Arepas are a staple of Venezuelan cooking, and these little cornmeal patties are commonly enjoyed for breakfast, but they can also be eaten at any time of the day, and are a popular street food snack.
If you are wanting to venture out and make arepas at home, you will probably be wondering what you could fill them with.
What are the best fillings for Arepas?
You can fill arepas with just about any filling you could want, both savory and sweet. However, some fillings are just really delicious and worth a try. These include chicken and avocado, shredded beef, black beans and cheese, shredded chicken, tuna and more.
Keep reading to find out the best fillings for arepas to try out, and more about these delicious little cornmeal patties!
What Are Arepas?
Before we get to the best fillings for arepas, let’s find out exactly what arepas are!
Arepas are cornmeal patties or buns which are popular in South American cooking, especially in Venezuela. They can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and are a super popular street food item too.
These cornmeal cakes are usually stuffed with a filling, but they can also be served plain as a side to a meal. If cooked properly, arepas should be fluffy on the inside, and beautifully crispy on the outside.
Arepas are unleavened, as they do not contain a raising agent such as yeast or baking powder, and they are cooked with a precooked cornmeal, which gives them the authentic texture and color.
Traditionally, arepas are cooked on a griddle, but they can also be baked, fried or boiled, and this also depends on the filling.
Arepas can be served plain, freshly cooked along with a meal, but they are popularly filled with a variety of ingredients.
Do Arepas Need a Filling?
Arepas have a beautiful texture and taste on their own, crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are great to snack on straight out of the oven or to serve alongside a meal such as soup or casserole, but they can also be filled.
There are so many different fillings that you can choose for an arepa, with popular fillings including cheese, meat, and black beans.
You do not need to add fillings to arepas, but they taste so delicious with various fillings, and they hold so many different fillings so well.
What Are the Best Fillings for Arepas?
As we mentioned above, there are so many filling options for arepas, and it really is down to what you feel like making!
However, if you are stuck with what to put in your arepas, here are some of the best fillings to try out:
Chicken and Avocado (Reina Pepiada)
If you are a lover of avocado, this is definitely the arepa filling for you to try! This is a classic mix of shredded chicken and ripe avocado, and it is creamy and delicious.
To make this filling, you need to mix some cooked shredded chicken with some chopped onion, chopped garlic, mayonnaise, and avocado, and season it with some salt and pepper to taste. You can even add in some cooked green peas for added flavor.
This creamy chicken filling is full of flavor, and it is a great lunchtime arepa filling to enjoy!
Black Beans and Cheese (Domino)
Black beans and cheese is a very popular, and traditional filling for arepas. The classic combination is so simple, yet so delicious, and is something that is definitely worth trying.
It is a simple filling to make as well, and you can jazz it up with some extra ingredients too! To make this filling, mix a can of black beans, some shredded cheese of your choice (cheddar or Jack works well), and some salt and pepper.
For more flavor, add in some chopped red pepper, chopped onion, chopped garlic, and fresh coriander. Fry these ingredients together with the beans (without the cheese) and then add the cheese to the mix when you fill the arepa.
A variation to try out is to use refried black beans instead of normal canned black beans. These have a thicker texture and are more pasty, which could be great with shredded cheese too.
Shredded Beef (Carne Mechada)
There really isn’t much that can beat a shredded beef arepa, and even though there is quite a bit of preparation and cooking that goes into making this filling, it is so worth it.
This filling involves a flank steak (or similar cut) cooked down until fall-apart tender, in a rich sauce. The sauce made with shredded beef is rich and tasty, and it pairs really well with an avocado cream (guasacaca) or a sour cream.
The meat is cooked for at least an hour, until soft enough to be shredded. The sauce it is cooked in includes beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, onion, red pepper, garlic, tomato and coriander.
This arepa filling can be enjoyed at any time of the day, and makes for a fulling, delicious meal!
A breakfast arepa can be a great way to start your day, and waking up to the smell of fresh arepas in the morning is something magical!
There are quite a few different breakfast arepa fillings you can go for, but if you are looking for something quick and easy, you can fill an arepa with scrambled eggs, and avocado.
This makes a deliciously soft, creamy, and savory arepa, and you can flavor it up a little more with ingredients you have in your fridge, such as shredded cheese, hot sauce, cream cheese, or even some onions.
Alternatively, you can make a breakfast arepa with bacon and fried egg, which is an unbeatable combination that will definitely give you a great start to your day!
Tuna is a popular arepa filling because it is easy to make, it uses ingredients you probably have sitting in your fridge and pantry, and it is delicious!
This is a great arepa to make for lunch, as it is light but tasty, and will surely be a hit with everyone in your house.
There is also no cooking required to make the filling, so if you can whip it up quickly if you have some arepas ready to use.
To make the fillings, mix in a tin of drained tuna, some cream cheese, avocado cubes, chopped onion, cherry tomatoes, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Mix these together to taste until it forms a paste-like texture.
Place this into your arepas and enjoy!
Shredded Chicken (Pollo Guisado)
Shredded chicken is another great filling if you want something rich and savory. Like shredded beef, shredded chicken goes well with guasacaca and sour cream, balancing out the rich flavors.
The traditional shredded chicken filling for arepa has a tomato-based sauce, which is packed with flavor. To make the filling, you need to cook chicken breasts, and then shred them.
