Cheesy Colombian Arepa Recipe

By Geana Sieburger |

I didn't grow up eating arepa. They aren't common in Brazil, especially not in the southern part of Brazil where I'm from, where a side of polenta is much more common. It took me reaching my 30's and meeting my husband to be introduced to a true arepa breakfast.

The fact that he cooked was no small thing to me when we were first dating. Arepa breakfasts became a regular thing for us. I remember feeling nourished and cared for with delicious food even though we were both living on a tight budget. 

Corn and eggs. It's simple, affordable, and delicious! I asked him to share this recipe with us for these reasons and because it's a perfect winter breakfast when family is visiting. It's a healthier alternative to pancakes especially when topped with lightly cooked greens.

While converting his intuition into a recipe, I jotted down our conversation:

Geana: When did you start making arepa?

Jonathan: Probably around 14 years old. Maybe younger, 13 I think.

Geana: Why?

Jonathan: I would go to my cousin David's house and we would wanted it so we started making it ourselves. At my house my mom would make it but since I spent a lot of time at my cousin's, we learned how to. It was delicious and we'd have it with hot chocolate.

Geana: Is hot chocolate part of the tradition?

Jonathan: I think in Colombian culture, it's typical. Arepa and Chocolate. Most days I have it with just coffee, but some weekends it's nice to have the hot chocolate too.

Geana: Do you remember making arepa when we were first dating?

Jonathan: No. Haha! I've always made arepa so I'm not surprised it was part of our first dates. I do remember that homemade creme fraiche became an addition with us. Do you remember how that started?

Geana: I think one of your co-workers gave you some then we started making our own.

Jonathan: Oh, that's right! We should start that up again. It was a nice addition.

Geana: What's your favorite type of arepa?

Jonathan: Arepa Con Huevo. They make it on the coastal side of Colombia. It's an arepa made with an egg inside. It's fried twice. It's more involved so I don't make it too often, but it's very tasty.

So I have a question for you. I noticed you like your arepa really goopy. The goopier masa makes a fluffier arepa but it's really hard to handle. I wouldn't recommend using a full cup of water for beginners.

Geana: Ha, yes true! My favorite arepa is fluffy and fried in bacon fat. For folks wanting a vegetarian version, how have you made that?

Jonathan: Instead of butter and cheese, I would add vegetable oil and occasionally use vegan cheese. Sometimes I would make some greens and put it on top. That's it! It's just as good.

Geana: Well, thank you for sharing your "secret" recipe with the GDS community. Let's drink some coffee now?

Jonathan: Sounds good to me!


1 cup masa harina
1 cup water
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (or other melty cheese)
2 tbsp melted butter
A few pinches of salt


If you're cooking with a cast iron, start by heating your pan on medium-low.

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Use slightly less than the full 1 cup of water and only 1 tbsp of the melted butter. Mix well and let rest on your counter for 10 minutes. The masa will continue to absorb water and become easier to handle the longer you wait.

We get an organic masa from Berkeley Bowl. You can also find masa harina at most Latin American grocery stores.

Add about another 1/2 tbsp of butter on a hot pan.

Shape the arepa one at a time by tossing a small fist-full back and forth from one hand to another until it looks like a flattened ball or thick pancake. Try to keep them hand-sized at first so they're easier to handle. Plop about 2 or 3, depending on size, onto the pan.

Allow to cook for 7-10 minutes per side. Flip when each side is golden. But again, don't rush the process. The masa needs to cook on the inside so if your arepa is getting golden in under 5 minutes per side, the inside may be undercooked. Turn down the temp and cook longer if the inside is still goopy (our favorite word for this post).

Repeat with the rest of the masa. Place in a hot oven to keep warm. Fry eggs as preferred and serve hot! Arepas are best fresh off the pan.

Serve with coffee or hot chocolate. Enjoy!