Arepas – South American corn flat breads – are delicious, naturally gluten free and best of all, very easy to make!
They’re also quite versatile. From sweet to savoury, you can fill them with pretty much anything. They can be baked, pan fried, deep fried, grilled. They’re most commonly made into little sandwich pouches with fillings put inside, but you can also simply eat them with toppings. You can also add flavourings to the dough itself – herbs, spices, cheese, etc. although it’s not necessary.
If you’re bored of standard sandwiches, aren’t a big fan of gluten free bread or just want to try something different, arepas are definitely a fun alternative! I absolutely love them and how simple they are. As someone who rarely eats bread since being gluten free, I often find myself opting for these instead of store-bought bread these days.
What you’ll need is pre-cooked white cornmeal, like the one shown in the picture below.
It can be surprisingly hard to find – depending on where you live (like here in the UK) – but some major supermarkets sometimes stock this brand. You just have to look around. If you live in a big city, your best bet is probably to look in independent shops that sell ethnic/world food, particularly those stocking South American/Mexican products. Otherwise there’s always the internet. Or polenta as a last resort (but a word of warning, the texture isn’t quite as good). ?
How To Make Gluten Free Arepas:
1 cup of pre-cooked white cornmeal + 1 cup of warm water + 1 Tbsp olive oil + 1/2 tsp salt is all you need. And feel free to remove the salt if you plan on filling them with something sweet.
I love adding a bit of turmeric and sugar as well, but it’s in no way necessary.
STEP 1 – Mix the cornmeal and salt together in a bowl. Then add the olive oil and water (little by little), kneading the dough with your hands, until you can form a smooth crack-free dough ball.
STEP 2 – Divide the dough into 2 to 4 portions and roll them into balls with your hands.
STEP 3 – Make patties and smooth out the edges to get rid of cracks. To make this easier, you can press each dough ball between two sheets of parchment paper with your hands or using a rolling pin. This is especially useful if making thin arepas like the ones shown in the pictures below, but you can easily just use your hands if making thicker ones. Just be careful not to make them too thin. They need to be thick enough to have an opening sliced into them and be filled with food without falling apart.
STEP 4 – Pan fry on medium heat, in olive oil (or cooking oil of your choice), until the outer layer becomes crispy. 4 to 5 minutes on each side for large/thick ones or 3 minutes on each side for small/thin ones.
This recipe yields 2 to 4 arepas, depending on the thickness.
The thinner, the crispier they will turn out while the thicker ones (as shown below) have a crispy outer layer, but feel more soft and doughy inside. I generally prefer the texture and taste of thin arepas, but it’s entirely a matter of personal taste. If you happen to make them thick and don’t like the doughy feel, scoop out some of the excess dough inside before adding fillings.
. Once they have cooled down, carefully slice an opening into them.
Then fill them with anything you want!
- 150g / 1 cup pre-cooked white cornmeal (I used P.A.N. which is certified gluten free)
- 200-235g / about 1 cup water
- ½ tsp salt
- 15g / 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ to 1 tsp sugar (optional - if making sweet arepas)
- ½ tsp turmeric (optional)
- Cooking oil of your choice
Some filling ideas:
- Sweet breakfast/dessert arepas filled with sweetened cream cheese, banana slices and mashed raspberries.
2. Arepas filled with Mexican style chicken, guacamole, bell pepper, spring onion and extra mature cheddar cheese.
3. Double beef and cheese arepa burgers.
4. Spicy parmesan chicken, lettuce and salsa burgers.
5. Chicken and halloumi arepa burger with salsa and shredded lettuce.
6. Savoury breakfast arepas filled with scrambled eggs, refried black beans, extra mature cheddar cheese and sriracha.
7. Breakfast egg, sausage and avocado arepas.
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