Venezuelan “¡Olé!” Arepa Burgers with Crispy Chorizo, Chipotle-Queso Sauce, Caramelized Onions, and Guacamole

Accolades 2010 Finalists
Serves Makes 6 burgers
Pairs well with:


Bright and full-bodied, this Zinfandel wine is a curious contradiction in tastes.

This burger is a tribute to the Venezuelan love of my life, Carolina Henriquez. On our first date, we went to a Venezuelan restaurant, and she showed me her country’s national dish: the arepa. It was love at first sight, both for her and for the arepa.



  • 4 cups yellow masarepa, preferably Harina P.A.N. brand (see Note)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 1/2 cups lukewarm whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Caramelized Onions

  • 2 tablespoons Colavita olive oil
  • 2 large Vidalia or other sweet onions, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons Colavita aged red wine vinegar


  • 2 ripe avocados, sliced in half, peeled, and pitted
  • 1/4 bell pepper, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Chipotle-Queso Sauce

  • 7 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, preferably La Costeña brand

Crispy Chorizo

  • 7 ounces Spanish-style chorizo, preferably Goya brand, thinly sliced lengthwise


  • 2 pounds ground 80/20 beef chuck, preferably grass-fed and organic
  • 1/3 cup minced shallots
  • 2/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1/4 cup Sutter Home Zinfandel
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack

NOTE: Masarepa is pre-cooked corn flour used for making arepas. Harina P.A.N. is a Venezuelan brand of masarepa and is distributed nationally in some major supermarket chains and specialty food shops.


To make the arepas, combine the masarepa and salt in a large bowl. Slowly add the milk and knead the mixture until it has a smooth and consistent texture without grainy lumps. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 25 minutes. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and roll each into a smooth ball with your hands. Lay a two-foot sheet of aluminum foil on a flat surface and fold in half. Place a ball of dough between the foil sheet halves and press down with a large plate to flatten the dough into a patty measuring 5 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch in thickness. Add half of the butter to a fire-proof skillet large enough to hold 3 arepas and heat on a gas grill over medium-low heat. Add 3 of the arepas and turn to coat both sides with butter. Cover the pan and cook the arepas, turning every 5 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped with a knife, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside under tented foil. Repeat to cook the 3 remaining arepas.

To make the caramelized onions, heat the oil in a fire-proof skillet on the grill over medium-low heat. Add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the salt, sugar, and vinegar. Cook until the onions are a rich, brown color, about 30 minutes longer.

To make the guacamole, mash the avocados in a bowl with a fork until smooth. Add the bell pepper, garlic, parsley, cilantro, salt, and lime juice and mix thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.

To make the crispy chorizo, heat a fire-proof skillet on the grill over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until slightly blackened and crispy, about 15 minutes. Taking care not to remove the rendered chorizo fat, remove the chorizo from the pan and set aside.

To make the patties, combine the rendered chorizo fat, beef, shallots, cilantro, salt, and Zinfandel in a large bowl, using a spoon to combine the ingredients. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and, handling the meat as little as possible, form the portions into patties that measure slightly less than 5 inches wide.

Heat the grill to medium-high. When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, until done to preference, 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium. During the last 3 minutes of grilling, spoon a generous amount of the chipotle-queso sauce on the patties.

To assemble the burgers, slice each arepa horizontally through the middle as you would slice a hamburger bun. Spread guacamole on one cut side of the arepa. On top of the guacamole add the crispy chorizo, the burger patties, and the caramelized onions. Add the other arepa halves and serve.