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Meet Cachapas, the Arepa's Distant (and Sweeter) Cousin

Forget, for a moment, Colombia’s and Venezuela’s most popular breakfast, arepas, and give something else a try. Meet cachapas, a type of pancake made from corn and filled with fresh cheese and/or pork. The thick, tasty gluten-free corn cakes are sold at road stalls throughout both countries – hot and steamy and ready for you.

In Colombia and Venezuela, just as in other Andes countries, corn has been a staple since ancient times. For hundreds of years, corn has been ground with stone pestles and baked on some type of hot griddle. Cachapas were born of this tradition (though pestles have given way to grinding machines).  

Cachapas are made with sweet corn, water, salt, and panela, all combined to form a sort of lumpy pancake with a subtle sweetness. The batter is poured directly onto a hot pan and cooked until golden and warm. And though they're usually eaten at breakfast, they make a perfect lunch or snack throughout the day.

And you can make it completely your own by selecting the filling around which your pancake will be folded: a piece of white cheese, pork, or simply butter (margarine). Queso de mano (literally: handmade cheese) is a soft, fresh type of cow’s milk cheese, such as guayanés or telita, with little flavor but with a smooth texture. Pork may be pernil de cochino, roasted pork leg ham, or chicharrón – fried pork. 

Even with savory fillings, they remain a bit sweet and are the perfect accompaniment to heavy meals (such as bbqs). Or with your morning cafe. That is, if you can give up arepas. 

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