How to make arepas | gluten free arepas | naturally gluten free South American flat breads made from pre-cooked cornmeal

How to Make Arepas: Naturally Gluten Free South American Flat Breads

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.

Gluten free pre-cooked white cornmeal - P.A.N. - gluten free arepas

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.

Ingredients for gluten free arepas - south american flat corn bread sandwiches

I love adding a bit of turmeric and sugar as well, but it’s in no way necessary.

Gluten free arepas making process - teaspoons of turmeric and sugar

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.

Gluten free arepas - arepas making process - arepas dough and patties

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.

Gluten free arepas making process

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.

gluten free arepas made with pre-cooked white cornmeal P.A.N.

. Once they have cooled down, carefully slice an opening into them.

Gluten free arepas making process - arepa with an opening sliced into it

gluten free arepas made with pre-cooked white cornmeal P.A.N.

Then fill them with anything you want!

Gluten free arepas with egg, sausage and avocado

The Recipe:

How to Make Arepas: Naturally Gluten Free South American Flat Breads
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
These South American corn flat bread turned into little sandwich pouches are delicious, naturally gluten free and so easy to make.
Cuisine: Venezuelan / Colombian
Serves: 4 arepas
  • 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:

  1. Sweet breakfast/dessert arepas filled with sweetened cream cheese, banana slices and mashed raspberries.

banana, cream cheese and raspberry sweet breakfast arepas - gluten free arepas -


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.

Halloumi and chicken arepa burger - gluten free arepas -

6. Savoury breakfast arepas filled with scrambled eggs, refried black beans, extra mature cheddar cheese and sriracha.

Scrambled eggs, black beans and cheese breakfast arepas - gluten free arepas

7. Breakfast egg, sausage and avocado arepas.

Gluten free arepas with egg, avocado and gluten free sausage.


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  1. How long would they last after being cooked? Do they need to be eaten same day?

    • I usually make small batches that we eat right away so I haven’t tested this myself, but most recipes I’ve seen say they last for a few days in the fridge (3-4 days). 🙂

  2. These are so easy to make and delicious. I made three of them and put some cheese on top with a little paprika. So good! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Pingback: How to Make Arepas: Naturally Gluten Free South American Flat Breads – Gateaux

  4. Please, For the love of everything, don’t put sweet stuff like fruits and cream in arepas. That’s straight up disrespectful- a Colombian

    • I have seen Colombian and Venezuelan restaurants/food stalls here in London that serve sweet arepas as a dessert option. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. To each their own. In my opinion life is too short to worry about and police what others eat. 😉

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