Saturday, September 27, 2008

Recipe: How to Make Arepas

Arepas are cornmeal patties that are eaten in place of bread in Venezuela. They are quick to make, healthy and can be eaten at any time of the day. At breakfast, they can be served steaming hot from the oven with a slather of butter, or filled with cheese, ham or perico, Venezuelan-style scrambled eggs. During the day, they make the perfect snack and are sold in fast-food outlets called areperas, with fillings like grated cheese, black beans, chicken salad and avocado, or shredded beef.

The secret to cooking arepas is Harina P.A.N., the first and most popular brand of pre-cooked maize flour. It was developed by a Venezuelan engineer called Dr Caballero Mejias in 1954 and revolutionized Venezuelan cooking when it was introduced by the beer company Polar in 1960.

Harina P.A.N. makes the whole process of preparing maize dough quick and easy and is a far cry from the traditional method of laboriously soaking, peeling and then pounding corn kernels in a large wooden mortar called a pilon, which is still practised in many parts of Venezuela today.

The original slogan for Harina P.A.N. was "Se acabo la piladera" ("No more pounding").

The great thing about Harina P.A.N. in our health-conscious world is that maize flour is easily digested, contains no additives or bleaching agents and is 100 per cent gluten-free.

It comes in two varieties, yellow or white, and can be used to make arepas, as well as savoury patties called empanadas, and hallacas - a traditional Christmas dish.

Once the maize dough has been prepared and the arepas made into a distinctive flying saucer shape, they can be baked, fried, cooked on a charcoal grill or boiled.

How to Bake Arepas

To make enough dough for six arepas you will need:

2 cups of Harina P.A.N. flour
2 cups of water
A pinch of salt


1. Place two cups of flour in a mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix through with clean dry hands.

2. Measure two cups of warm water and pour onto flour.

3. Knead together the flour and water with your hands until the mixture is thoroughly blended and there are no grainy lumps.

4. If the is too soggy and sticks to your fingers add more flour. If it is too dry add water. The perfect dough should roll easily into a large ball without cracking.

5. Break off a fistful of the dough and roll it into a ball in your hands. Then pat it and turn it in your hands until its about half an inch thick and about 3-4 inches across. It should have the classic flying saucer shape now.

6. Make the rest of the arepas you want to cook. If any dough is left over wrap it in plastic - to keep in the moisture - and place in fridge. It will keep for three to four days.

7. Heat a little oil in a heavy frying pan or griddle and when hot add the arepas, as many as will comfortably fit in the pan. The idea is to give the arepas a crunchy exterior ("una cara", literally a face, as they say in Venezuela) so don't turn the heat up too high. When the arepas are brown on one side turn them over. The whole process should not take longer than 10 minutes.

8. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

9. When arepas have been browned, reduce oven to 200 degrees, place arepas on a baking tray at the top of the oven for 15-20 minutes. When ready they should sound hollow when tapped with a knife.

10. Serve with butter and grated cheese, scrambled eggs, black beans, ham, hot sauce and anything else you want to fill them with. The trick is to make an incision in the arepa - slicing through the middle but not going all the way - and then open it up like a pocket for the filling.

By Russell Maddicks

Buying Harina Pan in the UK

Recipe: How to make Cachapas - Venezuelan corn pancakes

Arepa and Co: Venezuelan arepera in London

Glossary: Eating at an Arepera

La Reina Pepiada: The Curvy Queen of Arepas

Arepa de Maiz Pelao: Making Arepas the Hard Way

Recipe: Caraotas Negras - Venezuelan Black Beans

Recipe: Carne Mechada - Venezuelan Shredded Beef

Pabellon Criollo - Venezuela's National Dish


Unknown said...

Please do you know where to buy Harina PAN in the uk?

Russell Maddicks said...

Hi Plexos,
I've added a link to the story with my own account of trying to find Harina PAN in the UK.

If you live in London you can try Cafe Garcia in Portobello Rd, which has a minimart next door that sells harina PAN.

In Brixton and Elephant and Castle there are stores that stock it and also the Taj supermarket in Brighton stocks it.

Where abouts do you live?

If anybody else has suggestions of places to get harina PAN in the UK I would be happy to hear from them...


Flavio said...

Taj supermarket in Brighton! And lots of indian abastos around london

a faceless savage said...

Does anyone have a good recipe for Guasacaca????

Claire said...

You can buy Harina PAN in "Los Amigos" - a Colombian shop in Guildford. They also sell obleas, Panela, Toddy & Bocadillos de Guayaba.

Great blog by the way!

Anonymous said...

I made these and I think they came out okay. The outside was crunchy, but the inside was a little gummy. This is after 15 minutes on a griddle and another 15 in a 350 degree oven. Is this right, or should they be dry inside more like an English muffin?


Russell Maddicks said...

Hi TK,

Were they tasty? That's the best test.

They shouldn't be wet inside.

Make sure the dough is not too wet when you're kneading it.

Mix it well with your hands.

It should not stick your fingers.

If it does it's too wet.

Also don't make them too thick.

Keep trying and experiment with different thicknesses until you're happy with the taste.

Good luck and buen provecho!

Anonymous said...

Continental Foods in Crawley town centre sell the flour £1.30 a bag as well a a huge selection of other herbs and spices, excellent.

Anonymous said...

Hello and thank you for the wonderful information.

Several years ago I worked with a woman from Venezuela who introduced me to these DELICIOUS arepas. She used a special white Venezuelan cheese, however, that she said was kept underground for a year.

I don't know if you can help me, but I am trying to find out what the name of the cheese was and then how I can get my hands on some.

Do you have any ideas?

Thanks much!

Dr. Debra Arko said...

Arepas are wonderful and provide a great food source for my patients many who can not have gluten!

