Colombian Arepas con Queso – A corn cake made from white cornmeal, queso fresco, milk, and water and stuffed with mozzarella cheese before forming into a patty and grilling until firm
Arepas were a main staple of my childhood. My Cololmbian grandmother lived with us and made these frequently. We all loved them so much. I especially loved the starchy texture with a a little saltiness from the cheese. It was almost like a super moist cornbread but with cheese in the center.
I had only made arepas a handful of times for my family in the last few years. I never really found a recipe that I was enamored with. But thanks to the launch of Encanto at the end of 2021, arepa recipe videos have been all over my Instagram. I found one that looked so incredible that I had to make it. It differed slightly from my abuela’s recipe because it added the cheese to the center before forming into patties and cooking it – she always added the cheese after it was cooked.
After making these, my family and I became OBSESSED with arepas. I always have cooked ones in the refrigerator that we can pop in the microwave to get the cheese gooey again. So today I want to share my perfect recipe for arepas so you can make them yourself, too!
Check out my recipe for Colombian Arepas con Queso!
Colombian arepas vs Venezuelan arepas
There are two main versions of arepas: those that come from Colombia and those that come from Venezuela.
- Venezuelan arepas are usually made with yellow cornflour and then stuffed with meats or other filling to be eaten like a sandwich.
- Colombian arepas are usually made with while cornflour and usually only have cheese in the center or are served plain.
I grew up having Colombian arepas so that’s the kind I love the most. I’ve tried Venezuelan arepas but they just don’t hit the spot the same for me. The yellow cornflour is sweeter and there isn’t the same amount of cheese in the dough, if at all.
Making these arepas
The arepas are super simple to make. The dough is just masarepa, water, milk, salt, cheese, and butter. It’s mixed together and left to rest to let the dough firm up a little.
Then, a handful of dough is formed into a ball and then flattened into a patty. Shredded mozzarella is placed in the center and then the dough is folded over the shredded cheese and formed into a ball again. Finally, the ball is formed into a patty and then grilled on a griddle set to medium-low heat.
Tips & Tricks
- Masarepa is the most important ingredient. There is no substitute for the specific cornmeal used for arepas. If you’re unsure if you have the right kind, check the package. It should say what the flour can be used for. Also, most masarepa packages have an arepa recipe on the back so if you see that, you got the right kind.
- Moderate heat. Don’t make the mistake of heating the griddle too hot. This will cause the outside to burn before the center is cooked through.
- Remove air pockets. When folding the dough over the shredded mozzarella cheese, make sure to remove air pockets before sealing it into a ball again. This will ensure the cheese doesn’t melt out while cooking.
Colombian Arepas con Queso
- 2¼ cups pre-cooked white cornmeal (masarepa)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces shredded queso fresco
- 1 cup milk
- 1½ cups water
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
- 4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- Add cornmeal, salt, and shredded queso fresco in a medium/large bowl. Whisk together to combine. Add water, milk, and butter to a sauce pan and heat until scalded (steaming but not boiling). Turn off heat. Add hot milk/water mixture to cornmeal mix. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined and then let sit for 5 minutes.
- Preheat griddle to medium-low (about 350 degrees). Grab a handful of dough (about ⅓ cup, rounded) and form into a 5-inch patty. Add a pinch of shredded mozzarella into the center and fold the patty edges over the center to envelope the cheese into the dough, forming into a ball. Repeat with the rest of the dough. You should have 10 balls.
- Flatten each ball into a 4-5 inch patty, smoothing the edges if they start to crack. Place onto preheated griddle. Repeat with rest of the dough balls. Cook until both sides get dark spots from cooking and get firm on the outside. This should take about 4 minutes per side.
- Let cool for about 3 minutes and then serve. Serve hot.