What are arepas? Actor Juan Pablo Espinosa shares why he loves the 'delicious doughy treat that's filled with cheese.'

·4-min read
Juan Pablo Espinosa, a lover of arepas, says one of his favorite people to cook the dish for ... is himself. (Photo: Mario Alzate; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Juan Pablo Espinosa, a lover of arepas, says one of his favorite people to cook the dish for ... is himself. (Photo: Mario Alzate; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.

Colombian actor Juan Pablo Espinosa stars in the limited Netflix series Keep Breathing as well as Apple TV+ comedy series Acapulco. While he may be known for the dynamic characters he plays in his starring roles, what gets the 41-year-old actor really excited is taking time for himself, making arepas in his home kitchen.

"A lot of people I know don't like to cook for themselves," Espinosa tells Yahoo Life. "I love cooking for myself because you can go really big on all the flavors that you like."

Espinosa's favorite thing to cook? Arepas, corn cakes that originated in South American countries like Colombia and Venezuela. While arepas can be used similarly to tortillas, they can also be stuffed with cheese, meats or black beans.

Cheese-stuffed arepas are among Espinosa's favorite things to cook. (Photo: Getty Creative)
Cheese-stuffed arepas are among Espinosa's favorite things to cook. (Photo: Getty Creative)

"I've found myself making a lot of Colombian dishes, such as arepas," says Espinosa. Arepas, explains Espinosa, are "this delicious doughy treat filled with cheese in Colombia."

"It's kind of like a corn meal," he explains, "and you prepare it with water and butter and salt so it gets really buttery ... then you just literally fill it with your favorite cheese, which is usually something similar to a mozzarella, and grill it."

"It's decadent and delicious," he adds. "Whenever I need a little piece of Colombia in my house, I'll find myself literally going through all the steps just to have a little taste of that. It's so good."

For Espinosa, a good arepa is all about the cheese-pull — that money shot when the melted cheese holds on in gooey strings once the corn cake is pulled apart by hand. "That's literally what you're aiming for every time and it never fails," he says.

But Espinosa's passion for Colombian food doesn't end with the humble arepa. "All my life I've been so passionate about cooking," he says, adding that in his youth, he also tried his hand at baking.

Like anyone learning to bake, Espinosa has experienced his share of kitchen fails. He recalls a time as a young teen when he tried to make a cake for his mom for her 40th birthday. "I started putting all these ingredients together and I thought it would be really cool to throw in some chocolate — like bits of pieces of chocolate with this almond cake batter," he says. "I never realized the chocolate was going to change the consistency of the batter."

The result? Espinosa's cake batter ended up liquidy and loose. "We had the big reveal, you know, when you turn the mold upside down into this lovely platter," he adds. "Literally, it was like melting lava — all over the beautifully-set table."

Thankfully, Espinosa has had better luck in the kitchen since those early days. But a lot of his greatest pleasures come from the simple things. "My biggest comfort food is always bread," he says. "My friends make fun of me because every time we go to a restaurant, they know I'm gonna attack the bread basket before anybody."

While being a working actor, Espinosa's love of carbs may sound like the antithesis of an on-set diet, but hitting the bread basket or cooking late-night arepas is actually something that works quite well for his current roles. "I've been very lucky in the past few projects that I've had because I've been playing a father figure," he says. "So they're always like, encouraging me like, 'You can have a little belly.'"

But regardless of the role, Espinosa says he's not afraid to share his passion for food, especially carbs. "A lot of people find it very very comforting to be like, 'I eat to live,'" he says, "and I feel like I'm the opposite: I live to eat. Like, it's my passion."

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