Imagine walking around on the busy streets of NYC—a few things you might spot among the sea of people are dozens of yellow taxi cabs and a hot dog stand (or a few hundred of them, TBH). Just like hot dogs have become ubiquitous in American comfort food, arepas are one of the most popular foods to nosh on in places like Colombia and Venezuela.
The gluten-free dish is crunchy, flavorful, and filled with one of our favorite ingredients… corn! And, of course, like TikTok-famous corn-bassador Tariq, we also can’t imagine a more beautiful thing than the starchy veggie unless it’s a recipe filled with it, like arepas. The classic Latin American dish is made with a few simple ingredients like cornmeal and water and can be stuffed with cheese, sweet plantains, or protein-packed beans, just to name a few.
- Sashah Handal, Barry’s Bootcamp instructor certified in personal training, HIIT, indoor cycling, and TRX
On the latest episode of Alt-Baking Bootcamp, nutrition coach and baker Sashah Handal shares her version of a super easy gluten-free, vegan arepa recipe. Although there are different ways to make and eat arepas like these three-ingredient Venezuelan arepas, one thing that we can all agree on is that they’re absolutely delicious with a heaping pile of freshly grated cheese or creamy avocado.
Why do we love arepas so much?
For starters, this crunchy, crispy dish is made using cornmeal, which is a naturally gluten-free and vegan ingredient packed with protein and fiber. In each serving of the cornmeal—which is roughly one arepa—you can find almost six percent of your daily value of dietary fiber and about two grams of protein. And, like your favorite burrito or sandwich, the real magic is in how you choose to stuff or top your arepas.
In the episode, Handal makes her interpretation of an arepa with just five ingredients and a few simple steps. “This is just the traditional way that my family would make and enjoy them,” she explains. Though most arepa recipes call for solely corn flour, water, and salt, Handal adds softened vegan cultured butter, baking soda, and cornstarch for added flavor and texture. (FYI: Don’t fret if you don’t have these ingredients on hand, an arepa can be made without them as well.)
After making the dough, shaping the arepas, and cooking them on the stovetop until golden brown and crispy, Handal tops them off with a variety of ingredients like creamy diced avocado, pineapple-mango salsa, and pico de gallo. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can also slice them down the middle and stuff them with a Venezuelan-style avocado chicken salad (reina pepiada) or scrambled eggs with onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes (perico).
Handal’s gluten-free, vegan arepa recipe
Yields 5-6 servings
1 cup masa harina (precooked corn flour)
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp vegan cultured butter, softened
1. In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, starch, and baking powder.
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the water. Remove from the heat once hot, and add salt. Let it cool slightly.
3. Slowly add half of the hot, salted water into the dry ingredients until the dough is shaggy. 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, work the ingredients together until the dough is fully incorporated and not wet or too dry. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 10 minutes on the counter.
5. Shape the dough into small, round disks. In a large pan over medium-high heat, add the remaining butter. Cook on one side until golden brown for about 10 minutes, flip, and repeat.
6. Serve hot and finish with the toppings of your choice, like avocado, pico de gallo, or salsa.
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