South American Bean Cakes with Arepa Bun and Tomato Chilli Salsa

19 Apr

 As promised, here is what to make with the rest of that can of kidney beans. I first made this recipe for Brazilian Bean Croquettes last summer during the World Cup. I decided I was going to make a lunch and dinner every day from the countries that were playing in the afternoon or evening game. It was quite a challenge especially being vegetarian but I really started to enjoy it and we ate some amazingly diverse food. From Cape Malay Samoosas, Jollif Rice from Ghana, German potato pancakes but the most memorable were these Bean Cakes from Brazil.

I have adjusted the original recipe slightly because it included breadcrumbs. As you know I am going gluten-free this month so no breadcrumbs for me. I used chickpea flour instead to coat the cakes but the breadcrumbs definitely give it extra crunch, so you decide.

To keep with the South American theme I wanted to try making Arepas. Arepas are a kind of bread pattie made from a special type of cornmeal. They are very popular in Venezuela, Columbia and the rest of Latin America. They can be grilled baked or fried and are usually stuffed or topped with cheese, eggs, meat or fish. Not that I needed any encouragement to try making these but the packet of the cornmeal is irresistable.

How cute? I actually bought the packet without realising it was for making Arepas just because I like the design. It’s not normal corn flour or cornmeal its precooked. Just look out for this packaging. You can’t miss it.  It’s really easy to make the arepas you just add hot water and salt to the corn meal and bring it together to form a stiff dough. Cut it into four then roll them into balls.

Wet your hands with some more hot water and roll the ball in your palm until smooth. Then press it out into a disc shape. Using more hot water (to glue it)  if it starts to crack at the edges.

To cook them I just heated a little oil in a frying pan and cooked them for 6 -7 minutes turning occasionally until they have what the Latin Americans call a cara (face).  And they really do develop a face, it’s hilarious…

I may have had the heat a little too high, but you get the idea.  Take them out of the pan and then keep them warm/continue cooking them for five or 10 minutes in the oven. Then slice like an English muffin. You can fill them with whatever you like but these bean cakes are great topped with a spicy tomato chilli salsa & some mashed avocado with lime juice.

Add some leaves and the spicy bean cake and you have a delicious vegan, gluten-free  Brazilian burger in a bun. Sometimes you need this kind of food. The kind of food you eat with your hands in front of the football. Or is it just me?

Brazilian Bean Cakes

makes 4 small cakes enough for 2 people, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 300 gr red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 or 5 tbsp tomate frito (tomato puree, passata)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chickpea flour plus extra for dusting
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded & chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • a handful of chopped fresh coriander

Blend the beans and tomate frito (puree/passata) in a bowl or food processor. Heat the oil over a medium high heat and fry the onion with a pinch of salt until well browned (5- 8 minutes).  Stir the chickpea flour into the onions then add the bean puree, oregano, chilli, coriander and season well with salt & black pepper.

Cook until the mixture holds it’s shape and comes together. Cool, covered in the fridge then shape into 4 patties. Put some chickpea flour on a flat plate and roll and dust the cakes with the flour while shaping them. (You can also roll in flour, egg & breadcrumbs if you want) Then put them back in the fridge to chill.

Heat 2 or 3 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and cook until browned on both sides. About 3 minutes a side.

Arepa Buns

makes 4, vegan, gluten-free

  • 300 ml hot water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 225 gr masa harina flour (precooked corn flour see photo above)
  • about 1 tbsp oil for frying

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and gradually add the hot/warm water, mixing with a wooden spoon to form a stiff dough. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes then cut into four and roll into balls. You may need to wet your hands with some more hot water to make it easier. Flatten the balls with the palm of your hands into discs about 3 inches in diameter about 3/4 inch thick. Use the hot water to smooth out any cracks around the edges.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the arepas for about 6-8 minutes turning 3 or 4 times until they are golden & crispy and have a cara, face. Drain on paper towels then put in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes while you cook the bean cakes.

Tomato Chilli Salsa & Avocado Puree

enough for 4 bean cake arepas, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic/ young garlic green parts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • the juice of 1/2 lime
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomate frito (tomato puree/passata)
  • salt & black pepper

Blend everything together in a bowl or processor. Check seasoning and add more salt/lime juice/olive oil if necessary.

  • 1 small avocado
  • the juice of 1/2 a lime
  • salt & black pepper
  • chilli oil

Put everything in a bowl and mash together with a fork. Taste for seasoning.

