The Arepa is a type of corn cake popular in Colombia and Venezuela. They were created as a staple of the indigenous tribes to the area and have been passed down to present day, becoming an integral part of the cuisine. Traditionally, dried corn is ground and soaked until able to be used, but pre-cooked masarepa is often used as a time-saver. The masarepa is combined with a little salt, hot water, and oil or butter. They are then formed into patties and grilled or fried. They are incredibly versatile and can be eaten on their own, filled with various items, or as the “bread” for sandwiches. Today, I am sharing a recipe for Arepas Rellenas de Queso, arepas that are split in half and filled with cheese.
Masarepa is a precooked cornmeal that has been dehydrated. It is available in white and yellow. You can find it in some larger supermarkets and Latin Food Markets. P.A.N., Areparina, and Goya are the most popular brands. It is also available on Amazon: P.A.N Harina Blanca – Pre-cooked White Corn Meal 2lbs and Goya Masarepa Yellow 24 oz.
I used yellow masarepa to show off the melted mozzarella, but white masarepa is more common.
If the edges crack as you are forming the arepas, add a little more water. An easy way to flatten the arepa is to place a piece of parchment on both sides before rolling it out.
If you find the butter is getting too dark in the skillet, add a little oil or use clarified butter.
Adjust the temperature as needed between medium and medium low. You want a golden crust to form on each side of the arepa and enough time for it to be heated through.
Arepas Rellenas de Queso (Colombian Cheese Stuffed Corn Cakes)
Adapted from My Colombian Recipes
2 cups Masarepa (precooked cornmeal)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened + more for greasing skillet
12 slices mozzarella cheese
In a medium bowl, use a spoon to mix together masarepa, salt, water, and butter. Use your hands to knead until a smooth dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Moisten your hands as needed with water to prevent sticking. Cover and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Gently flatten each piece into a circle 1/3 inch thick and about 5 inches wide.
Grease a large skillet with butter and place over medium heat. Place the arepas in the heated skillet, in batches to prevent overcrowding, and cook until golden on both sides.
Transfer to a towel lined plate and repeat with remaining arepas. If the butter starts to darken too much, add a drizzle of oil.
Split each arepa open through the middle, leaving about 1/2 inch of one edge attached. Fill each arepa with 2 slices of cheese. Place back onto the hot skillet and cook on each side until heated through and cheese is melted.