Dominican Culinary Tradition: Arepa

Better known as The Best Cornbread You’ll Ever Have, Arepa is a staple in the Dominican Republic.
By Marnely Rodriguez

Better known as The Best Cornbread You’ll Ever Have, Arepa is a staple in the Dominican Republic.We’ll call it “cornbread” for lack of a better word, since Arepa’s texture is difficult to explain: bread pudding-like cornmeal cake or even congeled sweet corn pudding, you’ll need to make this to really experience a true Arepa. Not to be confused with Mexican and South American arepas, which are flat, savory discs that are usually filled with meats, cheeses or eggs. Dominican Arepa is a sweet dessert that will perfectly accompany that cafecito.

Naturally gluten-free, Dominican Arepa can also be made with coconut milk. This was usually done in the town of San Pedro de Macoris, where coconut is a staple to this day. The northern Cibao region is known for its “smoked” Arepa, cooked over a wood-fire and naturally smoked. This addition creates for depth of flavor, contrasting with the sweetness of the corn.

The old folklore saying, “Como la Arepa, fuego por arriba y fuego por abajo”, meaning “Like the Arepa, fire on top and fire on the bottom”, tells of the way Arepa was made (and still is!) in the rural towns of the island. Traditionally, it is prepared in a cast iron pot with lid set in hot coals and covered on top with even more coals. This allowed for even distribution of heat. Nowadays, we have ovens that take care of that so the recipe below is baked in an oven, although you can try the traditional method if you have coals and a wood-fire at your disposal.

Dominican Arepa


16 ounces finely ground yellow cornmeal

2 cups water

2 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 large egg, beaten

2 ounces butter


  1. Preheat oven to 375F and grease a round, 10-inch pan.
  2. Stir water and corn flour in heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Let simmer until all the water is absorbed.
  3. Add milk, salt, sugar and cinnamon stick. Constantly stir, making sure to reach the edges so it doesn’t stick. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, until a film develops on the bottom of the pan and all the liquid is incorporated. The mixture will start bubbling slowly.
  4. Remove the cinnamon stick and whisk in egg and butter. Pour batter into greased pan and place in oven.
  5. Bake for approximately 50 minutes to an hour, until the center sets up.
  6. Enjoy either warm or cold, with tea or coffee.
Marnely Rodriguez-Murray

Marnely Rodriguez-Murray

Marnely Rodriguez-Murray is the author of the food blog Cooking with Books. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, she has worked as an Overnight Bread Baker in Colorado, a Chocolate Maker in Virginia as well as a Pastry Cook on the whimsical island of Martha’s Vineyard, just to name a few. She currently resides on Martha's Vineyard with her chef-husband, where they are both on an endless search for Caribbean flavors, new culinary trends and gastronomic inspiration.

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Originally Published: August 1, 2011

14 Responses to Dominican Culinary Tradition: Arepa

  1. Tamara Novakoviç

    Tamara Novakoviç Reply

    August 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    sounds and looks great!

  2. Terra Reply

    August 1, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Wow, TY for sharing, this sounds so lovely! I am huge lover of anything corn:-) Hugs, Terra

  3. Judith Klinger

    Judith Klinger Reply

    August 2, 2011 at 11:29 am

    This sounds amazing. If I can figure out a pot and lid…I want to try it in the fireplace. Delish!

  4. Alan Cooke Reply

    August 13, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Love Cornbread, but bein a ‘Suhtherna’, using phrases like ‘Best cornbread EVER’ could be fightin words!! lol Enjoy the history behind it!!

  5. Sara Clevering

    Sara Clevering Reply

    October 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Interesting–besides the method, I love the idea of the cinnamon stick!

  6. Debbie Reply

    February 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    When you say finely ground cornmeal, do you mean masa harina or something more like polenta?

  7. jan hallquist-thompson Reply

    February 4, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Nelly, I can’t wait to make Arepa! It sounds wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

  8. Pingback: Summer Fest: Corn Favorites - Cooking with Books

  9. Wendy Reply

    March 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    My Dominican stepmother showed me how to make this….I was trying to spark my memory. This is close but she didn’t use eggs and she did flavor it with anise…and raisins.Both are absolute musts!

  10. Wendy Reply

    March 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Sorry….Fennel. not anise!

  11. Elizabeth Reply

    November 13, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Anise, cinamon and raisins are a must. Don’t think my mom used egg either but I like the consistency this can give it.

  12. Vicent Reply

    March 16, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Es correcto el uso de Anis. Porqué? El “pan de Maiz”, pude ser dulce o salado, al dulce se le pone canela y pasas y al salado se le pone Anis.

  13. Vicent Reply

    March 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    En casa los preparo ambos, y son deliciosos!!!!

  14. araceli prandy Reply

    August 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    where can I get, a Dominican cook book.?

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