Today we're making arepas de coco, a vegan fried coconut bread made with 5 simple ingredients that's popular in Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean. They're delicious served as a side, snack, or stuffed with all things saucy, savory, and sweet.
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Coconut is a staple ingredient in many classic Puerto Rican recipes, and these arepas de coco are the perfect example of why.
This fried coconut bread captures that delicious sweet and savory flavor profile that goes with just about anything. It's traditionally stuffed with something savory and saucy, like this ensalada de pulpo, picadillo, or enjoyed as is with a light spread of butter.
5 Easy Ingredients
You will only need 5 ingredients I'm willing to bet you already have most of in your pantry. Here's the list:
- all purpose flour
- white granulated sugar
- baking powder
- canned coconut milk
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Arepas de Coco
Mix the dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Whisk together to combine.
Hint: Use a whisk or a fork to whisk the dry ingredients together.
Make the arepa dough. Add the coconut milk and mix your hands until a consistent dough forms. If the dough feels too dry, you can add more coconut milk, one tablespoon at a time. If it feels too wet, add flour one tablespoon at a time.
Tip: When using canned coconut, it can be helpful to process the contents of the can for 30 seconds using an immersion blender to create a consistent milk. This step can help ensure your bread has the correct fat content, and doesn't end up with mostly coconut water from the can.
Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rest on the counter for a half hour.
Prep to fry. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan. Wait until the oil is hot to add the arepas.
Roll out the arepa dough on a clean flour dusted surface. Cut out circles using a glass or a round cookie cutter.
Fry. Fry the arepa dough circles in oil over medium heat for a few minutes on each side, or until they turn a light golden brown color all around and puff up. It's helpful to test fry one first, to make sure the oil isn't too hot.
Transfer the fried bread to a paper towel lined plate to drain any grease. Keep reading for ideas on how to enjoy your arepas de coco.
While this ingredient list is pretty simple and accessible, there are a few easy substitutions that can be made when in a pinch.
Here are my recommendations:
- Coconut Milk - while the coconut milk is what gives this bread that unique flavor that's signature for this fried coconut bread, you can substitute with whole milk or another plant based milk alternative
- Sugar - feel free to use coconut sugar instead of granulated to amp up the coconut flavor
- Flour - I do not recommend substituting any alternative flours for all purpose in this recipe as it will change the texture and end result drastically
Arepas Around the World
When you hear the word arepa, you might think about a different kind of bread, usually found in Columbia or Venezuela and made with corn.
Because the world arepa translates to cake (or corn cake), it is used to describe a sweet bread or cake.
In Puerto Rico, our version just happens to be these arepas de coco!
What to Eat with Your Bread
This bread is delicious as is or used however you enjoy bread. In Puerto Rico we like to cut partially through the middle of the bread (similar to pita bread) and stuff with saucy dishes.
You can try these other Puerto Rican dishes as a starting point:
- Ensalada de Pulpo (Octopus Salad) - this recipe from Elise Bauer makes a delicious filling, similar to any kind of ceviche
- Puerto Rican Picadillo - this classic ground beef sauce with tomatoes and pimento olives makes a wonderful savory saucy filling
- Camarones Guisados - this dish is almost a mix up of ceviche (from the shrimp) and picadillo (with the olives and tomato sauce), and makes a delicious sauce for the bread to soak up
Like all of our favorite fried delicacies, arepas de coco are best enjoyed fresh out of the fryer.