Colombian Spicy Vegetable Arepas
A twist on the traditional Colombian arepas recipe made with fresh ricotta cheese and spicy roasted vegetables. This Colombian Spicy Vegetable Arepas recipe has only 4 ingredients and is ready in 15 minutes, a simple new addition to your global weeknight meal recipe rotation!
One of my favorite new-to-me foods from our recent trip to Colombia was arepas. Arepas are small fried corn cakes made from masa harina flour that are a staple dish throughout Colombia. Arepas are eaten plain as snacks, topped with cheese for breakfast, or loaded with vegetables and meat to round out a lunch or dinner meal.
I knew from the first time we tried them at a small breakfast hut overlooking a large farming village in Colombia that I would be recreating a Colombian arepas recipe at home. And while arepas can be boiled, grilled, or fried, I kept this homemade Colombian Spicy Vegetable Arepas recipe light by pan frying in a small amount of oil and topping with fresh and flavorful spicy roasted vegetables.
What are arepas?
Arepas are corn cakes that are popular throughout Central and South America, particularly in countries like Colombia and Venezuela. Arepas are made from unleavened masa harina, with is a flour made from fine dried corn (also known as hominy) and is used to makes arepas, tortillas, tamales, empanadas, and papusas.
How do you make arepas? Can arepas be made vegan?
Arepas are simple to make and only require 4 ingredients. A simple, traditional Colombian arepas recipe includes masa harina flour, cheese, water, and salt. However arepas can easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese and will still retain their shape and deliciousness. Adding flax or vegan cheese would also be a great additions to vegan arepas.
The corn flour, water, cheese (if you’re using it), and salt are mixed together into a dough and formed into small balls. The balls are then smashed into a cake and pan fried with a small amount of oil, or they can also be baked or fried. I found that the cakes were quite wet and therefore did well in a pan, but if you would like to grill arepas I would suggest reducing the amount of cheese and/or water used to have a drier cake that does not fall apart.
Arepas Variations & Toppings Ideas
The possibilities are endless for this Colombian arepas recipe! Below are a few arepas variation ideas to spice up your next weeknight dinner trip to Colombia.
- Make it an arepa sandwich: Arepas are often used similar to a pita pocket and filled with fresh veggies, meats, and salsas.
- Seafood arepas: Top areas with seafood and a spicy herbed mojo sauce.
- Simple and sweet: Keep it simple for breakfast or a snack with a bit of spreadable cheese and a drizzle of agave or wild honey.
Colombian Spicy Vegetable Arepas
For this Colombian Spicy Vegetable Arepas recipe I recreated one of my favorite Colombian dishes by topping them with a soft, spreadable cheese (I used ricotta, but you can use any light cheese that spreads) and a mixture of roasted vegetables with cilantro and spices. This recipe is a perfect easy lunch or can be paired with rice, beans, vegetables for a full Colombian dinner experience.
Tips, Tricks & Tools
This Colombian Spicy Vegetable Arepas recipe is super easy to make, but there are a few products I would recommend. While regular cornmeal will work, a true traditional arepa is made with masa harina (not hard to find at most grocery stores with a good baking section). I also used one of my favorite ingredients of the moment, spicy chili oil, to add extra heat to the spicy vegetables–but this is completely optional. Other than a great pan and a bit of oil that is good for frying, this recipe for arepas is easy and won’t require extra tools.
Loving this Colombian Spicy Vegetable Arepas recipe? Try my other Colombian recipes, like this Healthy Baked Patacones with Mojo Sauce to bring a bit of Colombia into your next for dinner. Are you traveling to Colombia? Make sure to check out our favorite Bogota travel tips and restaurant recommendations!
Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to let us know! Leave a comment, rate the recipe, and tag your photo #FITRfood on Instagram!
- 1 cup masa harina flour
- 1 cup ricotta, split in half
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¾-1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons oil
- Spicy Roasted Vegetables
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 onion, sliced thin
- 1 bell pepper, sliced thin
- 1 small chili pepper, sliced
- ½ cup corn kernels
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Optional: 1 teaspoon spicy chili oil
- Combine masa harina flour, cheese, salt, and half of the water together in a large mixing bowl. Mix well and slowly add more water until the dough is formed and pliable but not too wet or it will be mushy after cooking.
- Heat oil in a large pan to medium-high heat. Form dough into small ⅓ cup size balls and then flatten into a cake. Cook arepas in oil until lightly crispy and golden, about 3-4 minutes each side.
- Top with a smear of ricotta cheese and Spicy Roasted Vegetables (recipe below).
Spicy Roasted Vegetables
- Heat oil in a medium frying pan. Add onion, bell peppers, chili pepper, and corn and cook until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add salt and pepper and a small amount of chili oil (if using).
- Leftovers & Storage: Arepas can be stored in the refrigerator for 5-6 days and reheated.
- Tips & Make it Vegan: Using ricotta cheese in the arepas dough makes for softer arepas. If you like a drier and crispier texture, or would like to make the recipe vegan, eliminate the cheese and add a bit more water to the ensure the dough mixes completely before being cooked.
- Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate based on 1/4 of the recipe, which is one four-inch wide arepa with cheese and roasted vegetables. This Colombian Spicy Vegetable Arepas recipe is a good source of protein, is low in sodium, and is made from whole grain masa harina flour.
Serving Size:1 (4") arepa
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 211Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 107mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 7g