Have you ever had the distinct pleasure of eating an arepa before? They’re kind of like a Salvadoran Pupusa or like a Mexican Gordita, except they’re eaten in Colombia and Venezuela. They’re basically thick tortillas, filled with different meats, beans, plantains, avocado or cheese. Like tortilla sandwiches if you will. Although now that I’ve said that, I’m sure I’ve angered a lot of traditionalists out there. Keep in mind that I’m just trying to give the most basic of descriptions for this dish so that we can all understand it as simply as possible. Arepas are commonly a street food, that you can eat on the go. I like to fill mine so much though, that you sort of need a knife and fork to eat it (blasphemous, I’m sure), but making a mess is half the fun I guess. I’ve teamed up with my good friends from the Idaho Potato Commission to show just how great potatoes and avocados are together. They’re like long lost best friends that should never be separated. These arepas are filled with a ridiculously easy potato and avocado salad that has hard boiled eggs as well, and flavored with fresh lime juice, a little mayo for that creaminess, cilantro and finished off with a bit of Mexican queso fresco for a salty bite. It’s a great vegetarian and gluten-free meal that will please everyone.
The first thing we want to do is make the salad that’ll go inside our arepas. Peel and cube the potato and add it to a medium pot. Fill with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and then let cool completely.
**Tip: It’s important that the potatoes cool completely before mixing together the rest of the salad ingredients. Also, make sure you don’t overcook the potatoes because if you do, they’ll become too mushy.**
While the potatoes cool, let’s make the dough for the arepas. This is super simple, mainly because it’s compromised of already cooked, prepared masa harina. Which is a flour made of ground cooked corn. This is used to make tortillas as well. So in a large bowl, mix together the masa flour, salt, and warm water. Give it a stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a soft, barely sticky, dough.
**Note: You might need to switch from the wooden spoon to your hands towards the end, because as the dough comes together it might be a little difficult to mix.**
You want the dough to be soft. It shouldn’t be dry at all, but rather be somewhat moist when you go to touch it. If the dough feels firm and dry, add more warm water, a tablespoon at a time, until you get the right texture and feel to it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
Let’s turn our attention back to the filling. Once the potatoes have cooled, transfer them to a bowl and add diced avocado, diced hard boiled eggs, mayo, cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Give it a stir until well incorporated.
Because of the lime juice in the salad, it prevents the avocado from turning brown quickly, so you can make this salad a few hours in ahead of the time you need it. Just cover it tightly with plastic and let chill in the fridge until you’re ready for it.
**Tip: You don’t want to make it too in advance though, because the avocado will start to brown eventually. Just a few hours. But if you need more time, mix everything together minus the avocado, then refrigerate and add the avocado right before you plan on serving it.**
Now back to the arepa dough. Divide it into 6 even portions. Then working with one piece at a time, roll it into a tight ball between the palm of your hands. Then flatten it out into a smooth flat disc, about 1/2-inch thick. Continue shaping each arepa in the same manner.
Place a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once hot, add in about two arepas, depending on how much your skillet is. You don’t want to over crowd it. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until it’s golden brown on the first side. Flip over and cook for another 4 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and continue frying the rest, adding more oil as needed.
**Note: Keep in mind that you’re not looking to cook the arepas all the way though at this stage. This is just to develop that crispy golden brown crust.**
Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until slightly puffed up and cooked all the way through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
Once they’re not so hot that you’ll burn your fingers, grab an arepa and carefully split it open, almost all the way. Then fill with the chilled salad and top with crumbled queso fresco. Serve with lime wedges on the side.
Queso fresco is a Mexican cheese that is creamy, soft and unaged. Most grocery stores carry it now by the refrigerated salsas and so it should be easy for you to find. However, if you can’t find it for some reason, feel free to use feta instead! Or you can leave it out altogether, although I like that added fresh salty flavor that it gives the arepas.
The great thing about masa harina is that since it’s made from ground up corn, this dish is actually not only vegetarian, but also gluten-free. Without intention and totally by coincidence, but hey I’ll take it. As you know by now, I’m not a vegetarian in the slightest, and so you know it has to be an amazing meat-less dish for me to enjoy it…and this one is definitely memorable. Give it a try this weekend and see what you think!
**Although this post is sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission, all opinions and thoughts are my own. Thank you for your continued support of the occasional partnership on this site. They help keep the blog going, allowing me to continue to share my recipes with you on a weekly basis. I never want my sponsorships to feel forced, which is why I only partner with companies I feel very passionate about and actually use on a regular basis.**
- 1 large Russet potato, peeled and diced
- 2 medium avocado, cored and diced
- 3 hard boiled eggs, diced
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup crumbled queso fresco, or feta
- 3 cups instant yellow corn masa flour (such as Maseca or Masarepa)
- 3 ¼ cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- vegetable oil for frying
- Place the potatoes in a medium pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, and set aside to cool completely.
- Once cooled, add the avocado, eggs, mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cilantro and mix until well combined. Give it a taste and adjust seasoning accordingly, adding more salt or pepper as needed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
- To make the dough, combine the masa flour, water and salt in a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a somewhat firm dough. You might need to use your hands to mix it towards the end. The dough should be soft to the touch and not sticky. If it’s dry, add a splash more water. If it’s too wet, add a bit more masa flour. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes. Then divide into 6 portions. Working with one at a time, roll into a tight ball with your palms and then flatten out into a ½-inch thick disk. Place on a platter and continue shaping the rest.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet and set aside.
- Set a large cast iron skillet over medium heat with about 2 tablespoons oil. Once hot, place two arepas in the skillet and cook until the first side is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip over and continue cooking on the second side for another 4 minutes. Transfer to the wire rack and continue cooking the rest. Place the arepas in the oven and bake until fully cooked in the center and slightly puffed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
- Once cool enough to handle, split open with a serrated knife and stuff with the potato avocado salad. Sprinkle with queso fresco. Serve warm and enjoy!