To serve cut the arepa through the middle, spread tomato chilli salsa on one side and the avocado puree on the other. Put the bean cake in the arepa, add some leaves, close, squash down and devour, trying not to get tomato salsa down your front…..!


17 Responses to “South American Bean Cakes with Arepa Bun and Tomato Chilli Salsa”

  1. Mission Delectable April 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    Wow – these look incredible. I can’t wait to try my hand at making them!

  2. Celia April 19, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    I love arepas, but usually avoid them because recipes recommend serious frying – totally trying your low-oil take! And those bean cakes look delicious as well…

  3. tiffany April 19, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    YUM! And what a GREAT idea to make arepas as buns!

  4. Inga´s Haven April 20, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    mmmm… looks very good – i´ll have to substitute the arepa for something else since I haven´t seen that in Iceland :/

  5. happywhennothungry April 20, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    These bean cakes look delicious! Love that fresh salsa as well. You’ve been coming up with some awesome and creative recipes. Nice job!

  6. sarah April 20, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Lovely! I like the idea of using chick-pea flour. I’ll definitely be bookmarking this one!

  7. Andrew Forbes April 20, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    Ummm! Are we inspiring you to go Latino! This looks and sounds wonderful. Just ad well your vegetarian otherwise I’d ask you to do a creative twist on the guinea pig stir fry we had! Or alpaca … However they do an amazing stuffed pepper called Rocotto Relleno – and I’m sure you could do a meat free version. It was really piquanté and worked so well with a sort of potatoes dauphinoise (sp?) but they do it with egg rather than cream. See you soon xx

    • foodblogandthedog April 20, 2011 at 10:30 am #

      Definitely not into the guinea pig ;P I will research the peppers though and those potatoes sound fab!! Any other suggestions for unusual dishes you encounter on your round the world trip will be gratefully received. I always need new inspiration. Take care xx

  8. Kim Cooper April 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    I absolutely have to make this! The pictures alone are making my mouth water. I saw another recipe similar using black beans, my absolute favorite. But I have cans upon cans of red beans in the pantry that need using! I can’t wait to try this!!!

  9. Tes April 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    What a lovely dish! it looks really healthy and sounds so delicious. I love the bun it looks super delicious 🙂

  10. Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet April 20, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    I am always in search for a good bean patty/burger and I love the flavors or this recipe. I have issues with American buns and it looks like you solved that issue too!

  11. tony ward April 21, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    love the ‘buns’ and the faces……a bit dodgy eating faces tho’…..but the bean cakes make them easier to swallow I guess.Great ideas(as always) love it.xx

  12. the good soup April 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    These look really interesting, particularly the buns, which are a very useful, quick alternative to a risen dough.

  13. Adriana April 26, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    La Cara! Heehee! I love your interpretation of the veggie cake with the beans, and the arepa bun, of course.

  14. eileencarpio December 18, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    I couldn’t believe I found the cornmeal in Dublin, Ireland! Due to a small Venezuelan Arepa stall that I love. So very much going to make these now I possess exactly the same packet of cornmeal you used. Plus on the sutffed peppers mentioned above… I’m originally from Peru and Rocoto Relleno is amazing but as I no longer eat meat I would be very keen to see how you would give it a veggie twist. The Rocoto peppers are also unusually cooked in milk. There are lots of Peruvian recipes that lend themselves very well to vegetarians. But getting the exact ingredients can be difficult. If you ever travel to Madrid you can get Rocotos in a Peruvian specialty shop there. My grandmother’s potatoes dauphinoise also had aniseed in them and she always used the peruvian queso fresco. (closest thing is haloumi). I hope you do look into some of the more “casera” recipes from Peru. I can send some suggestions that I’m sure you can improve upon or experiment with. You will find that the first thing any Peruvian will do when they unfortunately no longer live there but go back for a visit is EAT! The food is soooo good!!! Sorry about the hellishly long message!

    • foodblogandthedog December 18, 2011 at 10:33 am #

      I’m so glad you found some, hope you enjoy and thanks for reminding me about the Peruvian dish I will definitely be looking into them more. Your grandmother’s potatoes sound amazing, maybe a good side dish for Christmas day…..!


  1. Zucchini Green Chilli Cornbread « Cook Eat Live Vegetarian - October 4, 2011

    […] precooked white corn flour (I buy this in Mercadona). It is a South American product I use to make arepas which are small bread like pancakes I serve with these South American Bean Burgers instead of a […]

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