Monday, June 7, 2010

How to Make Arepas – These Venezuelan Hot Pockets are P.A.N.tastic!

I still can't believe I've only just recently discovered arepas. I live in San Francisco, blocks away from one of the largest Latin-American neighborhoods in the country, yet somehow I'd never tasted an arepa?

All those wasted years I could have been eating this amazingly simple, yet brilliant concoction. Thank goodness one of the stops on a recent field trip to NYC was a hole-in-the-wall called Caracas Arepas Bar. It was at this east village eatery where I fell in love with a stuffed white corn cake.

Halfway through my first arepa, one stuffed with black beans, beef, plantains and salty cheese, I vowed to learn how to make these at home. Upon my return to San Francisco, I headed straight to the Mission, where the first Latin grocery store I checked had what I needed, harina P.A.N., a kind of boiled white corn meal vital to this recipe.

As you'll see in the video, if you can find this product, the rest is extremely simple. You make a dough with some salt and warm water, and then you fry patties until golden brown. The resulting corn cake, once split open and stuffed, is a tour de force of textual pleasure.

Sure the ingredients in a BLT all taste great, but it’s the perfect blend of textures that makes it a charter member of the sandwich hall of fame. Same goes for arepas. The golden brown outside gets crispy and crunchy, yet the inside stays soft, moist, and somewhat chewy.

It's a truly magnificent delivery system for any number of your favorite fillings. I went with some spicy pork and avocado, but you can also see a version I made a few days later, stuffed with caramelized plantains and salty goat feta. To die for.

Anyway, I hope you watch the video and decide that arepas need to be part of your life also. Here are some links to help you with what I promise will be a delicious journey. I hear you can get the P.A.N. corn meal at any Latin-American foods market, but it's also easy to find and order online. Here is an Ebay page with all sorts of options.

For ideas on what to stuff into these beauties, here's a link to the official Caracas Arepas Bar website. If you check out their downloadable menu, you can see what they use in theirs and go from there. I really hope you give these a try. Enjoy!

Note: at the time of this posting, I still hadn’t learned what P.A.N. stands for. If you know, please share. Thanks!
Update: P.A.N. stands for National Alimentary Product.

Ingredients: (Note: I only made half a batch. These ingredients are for a full batch, which will give you about 8 arepas.)

2 1/2 cups tepid water
1 teaspoon salt
about 2 cups of P.A.N. white corn meal
(By the way, don't ask me if you can use other corn meals or flours, because I don't know!)

For even more information on making arepas, check out this great post from my friend Shauna's blog, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.


Mo said...

Chef John,
I am in Egypt, and finding that cornmeal your talking about is pretty much impossible, but I will look for it.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to try this ... Wed, maybe?

Alberto said...

I had 2 today...

ropa vieja with cheese and a pink shrimp one in creole sauce...

smothered in cilantro sauce and habanero sauce.


Luatica said...

Interesting, I do have some of that flour and i had completely forgotten about it, I better research on fillings!

Luatica said...

Out of curiosity I cheked about P.A.N. and i think it might be related to the company (Polar Alimentacion somethingsomethingwithN)

Also. pan is the spanish word for bread, and arepas are some sorts of little breads, god knows if it's related.

Luatica said...

(In Spanish)

Producto Alimenticio Nacional, I guess something like National Nourishing Produce

Jack Parker said...

Now this is a recipe I can sink my teeth into! Personally, I love international cuisine of all kinds (especially Indian). I've never heard of an arepa but now I can't wait to try it!

PS... I was going to make an entry for the current contest but I don't link my YouTube account with Google. (I have nothing to do with Google because of privacy concerns.) I know this vote won't count because it doesn't follow the guidelines, but I would love to see one of the requests for Gazpacho win. Would love to try it a'la Chef John style.

Pyrofish said...

Cayenne-boy did a Throwdown episode on Arepas a little while back. I've had an interest ever since, but I sort of forgot until your post. Now I have to do this!

This is a 5 minute video of the episode. They show some pro's making the dough, and forming the patties.

Juan Nieto said...


