If you’ve never had arepas, you’re in for a treat—these soft Colombian corn cakes come in many varieties, but the ones stuffed with cheese are obviously popular (and if you already love grilled cheese, then you’ll adore these). Our senior video producer Guillermo Riveros concocted this particular version while pining for the flavors of home; the mix of cheeses may not be traditional, but they’re delicious. And the accompanying hogao (a pan-fried tomato scallion sauce) has a secret ingredient that makes it extra savory. Read more about the dish, and once you get the main ingredient—see the note below—make these posthaste.
What to Buy: Be sure to buy pre-cooked white cornmeal, not the dry, gritty yellow kind that comes in a box or bag—and not masa harina either. You want masarepa, also sometimes labeled masa al instante and harina precocida. Look for the words “harina de maiz refinada precocida” on the bag. You can find it online from various sources, including Walmart and Target.
WHAT TO BUY
P.A.N. Pre-Cooked White Cornmeal
This is one popular brand (Goya and Maseca are also common), but note the all-important “harina de maiz refinada precocida” on the bag.
For the arepas:
- 1 ½ – 2 cups warm water (start with less and adjust as needed)
- 2 cups pre-cooked white cornmeal (such as P.A.N.®); see What to Buy note
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus more for filling
- ¼ cup grated edam cheese, plus more for filling
- ¼ cup grated parmesan, plus more for filling
- ½ cup feta cheese (crumbled), plus more for filling
- 1 tablespoon butter (softened)
- 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
For the hogao:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped scallions
- 2 cups fresh chopped tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder (or crumble a cube)
To make the arepas:
- Combine the pre-cooked white cornmeal and the warm water until fully incorporated (start with less water and add more as needed).
- Add the softened butter and incorporate fully until you have a soft, smooth dough.
- Add your cheeses to the dough and knead until fully incorporated. Pro tip: Wet your fingers with water as you’re working with the dough, so it sticks less to your fingers.
- Form balls that are roughly fist-sized and flatten into discs with your fingers until you have your desired thickness.
- Melt butter in a non-stick pan, or spray cooking spray on a griddle.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes at medium high heat without moving the arepas, flip and cook for another 5-7 minutes on the other side until you have a light golden brown crust on both sides.
- To make them extra cheesy, combine your desired amount of shredded, grated, and crumbled cheeses (I recommend using the same cheeses you used in the dough). Once arepas are done on both sides, let them cool for a couple of minutes, slice them in half, stuff with the cheese blend, close again, and finish on the same pan on low heat until cheese filling is melted.
To make the hogao:
- Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the scallions, cook for 1-2 minutes (or until it starts getting fragrant).
- Add garlic and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring until softened.
- Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and chicken bouillon. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook stirring constantly for 10 more minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
- Check and adjust seasoning if needed.