Discover the Colombian Gastronomy, the typical dishes of Colombia, the Colombian cuisine is a good example of multiculturalism. It mixes indigenous, Spanish and African influences. In this article we hope to make your mouth water, between exotic fruits, grilled fish and excellent coffee!
La bandeja paisa
The Colombian national dish is the bandeja paisa. It is a typical dish from the region of Antioquia (Medellin) and is composed of beef, ground meat, chicharrón (fried pork belly or rind), chorizo, black beans, rice, fried egg, plantains, arepas, hogao and avocado. As you will have understood, this dish is very complete and it is very good!
Ajiaco Santafereño is the typical dish of the Bogota region (its name comes from Santa Fe de Bogota).
It is a soup made of chicken pieces, potatoes and an aromatic herb called guasca, which gives it its particular (and delicious!) taste. The soup is usually served with a piece of corn on the cob and on the side, rice, capers, half an avocado and a thick white cream. It is up to you to add the ingredients to the soup as you wish.
Read this Wikipedia article to tout learn all about Ajiaco!
A very common dish in Colombia, it is mainly from the Pacific coast, especially from the region of El Valle.
This soup can be made with fish, chicken, beef or pork. The most famous is the chicken sancocho called “Sancocho de gallina”. In the soup you will find corn on the cob, chicken legs, yuca (manioc), plantain, coriander and potatoes! A very complete dish, typical of a family Sunday.
On the side you will have rice, avocado and ají sauce to spice up your soup.
Here is the recipe of Marmiton to prepare a sancocho at home !
The small pleasure of Sunday, the typical meal of the day after Christmas… the lechona is the family dish par excellence in Colombia, a dish originating from the region of Tolima in the heart of the Andes mountains.
What is lechona? Pork stuffed with rice, peas and spices, roasted in the oven for over 10 hours! The skin around it should be crispy, while the inside should be thinly sliced and tasty. It is served with baked potatoes and a small arepa. To your forks!
Rice with chicken (Arroz con pollo)
In Colombia, we love to eat compound rice! Rice with shrimp and coconut milk, rice with different types of fish inside, rice with sausages and vegetables…. the most famous and widespread, el Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken). There are several recipes and variations, but the core is the same: chicken breast, rice and spices and herbs with small vegetables.
Want to prepare it at home? Read this recipe for Colombian chicken rice!
The importance of corn
Corn is very important in the Colombian culture, it is a sacred food for the indigenous communities and Colombia also produces a lot of corn. Because of this, many dishes are cooked with corn, like those mentioned above. It is also the basic element for the realization of arepas, corn cakes that you will find everywhere! They eat it in the morning, at lunch and in the evening! It is a bit like our bread in France!
Corn is also found in La Mazamorra, a soup made with corn and milk (or water, as desired) that can be eaten hot or cold.
It is surely the most important meal of the day for Colombians. It is a moment that is savored, and here are some typical breakfast dishes:
Huevos al gusto
This is the most common breakfast in Colombia, the one that is eaten almost every morning, which you will inevitably find in the breakfast formula of your hotel, in the little shop on the corner.
The scrambled eggs “al gusto” have several combinations:
- Huevos pericos : scrambled eggs, tomatoes, onions
- Huevos rancheros : scrambled eggs, sausages, onions, cheese
- Huevos jamon y queso : Scrambled eggs, ham, cheese
These are the main ones, but other recipes based on spinach shoots for example, or other foods are possible and can be found.
Nothing better than a delicious hot tamal served with a cup of hot chocolate and a piece of bread!
The tamal is a typical dish based on pork or chicken that is mixed with corn flour, rice and vegetables. The whole thing is wrapped in banana leaves. A good tamal can be delicious!
El Caldo de Costilla
Before your eggs, some Colombians like to eat a soup. El Caldo de Costilla is a broth served with pieces of lamb, chopped coriander and potatoes. It is very thirst-quenching and warming!
Another soup to try with breakfast! Be careful, the Changua is more copious than the “caldito”. It is a milk-based soup, served with a cooked egg yolk, chopped coriander, onion and pieces of soft bread. It is a soup full of flavors, an original and quite atypical dish!
The almuerzo is lunch, the second most important meal, and very hearty! The traditional dishes are often rice or potatoes, arepas, red beans, a piece of beef, chicken or fish with sometimes plantains. The “almuerzo” is always served with a soup as an appetizer and one of the traditional dishes we have just described. Colombians are not used to finishing their meal with a dessert like we do in France. The almuerzo is also served with a fresh fruit juice, never with water or alcohol.
Colombian exotic fruits
Colombians are not used to drink water or alcohol at the table, they rather drink fruit juices! There is a lot of exotic fruit in Colombia, it would be silly not to take advantage of it!
