Gluten-Free Arepa Corn Green Chili biscuit Recipe

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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15 Responses to “Gluten-Free Arepa Corn Green Chili biscuit Recipe”

  1. Can’t wait to give these a try! Thanks! :)

  2. Kathi Sandler Says:

    Sea! What a wonderful inspiration! Where DO you get your energy? I was introduced to Arepa’s by a friend from Columbia. She even gave me a “grill” for my stovetop to cook them on! In Columbia, they fry an egg and put it in it. Supposed to be verry good! When she came over to make them with me, we made them with a little cheddar cheese in the batter. They were anything but bland! Thanks for the Arepa reminder! I will have some time this afternoon…I might just make some!

  3. I can’t wait to try these!

    Thanks for sharing my blog post,

  4. Dear Brenda,

    I’m so glad you posted about “arepas”. My husband and I visited Philadelphia this past February and while there, we ate at a Venezuelan restaurant called Sazon. I kept meaning to blog about it but somehow didn’t do so. I’m glad for your post as it gives me an opportunity to mention this unbelievably fantastic restaurant, gluten free or otherwise. If you’re in Philly, it’s not to be missed. Everything is homemade, the vegetarian options abound, her arepas were fantastic and she and her husband (the owners) go overboard to make diners feel welcome and well-taken care of. Here is a link to the page at their website where you can see mention of their foods being gluten free:

    Once I’m up and around (I haven’t posted yet, though probably will today – I had a bicycle accident and fractured my pelvis and sacrum in multiple places) in a few weeks, I will definitely try and make your arepas. BTW, we’ve been making gluten free corn tortillas for about a year. Originally, we used masa harina (I forget the brand – I saw a picture in your post of the kind we used), but then I accidentally tripped over the P.A.N. brand and we fell in love with it. What a difference it makes in the flavor and texture of our tortillas. I LOVE IT!

    Be well!

  5. Kim- You’re very welcome! Hope you enjoy!

    Hi Kathi- Wonderful! Thanks for sharing your fun story. :)

    Hi Karen- Thank YOU for introducing me to a cool new food!

    Hi Ellen- The restaurant sounds wonderful. I’m so sorry to hear about your accident. Hope you’re getting better!!!! Intriguing- using PAN for tortillas. I’ll have to try it!


  6. Oh my goodness… you just combined three of my favorite things, corn, cheese and green chiles. I love arepas and need to work on them to perfect them. I want to be able to make sandwich sized ones. Maybe I can whip up a batch for lunch this week! How was the Pacific NW?

  7. Hi Ginger, I love corn, cheese and green chilies too. Mmm! The Pacific NW was fantastic, and I really need to get posting about all the GF goodies I enjoyed… :D


  8. In Colombia, we make them a lot flatter. Like half a centimeter, and a bit wider.

  9. All right. ;)


  10. I like the green chili arepas. If you fancy making authentic Venezuelan food you might like a recipe for black beans…. They can be refried too and are even healthier than pinto beans because they contain more antioxidants… it’s all down to the color according to this really great blog about Venezuelan food I found…

  11. I am trying to find the pan mix I live in Arizona and travel to Colombia often.I was wondering if anyone knows where I can buy the mix.

  12. I would think that there would be a Latin American market somewhere around you in Arizona- you might try the nearest big city. You should be able to buy the mix or similar in Colombia, but I don’t know about restrictions on bringing foods back and forth. You might also be able to get it through a company online. Hope this helps!


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