Cheers Chef John, im a huge fan in Venezuela and you made it to perfection! P.A.N stands for Producto Alimenticio Nacional, that means National Alimentary Product, it was the First Corn Meal to be manufactured and sold in supermarkets in my country (ironically with these political Issues is easier to Find P.A.N in the USA than in my own country)

However, a little recomendation for your Arepa recipe, do not fry it (to fry it is also valid) but to grill it, is HOW its supposed to be, you can use the same frying pan, but instead of pouring oil, spread a little with a paper towel, to moist the pan, and thast's it. UNFORTUNATELY this method takes twice as long as the frying method, but this is the original, and according to the pictures on your blog, you Ate the Grilled ones on Caracas Arepa Bar, those Black Burns are like a SIGNATURE on arepas, trust me, those black spots give the arepa an extra sour flavor that turns it one of the best meal in the world
and as general culture! you may like these "Rellenos"(stuffing) and the names of some arepas according the stuffing.

Viuda (Widow): an Empty Arepa

Pelua(hairy): Shredded Meat with Gouda Cheese

Catira(Blondie): Shredded Chicken with Gouda Cheese

Domino: Salty White Cheese with Black Beans

Musiua: its a burger but with arepa instead of bread

Pabellon: same as Domino but with fried plantain

Perico (parrot): scrambled eggs with chopped tomatoes and onion with some salt.

Rumbera (Party Girl): Pork with Gouda Cheese

Cazon (Baby Shark): its Cazon, a small Shark

One of the Most Famous its:

Reina Pepiada (roughly translated to Voluptuous Queen): its a Chicken Salad with Mayonaisse and Avocado.

Sifrina (Poshy): sames as Reina Pepiada but with Gouda Cheese

the only way you can TRULY ENJOY arepas is with Venezuelan Cheeses, hard to find in the States, like Hard Cheese (its a cheese practically exclusive for arepas) Telita Cheese and Guayanese Cheese (from the Venezuela Region of Guayana).

i truly Hope you find these tips interesting :D love your Channel!
you've inspired me to become a chef myself!


sanscenario said...

my boyfriend is from venezuela and his mom is an arepa making master. we eventually learned to make our own when we moved to new york (far from miami) and lived on them for quite a while! so easy and sooo delicious!

Chef John said...

i knew this post would garner some great comments, but wow, these are really great, thanks!!

Ceci said...

Adding to the great comments made by Grandson: The "Reina Pepiada" arepa was named in honor of the first Venezuelan elected Miss World, Susana Duijm ;o)

And yes, deep fried arepa is good (the arepa is ready when it floats), but definitively, the real, original one is made on the grill or better yet, on the "budare" (a kind of cured cast iron pan) and then in the oven. It takes longer, but the wait is worth it :)

Check this link I just found, for very good instructions on how to form the arepa and great pictures of the whole process:

Also, you can order Harina P.A.N. and other Venezuelan "delicacies" (like "queso de mano" for your arepas) through this website:

Arepas is our bread (PAN), it is part of the everyday meal of a Venezuelan and they are specially tasty at 3 in the morning, when you stop by an "arepera" restaurant after partying all night long, Venezuelan style!

Norellys said...

Arepas... Me encanta este post :)
Quizá le interesen los siguientes links...


Adriana A. said...

i absolutely love how excited you are about eating and making the arepas! I'm not from Venezuela, but from Honduras, and i feel so proud that you are enjoying the arepas. Most of all i feel so happy that fellow latinos are proudly posting comments and sharing ideas for fillings because i feel that all latinos are part of my family in some way :)
This reminds me i once offered to send you a recipe for a really simple honduran dish. I'm gonna do it right now!

zacharyzachary said...

When I was in Napa last summer I ate at a place called Pica Pica that serves arepas, as well as some other corn-based sandwiches. It was excellent. It looks like they have a location in SF now, too.

Patrick said...

This has some great comments and those looked absolutely wonderful Chef! I bet the pulled pork was great in it too. Shrimps or scallops might be another variation with some cut green onion and an Old Bay-flavored mayo.

Just looking at the other comments and variations mentioned, you could sweeten these up considerably and do some dessert arepas using fresh fruit and some Greek yogurt.

You're inspiring with your videos and I think it's awesome.

Pyrofish said...

Anyone know how long this will sit and still be tasty and delicious? Can I make them in the AM and serve them in the afternoon as sandwiches? Or is it a served-warm kind of thing?

