Arepas are the easiest gluten free bread

Arepas are the easiest gluten free bread

Arepas are probably one of the best things a coeliac or gluten-free person can learn to make. Originating in Columbia and Venezuela, they are a flatbread made fresh to eat and require just two ingredients. Honestly, the hardest thing about making arepas is finding the right flour.

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Top your arepas with this quick five minute avocado dip!

My experiences with arepas

I was trying to think back to when I first had an arepa. Back when I was living in London, I visited a market by Putney bridge and found a food stand selling Venezuelan gluten free sandwiches. Obviously I had to go for it and it was absolutely delicious. It was filled with pulled pork, beans and sealed up with cheese. It was so messy and so satisfying. Did I mention messy? My friend actually had it spill all over his crisp white shirt 😅.

An arepa with a wide opening showing meat, pickles, tomato and red onion.
With this much stuffing you can see why they leak and spill.

But actually thinking back a little further. I had arepas around 2015 on a trip to Spain, I didn’t know what they were at the time. I found pre-made arepas in the freezer at a supermarket. The ingredients said they were gluten free so I bought them and took them back to our accommodation.

At the accommodation I fried them up as per the instructions and I ate them with dulce de leche. Which is actually a traditional topping for a sweet arepa. So that was some pretty good intuition on my part.

Following the first few arepa experiences, I have went back and had them at markets across London. And I’ve also been fortunate enough to find them in other cities that I’ve lived in such as Sydney and my hometown of Melbourne.

If you’d like to know where to find arepas around Melbourne and Sydney, check my pocket guides. Both feature venues with delicious arepas.

An arepa filled with pulled beef and cheese.
Arepas make for such a satisfying meal.

How to make arepas

Honestly making these South American flatbreads is dead easy. I know many would say it’s pointless writing a recipe about it. However, I think it’s important to showcase arepas on a gluten-free website to make sure that more coeliacs and gluten intolerant folk know about them.

To make arepas, simply combine your arepa flour with equal amount of water and mix until combined. Then knead the mixture for a few minutes until it forms a dough. Check the dough’s moisture levels. If it seems a little dry and has cracks then you can add a small amount of water up to approximately 1/4 of a cup per initial cup used.

Allow the dough to rest for about five minutes before dividing the mixture and forming it into balls.

Once you’ve got your ball shape, you can flatten them in your hands or even in a tortilla press to get an even finish. Personally, I do it by hand even though I have a tortilla press. I haven’t actually used it for arepas yet, but I will give it a go next time!

Two arepas in a frying pan.
The beauty is they don’t have to be perfect circles, they’ll still taste great!

Where to buy arepa flour

The hardest part to make arepas is finding the correct flour. When I was living in the UK the easiest way to get it was to order through Amazon and this may be the case for you in the US or even in Australia. I am pleased to see that PAN arepa and Don arepa flours are both available through Amazon Australia.

If you’re lucky enough to have a South American grocery store in your neighbourhood, they will definitely have the correct type of cornmeal to make arepas.

A bag of P.A.N white arepa flour with a large pink clip sealing it shut.

I use PAN brand arepa flour. In Melbourne I have found this at small continental delis and green grocers. I have also seen it in the Melbourne CBD at an IGA that happened to stock a lot of South American foodstuff.

In Sydney I was able to find a South American green grocer in Artarmon. There’s also a South American grocer in the inner west and The Empanadas Factory in Rozelle also sells this flour.

Arepas, South American flatbreads

Arepas are a staple bread make with pre-cooked cornmeal and are naturally gluten and yeast free.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Baking
Cuisine Columbian, Venezuelan
Servings 4 arepas

Equipment

  • 1 Heavy frying pan

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup precooked cornmeal / arepa flour see notes for brands
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt optional

Instructions
 

  • In a mixing bowl combine the arepa flour, water and salt (if using).
  • Once combined, knead the dough for about two minutes to bring it to an even consistency.
  • If the dough is looking a little dry add up to 1/4 cup of water. Add this water gradually, mixing and kneading each time.
  • Allow the dough to rest for five minutes.
  • Divide the dough into four equal portions. I find that two arepas of this size makes for a filling meal. You could make more, smaller arepas using this volume.
  • Form each dough portion into a ball and then flatten into a thin round disc.
  • Cook in your frying pan (without oil) on a medium heat for about five minutes each side.
  • The arepas will be ready when the outside is crisped up with a few scorched spots.
  • To serve take the arepas off the pan and use a knife to cut an opening. Fill with sweet or savoury items and enjoy!

Notes

Arepa flour brands.
Harina PAN (this is what I buy, it’s the easiest to find in Australia) it comes in both white and yellow. There’s no taste difference i the colours, its just aesthetics. 
GOYA masarepa
Doñarepa 
Please don’t use cornmeal or polenta – it’s not the same thing! 
Keyword Bread

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