Arepas el Diablo (Gluten-Free Corn Pockets with Black Beans and Cheese)


Arepas are corn pockets that have origins in the indigenous tribes of South America.  They are popular in Venezuela and Colombia and can be eaten plain, but are usually split and stuffed with savory fillings, like a pita. In modern times, pre-cooked white corn flour is used, rather than the traditional fresh corn.  Arepa flour is not to be confused with masa harina, which is used for tamales and needs to be cooked. Sometimes sold as masarepa or harina precocida, arepa flour can be found in Latin markets and some supermarkets.

This is a quick recipe and is suitable for gluten-free diets.

South American Arepas with Black Beans and Queso Fresco (Arepas “El Diablo”)

Makes: 8


For the arepas:

2 cups arepa flour (precooked cornmeal; yellow or white; NOT masa)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 1/2 cups warm water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the black bean filling:

2 cans no salt added black beans (drained, but not rinsed)

3 tbsp minced white onion

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp oregano leaves

Garnish: 4 oz queso fresco, lime wedges and sprigs of cilantro


Prepare the filling:

  1. Warm oil in a small pan over medium high heat and add onion garlic. Cook until softened, 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add beans, salt, and oregano, cook for 3 to 5 minutes, then set aside, keeping warm.

Prepare the arepas:

  1. Combine arepa flour and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add 2 1/2 cups warm water. Using a wooden spoon, gradually incorporate dry ingredients, stirring until no dry lumps remain. Let rest 5 minutes to hydrate.
  2. Knead dough a few times in bowl, then divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece on work surface into a ball, then gently flatten to about 1/2″ thick.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 4 arepas, cover, and cook until bottom is golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Uncover, flip, and cook (keep uncovered) until other side is golden brown, 6–8 minutes. (When done, you’ll get a hollow sound when you tap on the arepa.)  Transfer arepas to a wire rack.  Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and dough.
  4. When ready to serve, split arepas and stuff with black beans and cheese; serve with a squeeze of lime and some cilantro.

Nutrition info for the arepas: Cal 99, Carbs 16g, Fat 4g, Protein 1g, Sodium 280mg

Nutrition info for the black bean filling:

cal 115, carbs 14g, fat 4g, protein 5 g, sodium 82 mg, sugar 0

Nutrition info for the queso fresco, per 1/2 oz serving:

cal 35, carbs 0, fat 3g, protein 3g, sodium 60mg, sugar 1g

Other suggested fillings:

shredded cooked chicken or pork, corn salad with onion and fresh herbs, tomatoes and avocado


Have you made arepas before? What are your favorite fillings?

Are you interested in seeing more gluten-free recipes? Let me know, I aim to please!

And if you’d like to have a chance to cook with me, join me in the Thrive Kitchen at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco! Contact for more information on classes and to register. We’re registering now for the 3/14 class, Eat Your Greens! For more information, please join my healthy cooking community on Facebook: To your health!