Imagine walking down the busy streets of New York: a few things you might see among the sea of people are dozens of yellow cabs and a hot dog stand (or a few hundred of them, TBH). Just as hot dogs have become ubiquitous in American comfort food, arepas are one of the most popular foods to eat in places like Colombia and Venezuela.
The gluten-free dish is crispy, flavorful, and packed with one of our favorite ingredients…corn! And of course, like Tariq, the famous corn bassist on TikTok, we also can’t imagine anything more beautiful than the starchy vegetable unless it’s a recipe full of it, like arepas. The classic Latin American dish is made with a few simple ingredients like cornmeal and water and can be filled with cheese, sweet plantains, or protein-packed beans, just to name a few.
In the latest episode of Alt-Baking Bootcamp, nutrition coach and baker Sashah Handal shares her take on a super easy, gluten-free vegan arepa recipe. Although there are different ways to make and eat arepas like these three-ingredient Venezuelan-style arepas, one thing we can all agree on is that they are absolutely delicious with lots of grated fresh cheese or creamy avocado.
Why do we love arepas so much?
For starters, this crispy, crunchy dish is made with cornmeal, which is a naturally gluten-free and vegan ingredient packed with protein and fiber. In each serving of cornmeal, which is about an arepa, you can find nearly six percent of your daily value for dietary fiber and about two grams of protein. And, like your favorite burrito or sandwich, the real magic is in how you choose to fill or top your arepas.
In the episode, Handal makes his take on an arepa with just five ingredients and a few simple steps. “This is just the traditional way my family would make them and enjoy them,” he explains. While most arepa recipes call for just cornmeal, water, and salt, Handal adds softened vegan cultured butter, baking soda, and cornstarch to add flavor and texture. (FYI: Don’t worry if he doesn’t have these ingredients on hand, you can also make an arepa without them.)
After making the dough, shaping the arepas and cooking them on the stovetop until golden and crisp, Handal tops them off with a variety of toppings like creamy diced avocado, pineapple-mango salsa and pico de gallo. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can also cut them in half and stuff them with a Venezuelan-style avocado chicken salad (queen pepiada) or scrambled eggs with onions, peppers, and tomatoes (perico).
Vegan and gluten-free arepa recipe from Handal
Makes 5-6 servings
1 cup of masa flour (precooked cornmeal)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons vegan cultured butter, softened
1. In a medium bowl, add the flour, starch, and baking powder.
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the water. Remove from heat once hot, and add salt. Let it cool down a bit.
3. Slowly add half of the hot salted water to the dry ingredients until the dough is fluffy. You may not need all of the water for this step.
4. Next, add the butter to the dough in small pieces. Using your hands, bring the ingredients together until the dough is fully incorporated and not wet or too dry. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes on the countertop.
5. Shape the dough into small, round disks. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the remaining butter. Cook on one side until golden brown about 10 minutes, flip and repeat.
6. Serve hot and finish with toppings of your choice, such as avocado, pico de gallo, or salsa.