Arepas Dulces: Sweet Venezuelan filled corn cakes

These little round disks are a staple food in my country.  Growing up in Venezuela these were eaten for breakfast, as a side to any dish even as a midnight snack after a night out of heavy dancing.

In Venezuela you have small local “areperas”, which only served this corn cake with tons of choices for filling: ham, cheese, eggs, shredded beef and many, many more choices.  We also have tons of nicknames for the way they may be served.  A “Reina Pepiada,” (shredded chicken, mayonnaise and peas with slices of soft avocado.) named after Venezuela’s first international beauty queen Susana Dujim.  A plain arepa is called a viuda or “widow,” because it’s all alone. A chicken and cheese arepa is called catiraor “blondie,” for its yellow color.  Arepa “Perico” is made with a scrambled eggs and you also have Arepa “Rumbera” (Party) which is made with Pork meat.  You can grill, fry or bake them.  In Venezuela they are usually made on top of a “budare”, which is a large skillet, that is heated until very hot and the arepas are then grilled.

For me I love them any way, but this past weekend I had a huge craving for them, but I wanted them sweet.  And this recipe is from my nanny (yes, I had one of those growing up – don’t you judge me, that’s another staple in my country, everyone had a maid living in their house).  My nanny, Maria, made them just like the “regular” savory arepa, but she did put a bit of sugar on them and instead of forming them into a thick disk, she made them a bit thinner.  This created a reaction when they got placed in hot oil to fry them and before you very eyes, the top of the arepa will bubble up and create a crispy dome.

The hint of sweet with the savory filling is such a blissful combination.  They are not very difficult to make and in less than 20 minutes you can have a batch ready.

There is a great debate that the only way to make them is by using pre-cooked corn meal flour called “Harina P.A.N” which is actually imported from Venezuela and found in most supermarkets in the Latin food aisle.  If you cannot find this, you can also use Masarepa, but be warned they are not going to come out as authentic.

To make about 4-5 Arepas you will need:

1 cup of Harina P.A.N (pre-cook corn meal flour)
1 ¼ cup of warm water (or a bit more)
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 ½ cup of oil for frying

Filling: Anything you want, in this recipe I filled my up with cheese and ham.

Warm up the water, and then mix in the sugar and salt – taste, the water it should be a bit sweet with a hit of salt.  You can add more sugar or salt at this point too.

In a mixing bowl, pour the cup of Harina PAN, then with your hands slowly mix while pouring about ½ of the water mixture. With your hands continue mixing, if dry, pour more water, while kneading, about 5 minutes or so.  The dough should end up smooth and not crack around the edges, moist but not sticky.

To form them, put some dough between both palms, slowly start rolling the dough and form a ball, then still rolling between both palms, slowly flatten the ‘dough’ to the thickness you want, in this case about 1/4” or so. Make sure the edges (and the tops) are round with no cracks! If you have any cracks, they will not bubble up when you immersed them in the oil. When you are flattening them you see some cracks forming,  dab your finger in water and try to ‘erase’ the crack.

As you form them put them aside and cover them with a damp towel or paper towel, so they don’t dry up.

Place the oil in a deep saucepan in medium high heat, the oil needs to be very hot, but not smoky or when you put the first arepa it will burn - not good.  To test it, take a bit of the dough, roll into a small ball and dip in the oil, if the ball start to fry fast (bubbles all over it) and raises to the top, then the oil is ready.

Slowly, take the prepare arepa disk and place in a metal slotted spoon and slowly dip in the oil.  It will start to bubble up fast and then within a minute or so (sometimes a bit more), the top should start to inflate up … fry for about 2 more minutes until the top is nice and golden color. Take out and place in a dish covered with paper towel so it will absorb the oil.  Note: If they don’t inflate, don’t worry, continue to cook and remove once they are golden color - they are just as good.

Continue doing this until all of your prepared dough disks are cooked.  

When ready to stuff them with your favorite filling, open a slit in 1 side of the arepa to make a pocket (or slice in half) and filled them with your favorite filling.

You can also do the same steps, to create one without the sugar.  Just obmit, and instead of flatted them, make the a bit thicker about 3/4-inch.  You can also fry them, or simply bake them in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes or so, until they sound a bit hallow when you tap them, or grill them in a hot grill.  There is a good video in how to make them here.


Ok folks this is so easy, there is no excuse to make one every weekend. It's rich, it’s creamy and oh, so good.