The sauce is made by frying onion, garlic, red pepper and leeks if desired. Then tomato sauce is added to the fried mix, and flavored with some salt and pepper. The shredded chicken is then added to the sauce, and it is ready to fill arepas!
You can add some more freshness and flavor by chopping up some cilantro and adding it to the filling too.
Other Filling Ideas
Other than the popular fillings we mentioned above, there are some simple, yet delicious ingredients to try out too. Remember that you can pretty much choose any filling you want, and change up any filling recipe to suit your tastes!
Here are some more filling ideas to work with:
- For breakfast arepas, try a mix of scrambled eggs, bacon, and avocado.
- BBQ chicken, pork or beef make a great filling.
- Cheese, cream cheese and jalapeno pepper make for a spicy filling.
- A simple spreading of butter is delicious as is!
- Stuff the arepa with cheese and reheat it over a griddle to create a grilled cheese arepa. Some great cheese options to use include Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, or Asadero cheese.
Can Arepas Have Sweet Fillings?
Arepas are most commonly served with savory fillings, and are served plain alongside savory meals, but these cornmeal cakes can be great when made with sweet ingredients too!
Sweet arepas are ideal for breakfast, or as an after-meal treat. There are so many different types of sweet fillings you can make arepas with, depending on what you prefer!
Breakfast arepas can be made with sliced bananas, raspberries, sweet cream cheese, and even whipped cream.
You can even spread some chocolate spread between arepas, and add in any fruit or sweet topping to this too.
Hot, fresh arepas straight off of the griddle also taste heavenly with a fresh drizzle of honey!
Can You Make Arepas at Home?
Arepas are fairly easy to make at home, you just need to make sure that you have the right ingredients and have a basic recipe to follow.
To make basic arepas, you need about four ingredients, with the most important ingredient being cornmeal. The other ingredients include water, salt and oil!
You can have arepas ready in about 15 minutes, they are so wonderfully simple and easy to make.
Here is a simple method to make arepas at home:
- Whisk together salt and cornmeal, and create a well in the middle.
- Pour warm water into the well – the amount of water you use will be equal to the amount of cornmeal you are using (i.e. one cup of warm water to one cup of cornmeal)
- Stir the water into the cornmeal with a wooden spoon, making sure to incorporate it well. You can add more water if the mixture is too dry, or more cornmeal if the mixture is too wet.
- Keep mixing the cornmeal and water until it forms a dough.
- Cover the dough with a dish towel and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, knead the dough for a minute or two.
- Break off small pieces of dough, flatten the pieces into discs, and fry them in a frying pan or in a griddle.
The dough should only be slightly sticky on your fingers, and it should not feel too wet or too dry. The dough does become more moist as it sits.
Not only can you experiment with the fillings you add to arepas, but you can experiment with the various flavors you incorporate into the cornmeal arepas, too.
Here are some ways you can add extra flavor to the arepa dough before cooking it:
- Add spices to the arepa dough, such as paprika, chili powder, oregano, and garlic powder.
- Make garlic paste by smashing garlic cloves, and add this to the cornmeal dough before cooking.
- Add shredded cheese to the dough for extra flavor.
- For sweet arepas, add a teaspoon of sugar or honey to the warm water, before adding the warm water to the cornmeal.
As the ingredients to make arepas are so simple, you can play around with different flavors and additions, to find the combination that you enjoy best!
Can You Eat Arepas Cold?
Arepas can be eaten cold, or at room temperature, but they are definitely at their best as soon as they are cooked. When fresh off the griddle or freshly baked, arepas are soft and fluffy on the inside, and beautifully crisp on the outside.
If the arepas are left to cool, they will have a firmer texture and be more chewy than normal. Serving them cold is not ideal, but they can still be delicious when served at room temperature, making them a great snack to pack for lunch or for picnics.
If you are making a fresh batch of arepas at home and have a filling prepared, it is best to have the filling ready to place into the arepas just as they are cooked, so that you can eat the filled arepas while warm!
Can You Freeze Arepas?
Arepas can be frozen, and if packaged properly, they can be frozen for up to 6 months. When freezing arepas, it is best to freeze them fresh, and not to freeze them with fillings.
Rather freeze the arepas and fillings separately, and put them together once you have thawed and reheated them. This prevents the arepas from turning soggy in the freezer.
The Best Fillings for Arepas
The beauty of arepas is that you can fill them with just about any ingredient you wish, and if you don’t want to use any fillings, you can enjoy arepas on their own, hot off the griddle!
If you are stuck on the fillings for arepas to make, read above for some of the best ideas, as well as some extra tips on making arepas at home, and how best to serve them!
Arepas can be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and depending on the filling can be sweet or savory – and are the perfect snack to enjoy during the day!
What Are Colombian Arepas Filled With?
Colombian arepas are traditionally stuffed with cheese, and then baked over hot stones in a coal-fired oven. These arepas can also have sour milk cheese worked into the dough for extra flavor.
What Is One of the Most Popular Arepa Fillings?
One of the most popular arepas fillings is a mixture of shredded chicken, avocado, green peas, mayonnaise, lime juice, and cilantro.
How Are Arepas Traditionally Eaten?
Arepas can be eaten in a variety of ways, whether butterflied open with butter, made with a filling, or served as the bread alongside a meal.