I love trying foods from other countries or foods that are inspired by other countries’ cuisines. I always enjoy visiting international grocery stores in my area to see what kinds of treats I can find, and a couple of years ago, my husband bought me a subscription to Universal Yums so we could sample snacks from different countries.
I’ve always appreciated the fact that Aldi — with its origins in Germany — can be a little bit like an international grocery store with food from Germany, Italy, Slovenia, various other European countries, and more.
Trader Joe’s, which is a cousin to Aldi, also has some international flavors in its aisles. They have an excellent selection of Indian and Indian-inspired foods, along with Mexican-inspired entrees, and more.
During a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I found something unique in the freezer aisle that I had to try, even though my shopping cart was already pretty full. Stocked near the Mexican and South American-themed foods, I discovered this little box of arepas. The package describes them as “2 corn griddle cakes with a layer of mozzarella cheese in the middle.” A more detailed description on the box states they are a traditional Colombian street food and compares them to a sweeter version of a grilled cheese sandwich. That was all it took to reel me in. I dropped a box in my cart.
Trader Joe’s Corn & Cheese Arepas cost $3.49 for a 13.96-ounce box at the time of publication.
The Trader Joe’s box states:
Arepas, a traditional street food in Colombia and other South American countries, make a great snack or meal. Think of them as sweeter, gluten free grilled cheese sandwiches, which are best when crisped.
Ingredients are water, corn, corn flour, low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese, tapioca starch, sugar, and salt. If you’re looking out for allergens, this contains milk. It may also contain traces of soy. These are gluten free.
One box has two servings. These do contain some fat, carbs, and added sugars. One serving (one arepa) has 360 calories, 8 grams of total fat (10% DV), 5 grams of saturated fat (25% DV), 620 mg of sodium (27% DV), 61 grams of total carbohydrates (22% DV), 12 grams of total sugars, and 10 grams of added sugars (20% DV).
The box has instructions for heating the arepas on the stovetop or in a conventional oven. Regardless of how you heat them, they should first be defrosted. To defrost, remove all packaging. Defrost the arepas at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the microwave for 1 minute. For microwave defrosting, place an arepa on a microwave-safe dish and heat for 30 seconds, then turn over and heat for an additional 30 seconds.
To heat a defrosted arepa on the stovetop, place the arepa in a skillet over medium heat. Cook for 4-6 minutes. Turn over and cook for an additional 4-6 minutes or until golden brown on both sides and the cheese is melted.
To heat a defrosted arepa in a conventional oven, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the arepa on a cookie sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes or until crisp and the cheese is melted.
I defrosted one of these in the microwave for a quick weekday lunch. Then I heated it on a small skillet on the stovetop. While the directions say to cook for 4-6 minutes on each side, mine was well browned after only about 4 minutes on each side, so you may want to keep a close eye on these while they’re heating.
I probably should have let this cool for a few minutes before cutting it in half to serve it because it seems like a lot of the cheese melted out when I cut into it.
These feature thick, doughy, bready griddle cakes. If you like corn casserole or very moist cornbread, you’ll probably find these appetizing. The outside of the griddle cakes gets crispy and toasting when heated, while the inside is soft and kind of mushy. I felt like this could have benefitted from a little more cheese in the middle, but then again, I think some of the cheese squished out when I cut this in half before it had time to cool off a little after heating. I’m hoping for better luck — with less cheese loss — next time.
Otherwise, these are pretty good. They’re also fairly filling. One was plenty for my lunch.
Trader Joe’s Corn & Cheese Arepas are inspired by a traditional street food in Colombia and other parts of South America. They feature two corn griddle cakes with mozzarella cheese in between. The TJ’s box describes them as a sweeter, gluten free version of a grilled cheese sandwich. The corn griddle cakes are sweet, with a lightly toasted exterior. We thought these could use a little more cheese in the middle, but otherwise we like these and they’re a fun way to sample some South American cuisine.