Venezuelan Inspired Arepitas Dulces (Sweet Arepas)
Updated: Aug 6, 2021
Arepitas Dulces (Sweet Arepas) are fried cornmeal cakes spiced with Anise. It is popular in Venezuela and other Spanish speaking countries. The cornmeal should be naturally Gluten Free but check your product labels nonetheless.
My love affair with Arepas started as a child. We made regular Arepas at home, on a griddle, but I especially loved the crunchiness of fried Arepas. These Arepitas Dulces has that crunch from frying with a hint of anise which makes it even more delicious. I also take a little creative license with my recipe and I steep my water with Star Anise which is similar but has a sharper flavour than Anise, it's so so good!
Trinidad is quite close to this Spanish speaking neighbor. Traveling to and from Venezuela was affordable so it was easy to import some of that culture into our own. Also, Spanish as a language is taught at all of our high schools, it's familiar whatever the level of your understanding (I paid attention, puedo leer, escribir y hablar espanol).
I can still remember the joyousness of getting together as a family and with friends, some of whom were from Venezuela. Food and music were central to those gatherings. We cooked, we ate and we danced. Put on salsa or merengue music and you'd be sure that there would be hips swaying and intricate foot movements that could leave someone dizzy. It was absolutely loud and glorious fun!
To make these Arepitas Dulces, I use PAN brand of white pre-cooked cornmeal. I do not add any leavening agents nor do I mix the cornmeal with another type of flour, even though there are recipes that do so. In spite of that the Arepas "fluff" in the oil as they cook. It helps if you leave the dough to rest for a while, ensuring it is moist, before making the Arepas.
Arepas can be served with a variety of sides, Queso Blanco is typical. Cut the Arepas the way you would a bread bun and fill with whatever your heart desires.
I consider myself fortunate that Arepas is now firmly a part of my "heritage" as is all the other cultural identities that surround me. Buen Provecho!
Arepitas Dulces (Gluten Free, Vegan Recipe)
1 cup of very warm water 1/2 - 1 tbsp sugar 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 tsp whole anise seeds** 1 cup white cornmeal*
Oil for frying
*I use P.A.N. Pre-Cooked White Corn Meal
Note: The Arepas can also be cooked on a hot griddle, a slight char on each side is expected
Directions To the cup of warm water add the sugar, salt and anise seeds
You could add the anise seeds to the dry mix and steep the water with 2 to 3 pods of star anise (similar but stronger in taste, see photo above)
Stir to dissolve the sugar, cover and allow to steep for about 10 minutes
Add the warm water mix to the cornmeal and knead to form a smooth ball, with no cracks (add more water if needed)
Cover the dough and leave to rest for another 10 minutes (keep the dough moist)
Prepare your pot and heat up your oil for deep frying
Separate dough into 6 or 8 pieces and while you work with one piece keep the rest covered to prevent it from drying out
Roll each piece into a ball, then press with your palms to flatten into a disc about 2 1/2" diameter and 1/4" thick
When the oil is hot, fry the arepas (not all at once) until lightly golden on each side. The aprepas will puff up and float to the surface of the oil
Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with your side of choice
You can always adjust the salt, sugar & anise to your liking