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An arepa is a bread made of corn originating from the northeast of Venezuela, and which has now spread to other areas in Latin America. It is similar to the Mesoamerican tortilla and even more to the Salvadoran pupusa. Arepas are most popular in Colombia and Venezuela. In Panama, the Arepa is called Panamanian Tortilla.

The word "arepa" may originate from the language of the Caribes and Cumanagoto Tribes at the northeast of Venezuela .


The arepa is a flat, unleavened patty made of cornmeal which can be grilled, baked, or fried. The characteristics of the arepa vary from region to region: It may vary by color, flavor, size, thickness, garniture, and also the food it may be stuffed with. Arepa is a native bread made of ground corn, water, and salt which is fried into a pancake-like bread. It is either topped or filled with meat, eggs, tomatoes, salad, cheese, shrimp, or fish.

Making arepas

There are two ways to prepare the dough. The traditional, labor-intensive method requires the maize grains to be soaked, then peeled and ground in a large mortar known as a pilon. The pounding removes the pericarp and the seed germ, as only the cotyledons of the maize seed are used to make the dough. The resulting mixture, known as mortared maize, or maiz pilado, was normally sold as dry grain to be boiled and ground into dough.

The most popular method today is to buy pre-cooked arepa cornmeal. The flour is mixed with water and salt, and occasionally oil, butter, eggs, and/or milk. After being kneaded and formed into patties, the dough is fried, grilled, or baked. This production of corn is unusual for not using the nixtamalization, or alkali cooking process, to remove the pericarp of the corn kernels. Arepa flour is lower in nutritive value than nixtamal, with its protein value reduced by half.

Arepa flour

Pre-made arepa flour is specially prepared for making arepas and other maize dough-based dishes such as hallacas, bollos, tamales, empanadas, and chicha. The most popular brand names of corn flour are Harina PAN in Venezuela and Areparina in Colombia. Pre-made arepa flour is usually made from white corn, but there are yellow corn varieties available.

Pre-made arepa flour was first created and produced by Empresas Polar, who owns the PAN brand and is the primary distributor of this flour in the country.

Electric arepa makers

In Venezuela, various kitchen appliance companies sell appliances like the Tostyarepa and Miallegro's MiArepa, similar to a waffle iron, which cook arepas using two hot metallic surfaces clamped with the raw dough inside. In Venezuela, the arepa is traditionally grilled on a budare, which is a flat, originally non-metallic surface which may or may not have a handle. Arepas cooked this way are called tostadas. Nowadays, it is common to follow the grilling process that forms a crust, known as a concha, within twenty to twenty five minutes of cooking at high heat in an oven. Electric arepa makers such as the Tostyarepa and MiArepa reduce cooking time from fifteen to twenty five minutes per side to seven minutes or less.

Electric arepa makers are not popular in Colombia, with most households choosing to prepare them traditionally.


The predecessor of the arepa was a staple of the Timoto-cuicas, an Amerindian group that lived in the northern Andes of Venezuela. Other Amerindian tribes in the region, such as the Arawaks and the Caribs, widely consumed a form of the arepa known as casabe made from cassava (yuca). With the colonization by the Spanish, the food that would become the arepa was diffused into the rest of the region, known then as La Gran Colombia .

Both Colombians and Venezuelans view the arepa as a traditional national food. The arepa has a long tradition in both countries, with local recipes that are delicious and varied.

Venezuelan arepas

In Eastern Venezuela, the most common variety of arepa is usually about 3 to in diameter and 3/4 inches thick. Larger arepas can be found, made with either white or yellow corn. In the western Andes, arepas are flatter, and are typically quarter of an inch or less in thickness and 3 to in diameter. An arepa can be eaten with a filling or with a topping. A filled arepa is called an arepa rellena or a Venezuelan tostada, although the latter term is not commonly used today. Also, there are plenty of sauces to season the arepas while eating them, such as Guasacaca and Picante (Hot Sauce).