In Venezuela, as well as most of Latin America, everyone makes Flan and most of you probably have tasted some type of version of this creamy custard dessert. In Venezuela we make our version of Flan and call it: "Quesillo". The ingredients are your basic eggs, milk, vanilla, caramel and sweeten condense milk and a dash of run. It is bake either in a pressure cooker, or in the oven using the bain-marie (also known as a water bath) technique. Or the most original way will be in a cracker/cookie can, which I will talk about later.

The desert gets its name because, "Queso" mean "cheese" in Spanish and when its bake right and un-molded, it comes out looking like a "cheese". And while it’s super simple to make, oddly enough, most of the Venezuelan makes it only during a special celebration. Every birthday party has a cake and a Quesillo.

The cast of ingredients is composed of eggs, sweeten condense milk, whole milk, vanilla, lime peel and rum. But first we need to make the yummy caramel sauce - all it takes is sugar and a bit of water.

In a heavy sauce pan and mix the sugar and water, over high heat. The sugar will start to boil and then will start to slowly turn colors on you, first into a pale amber, and escalating into a medium, dark color; NOTE: Once you hit the pale stage DON'T WALK AWAY FROM IT, because it will jump into the medium and then dark very, very fast and if there is nothing more horrible, is BURNED sugar!

So, make sure you are on top of it at all times. When you see it turn into a dark rich color, remove from heat and pour into the baking dish. Tilt back and forth to cover the bottom and sides of dish, getting it nice and evenly coated. Again, be careful, the caramel at this stage is very hot and may burn you (Badly!). I usually cover my baking dish with a towel while I'm coating it.  Let the caramel in the pot cool, so put it aside.

Side note: Let’s talk about the baking dish for a bit. You can use any you like. But, my grandmother taught me to use a cracker or cookie can as seen below. Don't let the look fool you, this is the best thing to make the Quesillo in.

Yep, you read it right, a can! Which it’s the perfect baking vessel, it has a lid, which fits nice and tight and its the right height and it may sound totally off the wall, but the can gets cured with past baking and the caramel and custard just taste better. But, you can use anything you like if you can not find, or feel comfortable using a can.

Back to making the actual custard.

Turn your oven to 400 Degrees.

The next step are simple enough, in a blender, pour the can of condensed milk - YUM! (lick those finger - go ahead you are allowed, I can wait) Then take the empty can and measure the whole milk and pour into a separate glass container (I use a measuring cup) with the strip of lemon peel and put in the microwave for about 2 minutes to warm up. Back to the blender I go and pour the warm milk, then the vanilla and run (if you are using, which I highly recommend you do) the blender at medium speed for about 1-2 minutes, while you are running the blender, you start adding the eggs one by one until fully incorporated.

Pour the custard mixture into the baking dish that you coated with caramel and place inside a larger pot. I usually like the specs of the lime peel, but if you don't you can strain the custard before it goes into the coated caramel baking dish.

You are ready to bake it! Take your baking dish and cover the top with aluminum foil, nice and tight. Then place into a bigger heavy dish/pan. You are ready for the water bath - Pour in enough hot water into larger pot to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dish. TIP: if you squeeze the previous peeled lime into the water, the pot you are using will not turn black during the baking process.

Slowly place into the middle rack of your hot oven and bake about 55 minutes, covered. Then uncovered and bake another 20 minutes. The custard is ready when you touch it and it feels firm but a bit wiggling in the middle. Take out of the oven - again, be very careful, since the water inside the large pot it's very hot! Set aside to cool off, about 30 minutes or so. Once is cooled, place in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours before serving. I recommend you leave it overnight.

When ready to serve and un-mold, dip the flan in a saucepan of hot water, or in the sink full of hot water from the tap for a few seconds. It should lose up, but sometimes, you need to run a knife around the edge to help it a bit. Invert the Quesillo onto a plate with lip in order to save all that yummy caramel!

Served and enjoy the praises


(Makes a medium size Quesillo) if you need to make a bigger one, double the ingredient

Caramel Sauce:

6 tablespoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of water



1 (14-ounce) can of Condensed Milk

1 (14-ounce) can of whole milk (use empty condensed milk can for measure)

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 lime peel or 1/4 teaspoon of grated

1 tablespoons of dark rum (could omit if desired, but I highly recommend not do so)

6 eggs (4 whole eggs, 2 yolks)


See above