I had never had the pleasure of eating Venezuelan food before living in Miami Beach. Lucky for me, I happened to move into a condo a block away from a fantastic Venezuelan restaurant called K'Chapas. Their name is a play on the word cachapas, which is one of the country's famous dishes. Cachapas are thick, sweet corn cakes that are folded over and stuffed with meats and/or cheese. I really like cachapas, but I just LOVE arepas.
Arepas are savory pockets of dough (made from a special type of pre-cooked corn flour called masarepa) that are either grilled or fried and are also stuffed with meats and/or cheese. You can pick them up and eat them like a sandwich, whereas cachapas are meant to be eaten with a knife and fork.
One of the most beloved arepa flavors (and arguably the most popular) is reina pepiada, a flavorful type of chicken salad made with avocado and mayonnaise. The name can be translated as "Curvaceous Queen" and the history behind how it got that name is quite interesting!
In 1955, a Venezuelan model named Susana Duijm won the Miss World Pageant in London, England. She was the first woman from South America to win this title, and of course her country was quite proud of her achievement. A man named Heriberto Alvarez owned a restaurant called Los Hermanos Álvarez in Caracas, Venezuela, and in honor of Miss Duijm's award, dressed his niece up as if she were a beauty queen, and had her sit so she could be seen from the street. One passerby just happened to be the father of Susana, and after learning the reason for the spectacle, said he would bring his daughter, Miss World 1955, to come eat at their establishment.
Of course, Mr. Alvarez wanted to serve something special to such a special guest, and thus the recipe for reina pepiada was developed. Initially, it was just called "la reina" in her honor, since she was the Queen of the pageant. "Pepiada" was surely added to the name since Susana was quite curvaceous. (source....but be warned, it is in Spanish!)
The past 2 months I have been following the autoimmune protocol, and arepas are one of the things that I have missed the most! I used to let myself include arepas as part of my 20% "cheat" meals. Since I was pining for some Venezuelan flavor in my life and had some leftover shredded chicken, I put together this AIP-friendly variation of reina pepiada and served it on top of freshly-made tostones, which I think is the perfect substitute for an arepa if you have to be grain-free. It ain't 100% authentic because there's no mayonnaise (and I added bacon....), but trust me, it's fantastic. AIP or not, you will love this recipe!
Regarding mayonnaise, I have never been a big fan of it, so I didn't miss it by just excluding it. But, if you want a more authentic reina pepiada experience, you should include it. Use a good homemade mayonnaise recipe -- there are TONS of recipes online if you search, but I think this one from South Beach Primal would go quite well! You could omit the garlic and parsley to make a plain mayo, but I think they would add a nice flavor to the dish! Just omit the clove of garlic from my recipe if you include it in the mayo. Unless you really love garlic ;-)
Do you practice meal planning? This recipe is perfect for you! Here's how cooking 1 chicken fed me and my husband 6 times (and also gave us a few quarts of hearty bone broth).
First, I oven-roasted a chicken that was about 3.5 lbs. That fed us a nice hearty supper. Then, I shredded the remaining meat and saved it, and I took the bones, joints, and the bits of skin that didn't crisp up during roasting (because the crispy skin was devoured immediately...) and put them in the slow cooker (along with some chicken feet and saved bones from previous meals) to make bone broth. The remaining meat from the carcass was just the right amount for making a batch of reina pepiada that was enough to feed us two good-sized lunches.
I am always on the lookout for recipes that utilize leftover shredded chicken from roasts or batches of bone broth....and I can't believe I had never made reina pepiada before. This has become my go-to recipe now, and I hope you will enjoy it, too :-)
Venezuelan Reina Pepiada (avocado chicken salad) with tostones (autoimmune paleo, nightshade-free, egg-free)
An egg-free, nightshade-free version of Venezuelan reina pepiada (avocado chicken salad) served on tostones. Perfect for the autoimmune paleo protocol!
- 1 ripe Hass avocado, peeled and sliced
- juice of 1 lime
- 4 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 shallot, minced
- 1/2 tsp unrefined salt
- ground black pepper to taste
- 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
- 7 ounces shredded leftover chicken, chilled
- optional: 4-6 strips cooked crispy bacon, crumbled
- optional: 1 rib celery, thinly chopped
- optional: 2 -4 Tbsp homemade mayonnaise (see blog post for recipes)
- 1 green plantain (for tostones, click here for recipe)
- Begin by peeling and slicing your avocado. Add it t a medium bowl.
- Squeeze in lime juice and use a fork or a potato masher to thoroughly mash the avocado into a creamy consistency.
- Add cilantro, shallot, garlic, salt, black pepper, and if using, bacon and celery and mix well.
- Mix chicken into mixture and stir to combine well. If using mayonnaise, add it now 1 Tbsp at a time, until you get the desired consistency.
- Cover and place in refrigerator to allow flavors to meld while you prepare the tostones.
- Cook tostones. Click here for the quick and easy recipe! Or, if you can eat corn, make arepas. Be sure to use Harina P.A.N. brand masarepa....it's the gold standard!
- Once tostones are ready, top with a generous scoop of the chicken salad and enjoy right away! If using arepas, cut a pocket into the middle and stuff generously :-) Store leftover chicken salad in the fridge and use within a day or two.
Recommended Tools & Ingredients
This post contains affiliate links for things that I use in my own kitchen and believe you will enjoy, too. My full affiliate disclosure is here. Thanks for your support! :-)
A tostone press will make it MUCH easier to make your tostones :-)