I’ve been on a little Arepa kick lately – I made these Shredded Chicken (Pollo Mechado) Arepas which were fabulous, then went on and revisited the other Arepas on my site, my Chicken Avocado Arepas. So of course, I needed to revise my post on how to make the actual Arepas, which are the little “buns”.
But all of that kind of drives a point home about Arepas. The little buns are super easy to make; if you can make a mud pie, you can master them!) and are fragrant and kind of soft, fluffy and chewy all at the same time. They can take just about any kind of filling you can throw at them from downright traditional (there’s a list here on Wikipedia but you’ll need to use your translate button) or some kind of fusion-y concoction or even something you might just mix up from what’s hanging out in your pantry or fridge.
About Shredded Chicken (Pollo Mechado) Arepas:
But let’s talk about THIS filling! This is a luscious shredded chicken accented with garlic & just a little bell pepper and tomato and all that would be good on just about anything. But on these little arepas, it’s just about the perfect marriage.
I finished my sandwiches off with some Pickled Red Onion, a good sprinkle of Mexican cheese (Feta is a good sub and Monterrey Jack would be great, too; use whatever you’ve got) and a dose of what I call “green sauce” that you’ll find on my post for Peruvian Chicken. I’m just wild about that quick blender sauce and it’s been finding it’s way in and on just about everything lately. (Use any salsa you want, though if you don’t feel like making the green sauce, maybe a tomatillo salsa.)
By the time I was all done piling stuff on I gotta admit these were pretty fat (and messy) little sandwiches but for just a minute I was utterly transported to a whole different place; worries and cares dropped away. It was enough, that sandwich, for that moment in time.
The play of the textures and flavors, the silky soft chicken, the vinegary crunchy pickled onions with the sharp, creamy cheese and the herby, spicy green sauce, each flavor at first distinct but quickly and messily melding together into one glorious orchestra of flavor…it took my mind from holding it together in a very real sense to doing nothing but holding that sandwich together, concentrating as each flavor, in turn, stepped up and took stage.
And for a few minutes, I was overcome with a sense of gratitude. For one, that I’m lucky enough to know how to cook, that I could scrounge up the few ingredients & that my son brought me two avocados. That I’m safe and at home, and although I’m not with my loved ones, at some point, in some future, I will be, God willing, and I’ll make these for them. In the meantime, maybe you’ll do the same, & maybe I can imagine you enjoying them with your family! And of course, all that imagining is only in the non-creepiest way possible, lol, and everyone IS wearing clothing and everyone IS enjoying the heck outta these -nom nom nom!
Pulling it All Together & Serving Options:
If you want to go with the full-on experience, in the easiest way, make those pickled onions ahead (what they lose in the bright color, they gain in flavor) and the green sauce can be made ahead, too. And if you want to use store-bought salsa or another of your choice, or no salsa at all, go for it. Maybe you don’t want pickled onions, that’s fine, too. Just make them your own.
The arepas (the buns) take about 35 minutes to make, some of it is just rest time and time in the oven, but since they need super hot or boiling water I start the chicken first. Once the chicken is simmered, I’ll just use that broth for the Arepas. It just makes it easier. Then I mix up the Aprepas and let them rest for a few minutes while the chicken finishes. The Arepas get griddled then tossed in the oven and once in the oven take about 15 minutes or so. That’s a great time to pull out all your little add ons, the cheese, the pickled onion, the green sauce or salsa.
You can serve your Arepas with black beans or refried beans (from scratch like my Instant Pot Recipe or Doctored Up From a Can) and rice (maybe this Restaurant Style Mexican Rice or Instant Pot Mexican Rice) or maybe with my Roasted Corn & Black Bean Salsa which in this case, I just served as a side rather than on my Arepas. They’d be fantastic with a slaw, like my Mexican Red Slaw and maybe you’ll find yourself serving that both as a side dish and/or on top of your Arepas. There are so many directions you can go. Don’t forget a little avocado & some lime if you have them on hand (or have a wonderful son that will bring them to you!)