Here is our list of the 13 best exotic fruits to discover and taste in Colombia!
- Maracuya: The maracuyá is the fruit that is closest to the passion fruit. Very well known and a little acid, it is eaten in juice with a little sugar.
- Papaya: This orange-fleshed fruit is quite well known but just as delicious! Its juice is velvety and its taste very exotic and refreshing.
- Lulo : The lulo is a very common fruit in Colombia. Quite acid, it is the fruit that we always consume in juice to start the day!
- Mango: Let’s not forget the mango! Even though we all know it, it is still delicious and much more economical in Colombia! “I love mango. The higher the harvest, the sweeter the mango, the more expensive and good it is,” says Farondario, a farmer who sells his fruit at the Paloquemao market in Bogota.
- Guanabana : This fruit has a hard and prickly skin and a white and soft pulp inside. It is a fruit with little sugar and very refreshing in juice! You can easily find it in any restaurant in juice.
- Zapote: Zapote looks like a coconut on the outside, and a melon on the inside. Full of nutrients, its taste is special, a sweet mix between mango and carrot or pumpkin.
- Gulupa : Gulupa is a very exotic fruit of the passion fruit family. Delicious in juice or to eat, its pulp, well supplied with nutrients is perfect to flavor your ice creams and cocktails!
- Anon: The Anon could be the little brother of the Guanabana, but much sweeter! To be enjoyed directly or in fresh juice!
- Borojo: The Borojó comes from the Pacific! This aphrodisiac fruit from the rainforest is sweet and delicious, like a vanilla flavored pulp, full of vitamins and proteins. It is the essence of what Colombia has to offer, between wonderful, amazing and incredible.
- Pitaya Amarilla: The pitaya amarilla, also known as dragon fruit is a fruit that grows on cacti! Fresh and sweet with few calories, it is also a natural laxative similar in taste to lychee.
- Feijoa : This small exotic fruit with a juicy yellow or white pulp has a strong taste and a particular perfume similar to a mixture of pineapple, guava and mint. It was named after the Brazilian botanist Silva Feijo.
- Mangostino : The Mangostino is often called the fruit of kings for its incomparable flavor and its price! Rich in antioxidants, this atypical fruit originates from Asia and is grown in the Colombian region of Tolima.
- Araza: The Araza is found deep in the Amazon. Its production is increasing more and more because the product attracts for its exotic character and for its high level of Vitamin C.
The sweet spot
In Colombia, you can find food at all hours and on almost every corner. There are plenty of small snacks, most of which are fried. Here are some examples:
The arepas are white or yellow corn cakes that can be served with butter and cheese. You will also find the Boyacense arepas which are filled with cheese.
Empanadas are meat filled turnovers, usually with potatoes. There are different flavors, with cheese, chicken, egg, pork… In Colombia empanadas are fried and crispy.
The buñuelo is a cheese doughnut. It is round in shape and can be found all over Colombia. Buñuelos are eaten during the Christmas season (although this little treat is available all year round!)
Pandebono is a traditional cheese bread. In Colombia, it is made with corn flour and Colombian cheese. The perfect snack to settle your stomach!
Colombians don’t really eat dessert at the end of their meal, but they are more used to snacking and indulging in a few sweets during the day.
Colombians love Arequipe. It is a thick cream made of milk and sugar. In the street you will find Obleas, which are thin round cakes filled with Arequipe, cheese or even blackberry syrup or cream. It’s up to you!
Cocada is a dessert that is particularly popular in Colombia and can also be found in the rest of Latin America. It is made with grated coconut, sugar and milk. This delicacy is native to the Pacific region of Colombia. It is very sweet but very good and tasty.
In terms of dessert you can also try the mantecada, a cornmeal cake flavored with vanilla.
Colombians also love mazamorra, a corn and milk-based dessert that can be eaten with bocadillo de Guayaba, a small guava-based sweet that looks like fruit paste.
At the end of the year, Colombians are used to eating Natilla with buñuelos. Natilla is made with corn, sugar, milk, butter and cinnamon. Both together are very good and this desert is synonymous with December gatherings and is often made in large quantities to be shared with the family!
Drinks in Colombia
With more than 500,000 coffee farms, Colombia is the second largest coffee producer after Brazil, with 12% of the world’s coffee. Although known worldwide, Colombian coffee is often destined for export. That is why you will find in Colombia and in the villages a coffee that will not necessarily be of excellent quality. Nevertheless, do not hesitate to visit a hacienda and a finca in the coffee region to understand the whole process and to taste the Colombian coffee of good quality.