Just thinking of options for some of my larger cookouts. The smaller ones with only 10 or so people, I could probably do them up as needed, but when I'm cooking for 20 or more friends at festivals, I'd want to prepare them ahead of time at least 5 or 6 hours.

I'm sure I'll test it on my own as soon as I find P.A.N, just figured I;d ask though.

Chef John said...

I had a couple left over and they were fine heated the next day.

Unknown said...

Hi there Chef John.. so u made Arepas..! =D ... our Venezuelan dish... we eat at any hour of the day... the comment Grayson made was perfect... it describes everything about it...
Well if your going to make it grill, after u give it a nice golden color in a pan with a little oil, u can save it for later. And then just put it in the oven for 10 minutes. That's how we do it.
And Chef if u make them a little thicker, would be great, and don't let it cool... cut it right away..!
We'll help u get the right 'technique' to shape them...! ;).. well done to be the first one..! =D

Unknown said...

By the way, in the video, when the dough is ready, and u push it a little bit with your finger, it cracks, or break in the sides, that means is a little dry... u have to add more water, a little bit...! until it's Smooth, not cracking..! ;)

Rita said...

a must try recipe! i'll surprise some of my friends who happen to be latinas. i'm sure they'll wonder how i learned to make this. i'll owe it all to you.

Anonymous said...

Wow, these look amazing. For anyone living in the UK, I managed to find PAN corn flour here:

Now I just need to wait for it to arrive...

Cortne said...

I love arepas. There is this tiny shop down off of 1st Ave in the Lower East Side in Manhattan that makes the best I've ever had. It's enough to make me drive all the way from DC.

Pyrofish said...

If you live in the South East, PAN White corn flour is in the ethnic section of Winn Dixie. About $1/lb in 35oz sacks. I'll be giving it a try tonight :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Chef, thanks for the recipe--very tasty! Took a while to find the PAN but was able to get it. Never had these and made them tonite with some BBQ. I made a couple of my arapa dough patties plain and some with some minced shallot and onion inserted--excellent as well, and I imagine a little crumbled bacon would also go well in the dough. Thanks for the recipe and new adventure!

Sigve said...

2 bags of the flour ordered from ebay - ended up costing me $50 including shipping half way across the globe.. but hey! I gotta try these. Thanks for the video Chef John! Think I'll try it with some pulled pork and SF BBQ sauce. Rawrr! :D

Anonymous said...

:) Ironically, I have been making these as of recent. First taste was in NYC last year (Caracas Arepas). Second taste, in my kitchen - though my middles never seem that dry, even when baked in the oven AFTER they have been cooked in a pan (or fried for that matter) - have played w/ the water:corn flour ratio. In short, masarepas is the corn flour I buy at Shoppers, which is important as it is not the same meal as tamales are made from.

And while I am jumping all over the place - recently, I went to SF (used to live there myself) a few weeks ago followed by NYC.... talk about a food vacay!


Samo said...

Hi, is this P.A.N. white corn meal the same thing as is polenta. In this case precooked means instant polenta. I really can't see myself spending 50$ on something as simple as a corn meal, specially since I am from Europe.

Here is another answer about distinction between polenta and cornmeal. So if anyone could clarify things a little bit it would sourly help a lot. Thanks. :) said...

Hi Samo... the pre-cooked corn meal and the the corn meal to make polenta might be similar, but I think it might not work for arepas. The texture of the the P.A.N. is very fine ground and the corn meal have been pre-cooked so the process of making the arepas only would take minutes instead of hours as in the old days. If you make "arepas" with a corn meal that has not been pre-cooked and you eat them, you'll end up with a very harsh tummy ache!

Fifty bucks for a couple of packages is certainly a high price. We sell them for $2.79 each plus shipping and I guess a package could fit in one of the small international flat rate boxes for about $15 (I'll have to double check though ;)... domestic shipping to USA would be a lot cheaper!

Thanks Chef John for making our arepas internationally famous :)

My Man's Belly said...

You've done such a great job selling me on these arepas I'm actually willing to stock another type of flour just to make these. But they look and sound worth it. :)

Jessica said...

I love Caracas!! One of the places I miss most about New York. I heard that tortillas are hard to find here in Paris, so I'm thinking Masa flour is completely nonexistent. So sad, I will just have to eat yours with my eyes.

Anonymous said...

