Gluten-Free Is Me: Mini Black Bean Arepas

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!

Eat up!


Mini Black Bean Arepas

Yield: Makes about 20 arepas

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.

instagram  If you make this, share a photo and tag me @PhoebeLapine #feedmephoebe - I would love to see it!

Spicy Black Beans

Yield: Makes 4 cups


  • 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.

instagram  If you make this, share a photo and tag me @PhoebeLapine #feedmephoebe - I would love to see it!


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20 Responses to Gluten-Free Is Me: Mini Black Bean Arepas

  1. Frankie says:

    I know this isn’t very Mexican, but what about smoked salmon and crema and a little preserved lemon

    • Phoebe says:

      Frankie, that sounds super yum. no need to go traditionally Mexican on these arepas. My favorite combo is avocado and radish – kind of french!

  2. Kelsey says:

    How yum do these look, seriously.

  3. How cute are those little guys?! I don’t think I’ve ever tried arepas but after a quick glance at the ingredients list, I know I’d love them!

  4. Jared says:

    There’s a place called Pica Pica in SF that’s a glutard’s heaven as all of their sandwiches are maize-based and GF. They have arepas (among other kinds of corn-based breads) filled with good stuff like pulled pork, shredded chicken or beef along with avocado, plantains, black beans, etc.

    Thanks for the arepa recipe, Phoebs. Will definitely have to try this.

  5. Phoebe says:

    omg. that just might be worth the cost of a plane ticket!! the next time i am in town, you need to take me there. fingers crossed it’s soon! xo

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  8. Ehrmagerd these were so good! I ended up with Flour de Masa which I super hoped was the same as Masa Harina-still not sure if it is but these were super tasty. We did some pulled pork, crema, cacique cheese and black beans. They were the hit of the party. Thank you!

  9. Gail says:

    I fill mine with amixture of shredded chicken breast, salsa and white beans. If you don’t like salsa, you can use tomato sauce seasoned with cumin and black pepper.

  10. Anna P says:

    I love arepas. They’re super easy to make and gf. I never thought of mini’s!

    Sometimes I add a little of my blood orange olive oil to the mix. AMAZING!

    If you make them bigger and travel a lot they’re great for breakfast sandwiches. I’ve taken mine to mc’ds and used it instead of the muffin; just ordered with out the bread and assembled in my car.

    • blood orange olive oil?? mc’d’s?? this is the most high/low comment ever! I love it!

      I actually always travel with some sort of gluten-free bread and have been known to strongarm quiznos into making me sandwiches with it.

      Thanks for stopping by!! xo

  11. Aw, the link to the garlicky spinach version is broken! I’m still delighted to have stumbled across your mini arepas recipe, and can’t wait to start inventing some variations of my own. You’re right–brilliant party fare!

  12. Rosita says:

    These are excellent! Thank you for posting.

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