CHICKEN SALSA SALAD w/ Arepas con Queso [Corn Tortillas with Cheese] + Colombia Photos

Chicken Salsa Salad with Corn Arepas / Homegrown Kitchen

Chicken Salsa Salad with Arepas con Queso

I made these Arepas regularly as they are gluten-free, and gluten-free is not a familiar term in Colombia so at times it was difficult to find food I could eat beyond beans and rice. I am unsure if these would traditionally be served with this chicken salsa salad but it uses typical Colombian flavours of tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro (coriander) and lime. When we could get it we would also add a diced avocado to the salsa salad but on the day I photographed these we couldn’t find one at the shops (you have to get used to not always getting what you need).

Colombia… like any developing country has its rough side with cold showers and street dogs, but the beauty of this country and its people far exceed the negatives. I never imagined I would visit Colombia with its shady past, especially traveling with children. However, as my brother-in-law and two teenage nephews call Colombia home, and have so for over 18 years, it was with some hesitation we embarked on this journey.

Arepas con Queso {Corn Tortillas with Cheese}

Traditionally these are made with the local Queso (cheese) which is a firm white cheese with small holes (see photo above) and is a mix between feta (not as salty) and haloumi (it doesn’t melt). It is available everywhere, and I liked it so much I plan to learn how to make it when we return home, so watch this space.

1 cup masa harina – fine corn meal flour treated with lime (this is available in New Zealand at many supermarkets from Tio Pablo)
50g crumbled feta
handful grated cheese
1 tsp sweetener – sugar, honey
approx. 1 cup water

Use hands to combine the masa harina, cheeses, and sweetener. Continue to mix with your hands while adding the water until it comes together into a ball. The resulting mix shouldn’t be wet that it sticks to your hands, nor dry that it won’t hold together.  Set aside for 10 minutes to rest. Divide the ball into 8 small balls and flatten between two pieces of grease-proof paper (we used a clean plastic bag as grease-proof paper doesn’t exist). Use a chopping board to firmly press each ball into a round about 2mm thick (see photos above). Heat a heavy-based skillet over a moderate heat and cook the arepas for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden. Note: do not add any oil for cooking and use a large spatula to carefully lift the arepas and turn so they don’t stick.

Chicken Salsa Salad

2 cups cooked chicken, roughly torn
2 tomatoes, diced
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
juice of 1-2 limes
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
generous pinch of salt
good quality chilli sauce to taste (optional)

Optional addition: 1 diced avocado

Combine the salsa ingredients and fold through the chicken. Serve with warm arepas with wedges of lime.


Now having spent 2 weeks in Colombia I can truthfully report we have only had positive and friendly experiences with everyone we met. The feeling I get is that ‘the people’ are very proud of their country and will do anything it takes to wipe the past and step into the future. And traveling with children we were always treated warmly, people stopping in the street to smile at my blonde haired boy and giggle at my stomping 3 1/2 year old. Although we barely touched the surface of this large country, we were very lucky to stay in one the most beautiful areas. My brother-in-law has a hostel called Sans Souci in the mountain town of Minca, 40 minutes drive up a VERY bumpy road from Santa Marta on the north-east coast. At 700 meters the temperatures was very pleasant 25C during the day and dropping to 15C at night for a comfortable nights sleep (no air conditioning here).

Minca, Santa Marta, Colombia / Homegrown Kitchen

Minca, Santa Marta, Colombia / Homegrown Kitchen

We spent two weeks enjoying this lovely property with a pool and small field for kicking balls to burn off toddler energy. Everyday started with a cup of locally grown and hand-roasted coffee (generally I only drink coffee with Sunday brunch but how could I resist locally grown coffee everyday) – more photos about this next week. Then most days a short stroll into the small town of Minca for an empanada or cacao brownie (made from local cacao). There were butterflies of every colour flying around the garden, and hummingbirds drinking nectar from the tropical flowers. And if you listened very closely you could hear a woodpecker tap tap tapping on a nearby tree. If Colombia is on your travel ticket add Minca to your itinerary, it is on the tourist trail so easy to get to with plenty to see and do.

Today I share with you photos from our trip (with more to come next week) and a recipe for Arepas con Queso (Corn Tortillas with Cheese). Colombian food was very good, simple and flavoursome. Most eateries served a ‘plato‘ consisting of rice and beans, and meat – usually chicken (pollo) or pork (cerdo) marinated in a sauce of coriander (cilantro), peppers and onions. This would be served with a vinegary chilli sauce called Aji Picante.

Minca, Santa Marta, Colombia / Homegrown Kitchen

Chicken Salsa Salad with Corn Arepas / Homegrown Kitchen

Chicken Salsa Salad with Corn Arepas / Homegrown Kitchen

Chicken Salsa Salad with Corn Arepas / Homegrown Kitchen

Chicken Salsa Salad with Corn Arepas / Homegrown Kitchen

Chicken Salsa Salad with Corn Arepas / Homegrown Kitchen

Chicken Salsa Salad with Corn Arepas / Homegrown Kitchen

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  1. Wow! Teo has sprouted! Lovely pics Nic. X

    1. I know, he has been eating non-stop since he recovered from his cough in Panama.

  2. It’s so great to see you sharing a recipe like this. I was very lucky to grow up on these. We also do a few other versions depending on whether we have company or how much time we have to prepare it. The great thing is that it is a really straight forward meal that my 6 year old son (also called Teo 🙂 can help with most of the prep work. He is an expert tortilla presser. A few of my favourite fillings include the slow-cooked pork shoulder (cochinita pibil), bacon and refried beans, Texas-Style chili (beef slow cooked in flavorful but not too spicy chili), pan-fried fish in cumin seed and of course the chicken. Teo and I are both intolerant to gluten so we have a version of this at least once per week. And any left-over tortillas get turned into quesadillas for lunches. If anyone has a Moore Wilsons nearby, you can get bigger bags of the masa for quite a bit cheaper than the supermarket. Love the photos of your trip so far. Look forward to seeing more!

    1. Hi Bonnie, Sounds great. We had slow-cooked pork ribs tonight with beans and corn tortillas so know what you are talking about. You can also order a 5kg bag of masa harina direct from Tio Pablo for about $30.00 plus tortilla press. A great addition to the gluten-free household. Wow another Teo, great name huh?

  3. beautyful pictures – nice to see you all tgether

    1. Thanks Irma, nice to hear from you x

      1. so you must be buzzzzzy by now?

  4. My husband and I honeymooned in Costa Rica at the start of August. We had experiences similar to yours as we did not stay in a tourist hub. However, each morning we were greeted with local, fresh coffee, and some of the best food we have ever eaten. Your arepas here look wonderful, I have not yet attempted to recreate anything we had down there, but you are totally giving me inspiration! Lovely post.

    1. Hi Lindsey, I look forward to reading some of your recipes from your trip. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  5. My Kitchen Stories says:

    I havent been to Colombia for years but have fond memories of visiting. I love the pictures you have posted and look forward to more

    1. Thanks Tania, it was a very memorable trip.

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