Gluten-Free South American Food: Cheese Arepa Recipe and Perico Scramble Recipe

November 20th, 2008 yum Posted in Colombian, Corn, Eggs, Vegetarian, Venezuelan, breakfast, cheese 4 Comments »

I discovered Arepas some time ago thanks to some of my blogging friends, and I posted my own green chili cheese variation. It was lovely and delicious, and I was so glad to have bought some Pan corn mix to make them. And then… I put the mix away in my cupboard in a ziploc bag and forgot about it for a while. This weekend as I was trying to decide what to have for breakfast, I happened to see that mix in the cupboard, and thought… why not? I’d been curious about the Venezuelan take on arepa with its perico scrambled egg filling… and I also wanted to try them with a plain cheese filling. So, authentic or not, a mix of recipes or not, I found myself making arepas stuffed with cheese and topped with perico. I added a dollup of hot sauce because something in the scramble just seemed to call for it… and found it was the perfect breakfast with coffee… and then the perfect lunch with a cool glass of lime water (no sugar).

The next time you have gluten-free breakfast doldroms, why not try an arepa, in one of its many forms? I bet you’ll find at least one that you love…

Karen’s arepa Recipe
Shauna’s simple and traditional arepa Recipe
My green chili cheese arepa recipe

Gluten Free Cheese Feta Arepas with Venezuelan Perico
1 1/4 cup PAN
1 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. salt
*1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
*1/4 cup feta cheese (not traditional, but what I had in my refrigerator), crumbled
*You can omit cheese for vegan arepa, or use vegan cheese sub

Perico Scramble
1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp margarine or butter
3 shallots, diced (or other onion equivalent)
3 small tomatoes or 1 medium roma tomato, chopped
2 eggs OR (for vegan) 1/2 firm tofu block, drained (Refrigerated type)
your favorite hot sauce- tabasco or srirachi etc, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. If you can’t put your arepa browning pan (say a nonstick pan) in the oven, preheat something like a pizza stone in the oven (covered with a sheet of aluminum foil.)

Combine your pan meal, salt and warm water in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Then shape it into two balls and knead each with your hands until they are smooth and ingredients are well combined. Cover the dough you are not working with with a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out. Pull off a small ball of dough and shape into a flat disk, and place a small pinch of mozzarella cheese in the center, along with an even smaller pinch of crumbled feta cheese. Carefully fold over the disk so you have a potsticker/ perogie half moon shape and then gently press out the crease where the dough comes together so that it is roughly in the center of a new, circular disk you are creating. Make sure the edges of your arepa are smooth. Heat a nonstick pan or cast iron pan (ideal) with a little olive oil or other favorite oil on medium. Brown each disk- each side will take from 7-10 minutes. Try not to burn the disks- ideally they will be golden brown and not blackened. If they seem to be getting too dark too quickly, turn down the heat. When they are golden brown on both sides, put them in the oven either in the cast iron skillet OR onto the heated surface you have already placed in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, turning if desired, or until the arepas sound hollow when you tap them.

While they are in the oven, you can make the perico scramble.
Heat your teaspoon of olive oil and margarine or butter and add the diced shallots. Let them start to turn translucent and then add your chopped tomato and a little salt. While it is cooking, either whisk your eggs together (you can omit egg yolk for less fat if desired) or crumble your drained tofu. Add whisked eggs (or tofu) to the pan and combine. Let them cook nicely into scrambled eggs (or tofu) and turn as needed. Taste and season to taste with salt (if needed) and pepper. If you make it with tofu, you might try adding nutritional yeast or chopped avocado for a little extra pow.

Place your arepas on a plate with your perico scramble and add some dashes of hot sauce to the scramble or on the side of the dish. Enjoy!

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Gluten-Free Arepa Corn Green Chili biscuit Recipe

September 4th, 2008 yum Posted in Baked Goods, Colombian, Corn, Dairy, South American, Vegetarian, Venezuelan, cheese 15 Comments »

I first encountered the Arepa in a lovely post at Gluten-free Heaven. The author Karen learned this naturally gluten-free recipe from a Venezuelan friend and happily decided to share her experiments online. I was so intrigued I had to go to a local Latin American market and buy my own PAN pre-cooked corn flour. I made those first ones with fresh refried beans as a filling and homemade guacamole as a topping, and they were absolutely delicious. Some time later I enjoyed reading Shauna’s Ode to arepas at her Gluten Free Girl blog. Since then, several gluten-free bloggers have jumped on the arepa bandwagon and shared their take on this treat. Recently I decided to follow up my initial experiment with a new version of green chili arepas, inspired by the tasty green chili cheese tamales at Trader Joe’s and some green chili cheese corn muffins I used to make. I enjoy arepas, but sometimes they can be bland or dry, depending on the preparation. This recipe is anything but bland. I served mine with my favorite homemade refried beans recipe (see below). Topped with pico de gallo and guacamole (if you want to go full out) and maybe a dab of sour cream or yogurt, they are sublime. If you haven’t experimented with arepas, there’s no time like the present. These delicious, self contained corn biscuits make a great breakfast (reheated), lunch, or dinner- as well as being wonderful appetizers for a South-American themed party.

