If you’ve never heard of an arepa before, you are missing out. I heard about them first when I lived in Miami, but never often had them. There are two versions: Columbian and Venezuelan. Each has its own flavor profiles and each one is known for different ways of serving it.
Arepa is a type of food made of corn flour and this is the brand I always use. It can be easily found in the Hispanic section of your grocery store. I’ve even found it at Walmart!
Today we’re going to talk about the Venezuelan version, the one I cook more of, thanks to my sister in law Jen. When I first met my husband, having these arepas on Saturday mornings with my Suegra’s scrambled eggs was THE best breakfast to start the day. I would watch her, Jen and her mother Antonia (also known as Coco in our family), mix, shape and cook these arepas to perfection.
Did I figure it out in the first try? Nope. It took some practice, and luckily my husband still at them even with certain *cough* burnt sections. Of course, he will disagree (such a sweetie), but I know better.
Now listen, if you feel intimidated by making arepas at home, don’t be. I tried my best to make the steps as easy as possible through many trial and errors on my part. Rest assured, if it doesn’t turn out ok when you first make it, then serve it with rice! No one will know the wiser.
But, that doesn’t mean you can’t practice another time! Remember, it’s an excellent gluten free option.
Venezuelans usually eat their arepas with avocado chicken salad, but unfortunately my husband is allergic to avocado. I figured why not use the curry sauce I make for chop chop chicken instead for this recipe? The dried apricots and almonds are the sweet and crunchy surprise inside that makes this arepa dish come full circle.
Look at me sound all fancy, ha! It’s a nice twist to the Venezuelan classic, one I think my sister in law would be proud of.
- 1 ½ cups Arepa mix
- 1 ½ cups water, plus 1-2 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons of butter
- 1/2 teaspoon of coriander
- 1 teaspoon
- 1/2lb of chicken breast or 1 1/2 cups of chopped rotisserie chicken
- 1/3 cup of chopped dried apricots
- 1/3 cup of lightly toasted slivered almonds
- 2-3 green onions sliced thinly (white and light green parts)
- 1/2 cups of chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro or parsley
- 1/4 mayo or plain greek yogurt
- 1/4 sour cream
- 1 tablespoon of curry powder
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon of mustard
- 1-2 tablespoons of honey
- 2-3 tablespoons of milk or cream
- In a medium bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of salt, coriander, 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and the chicken. You can pan cook the chicken or grill it, whichever is easiest. You can even use leftover rotisserie chicken!
- In another medium bowl, combine all ingredients for the curry sauce and add the apricots, almonds, celery and green onions. Add the chicken and toss everything together. Add the cilantro or the parsley at the very end, just before serving.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Combine arepa mix, 1 cup water, and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a medium bowl and knead with hands until a dough is formed. If the edges crack, knead in more water a tablespoon at a time until dough is supple and smooth but not sticky. Season dough to taste with salt, then cover and set aside for five minutes.
- Divide dough into four even pieces and roll into balls. Working on a wooden cutting board or a regular cutting board with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper on top of it, flatten each ball down to a disk about 4-inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick.
- Melt butter in a 12-inch cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add arepas and cook, moving them around the pan and rotating them occasionally, until first side is charred in spots and a dry crust has formed, about five minutes. Flip arepas and cook on second side until a dry crust has formed, about five minutes longer. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest 5 minutes, split, and fill with chicken salad.
- Got any chicken salad left over or not ready to try arepas yet? This is also great on top of white rice with some chopped lettuce!
My husband loves this filling and he doesn’t care much for curry! What does that tell you? And remember, you can easily swap the mayo for plain greek yogurt.
And if you don’t care much for chicken salad, give this a try. I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.