Besides being known for its beautiful countryside, Venezuela is also famous for its rich cuisine with influences from Spanish, West African, and Native American cultures. Most dishes consist of simple ingredients like corn, plantains, black beans, and meats, which give Venezuelan foods their unique and tasty flavor.

Even though politics and the current situation of the country have been dominating the news lately, there is something that will always be celebrated and that is the cuisine. Believe me when I tell you that once you try these dishes, your life will change for the better.

Here's a list of Venezuela’s most famous and delicious dishes in no order of preference. In my opinion, they are all delicious.

1. Arepas

pork, beef, steak, tacos
Mariana Hulian

The famous saying "there's nothing more Venezuelan than an arepa" is absolutely true. This corn-based "bread" is the ultimate Venezuelan food that can be eaten as a main dish or as a side.

 Arepa is a flat, round, unleavened patty made from corn flour. It can be fried, grilled or baked. Arepas are filled with a variety of ingredients depending on the region and style of the cook. It is very versatile because you can add your personal touch to the dough. Some people like to add more flavor by adding shredded carrots or beets. They can also be made healthier by adding chia seeds, oats, or flax seeds. 

Popular stuffings include scrambled eggs, black beans with cheese, seasoned ground beef, or even avocado. One of the most famous arepa is called Reina Pepiada which has an avocado and mayo-based stuffing. It is absolutely delicious. 

2. Pabellón Criollo

This is Venezuela's national dish. Pabellón criollo consists of juicy pulled beef, black beans, white rice and fried plantain. Usually it is served with some shredded salty white cheese grated over the black beans and a slice of avocado on the side. 

It is the perfect combination of flavors. The salty flavor of the beef and beans goes in perfect harmony with the sweet flavor of the plantains along with the white rice, making it a party for your taste buds. 

There are many variations to this plate, but some argue that the secret of any great pabellon is in the beef's sofrito. The combination of onions, sweet peppers, bell peppers and adobo seasoning that the beef is cooked in, is the secret to its awesome flavor. 

Pabellón criollo is usually referred to as the dish that represents the three great Venezuelan cultures: European (rice), Indigenous (meat), and African (black beans). However, this statement is purely poetic and is based on the color of the products.

3. Tequeños

wheat, brioche, bun, pastry, coffee, bread
Mariana Hulian

No, they are not mozzarella sticks; they are even better. These are cheese sticks made with a pastry crust wrapped around salty white cheese, and they can be fried or baked. They are typically served with many different dipping sauces, one of the most famous being guasacaca, which is a Venezuelan avocado-based sauce.

Tequeños are a very popular snack served in many occasions like parties, bars, restaurants or even for an afternoon snack. If you go to a party and tequeños are not served as appetizers, then it is not a truly Venezuelan party. 

The name comes from Los Teques, a town in the state of Miranda where the richest families from Caracas used to spend long vacations periods and they started preparing tequeños with the leftovers from another Venezuelan pastry, pastelitos.

4. Hallaca

Hallacas consist of a corn dough wrapped in plantain, filled with a stuffing called "guiso" made with beef, olives, pork, capers and many vegetables and then cooked in boiling water. This is the perfect example of the cultural mixture that was created in Venezuela as a result of colonization. The plantain comes from Africa; the corn dough comes from the indigenous people of the region; and the guiso comes from Spain. 

Hallacas are typically eaten during Christmas dinner. It is usually served with some butter on the top and some ham bread. Because preparing hallacas is an elaborated process, it is a tradition that families come together and spend a day making a lot of them to make them last until the end of December. 

Each family has their own secret ingredient for hallacas or traditions that are passed down from generation to generation, and techniques are also improved upon generation to generation.

5. Cachapa

pastry, sweet, dairy product, vegetable, cheese, rice
Mariana Hulian

Cachapa is a pancake-like cake made from fresh corn batter  with some pieces of corn kernels. It is often eaten with queso de mano (hand-made cheese) as stuffing and some cream or butter on the top. It has a sweet flavor that goes along perfectly with the saltines of the stuffings used. 

It can be found in establishments along the road or in formal restaurants and often are accompanied by ham, pork, beef or chicharron. 

Cachapas are of indigenous origin, from the Central region of Venezuela where the indigenous people who inhabited these lands cultivated corn.

6. Perico

rice, cereal, corn
Mariana Hulian

This is another breakfast favorite. Perico consists of scrambled eggs with Latin American sazon. It is a mix of fresh eggs with onion, tomatoes and red peppers and is often eaten as a stuffing for arepas. However, many people like to eat it alone because the flavor is really perfect by itself. 

The best part is that it's nutritious too. They provide the protein, fat, vitamins and minerals you need every morning to fuel your body. 

#SpoonTip: Grate the tomatoes, onions, and red peppers, and cook that mixture for a while before putting in the eggs, that way you can get the most of their flavor.

7. Tres Leches

This mouth-watering dessert is made up of a sponge cake soaked up in three types of milk (condensed milk, evaporated milk and regular milk) with a meringue topping. Because butter is not used, the batter is light and air bubbles are formed when baked. This is why the cake does not have a soggy consistency when soaked in the milk mixture. 

Some people like to add their own touch by using dulce de leche and some cinnamon on top of the cake, which gives more sweetness to this dessert and is absolutely amazing. 

#SpoonTip: Sometimes you can find this delicious dessert at MSU's The Gallery Dining Hall in Snyder Phillips.

8. Empanadas

One word: GLORY. These are filled patties made from the same corn flour as arepas, they can be fried or baked. Empanadas can have many different stuffings, but the most common one is white cheese. It is the perfect combination, the saltiness of the cheese with the sweet touch of the dough. 

Filling vary according to the region, some people use the same fillings as arepa's. Popular stuffings include ground beef. shredded beef or chicken, cazón (small shark), black beans, and even plantain. Believe me, you will like them no matter what's in them.

Empanadas can be served as appetizers or as a main dish. They are the typical breakfast that kids have at a Venezuelan school's cafeteria.

A Piece of Venezuela in Michigan

El Rey de Las Arepas is one-of-a-kind Venezuelan restaurant located in the Southwest of Detroit. It is a little piece of Venezuela in Michigan. Rey, the owner, started with just a little business and with hard work (and excellent food) he opened his own restaurant. Here you can find all the dishes I just explained and many more. And yes, he is a Spartans fan! #GoGreen

Be adventurous and try some of these foods. Believe me, you won't regret it. Besides being delicious, they are super easy to prepare and some of them can be the perfect option when you are on-the-go.