What are arepas? When we saw these enticing corn-based snacks at a street fair in Manhattan last fall, we couldn’t pass them up! We love anything made with corn and these were like two perfectly round corn pancakes with gooey mozzarella filling, cooked on the griddle to golden-brown perfection! They are perfect for a vegetarian main, but make fantastic sides or even appetizers. We use only corn flour in our arepas recipe, so they are gluten-free, and great for anyone with wheat allergies.
Arepas date back to pre-Columbian times, but are still a very popular staple in many Latin American countries, including Colombia, Argentina, Panama and are now pretty popular in New York City too! We usually make ours with slices of fresh mozzarella in between two pancakes, but they can be served plain or with any combination of fillings from braised meats, to veggies, cheese or even eggs. We also love to serve them with chopped tomatoes and snipped cilantro on top.
The arepas we had in New York were thick, perfectly round, and very uniform — like they’d been cut with giant a biscuit cutter. Sometimes arepas look like English muffins and sometimes the stuffing is baked inside as if in a pocket. Those at the street fair were thick griddle cakes filled with cheese. When we first made them, we tried several different recipes before settling on our own, which was thinner and free-form … mostly round with some ruffled edges! Then we stacked them like pancakes with the cheese melting in between. What makes these so tasty, is that they are made with puréed frozen corn, giving them a really rich corn flavor.
Usually we make our arepas about 4-inches in diameter for a main or a side, but if we use them as appetizers, we make them quite a bit smaller, maybe two inches across. However you decide to make and serve them, we hope they become a staple in your diet too! This recipe makes about twelve 4-inch single pancakes or six double-stacked.
- 1 large skillet or griddle (We really love cast iron for this dish, but any frying pan will work!)
- 1 small or large food processor
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- 1 1/4 cups corn flour not corn meal, but corn flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 cup milk +/- depending upon whether you like thicker or thinner pancakes
- 2 tbsp. melted butter
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil or olive oil for frying the corn pancakes in the skillet
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- Place the frozen corn kernels in the bowl of your food processor and puree until almost smooth. There will still be some lumps and that is okay!
- Turn puréed corn out into a mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients except for the mozzarella. Stir well.
- Preheat grill or frying pan over medium-high heat. Ladle a little bit of the vegetable oil over the hot surface and swirl pan to cover with oil, or brush oil to cover. Spoon the corn batter onto the griddle in whatever size pancakes you would like to make. We make 4-inch pancakes for a side dish and 2-inch pancakes for an appetizer size.
- Allow pancakes to turn golden-brown on the bottom and then flip to cook the other side.
- Once the second side is cooked, cover the tops of half the pancakes with a slice or two of the mozzarella. Then, leaving the prettiest side up, place the remaining pancakes on top of the mozzarella. Continue to cook just until the cheese is melted and gooey.
- If you want tall arepas, just double up the pancake sandwiches with a layer of cheese in between, for 4-layer arepas.
- Serve hot with your favorite hot sauce, salsa, or dipping sauce.