The Colombian specialty is the aguardiente! If you travel to Colombia you must try this brandy which has a taste of aniseed! You will also find very good rums in Colombia and the local beers are the Club Colombia, the Poker and the Aguila.
What are the best restaurants to taste the typical Colombian dishes?
The best restaurants in Bogota to eat typical :
LA PUERTA FALSA Located next to Plaza Bolivar, this small colonial house is famous for serving the best Tamales of the city (rice, corn and chicken cooked in a banana leaf) but also great Ajiaco! You can also drink a chocolate and taste Colombian pastries. Always a lot of people in this small restaurant. Address: Calle 11 #6-50, Bogotá Opening days and hours: Mon – Fri: 7am – 10pm, Sat/Sun: 8am to 10pm Prices: dishes between $4,000 and $8,000 ($24,000 for the ajiaco)
EL CANDELARIO This restaurant, very popular with businessmen and students at lunchtime, offers typical Colombian dishes at a reasonable price. The bar offers live music, disco atmosphere with raggae and reggaeton. Address: Calle 12 #4-94, Bogotá Opening days and hours: Mon – Sat: 11am – 4pm, Bar: Tue: 9pm – 3am, Wed: 5pm – 3am, Fri/Sat: 9:30pm – 5am Price: between $20,000 and $40,000
CAPACHOS This restaurant, located in the center of Bogota, is a true cultural, folkloric and gastronomic sample of the Eastern Llanos region. You will taste delicious meat “asada” as well as fish. Address: Calle 18 #4-68, Bogotá Days and Hours: Tue – Thu: 11:30am – 3:30pm, Fri – Sun: 11:30am – 5:30pm Price: Dishes cost $27,000
The best restaurants in Medellin to eat typical :
ALAMBIQUE Very good address to taste the Colombian specialities. Address : Carrera 41aa 18bs # 10-6, Medellín Opening days and hours : Mon – Sat : 12am – 12am Prices : dishes between 23 000$ and 55 000$.
EL RANCHERITO Traditional and popular restaurant chain where all the dishes are prepared on huge grills in front of the customers. Address: Calle 18 N35 – 50. Kilómetro 2, Calle 30A N.82A – 26. Belén, Cra. 48 #26-1, Medellín Opening days and times: Every day from 10am to 8pm, 10pm (depending on the restaurant) Prices: Dishes between $16,000 and $30,000 (picadas for 2 people at $50,000)
HACIENDA – JUNÍN Traditional paisa and antioqueña cuisine. Located in the center of the city. Address: Carrera 49 52 – 98 Opening days and hours: Mon – Sun: 12 – 20 hours Prices: dishes between 15 000$ and 30 000$.
The best restaurants in Cartagena to eat typical:
THE CEVICHERIA You can taste a delicious ceviche typical of the coast. Address: Calle Stuart n°7-14, Cartagena Opening days and times: Mon – Sun: 1pm – 10:30pm Prices : dishes between 24 000$ and 51 000$.
LA MULATA The ideal place to eat typical dishes of the Caribbean coast, fresh fish, and a delicious Lemonade of Coconut! Address: Calle Quero n°9-58, San Diego CTG Opening days and hours : Mon – Sat : 11:30am – 4pm Price : 15.000$ per menu
What are the best markets to taste exotic Colombian fruits?
- The Paloquemao Market in Bogota: In the west of Bogota, 10 minutes by cab from the historic center, is one of the most emblematic markets of the Colombian capital: The Paloquemao Market. Fish stalls, meat by the kilo, herbs of all kinds, fruits and vegetables by the thousands, flowers leaning against small food stands, selling coffee and fruit juices… the “plaza” is full of colors and scents since 1972.
- The Bazurto Market in Cartagena de Indias: The Bazurto Market is well known by the inhabitants of Cartagena de Indias. Not very touristy, it is the ideal place to taste delicious fresh fruits. Here you will find a great variety of products, a good warm atmosphere in a picturesque market of human size.
- Silvia’s market: The Silvia Market is held every Tuesday and is a must if you are in the area between Cali and Popayan. Every Tuesday morning, members of the Guambianos indigenous community descend on the town of Silvia to sell their products, fruits, vegetables and handicrafts. The Guambianos have colorful traditional clothes, similar to what we can see in Peru or Bolivia for example. It is a pleasant moment of exchanges and meetings unique in the world.
- Minorista in Medellin: Minorista is a large market with hundreds of stalls, a bit like Paloquemao. You will find all kinds of fruits, from the most famous to the most extravagant and surprising. There are also meat, fish, spices and many other foods that can be found in any “Plaza” in the country. This colorful market will give you a touch of flavor during your stay in Medellin!