The arepa is a beautiful thing for glutards. It’s a Venezuelan sandwich pocket made entirely out of Masa Harina. When I’m out of Udi’s bread and am too cheap to buy another $6 loaf, I turn to my pantry and whip up a batch of arepas to keep in the fridge for all of my sandwich whims.
Though most of my catering clients don’t care whether or not something is gluten-free, I’ve taken to making mini versions of these arepas to serve as cocktail fare. They are dirt cheap, and if you cut the little patties in half and serve them open-faced, you can double your yield.
I made this version, with spicy black beans, sour cream and queso fresco, for a 30-person taco buffet dinner – as an appetizer to go with these carnitas. The arepas themselves were fried the day before, and reheated onsite at 400 degrees until their shells became hard again. Ten minutes after I set them out, they were gone. Since this is my barometer for a good party dish, you can count on plenty more mini arepa variations coming your way – including this version with garlicky spinach, avocado, and radishes that I made for a client earlier this week.
Any ideas for delish arepa toppings? I’m all ears. Holler at me in the comments!
Masa harina is not the same as corn flour. Make sure you buy actual masa harina! The arepas can keep a few days in the fridge. Pop them in the oven at 400 to reheat until crisp on the outside. They’ve become my new sandwich bread and I try to always have a few on hand.
2 cups masa harina
2 teaspoons salt
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups spicy black beans (recipe follows)
1/2 cup grated queso fresco
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup cilantro leaves (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine the masa harina and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of room temperature water. Stir well to combine, then let sit for 5 minutes.
3. Form about 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball. Flatten it between your palms to form a ¼-inch patty. Carefully pat out any cracks and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or nonstick pan. Add the arepas to the pan (you will need to do this in 2-3 batches). Cook on each side for 4-5 minutes, until the arepa has formed a crust and is quite golden, adjusting the heat if it starts to burn on the bottom. Remove to the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining arepas, adding more oil as necessary.
5. Finish the arepas in the oven for 10 minutes. Cool enough to handle, then carefully slice each arepa in half to form two small disks. Top the bottom half with a scant tablespoon of spicy black beans, a small dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of queso fresco. Garnish with cilantro and serve either open faced (for double the yield) or top with the other half.
Two 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 cup chicken stock, veggie stock, or water
Juice of 1 lime
1. In a small pot, combine the beans, spices, hot sauce, and stock or water. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until the beans have softened and the sauce has thickened. The consistency will be slightly firmer than baked beans.
2. Serve immediately, or keep in the fridge for up to a week. Reheat in the microwave and add a little more liquid (water or stock) to loosen up the beans.