Making Shredded Chicken (Pollo Mechado) Arepas:
It doesn’t really take much at all to make the chicken for these arepas. I usually use breasts because that’s just me, but you can use white or dark meat. It’s just a matter of simmering the chicken until it’s soft and shreddable while in the meantime, you toss a few ingredients into a skillet to soften up. When the chicken is done, it goes the skillet with everything else so the flavors all meld together in what is basically just a kind of stewed chicken.
This recipe is so forgiving, This is a kind of toss together what you have, just a little onion and some garlic, bell pepper if you have it, any color, and a little tomato. You can use fresh tomato or canned (if you use canned just approximate the same amount as an actual tomato and if you don’t have another use for the rest, toss them in a Ziploc and stash them in the freezer to add to another dish, later.) The shredded chicken is very mild and family-friendly; any real “personality” will come from toppings you might choose.
Saving Money on Shredded Chicken (Pollo Mechado) Arepas
There’s no need to ever pay full price for chicken – it goes on sale too often. It pays to know the difference between a good sales price and a rock bottom sales price (usually about once a quarter) and stock up at the low. Often these are larger family packs so portion out in sizes suitable for meals for your family and freeze. I prefer breasts which are usually more than budget chicken thighs, although many prefer thighs for being moister.
Leftover chicken works well in this recipe, too, and it’s always fabulous to find a way to rework your leftovers. Just gently heat it until it’s all warm and soft.
Bell peppers can be pricey but look for them on sale; these days they do last for quite a while in the fridge. Buy for the current week and a couple for the next week if they’re at a low. I get in the habit of picking them up when they’re at a low, roasting them, then peeling them to stash in the freezer. It’s easy to do and great way to have them on the cheap.
Avocados can be crazy expensive or more reasonable. Most of the time I’ll make recipes with avocado when I see them on sale. I don’t know if I’ve seen them at the buyer’s club but usually, at Aldi (and sometimes at the grocery store) they’ll be both sold individually and bagged. Look closely if they are all in a bag and make sure they’re all sound and not bruised or overripe.Print
Shredded Chicken (Pollo Mechado) Arepas
- Total Time: 40 minutes with arepas
- Yield: 4 servings (2 arepas each) 1x
- Category: Sandwiches
- Cuisine: Venezuelan
- 2 chicken breasts (about 12 to 14 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
- 1/2 bell pepper, diced
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced or smashed
- 1 large tomato, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- squeeze of lime or a 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) white vinegar
- 8 arepas (see recipe)
- Pickled Red Onions, optional for garnish (see recipe)
- Geen Sauce, optional for garnish (see recipe)
- Queso Fresco, optional for garnish
- Lime & Avocado, optional for garnish
Add chicken to a pot, cover with water by about an inch and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately turn down to a simmer and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until tender. If desired, the resulting broth can be used in making the arepas. Remove chicken from broth and shred. Reserve a little of the broth to finish the dish and If desired, the remainder of the broth may be saved and used in making the arepa
In the meantime, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat; add cook and stir onion for about 3 minutes. Add red bell pepper; cook and stir until onion and pepper are softened, several more minutes. Add garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the shredded chicken and a tablespoon or two of the reserved broth to moisten, the tomato and salt and pepper to taste. Heat through, gently, stirring often to blend flavors until chicken is still moist but most of the moisture is gone from the pan and the tomatoes have dissolved into the mixture, several minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper and add a squeeze of lime or a little sprinkle of vinegar.
Serve inside still warm and split arepas, topped with green sauce, pickled red onions and cheese. Garnish with lime and avocado if desired.
Keywords: Arepas, Avocado, Bargain Meal of the Week, Bell Peppers, Chicken, Chicken Breast, cornmeal, Latin American, leftover Chicken, masa harina, pickled red onion, Red onion, South American, Tomatoes, Venezuela.
I’ll be sharing my Shredded Chicken (Pollo Mechado) Arepas at Fiesta Friday #325 this week, cohosted by me! That’s right, me! Also, I’ll be posting at The Weekend Potluck, a collaborative sharing site run by several of my favorite bloggers.