Arepas with Beer-Braised Jackfruit and Avocado Corn Salsa + Chipotle Crema
I’m a freaking genius.
Okay, that might be a stretch. But, at the very least, I make some damned tasty food.
This week I wanted to share this magnificent creation with you all. What we have here are some crispy arepas filled with tender, juicy jackfruit that has been simmered in beer and lots of savory spices. I opted to top them with a fresh, sweet and citrusy corn avocado salsa and a generous drizzle of smoky chipotle crema. All of the textures and flavors going on in these little guys are absolutely swoon-worthy.
For anyone that is unfamiliar with arepas, they’re deliciously soft and crispy cornmeal pancakes that are perfect for stuffing with all sorts of savory fillings, such as avocado, eggs, meat, cheese, etc. They’re popular in Venezuela and Columbia. There’s also a variation that’s popular in Cuba which tends to be filled with cheese. The dough in the Cuban version is pretty different from the Venezuelan/Columbian versions as it contains milk and butter, whereas the Venezuelan arepa dough is usually just made from masarepa, salt, and water.
Before anyone says it, I know my arepas aren’t exactly authentic or traditional. But, I wanted to put my own spin on them; and I think they turned out pretty damn tasty if I say so myself.
Admittedly I was never the biggest fan of jackfruit until recently. I always found the texture to be too stringy and rubbery. However, after some research and experimentation I found that by simmering the jackfruit in a flavorful liquid for a long period of time I could infuse tons of flavor and help break the jackfruit down a bit. Afterwards, the jackfruit spends some time in the oven drying out to reduce the rubbery texture and concentrate the flavors. A quick broil adds some crispy texture. Boom. Tasty jackfruit that makes a pretty convincing stand in for shredded meats. I was inspired by the flavors of carnitas in this particular recipe.
As for my chipotle crema: I recently decided to experiment a little with sunflower seeds. I wanted a more allergy-friendly substitute for cashews. I also wanted something slightly more affordable than expensive cashews. Sunflower seeds made for a perfect stand in. They blend up nice and creamy just like cashews do, but cost a fraction of the price. Admittedly, they do have a stronger flavor. However, when paired with such bold flavors, I found them to be undetectable.
Did I mention this recipe is also naturally gluten-free? WIN
I’d like to note: the jackfruit does take a bit of time to make. However, if you’re pressed for time, these arepas are also perfect when filled with some refried black beans or some vegan chicken. You could even fill them with some seasoned soy curls or tofu. Given that the arepas are so quick to make, these would even make a great weeknight meal if you substitute a different filling.
Now, recipe time! Be sure to tag me on Instagram if you make these @BitchyBaker or #BitchyBaker <3
Arepas with Beer-Braised Jackfruit and Avocado Corn Salsa + Chipotle Crema
Yield: 20 mini arepas or 8 large arepas
Time: About 2 1/2 Hours (1 hour and 50 minutes of inactive time)
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans green jackfruit, drained and separated into smaller chunks (see note)
2 teaspoons crushed Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Juice of 1 orange (about 1/4 cup)
Juice of one lime (about 2 tablespoons)
Zest of one lime (about 1 tablespoon)
1 canned chipotle pepper, diced finely + 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from can
2 cups Mexican beer (see note)
1 cup vegetable stock (plus an extra 1/2 cup, as needed)
Beer-Braised Jackfruit Directions:
1.) Saute the Onions: In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add in the onions and saute for a few minutes, until the onions begin to soften and brown around the edges. Add in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
2.) Simmer: Add in all remaining ingredients and mix to combine. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Cover and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the jackfruit has become very tender and the liquid has mostly reduced (a little bit of residual liquid is okay). Check the pot occasionally while simmering, just to make sure the liquid hasn’t reduced too much and caused the mixture to stick to the pan. If necessary add an extra splash or two or vegetable stock.
3.) Mash: Remove the pan from the heat and mash the jackfruit using a fork or a potato masher. The goal is to break the jackfruit up so it takes on a more “shredded” appearance.
4.) Bake: Preheat oven to 350. Transfer the jackfruit onto a silpat-lined baking sheet. Spread into an even layer. Place in the oven for about 60-75 minutes, or until the jackfruit has dried out significantly. The jackfruit should also be a darker brown color.
5.) Broil: Remove from the oven and “mix” on the pan before spreading out once more. Spread out again before lightly drizzling (or spraying) the jackfruit with a small amount of vegetable oil. Place the pan of jackfruit under the broiler. Broil for a few minutes, or just until the jackfruit has developed some crispy bits on the top. Set aside until ready to use.
NOTE: Green jackfruit can be found at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and in most health food stores. You can also find it in most Asian markets. You can verify which Mexican beers are vegan by visiting Barnivore’s website. I used Modelo Especial.
Avocado Corn Salsa Ingredients:
2 cups of cooked corn kernels (I used frozen and thawed roasted corn from Trader Joe’s)
2 small hass avocados, diced small
1 jalapeno, finely diced
Juice of one lime (about two tablespoons)
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt, to taste
1.) Mix all salsa ingredients in a bowl to combine. Set aside until ready to use.
Chipotle Crema Ingredients:
1/2 cup raw, shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds, soaked overnight in water (see note)
2 canned chipotle peppers, + 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from can
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 - 1 cup water, as needed
Chipotle Crema Directions:
1.) Add all crema ingredients to a blender, starting with 1/2 cup of water. Blend until totally smooth and creamy. Add up to an extra half cup of water, or more as needed to achieve a smooth and pourable consistency. Set aside until ready to use.
NOTE: If you aren’t able to soak the sunflower seeds in water overnight, you can quick soak them by covering the seeds in boiling water and allowing them to sit for about an hour. This should soften them enough to make the blending process a little easier.
2 cups masarepa flour (see note)
2 teaspoons salt
2 3/4 cup warm water
1-2 tablespoons of oil for cooking
1.) Make the Dough: In a bowl, mix together the masarepa flour and salt until combined. Add in the warm water and mix until thoroughly combined. Set the dough aside for about ten minutes to allow the dough to firm up a bit.
2.) Form the Arepas: If you wish to make mini arepas like I did, portion out about two tablespoons of dough for each arepa before rolling it into a ball and then flattening it out to 1/2 an inch thickness. If you would prefer standard-sized arepas, divide the dough into eight even portions before rolling into balls and flatting them out to 1/2 an inch thickness.
3.) Cook the Arepas: Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large, flat-bottomed skillet over medium heat. I prefer using a cast iron skillet, but a good non-stick skillet will also work great. Lay the arepas in the pan, leaving some space between each one. Cook on the first side for 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Flip and allow them to cook on the other size for an additional 6-8 minutes. Remove from the pan and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil. Repeat with remaining arepas, adding an additional tablespoon of oil to the pan if needed.
4.) Fill and Serve: Split each arepa in half lengthwise, like a sandwich bun. Spoon some jackfruit onto the arepa before topping with some salsa and a drizzle of crema. Serve and enjoy!