Chef Lorena Garcia’s Famous Vegan Arepa Recipe
Arepas are a staple in Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine and are unintentionally vegan. The main ingredient of the dish is cornmeal. Arepas are half an inch thick—both sides of the cornmeal cake are cooked until the arepa develops a crunchy exterior. Inside, the arepa stays soft. After it’s cooked, it’s sliced in half and filled with any stuffing the cook desires. It’s customary to use meat and cheese, but there are many combinations that are plant-based and vegan-friendly.
Arepas are easy to make with just four simple pantry staple ingredients. We spoke with celebrity Chef Lorena Garcia about her love of arepas and her personal recipe. The Venezuelan chef serves arepas at her upscale Latin American restaurant CHICA which has locations in Miami, Las Vegas, and Aspen and is a part of John Kunkel’s 50 Eggs Hospitality Group. The Lorena’s Arepa basket comes with arepas infused with beet, cilantro, and black beans. If you’re vegan, skip the cheese and nata butter arepas in the basket.
“Arepas are delicious. When I was six years old, I made arepas for my family and served them as a picnic in the middle of the living room. Arepas feel like home. They’re a part of every meal in Venezuela and I love sharing them with our guests at CHICA,” the Top Chef Masters competitor says. She’s always loved arepas because they’re versatile and easy to make.
Chef Garcia recommends stuffing your arepas with tasty vegan fillings such as sliced avocados with a touch of EVOO and salt; marinated tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and pink salt; or marinated grilled veggies with fresh herbs. “Traditionally, vegan arepas are filled with roasted sweet plantains or black beans,” she says.
Here’s Chef Garcia’s perfect arepa recipe. You can watch a video of her making the arepas on Instagram in Spanish with English subtitles.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes 3 or 4 arepas
- 2 cups precooked corn flour (masa arepa flour)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 ½ cups water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for greasing skillet)
- In a mixing bowl, combine the precooked cornflour and salt. Add the water and knead the mixture until all the ingredients are well combined and the dough no longer sticks to your hands. If, while kneading, the dough seems too stiff and breaks apart, add a few tablespoons of hot water; if it’s too sticky, add a little more cornflour.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal balls, about 4 1/2 ounces each, and flatten each one between your palms into a 4-inch patty, ½ inch thick.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat for 2 minutes.
- Add 3 or 4 arepas to the pan depending on the size of the pan. The arepas should sizzle as they hit the skillet.
- Cook the arepas until they’re golden and have a nice crust, about 6 to 8 minutes. Flip them and brown the other side for an additional 6 to 8 minutes. Then cover the arepas and continue to steam them for another 5 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!
Calories 241 | Total Fat 5.7g | Saturated Fat 1g | Sodium 1747mg | Total Carbohydrate 45g | Dietary Fiber 4.3g | Total Sugars 0.4g | Protein 4.1g | Calcium 5mg | Iron 1mg | Potassium 185mg |