use pre-cooked cornmeal flour (masarepa), which is specifically for arepas, rather than the regular nixtamalized corn masa flour used for tortillas.
- Use warm water: This activates the starches in the flour and hydrates it quicker for a more pliable dough that’s easy to handle.
- Leave the dough to rest: The 10-minute resting time is important, so the water can fully absorb and make the arepa easier to shape without cracking.
- Experiment with fillings: There are plenty of different elements and flavor combinations you can try, so you’ll never get bored. You could even enjoy them just slathered with vegan butter.
- Adjust the shape: You could use the dough to make snack-sized mini arepas, regular ones, or larger ones than specified. You can also make them thinner, more like Colombian arepas.
- Vegan Lentil Enchiladas
- Oven-Baked Vegetable Fajitas
- Chickpea Tacos
- Oven-Baked Spinach Tacos
- Mexican Avocado Salad (vegan)
- Vegan Tortilla Soup Recipe
If you try this easy stuffed arepas recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan and #elavegan—I love seeing them.
Arepas + Filling Ideas
- 2 cups (260 g) pre-cooked corn flour (masarepa - see notes)
- 1¾ - 2 cups warm (420-480 ml) water
- 1 tsp salt
- You can watch the video in the post for visual instructions.First, pour the warm water into a large bowl with the salt and gradually sprinkle in the pre-cooked corn flour (masarepa), stirring between each addition.
- When it's cool enough to handle, use your hands to gently knead it for a minute, then allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. When ready, it should be moist but not sticky.If the dough is too dry (cracking a lot when shaping), add a little more water. If it's too wet, add more flour (the flour brand, climate, and humidity can all affect this).
- Next, divide the arepa dough into 6 portions (about 110-120 grams per arepa) and roll each into a ball before flattening them into disks about 1/2-3/4-inch (1,5-2 cm) thick.If any small cracks appear, use wet fingers to gently pat them until smooth (refer to the video for visual guidance).
- Heat a large non-stick pan (or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet) over medium heat and add a swirl of oil. Working with 3 arepas at a time, cook them for about 5 minutes per side until they are golden brown on both sides.If you want the arepas to be very crispy, then bake them in the oven for 10 minutes at 360 °F/ 180 °C.
- Finally, allow them to cool for just a few minutes before cutting each arepa (a serrated knife works best while holding the warm arepas with a kitchen towel) about ¾ of the way around to create a pocket and stuff them with all your favorite fillings (see below). Enjoy!
- Flour: It's important that you use pre-cooked corn flour (masarepa), NOT regular corn flour, polenta, or corn meal. The brand I use is called "Donarepa", however, Masarepa from Goya is great too. P.A.N. is another popular brand. Please note (if you have celiac disease) that some brands may contain traces of gluten (if they were processed in facilities that also process wheat).
- Fillings: I filled the arepas with homemade refried beans, vegan mozzarella, vegan scrambled eggs, vegan "meat" e.g. jackfruit, or mushrooms, and veggies likes cucumber, tomatoes, and pickled red onions. Click on the links to visit the recipes.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically
IF YOU ARE USING PINTEREST, FEEL FREE TO PIN THE FOLLOWING PHOTO:
These look delicious but I am allergic to corn. Do you think I could substitute cassava flour for the precooked corn flour?
Hi Kathy, I am really not sure, the dough would be most likely completely different and not as pliable and soft.