Arepas have become a slowly growing trend in the United States, with food trucks and restaurants dedicated to this dish popping up. I think we know that they're Latin American, but what are arepas, really? Simply put, arepas are kind of like a cross between a tortilla and a pancake. They're a staple in South American cuisine and  can be eaten all day long with dozens of variations. Fill them with cheese, make them into sandwiches, or even turn them into dessert. While places serving arepas are popping up in NYC and other major cities, learn about them now so you can be an expert before they hit your town. 

Ingredients in Arepas

Amanda Shulman

The most important element of arepas is corn (or maize). Since the only other two ingredients are salt and water, the ground up corn grit gives them both their unique taste and texture. Today, you can buy masarepa flour (instead of grinding up corn yourself). The trick is to add just enough water and salt until the dough does not crack anymore when formed. Less is more when it comes to these other ingredients. Arepas can be grilled, baked, or fried and transformed any way you like. 

History of Arepas

The indigenous people in Venezuela and Colombia, specifically at the northern end of the Andes Mountains, were the first to create arepas. However, arepas are made all around South America in dozens of different ways. According to Extra Crispy, arepa dough was originally made one of two ways. Corn was either soaked in the rain and ground down to make dough, or it was chewed up and spit it out to create dough. Let's be thankful that arepas aren't made this way anymore. 

There are many theories as to why they're specifically called arepas. One theory is that "arepas" stems from the word "aripos," which is the name of the pan that arepas used to be cooked in. 

How to Eat Arepas

Arepas can be split and buttered, filled, made into sandwiches, served as bread to accompany a meal, or served with a dipping sauce. Some popular combinations for sandwiches or fillings include cheese (arepas rellenas), black beans and crumbled cheese, ham and cheese, and scrambled eggs. Basically, you can be creative as you would like with your fillings and how you make them. 

If you’re in Minneapolis, Hola Arepa is a great place to try an arepa, as well as the yuca fries that are served with it.

Wherever you are, arepas are coming your way soon, so go out and welcome these into your regular diet.