Arepas (corn cakes with cheese)

Scrambled eggs served with two arepas garnished with queso fresco and fresh cilantro

Until this past weekend, I have only eaten leftover arepas—South American pan fried corn cakes on work breaks at a previous job from Maria Elizabeth Ortiz.  Maria Elizabeth (AKA as my work mom) shares her recipe with HauteNosh.  For the first time in over eight years, I sunk my teeth into this scrumptious Colombian nosh… it is even better than I remember, and hot right off the stove!

Arepas are made differently in various regions of South America.  Maria Elizabeth, originally from Bogota in Colombia explains that traditionally her and her family would eat these cheese filled arepas for breakfast along with eggs and coffee.  She also shares that in Colombia they make them without cheese and to eat with other meals  (I prefer to stick with keeping the cheese!).

Making arepas

I personally enjoyed arepas when Maria occasionally brought them to work as a quick breakfast bite or a nosh to get me through the afternoon.  This is great as a snack, to dip into a soup, or make into a sandwich using two pieces of arepa.  I  cooked arepas for brunch with friends with my curry cauliflower puree to dip.  The next day with the leftover arepa dough, I wanted to create an authentic Colombian experience… I made breakfast with eggs, two arepas, and a cup of coffee.  A definite crowd pleaser, this pan fried corn cake has the right amount of cheese and is a great accompaniment to meats, beans, and vegetables.

It is important to get the right flour, white pre-cooked corn meal (look for the word masarepa on packaging) that can be found in Latin markets.  All other items can be found in any major grocery store.  I attempted to make it with regular corn flour which was easier to find, but is much more dense and not as cheesy.  You will need to use a non-stick skillet as the cheese from the dough will stick to the pan.  Maria Elizabeth also recommends the option grill to bake arepas for a healthier version.    The arepas are best served fresh.

Use Pre-Cooked White Corn Flour – No substitute
Inside of an arepa with the perfect amount of cheese
A colorful dish to serve family and friends
Easy appetizer to serve at a party!
Arepas (corn-cheese cakes)
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Colombian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 12

A South American staple, this delicious Colombian arepa recipe is great to eat alone or add to any meal. A great appetizer or starter for any occasion.
  • 1 ¼ cup of warm water
  • 1 ¼ cup of room temperature/warm milk (I heated the milk to a warm temp on the stove)
  • 2 Tbsp salted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 cups of white corn uncooked flower (see image in blog post)
  • ¼lb of queso fresco for mixture (one package generally comes in 1lb-16 ounces in a circular shape. recommend to cut into quarters)
  • ¼lb of queso fresco for garnish
  • ¼lb grated mozzarella
  • Canola or Vegetable oil
  • A small bundle of fresh cilantro for garnish

  1. Stir together water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon. Add flour slowly in a stream, stirring. Crumble queso fresco cheese into mix, and add mozzarella
  2. Mix well then place onto a clean work surface, and knead dough until smooth
  3. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces and roll into balls (a little bigger than a golf ball), then flatten into 2-inch rounds on parchment paper
  4. Heat a non-stick over medium heat and lightly oil until hot.
  5. Cook about 3-4 arepas at a time, flipping over once at least once, until crusty and golden-brown on both sides for up to 10 minutes total.
  6. Place on a plate with paper towels to eliminate any oils
  7. Serve hot with and garnish with queso fresco and cilantro, and enjoy!

*Dough can be made one day ahead and chilled, covered tightly with plastic wrap. Bring to room temperature before cooking. *If you decide to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place on to a greased cookie sheet and put in oven for 20 minutes. Flip over once, halfway through baking.



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