Venezuelan-style arepas with secret sauce

Venezuelan-style arepas with secret sauce


While living on the East Coast a decade ago, we became obsessed with the stuffed cornmeal cakes, known as arepas, from NYC’s Caracas Arepas Bar. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, stuffed with creamy beans, doused with a punchy sauce, and completely affordable, what more could 20-something-year-olds want? We still dream about the restaurant’s signature tangy, bright sauce that is nothing short of addicting. The owner, Maribel Araujo, keeps the ingredients a closely guarded secret, but luckily there is enough chatter online to develop a recipe that’s close! Loaded with herbs, sweet peppers, and mango, and just the right amount of heat and vinegar, you’ll want to make the full batch: it goes great with beans and rice, roasted potatoes, tortilla chips, fish, chicken, and just about anything else. Lesley & Renee

Which beans to use? Negro (pictured) or Sangre de Toro beans. 

Featured bean: Chaparro

Other beans to try: Sangre de Toro, Ayocote Morado

Take 'em from dried to cooked with our guide

Print recipe here


The details

  • Servings: 6 arepas
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Cookware: large skillet, high-powered blender or food processor, bean cooking vessel of your choice, medium mixing bowl

    What you’ll need

    The beans

    • 1 lb beans (makes extra)
    • 2 tbsp neutral oil
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
    • Salt to taste
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1-½ tsp cumin
    • ½ cup cilantro (leaves and tender stems), chopped

    Secret sauce

    • ½ cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems
    • ½ cup parsley, leaves and tender stems
    • ½ cup white vinegar
    • 1-½ cups coarsely chopped yellow bell peppers
    • ½ jalapeño (flesh and seeds)
    • 1 juicy mango (preferably Ataulfo), peeled and cut
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • ½ tsp pepper
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp mayo
    • 1 tbsp dried oregano
    • Salt to taste
    • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil


    • 2 large very ripe plantains (should be black), sliced diagonally into 1" pieces
    • Neutral oil (for frying)


    • 2 cups warm water
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 2 cups yellow or white arepa corn flour, such as areparina or masarepa (not cornmeal or masa harina)
    • 1 tbsp neutral oil

    The rest

    • Fresh cheese such as queso fresco
    • Avocado slices


      Prepare the beans: Cook beans according to our guide in the cooking vessel of your choice. Once cooked, strain and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, make the sofrito: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell peppers, and a pinch of salt. Cook until vegetables are soft and fragrant. Stir in garlic and cumin, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in cilantro and remove from heat. Once beans are done cooking, stir them in the sofrito and bring to a simmer. Cook on low for 15 minutes or longer to meld the flavors. Season with salt to taste and set aside.

      Make the sauce: Add all ingredients except olive oil in a high-powered blender or food processor. Add ½ tsp salt. Once pureed, with the motor running, gradually drizzle in olive oil until creamy and smooth. Add more salt to taste.

      Prepare the maduros: In a large skillet, heat ~⅛ inch vegetable oil over medium-high. When the oil shimmers, working in batches fry plantains until golden brown, turning once, 2-3 minutes per side. The plantains should be caramelized and slightly crisp at the edges but still tender in the middle. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

      Make the arepas: Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together water and salt and add the areparina or masarepa a little at a time, mixing with your hands. Stop adding when you have a dough that doesn’t easily stick to your hands and is moldable, yet still moist. Cover with a towel for 5 minutes. Divide dough into pieces, rolling each into a ball and then pressing into a ½ -inch thick disk with your palms. If cracking becomes a problem, add a little more water to the dough. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add arepas in batches, cooking for 2-3 minutes on each side until deep golden brown. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for ~15 minutes or until slightly puffed. Let cool slightly.

      Assemble: Cut the arepa ¾ of the way around, leaving a seam so you can stuff it like a pita. Stuff with the beans, maduros, and other fillings and enjoy with plenty of sauce.

      Arepa technique inspired by Minimalist Baker and Serious Eats. Fillings and sauce inspired by Caracas Arepas Bar.

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