Venezuelans prepare arepas depending on personal taste or preference and the region in which they are made. Venezuelan varieties include:

Traditional corn (Maize) arepa

Corn flour arepa (Arepa blanca or Viuda)

Wheat flour arepa (Prenaditas in Venezuelan slang)

Sweet arepa (Arepa dulce)

Cheese arepa (Arepa de queso)

Coconut arepa (Arepa de coco)

Andean arepa (Arepa andina)

Manioc arepa (Arepa de yuca)

Reina Pepeada - filled with avocado, chicken, and mayonnaise

Baked arepas (Arepas horneadas)

Fried arepas (Arepa frita)

Arepa pelua - with yellow cheese and pulled beef

Arepa catira - with yellow cheese and shredded chicken

Arepa de chicharron - with crisped pork skin

Arepa de domino - white cheese and black beans

Arepa de Perico - made with perico, a Caribbean type of scrambled eggs

Arepa viuda ("widow" arepa) - an empty arepa usually eaten with soup

Arepa Rumbera("Party" arepa)- with pork meat

Arepa Llanera - with cuts of beef (Parrilla or BBQ), tomato slices, avocado slices and fresh white cheese

Other fillings include guacuco (a shellfish), school shark or cazon, ham, quail eggs with Pink Sauce, and octopus.

Colombian arepas

In Colombia, the arepa has deep roots in the colonial farms and the cuisine of the indigenous people. Today, arepas are prepared less frequently at home and are usually purchased in stores, either pre-made or in flour form.

Arepas are usually eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Common toppings include butter, cheese, and hogao.

Colombians may eat arepas plain, or consume other varieties.

Since the 19th century the arepa became a main icon of Colombian cuisine and is today well popular eaten throughout Colombia.

Egg arepa - this variety originated from the Caribbean coast but is popular in most major cities. This arepa is deep-fried with a single raw egg inside that is cooked by the frying process. Egg arepas are made with yellow corn dough and fried in the same manner as Colombian empanadas, and are often sold alongside other traditional Colombian foodstuffs at food stands. One variety of egg arepa has shredded beef added as well. The egg arepa was most likely created by African slaves near Cartagena.

Cheese arepa - the arepa is filled with grated cheese before it is cooked .

Arepa Boyacense - these arepas come from the department of Boyaca. They are very hard and dense, and are typically about three to four inches across and filled with a sweet cheese.

Arepa Valluna - the variety unique to Cali and the rest of the Cauca valley. It is made only with cornmeal, water and salt, and it is buttered before eating, much like toast.

Arepa de choclo (or chocolo) - made with sweet corn and farmer's white cheese.

Arepa antioquena - small, spherical arepas without salt served to accompany soups, especially mondongo. Very common in the department of Antioquia.

Arepa Paisa - Very large and flat arepa made of white maize without salt but accompanied with meat or butter on top. Very common in the coffee-producing region, often served with hogao.

Arepa de arroz - This is made with cooked, mashed rice instead of corn dough.

Arepa santanderiana - This arepa originates from the area around Bucaramanga. It is also called Arepa de maiz pelado. It is made with yellow corn and has a distinct flavor due to the pork fat added during the preparation. It is usually dry but soft.

In the western part of Colombia, especially around Bogota, Cali and Medellin, a traditional breakfast includes an arepa with traditional Colombian hot chocolate.

Companies such as "Don Maiz" have started to market new, less traditional varieties of arepas in Colombian grocery stores that are nonetheless growing in popularity. These include cassava-flavored arepas and arepas made of brown rice and sesame seeds.

Similar dishes

In Colombia, the Arepuela is similar to the traditional arepa. It is made with wheat flour and sometimes anise, and when fried, the layers expand and the arepuela inflates, similar to miniature tortillas or pancakes. This is very common in the interior of Colombia. In the north, bollos are popular for breakfast, which are made with the same dough as an arepa, but boiled rather than fried which gives them a texture similar to Czech bread dumplings.

In Costa Rica, arepas can be made from batter, and may be similar to pancakes. There are at least two sorts of arepas, the "pancake arepa" which is made with baking powder, and the "big flat arepa" which is made without baking powder. These big flat arepas are, in size, not unlike the big tortillas that you find in Guanacaste (Northern Costa Rica), (i.e. some twelve inches in diameter) and are made of white flour and are sugary. Once perfectly cooked they should resemble a "giraffe skin", or a "jaguar skin" .

In Mexico, there is a similar dish that is fried and called gorditas, which is different from the tortilla.

In El Salvador, similar flat cakes are called pupusas. The most important difference is that the flat cake is filled before it is cooked, usually some pork, white cheese or black beans.


Food and Agricultural Organization, United Nations. Maize in Human Nutrition

Dr. Nelson Solorzano, specialist in food and nutrition and in Caribbean Region Culture. Socio-economic Development Planner specialized in Latin American Socio-economic Development History, Agriculture and Culture. (CENDES-UCV), USA, May,2007

De los timoto-cuicas a la invisibilidad del indigena andino y a su diversidad cultural

Pequena Historia de la Arepa|Autor: Mariano Picon Salas| Suma de Venezuela. Caracas,1966

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Arepa

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