We eat these in Colombia as well. My mom always made these thin and flat and served them with butter and salt on top. My best food memory from childhood!

Anonymous said...

Can you tell which store in the Mission I buy the corn flour? It's probably right down the street from me. I would really appreciate it. Love the sight. Keep up the good work.

Chef John said...

don't remember the name, but it has a green awning and is on 16th btwn Valencia and Mission

Anonymous said...

Found the store and purchased the corn meal.

Seared sashimi grade tuna sesame salt avocado mayo soy ponzu sriacha special sauce with crispy onion arepas for me my friend.

Also, Carne Asada tomato sweet corn relish avocado green onion.


Anonymous said...

Found the store and purchased the corn meal.

Seared sashimi grade tuna sesame salt avocado mayo soy ponzu sriacha special sauce with crispy onion arepas for me my friend.

Also, Carne Asada tomato sweet corn relish avocado green onion.


Anonymous said...

Mu husband is Venezuelan and LIVES off of these things (as does our 3 year old daughter!). I leave all arepa cooking up to him as I don't think that I could do them justice.

When he makes them, I notice my husband always puts the harina pan in first and then adds the water in small amounts...

For all of you interested, there is also yellow harina pan (for making yellow arepas).

Reagarding fillings: be warned... Savoury seems to be what is most used... My first trip to VE, and after tasting my first arepa, I said "I think this would be good with peanut butter and jam" - oooh, the looks I got from!!! PB&J did not seem to be cooth... Though roles were reversed when my mother in law turned her nose up at the pure Quebec maple syrup, and opted for cheese on the pancakes I made for her (so not cooth...).

Just some thoughts for folks!

Chef - my husband was so THRILLED that you had the arepa post (and that it is you new, fave dish!!).

Keep the great videos coming!
Annie (in Peterborough, Ontario)

Unknown said...

well when i make them the whole point is for it how have cheese. thats were it gets it flavor. even though in colombia we dont stuff them thats a great idea.

Luatica said...

a) does the video say 45 minutes per side?!

b)i tried with a different flour and it seems to work

Chef John said...

4 - 5 minutes

Luatica said...

That makes more sense (need new ears). My pan and stove are not very good (well actually the bad stove spoiled the pan and it is completely bumped now) so they were there forever and didn't cook through properly. I tried frying some to increase heat contact, but because the heat was very irregular, they soaked oil instead.

I guess I'll try baking next time until I move to my new apartment with a REAL KITCHEN.

Nevertheless, I liked them and it wasnt particularly complicated. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

OMG! there is a reason why you are my favorite cheff!! YOU ARE SO WELL-ROUNDED! thanks for this recipe! now I challenge you to make CACHAPAS...They are very close to Arepas but better! hahaha ask your venezuelan friends!

Anonymous said...

peking duck... :9

Chefanie said...

I have been looking everywhere for an arepa recipe. Caracas is probably one of the best restaurants in NYC (in my opinion). I can't wait to try to make these. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

i agree absolutely a wonderful little snack or meal. i live in mexico and have some friends here from venezuela that make them all the time and i love them. lately i've had some black bean, chorizo, oninon, and mushroom ones to die for. mmmmmmmmm. think i'll go get some more pan and take and gift my friends with those puppy dog eyes that say please make me some arepas...

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef John,

My family is from Venezuela and I we always put a small hole in the center of the arepa. This gives them an extra crunch but I find that if you're making them in an arepa machine, it will help the center cook all the way.


Mike Glodo said...

Updated link for Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.

Great recipe!

Anonymous said...

AREPAS !!! the best from my Venezuela, just try the tips from will love it!

Anonymous said...

I am from Colombia and ever since i was little ive had arepas for breakfast, dinner, snack. In my house we have a circle shaped plastic thing to make the arepas perfectly circular, we also shape the dough in arepa form and we let them in the freezer so everytime we want one we just take it out of the freezer and fry it

Anonymous said...

i saw people making it on tv and what they do is melt some butter at it to water. instead of adding water to the flour u pour the flour to the water and butter mix its supposed to make the dough smoother and a bit buttery

Mary cooks said...

Hi, I live in SF and often shop at La Palma on 24th and Florida where they sell bulk masa harina. Will this do or is only the P.A.N. flour the one to go with.
Mary M

Chef John said...