Still wondering what an arepa is?
According to our friend Wikipedia,
“The arepa was the corn bread of the Timoto-cuicas, a native American nation that lived in the northern Andean mountains of Venezuela who learned how to grow maize from the Quechuas (Peru) and Mayas (Mexico), where the crop originated. The larger native American nations of Venezuela (Arawaks in the central plains and Caribes in the East and in the rain forests, from Argentina to the Islands named for them) widely used the form of bread called Casabe, made from Yuca roots. With the colonization process the maize (corn) bread was widely spread throughout the country and into Colombia, then named Nueva Granada or Santa Fe.”(

Now the arepa has become a traditional national food of both Colombians and Venezuelans, with slight variations in the respective arepas available in each country. Here’s an interesting History of the Arepa and PAN flour

How do you make arepas?
Arepa made from pre-cooked PAN mix are prepared by being boiled in water, baked in the oven, fried (or pan-browned) in hot oil, or being grilled on charcoal. Some cooks combine methods by browning them briefly on a hot griddle and then baking them in a 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped.

The arepa is cut in half for filling, and many people scoop out the soft dough in the middle. You can discard the corn filling or enjoy it with butter or cheese.

How do you buy arepas?
In Venezuela Arepas are sold at areperas and as ubiquitous as the common hamburger in the states. Customers choose fillings from a cafeteria-style hot table such as “shredded cheese, stringy meat cooked in spices, chicken salad with avocado, egg scrambled with onion and green peppers, diced sausage,” and others. Surprisingly, grated American cheese is an extremely popular filling.

“The arepa is split open like a hamburger bun (by the person behind the counter), some of the steaming moist corn meal is scooped out and discarded, and the filling is added. The arepa is wrapped in a square of slick paper, like butcher paper, and handed to the purchaser to eat standing up. . . Arepas are also made smaller and served in the bread basket at restaurants.” (Source: International Recipes dot Net If you disagree with any of this, take it up with my source.)

Here in the states, you have some options, although of course you will want to check with each to confirm the gluten-free status.

Napa, California: Pica Pica Kitchan at the Oxbow Market
*Note that their menu indicates which dishes are GLUTEN-FREE!!!*

New York City, New York: Caracas Arepa Bar
*Their menu mentions wheat-free status but not gluten specifically. Recommended on Celiac boards, but please check gluten-free status as YMMV.

(Any other arepa restaurants you can recommend for gluten-free arepa dining? Share in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!)

Interested in other gluten-free corn dining experiences? Try

Los Angeles, Ca: Tamara’s Tamales
Reported to have 30+ gluten-free tamales, with half dairy-free… Check with them.

But exactly how many types of (veg) Arepas are there?
* Corn flour arepa (Arepa blanca or Viuda)
* Sweet arepa (Arepa dulce)
* Cheese arepa Recipe (Arepa de queso)
* Coconut arepa (Arepa de coco)
* Manioc arepa (Arepa de yuca)
* Arepa viuda (“widow” arepa) – an empty arepa accompaniment to soup
* Small arepa appetizers topped with garnish or enjoyed as a mini-biscuit.
* Sometimes a little sugar is mixed in with the dough to form sweet arepas (arepas dulces).
Note that there is one Wheat flour arepa, called Preñaditas in Venezuelan slang.

Looking for filling ideas?
Here are some vegetarian version of some traditional fillings:
* Reina Pepeada (non-traditional veg-style): chopped baked tofu cubes, avocado, and mayonnaise mashed together.
* Arepa de Dominó: black beans and crumbled white cheese.
* Arepa de Perico – Filled with perico Caribbean-style scrambled eggs
* Colombian Arepas: larger than Venezuelan arepas, and are not baked)
Topped with butter and melted cheese.
* Other veg ideas for fillings: grated white or cheddar cheese; guasacaca, hard-boiled quails eggs. (Based on fillings found at Whats4Eats)
Fried Arepa Con Huevo Recipe
Cooking Light Lowfat Arepa Recipe with Savory Topping
Enjoy Kate’s nontraditional Arepa-based Healthier Egg Benedict Recipe at Gluten-Free Gobsmacked

Green Chili Cheese Gluten Free Arepa Recipe
3/4 cup yellow PAN pre-cooked masa harina
1/3 cup grated organic white cheddar cheese (or your favorite cheese)
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup boiling water
1 4 oz. can roasted green chilies, drained
Combine Pan masa harina with cheese, 1 tbsp. butter, and salt. Slowly add in enough boiling water to make a batter and then stir in your drained green chilies. Knead the dough a little or stir it so that it is thoroughly combined and then let it rest for a few minutes.

Shape balls of the dough into little patties in your hand, making sure there aren’t any cracks around the edges, and place them on a plate.

Heat griddle or large skillet over medium heat with some of remaining melted butter. Working in batches, place patties on the skillet and cook until golden brown and cooked through, turning after about 3-5 minutes. Some people then serve them right away.

Others brown them on a skillet, but then place them on a baking sheet and bake at high heat (the highest your oven will go) for between 10-20 minutes, or until the arepa sounds hollow when you tap it.

Perfect Refried Beans
Slow-cooked bean base:
1 lb. dried organic pinto beans
9 cups water
1 dried chili (lg)
3 cloves peeled garlic
1 sm. onion, chopped
2-3 tsp salt
2 tbsp peanut oil (or your favorite oil)
1/2 sm. onion, diced
1 pressed garlic
3 cups or more of the above slow-cooked peans
1/2 tsp salt

Rinse the beans and then cover them with water and let soak for overnight (at least 8 hours). Drain and add all ingredients for slow cooked beans except salt and cook on high in your slow cooker for at least 4 or 5 hours. Make sure the beans are completely covered during the entire cooking process. When the beans seem fully cooked but not over-cooked, add salt and remove the dried chili. Let them cook a little longer and let cool, placing in containers with the cooking liquid. You can freeze a portion or two if desired.
Heat oil in cast iron skillet and add onion. Add garlic a few minutes later. When the onions are translucent, add the beans and simmer for a long time, mashing with a potato masher as seems appropriate. Let the refried beans thicken. Finally add salt and take off burner. Enjoy!
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