I’ve had a hankering for something delicious, gluten free, and roll-like to use as a sandwich holder. It’s difficult to find rolls in the store that are gluten free, taste good, and aren’t made with a long list of ingredients and sugar in disguise (evaporated cane juice and tapioca syrup). So I decided to make my own. Enter the arepas! What is that you wonder? I think of it as an Hispanic English muffin. (I hope I haven’t just offended anyone.) It’s a flat bread that is prevalent in Columbia and Venezuela. Similar versions are also found in Mexico and other Latin American countries. They make fabulous holders for many different types of fillings.
While the arepas is not low carb, it is way better for you, and I think way better tasting, than the gluten free rolls that are available in the stores. There are only 4 ingredients plus water and they’re a cinch to make. The arepas dough is extremely easy and foolproof to handle. It feels like play dough and the dough disks are quick and easy to form.
I searched for awhile for the best arepas recipe. Some were too dry, others were too sticky and unappealing. Cook’s Illustrated has the best recipe and I’m featuring it here.
There are almost an infinite number of arepas fillings. Think about the sandwich and how many varieties there are. So arepas are a great way to use up leftovers since they can be stuffed with so many different things. I developed a tasty option, so stay tuned next week for my Spiced Shredded Chicken, Pepper, and Onion Filling. I serve the uncut arepas at the table, along with the chicken filling and condiments such as guacamole (or plain sliced avocado and cubed tomato) and crumbled cheese. Everyone enjoys making their own creations.
See note at the bottom of the ingredient list for where to find the corn meal and what works as a substitute.
- 2 cups masarepa blanca (also called masa harina)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 1/2 cups warm water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Note: Masarepa is a precooked corn flour that is also called harina precocida and masa harina. It's often available in the Latin American section in supermarkets or from Amazon.
- Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 400°.
- Stir the masarepa, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Gradually add the water and stir to form a dough. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Form into eight rounds, about 3 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick pan over medium high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add 4 of the arepas and cook until golden on one side, flip over and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining 4 arepas. Note: the arepas can be refrigerated at this point for up to 3 days or frozen in a ziploc bag for up to 1 month.
- Bake on baking sheet until arepas sound a little hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 10 minutes. If frozen, increase the baking time to 20 minutes. Split the hot arepas open using a knife and stuff with filling of your choice. Serve immediately.