Vegetarian and Vegan Arepas

Angela made vegetarian and vegan versions of arepas for the Mexican-inspired cooking club we had in March, which are cornmeal-based cakes (they are referred to as “bread” but for some reason I think they are “corn cakes” in my head).

She took the vegetarian version from the New York Times, veganizing it by swapping out soy milk for the milk and chopped spinach for the cheese.  Both versions were delicious, especially topped with the chunky avocado salsa she made. My squeeze and I both had a couple as leftovers the next day and they were just as good!

The vegan version is on the left (along with vegan jalapeno poppers) and the vegetarian version is on the right (with vegetarian poppers). The avocado salsa is in the middle!

Here is the recipe she used:

1 c. yellow cornmeal, finely ground

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

1 c. milk

2 Tbsp. butter, more for serving, optional

1/2 c. fresh sweet corn kernels, or frozen kernels, thawed

1/4 c. chopped scallion

1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

1 small serrano or jalapeño chili, seeded and minced, optional

3 Tbsp. corn, canola, grapeseed or other neutral oil

1. Put cornmeal in a large bowl with salt and cheese. Put milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until steam rises, then add butter and stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir into cornmeal mixture until a thick batter is formed. Fold in the corn kernels, scallion, cilantro and chili if using.

2. Let batter rest until it thickens into a soft dough, about 15 minutes. Gently form 3- to 4-inch balls from mixture and flatten with palm of your hand to a 1/2-inch-thick disk. (You can cover and refrigerate disks for a few hours if you like.)

3. Heat oil in a large skillet and cook arepas, working in batches, until golden brown, about 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 minutes on other side. When all arepas are cooked and cool enough to handle, carefully slice them through the middle. If desired, serve with butter or stuff with beans, vegetables or sour cream.

Yield: 8 to 12 arepas.

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