They aren't the same, so you need the PAN. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Chef John,

This is a great video recipe. I will post a link to it in my own Venezuelan Cooking Blog, if that's ok. The correct pronunciation can be found here (

To create the round flat shape is easier to make a ball first and then flatten it with both hands.

You can grill, roast, fry, bake or toast the arepas... but I agree with Grandson. The best way is to grill them on a cast iron round griddle.

You can find more information on my blog here:

And I am very happy that you love Arepas... I am Venezuelan, and moved to the US when I was 17. I am 26 now, and have been cooking Arepas for all my American friends and have yet to find one that doesn't like them :)

Of course TRUE Venezuelan Arepas are nothing without the "Harina PAN"... but if you can't find it, you could try the mexican brand "MASECA", or the GOYA brand "Masarepa".

Like in math, the order in which you add the ingredients won't alter the final result. However, some people do have the preference of adding the water or the cornmeal first.

I do have to say, I have prepared arepas in different ways for all my American friends and hubby... and the fried one is always the winner. But if you ask a Venezuelan, they probably prefer the original grilled one :)

They are also Gluten-Free, and if you don't add salt or high-sodium fillings, it could be low sodium as well :)


ale! said...

arepas are delicius! you should try them! but I prefer them grilled!! the secret of a grilled arepa is to put the arepas at the oven at least 5 minutes after grilled! you will get a crunchy arepa! Don´t forget to fill them! They are really nice with emmental cheese avocado and chicken!! just delicius! the "llanera" arepa.. is also perfect!.. tomato, avocado, "guayanes" cheese (you could switch this with cream cheese), grilled meat and a spicy "guasacaca" supremamente ricas!

The best way to get arepa shape is to make a ball with the dough and then smash them carefully! adding a little of oil to the dough! the dough will be smoother and easier to handle!

Alberli Maldonado said...

That is the most ugly arepa I've seen in my life hahahaha. I am Venezuelan, I'm glad you appreciate our culture, the arepa is the best dish in the world. =)

Elizabeth said...

my family is colombian and I've always had arepas only as a breakfast food, topped with some queso blanco and fried egg, or with jam and cream cheese. i'm excited to try it this way as a dinner food! thank you. oh man most americans are missing out, arepas are soooosososo delicious.

Desde la cocina de Niu said...

Chef Jhon, thank you very much to try our best and favorite meal! In Venezuela an Arepa is not only our bread, but is part of our childhood and our memories.
I really enjoyed your post and I recommend you try with the "Reina Pepiada" which is a filling made of avocado and chicken, just delicious, also to die for as you said about the combination of plantains and salted cheese.
I share you my blog's post with this "reina pepiada":

Thanks and cheers!

Anonymous said...

Does cornflour also work?
Otherwise it sounds great!

Anonymous said...

Chef John this are amazing, but as many others have said before me, I think is fair to say Venezuela is not the only place arepas are made nor they are from there only, They were created by the indians that inhabited the territory that now is Colombia, Venezuela and Panama and they are popular in those countries till this day.

Luis said...

Hello John:

I have a trick to make the dough for Arepas. Put a cup of Harina Pan in a bowl, then stir a cup of warm water with the salt slowly over it and leave the harina pan absorb the water for a couple of minutes after it knead the dough a little and it is ready to make arepas. By the way, grilled arepas are better and healthier than fried. Thanks you’re your recipe to make baguettes, it is excellent.
Luis From Venezuela

Unknown said...

just amazed how brave u were to make them. i grew up in Venezuela and for some people its just terrifying to make them as Venezuelans lol

u can also baked them
same steps
so instead of frying them
you are groin to have boiling water
put as many as u want in a large pot till they float
take them out straight to the oven till they turn golden color you
must turn them around so they turn gold both side

Lore said...

I am so happy I visited your page for some ideas for lunch today! My friends and I host a cooking night about once a month, and the one recipe we struggled with the most were Pupusas. My friend loves them and the market below his office building closed down, the only place where he was able to eat Pupusas. These Arepas are basically an easier to do version of Pupusas and I can only promise this is what's on the menu for our next cooking night!

Thank you!

Foodie Fun Fair said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing such yummy Venezuelan dish.

Lead With A Fork said...

sounds delicious!!!