Cheese Arepas

An arepa is an iconic South American food with over 75 distinct forms and preparations. According to The Columbian Academy of Gastronomy, “arepas are part of (their) cultural heritage and can be considered a symbol of national gastronomic unity”. Arepas are flat, round, unleavened patties made from maize meal or maize flour that can be grilled, pan-fried, broiled, or steamed.

cheese arepas

The word “arepa” is believed to have originated from the language of the Caracas natives near the northern coast of Venezuela and simply means “maize” or corn. Depending on the region of origin, arepas can be served stuffed or topped with various ingredients such as cheese, meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables.

Although arepas can historically be traced back to the indigenous inhabitants of both Venezuela and Columbia, similar variations are also found in Mexico where they are known as “gorditas” or in El Salvador where they are referred to as “pupusas”.

cheese arepas

Maize flour (also called “maize“, “masarepa”, “masa de arepa”, “masa al instante”, or “harissa precocida”), is specially prepared by being cooked in water, then dried and can be used for making other maize dough-based dishes including tamales and empanadas. The most common brands of maize found in local supermarkets are typically Goya and Harina PAN. Arepas can be served for breakfast, as a snack, appetizer, or even as a side dish to a main course in place of bread.

I discovered arepas when I moved to California years ago. Cheese arepas were a signature dish at a local café my family and I frequented for breakfast. I fell in love fast. My recipe for classic South American arepas is incredibly similar to those my family and I have been enjoying for years.

cheese arepas

Making arepas may seem difficult, but don’t be deceived, they’re not. I use a lovely soft queso fresco cheese in this recipe and the amount can easily be increased or decreased to your liking. My family loves arepas simple, and a touch of sour cream on the side is not a bad addition. Arepas can easily be prepared ahead of time and held, but taste-wise, they are best served hot, straight from the pan with a crispy outside and melted cheesy center.

Recipe: Cheese Arepas

: 16 arepas : 25 min : 20 min : 45 min : medium


  • 2 cups maize flour, such as Harina PAN
  • 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 (12-ounce) package queso fresco, cut into small 1/4 -inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Sour cream, (optional)


  • Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paeper and set aside.
  • Step 2 In a medium mixing bowl add the warm water and salt, and mix to dissolve. Slowly add the corn meal and using your fingers, blend to form a soft dough.
  • Step 3 Divide the dough into 16 golf ball-size pieces, and using your hands, gently roll them into a ball and then flatten them into a party about 4-inches wide. Working one at a time, place about 6 cubes of cheese into the center of each patty. Fold the dough over the cheese completely covering all the cheese cubes. Gently pat the stuffed arepas back into a 4-inch round patty and set aside.
  • Step 4 Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Working in batches, cook the arepas until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using a metal spatula. Gently flip the arepas and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Transfer the cooked arepas to the prepared baking pan. Bake until the edges of the arepas are crisp and the tops are golden about 8-10 minutes. Serve hot with sour cream.
About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

2 thoughts on "Cheese Arepas"

  1. Avatar photo Monika says:

    What is 2 cups PAN?
    Also – do you eat the food you blog about yourself?

    1. Hi Monika- Sorry if that was not clear, I talk a bit about PAN in the blog post. I just updated the recipe to make it more clear. The recipe calls for 2 cups maize flour, such as Harina PAN. And yes, my family and I eat everything I blog about.This happens to be a dish my entire family loves and I developed after eating in restaurants for years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comment Policy

Simmer + Sauce reserves the right to remove or restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the topic conversation, contain profanity or offensive language, personal attacks, or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Any post found to be in violation of any of these guidelines will be modified or removed without warning. When making a comment on my blog, you grant Simmer + Sauce permission to reproduce your content to our discretion, an example being for a possible endorsement or media kit purposes. If you don’t want your comment to be used for such purposes, please explicitly state this within the body of your comment. If you find evidence of copyright infringement in the comments of, contact me and I will remove that in question promptly.