They are simple to make with this flour and if my acupuncture patient has time they can make several days worth. Breakfast and lunch are the hard times to find something healthy to eat if you are working with a nutritional naturopath like myself so I love your advice and review of harnia PAN.

The biggest drawback is time for people. With Arepas, an acupuncture patient can fill it with meats, vegetables, even eggs or cheese. Though I recommend my local patients in Denver Colorado that they use soy or goat cheese if possible. If using dairy cheese, use less and look for a hard cheese as opposed to a soft processed cheese.

As an acupuncturist in Littleton Colorado I have to highly recommend your blog and the tasty ideas to my homeopathic patients as well as my other alternative health clients.

Dr Debra Arko

Buyce said...

how many calories do you think are in one arepa?

Anonymous said...

International Foods- on Portwsood Road and Derby Road, SOUTHAMPTON- sell it too. They sell almost everything else you can possibly think of- amazing shop. Highly recommend it to all!!! :)

Anonymous said...

If anyone lives in green bay, WI, does festival or wal-mart sell harina PAN? i am making it for my class and i need to know if it does

kellyheckphotography said...

If you know how to prepare the shredded beef and black beans for a De Pabellon Arepa I would love to know - I can't find the recipes anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know the harina PAN type of corn flour that I purchase in a store in Canada is a "May contain Wheat" product.

Anonymous said...

You can buy Harina PAN at Kroger in the United States!!

David A. Del Corral U. said...

I have just found a place between Willesden Green Tube Station y Dollis Hill Tube Station....(closest to Dollis Hill TS)... Is a Portuguese and Brazilian mini-market (is open from Monday to Sunday).

There you can find Harina Pan @ 1.8 GBP, quite expensive but quite reasonable if you are looking for a Venezuelan Taste..

Haydelis Arias said...

This is so cool! im from venezuela, and it makes me proud that someone admire so much our tradicional food.! Thanks Russel!

Unknown said...

Someone can tell me where can i buy harina PAN in Denver area?

Anonymous said...

There's a middle eastern supermarket on North End Road, near the intersection with Lillie Road, which sells Harina PAN (both yellow and white) for GBP 1.50. Nearest tube station is West Brompton in west London.

Unknown said...

Hi All,
Does anyone know if you can get Arepa maker machines in the UK? I see some from the US on Ebay but they are only 120v so not useful here. My parents have one and it really takes the work out of arepas so any help would be great!
Thanks for this lovely blog by the way! :o)

Mutuelle sante said...

Thank you so much it is a very good help, now to make arepas is definitely simple by using your guidance. Thank you

catira said...

si hay arepas en Israel!

Rachat de credit said...

Thanks a ton it is a good support, now to make arepas is easy with your advice. Thank you

Anonymous said...

just saw them make them on cooking chanel tv and once cooked the lady scoped out some of the soft middle to make room for the stuffing

Unknown said...

I make arepas the traditional Colombian way as I lived with Colombians for some years. I just mix the flour with the water until the dough is made (no salt) and then I put on a grill for about 3 mins on each side. I like my arepas slightly overcooked so when they're just right I put them on a plate and spread butter on them, then sprinkle some sea salt on top, perfectly scrumptious!!

Anonymous said...

I'll give you a different way to make arepas (I would like to think simpler as well). I prepare a full batch in my budare in less than three minutes:

1. First, pour the water into a bowl first and dilute the salt. This has a couple of benefits: The mix is more uniformely salted and people can fix it by adding more salt or water depending on their taste.

2. Then, gradually pour the Harina Pan in the bowl while stirring with your other hand (I do this with split fingers). Do not press the dough with your fists or it will form unwanted hard lumps.

Now the trick is to pour flour until you get a thin, watered down consistency. You'll notice that is you let it rest a little while the dough will harden, and you don't want your dough to be hard as a rock. If after resting the dough is still too thin you can pour some more Harina Pan and stir some more until you get it right.

This method has some additional advantages as well:
- If you are playful you can add other ingredients to your dough that give different textures and they will be easier to mix: some butter, shredded cheese, an egg, a tablespoon of powedered milk (I know many Venezuelan houses where they do this).
- I probably like my dough to be a bit wetter (not near as wet as pancake mix of course) but just enough that allows me to finish forming them directly on top of the budare, and so I can have some big thin arepas (arepas andinas) which would be difficult to make directly on the palms of my hands.

3. Now one last tip. My mix probably has more moisture trapped inside the crusts they won't be as crispy as I like them (and they'll get gummy very fast which is the exact same problem with Tostyarepas), so what I do is I open them as if I were to fill them up and I let them cook a bit more before serving.

By the way, this is an excellent blog you have here. Cheers.

Above The Branches Genealogy LLC said...

Hi- Do you fry them and then also put them in the oven???

Nathalie said...

Please, do you know where to find Harina Pan in South Africa? Eastern Cape?

Anonymous said...

What site can I use to buy PAN online in south africa?

Unknown said...

Hi! I made these today for the first time after finally finding harina PAN here in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia (virtually the end of the earth). I had no trouble with the recipe and the results were delicious. Thank you so much!


Unknown said...

I found PAN in Tasmania too and made cakes this arvo. Was the definition of scrumptious with butter and raspberry jam!

Unknown said...

I found PAN in Tasmania too and made cakes this arvo. Was the definition of scrumptious with butter and raspberry jam!

Anonymous said...

Hello... when you talk about degrees, is it on Fahrenheit or in celsius?


Someone who uses the metric system

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this recipe of arepa ! I used to eat that three years ago, but I had fogotten how to make it, I'll try it again !

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recipe, I had forgotten how to make arepas ! But do you know where to find arina pan in Belgium ? It would be great.