Submitted by Janeth and Luna Barrera
The very first day the new Disney movie opened in Chicago, this mom and daughter made sure they bought tickets to the earliest screening of Encanto. (Janeth and Luna saw the animated hit in a movie theater, but they’re now streaming it from home—on repeat.) Luna’s favorite character is the young cousin Antonio. His magical gift is communicating with the animal kingdom, and Luna loves all animals.
Janeth and Luna were so inspired by Encanto, they immediately went into their kitchen and made one of the foods in the movie—arepas de queso—using Janeth’s own Colombian family recipe. This homey, easy-to-make popular dish is cooked by the heroine Maribel’s mother Julieta, who uses arepas to heal her family and the local villagers.
Janeth taught Luna to make cheese arepas, just like Janeth learned to make them from her mother when she was growing up in Colombia—and about the same age.
“The arepas were so good! I love to cook,” says Luna.
The Barrero family, including dad Edwin and Luna’s older brother Samuel, who all live in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, feel a special hometown pride watching this celebration of family and culture in Colombia. They try to go back as often as they can to see Luna and Samuel’s grandmother and the rest of Janeth’s large, close family.
Cheese Arepas, Check! What’s Next? Buñuelos, of Course!
Luna liked the cheese arepas so much, she asked to make more Colombian dishes from the movie. What else could they cook to celebrate their family heritage and the magical Encanto world?
Buñuelos, of course!, said Janeth.
In the movie, Julieta also makes these golden, savory-sweet and totalmente delicioso fried dough with queso. This traditional cheese treat is usually served during the Christmas season with natilla—a custard-like dessert made with milk, panela (unrefined whole cane sugar), and coconut—and a cup of Colombian hot chocolate.
Today, as they make Encanto-inspired buñuelos. Luna helps her mother prepare the flour, shape the ping pong-ball-size rounds of dough, and fry them in the hot cast-iron pan, using tongs.
”It looks so GOOD,” says Luna. She is monitoring the frying pan, hopping up and down, excited, while waiting for the dough to turn burnished gold on both sides.
”I can’t wait to eat them.”
When they are listos, Janeth and Luna sit down at their kitchen table to sample the crispy treat.
Luna cracks one open, and a sliver of steam shimmies out of the fried dough.
She takes a really big bite.
Enormous Encanto thumbs up from Luna!
Luna decides she loves buñuelos as much as arepas—because they both have cheese, she says, and queso is one of her favorite foods.
”I’m going to make these for every dessert we have,” Luna says.
For more of Janeth and Luna’s family-famous recipes from Colombia, check out their arepas con queso, double fried-plantain patacones con hogao, the traditional, deeply loved tomato-garlic sauce. And don’t miss their flan de queso and whole fried mojarra fish, which Janeth remembers eating when she was a little girl and her family went to the seaside on vacations that were magical.
Colombia truly is an encanto.