Arepa ([aˈɾepa]) is a type of food made of ground maize dough or cooked flour prominent in the cuisine of Colombia and Venezuela.
It is eaten daily in those countries and can be served with accompaniments such as cheese (cuajada), avocado, or split to make sandwiches. Sizes, maize types, and added ingredients vary its preparation. Arepas can also be found in Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and the Canary Islands. It is similar in shape to the Mexican gordita and the Salvadoran pupusa.
The arepa is a flat, round, unleavened patty of soaked, ground kernels of maize, or—more frequently nowadays—maize meal or maize flour that can be grilled, baked, fried, boiled or steamed. The characteristics vary by color, flavor, size, and the food with which it may be stuffed, depending on the region. It can be topped or filled with meat, eggs, tomatoes, salad, cheese, shrimp, or fish depending on the meal.
The flour is mixed with water and salt, and occasionally oil, butter, eggs, and/or milk. Because the flour is already cooked, the blend forms into patties easily. After being kneaded and formed, the patties are fried, grilled, or baked. This production of maize is unusual for not using the nixtamalization (alkali cooking process) to remove the pericarp of the kernels. This makes arepa flour different from masa flour, which is used to make tortillas.
Arepa flour is specially prepared (cooked in water, then dried) for making arepas and other maize dough-based dishes, such as hallacas, bollos, tamales, empanadas and chicha. The flour may be called masarepa, masa de arepa, masa al instante, or harina precocida. The most popular brand names of maize flour are Harina PAN, Harina Juana, and Goya in Venezuela, Areparina in Colombia.
The arepa is an iconic food in Colombia, with some 75 distinct forms of preparation. According to a study conducted by the Colombian Academia of Gastronomy, "The arepa is part of our cultural heritage and can be considered a symbol of national gastronomic unity."
In the Paisa Region, the arepa is especially important to the local people and accompanies all meals of the day. In addition, arepas are strung into necklaces and placed around the necks of honored dignitaries as a sign of praise.
In Colombia, the arepa is sold on a commercial level in neighborhood stores, chain supermarkets and market plazas and packaged as a pre-molded white or yellow corn dough that is ready to grill or fry at home. It is also sold in the form of industrialized corn flour that requires hydration before preparation. In addition, arepas are sold by street vendors, in cafeterias, and in neighborhood stores. Restaurants of the Paisa Region, offer a wide variety of arepas including a unique style of stuffed arepa.
The Colombian Arepa Festival is celebrated in the following five major cities: Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, and Bucaramanga. According to the program calendar, each city takes turns organizing the festival between the months of August and December.