Last Updated on November 13, 2019 by Chef Mireille
Cheese Stuffed Arepas & Beans – Vegetarian Dinner South American Style – Arepas, Beans and Curtido (pickled cabbage salad) is a complete Vegetarian meal.
South American Arepas can be eaten with every meal in South American sometimes with rice or sometimes instead of rice. South American arepas, similar to pupusas in El Savador, Honduras and Nicaragua, are most popular in Columbia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
Ditmas Park, Brooklyn
I live in one of, if not the most diverse communities in the country as detailed in this article here. Being someone who likes to cook different cuisines from all over the world, I am so lucky to have this diverse selection of foods all available, within walking distance from my apartment. 8 blocks in one direction and I might as well be in Jamaica or Trinidad with Caribbean produce like breadfruit, plantain, avocado & calaloo readily available, while restaurants feature foods like Jerk Chicken, Curry Goat Roti & Cassava Pone. 8 blocks in the other direction and it could be the streets of Lahore with a masjid on every other block and markets featuring every type of dhal (beans, peas) known to man, as well as pickles, chutneys, rotis and other Indian/Pakistani food products. Restaurants feature curries, kebabs, paratha and in the summertime Rooh-Afza with Basil Seeds (a summertime drink made with concentrated rose syrup and water). In the middle of all this, are the Latino population coming from Mexico, Dominican Republic & El Salvador just to name a few. In addition to this, we have a large population of Eastern European and Israeli Jews living in the middle of it. We are probably the only neighborhood anywhere in the world (except maybe Suriname) where a synagogue & a mosque can be located across the street from each other, without protests or argument.
Although arepas can be served plain, they are very commonly made stuffed with cheese, as I did in this recipe. Due to the diversity in my neighborhood as detailed above, my local supermarket has a huge selection of Latin American cheeses. There are even different versions of the same cheese depending where they come from – Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador. One of the manufacturers who make these Latin American cheeses has a processing factory just a few blocks from the supermarket, so the cheeses we get are very fresh. You can use any Latin American cheese you prefer – queso cotija, quese de hojas, queso blanco or queso fresca are all viable options to use in this recipe (although some will melt better than others). Most decent supermarkets will have at least one of these options available. If none are available, you can substitute mozzarella or cheddar or even feta (however due to the high salt content of feta, you will have to use a reduced amount).
This time I opted for a Salvadoran mozzarella type of cheese, but every time I make arepas I try a different cheese, It gives me the opportunity to try all the cheeses my supermarket has to offer.
Don’t forget to check out my recipes for Annatto Oil and Sofrito – the homemade base ingredients will make this meal even better! The annatto oil is a great pantry item to add color and flavor to even the most simple of foods!
IN THE MAKING – HOW TO MAKE AREPAS
Although the stuffed cheese kind of arepa I made here serve as a great snack or breakfast on their own, in many Latin American countries, the plain ones are served with every meal, with beans and meat. They can also be split apart and serve as the bread, for sandwiches. They are a popular street food item also throughout both South and Central America.
Serve the arepas with beans and Curtido (pickled cabbage salad) for a complete Vegetarian South American meal!
I like to keep the beans thick so I can layer them and the curtido on top of the arepa – almost like a pizza with the toppings!
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Cheese Stuffed Arepas & Beans – Vegetarian Dinner South American Style
- Arepas Ingredients:
- 2 cups Arepa flour see Notes below
- 2 cups warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup grated cheese whichever Latin American cheese you have access to
- Beans Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons annatto oil see Notes below
- 2 tablespoons sofrito see Notes below
- 1 cups black beans soaked overnight
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cups water
- 2 tablespoons cilantro finely chopped
- salt to taste
- Heat oil. Add sofrito. Fry for 2 minutes until it becomes fragrant.
- Add beans and stir fry so they are well coated with the sofrito.
- Add 3 cups water, cumin and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, until beans are tender, adding more water if necessary.
- Remove the bay leaf.
- With am immersion blender, puree half of the beans.
- Add cilantro and salt, to taste. Stir to combine.
- While the beans are cooking, make the arepas.
- In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Add 1 cup of the warm water and then slowly add the rest as needed until you have a soft dough. Dough comes together very easily and should be soft, but not sticky. Let rest for 10 minutes covered with a damp cloth.
- Divide dough into 6 pieces and form into balls. Take one and flatten in between your hands. Take about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cheese and place in the center. Fold the sides over the filling making sure it is well sealed.
- On a lightly floured surface, gently roll into a circle about 5" in diameter. The dough will crack on the edges so you need to constantly be shaping the sides of the discs with your hands as you roll the arepas out. Repeat until all the dough has been used.
- As you are rolling out the dough, start to fry the arepas.
- In a skillet, heat enough oil for shallow frying. Add arepas and fry on medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown and crusty on the outside.
- Place on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil.
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Yum, I love food like this. Total comfort food. Sounds really easy to make too! Can’t wait to try it.
yes I agree Latin comfort food – it is very easy to put together!
I’m a little jealous you have access to such diverse ingredients. Anything cheese stuffed is right up my alley, so I’ll definitely have to make this ASAP!
yes we are – living in NYC the melting pot of the world – everything is at my fingertips and when I travel to other places it reminds me how lucky I am
Anything stuffed with cheese has to be good. Isn’t it awesome to be surrounded by so many ethnic eateries so you can try out different foods? Your arepas look so tasty.
Yes I admit I am super lucky!
Adriana Lopez Martin
I love arepas have many Venezuelan friends that have introduced me to this delight. Your version sounds interesting. Have never seen them being fried. Adding queso fresco or queso de hoja is an amazing addition as makes them cheesy. Nice that you get to find international products in your market.
the different styles of arepas vary from Colombia to Venezuela etc. they are sometimes also grilled but regardless I think they are delicious in all their variations
You know I have never made these at home so I think I will have to try now and with the kids! Love Mexican food
This is more Colombian than Mexican bur regardless am sure your family will love it!
I love the sound of these arepas. I hadn’t heard of this type of bread before. Unfortunately here in Italy it’s hard to find some of the ingredients you mention as Italians aren’t really into non-Italian food. But maybe I can order through Amazon. I’ll check it out!
yes most of the other stuff is pretty adaptable – you can easily make the sofrito with fresh ingredients and you can use mozzarella cheese but the masa harina/arepa flour is very particular however if you absolutely want to try it and can’t source it though it wont have exactly the same texture you can use cornmeal
I have family in Brooklyn, and you are so right about the amazing diversity of foods and cultures! Those arepas look so good, and you could eat them plain or with all kinds of different things. Wonderful recipe, and I’ll be saving this one for sure
yes they truly are so versatile and you can even make them sweet with sweet stuffings!
This recipe sounds wonderful. I love trying foods from various cultures, and I love introducing different foods to my children. your recipe sounds delicious. Would love to try it.
I’m sure your whole family will love it
These look absolutely delicious! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten arepas before and certainly never made them…. now I really want to. Thanks for showing us how!
sure – hope you love them as much as I do!
This sounds delicious! I’d love a plate of these topped with some beans and cheese or meat! Thanks for such a unique recipe!
yes – arepas are a perfect accompaniment to any meal