Colombian Cuisine is very diverse and varies depending on the different regions of Colombia. In some areas you will find specialties like roasted ants or guinea pigs while in other areas Colombians wouldn’t even touch those dishes.
Colombia is not a paradise for vegetarians as the Colombian diet includes a lot of meat. In the coastal areas you will find a good variety of fish, lobster and seafood often prepared with a sauce made out of coconut milk. The offer of fresh fruit is overwhelming and many of the varieties you have probably never heard of before.
In general breakfast is quite important in Colombia and consists of fruit juice, coffee or hot chocolate, fruit, eggs and bread. Lunch which is served between 12 and 14pm is the main meal of the day – at least in the countryside. A traditional main meal consists of a soup, a main dish, a drink and sometimes a dessert which is generally very sweet. The dinner is more like a snack. In the big cities the main meal often will be served around 7pm or 8pm.
Here are 9 photos of Colombian Food that I took while I was in Bogotá: Photos of Typical Colombian Dishes.
Typical Main Meals & Dishes
Ajiaco: Chicken soup like mom used to make it. It includes chicken, two (preferably three) kinds of potatoes, corn, sour cream, capers, avocado and guasca. Guasca is a special herb that grown throughout the Americas and gives the soup its distinct flavour.
Ants: Ok, so it isn’t a common food in the average Colombian’s diet, but it is still a large enough phenomenon to consider. During the raining season the ants are harvested, and the queen ants are used with their large legs and wings being removed. The ants are then soaked in salty water and roasted in a ceramic pot. The tradition dates back to pre Colombian times and the harvest is done mainly by peasants living in the North-eastern corner of Colombia. The ants are often given as a wedding gift, because they are believed to be an aphrodisiac. Research shows that the ants are actually excellent sources of protein, however as popularity is growing internationally the ants are being harvested to extinction. In Colombian Spanish they are called “Hormigas Culonas” (literally translated as big-ass ants). Check out how these ants are prepared with photos.
Arepa: The basic side to any Colombian meal. It is a bread made from cornmeal, similar to a thick pancake. It is normally eaten with an adornment of butter, although sometimes corn is added. (See our recipe of how to make Venezuelan Arepas)
Arroz con Coco: It is a common side dish of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. White rice is cooked in coconut milk with water, salt and sugar.
Bandeja Paisa: A huge mixture of food on more of a platter than a plate, it consists of grilled steak, fried pork rind, chorizo sausages, on a bed of rice and red beans that is then topped with a fried egg and a side of sliced avocado and sweet banana (chips). It is arguably the national dish of Colombia. See more information and make comments about this dish on our blog: Bandeja Paisa Recipe from Colombia
Buñuelos: Are popular ball shaped fritters and eaten as a snack in many South American countries. The Colombian version is made with dough of curd of white cheese that get fried until golden brown. It is a typical Christmas dish in Colombia.
Changua: Breakfast in the Andean Mountains normally consists of this creamy soup made with milk, water, eggs, and scallions. The eggs are dropped into the mixture without breaking the yolks. It is served with cilantro and a piece of (stale) bread that soaks in the mixture.
Charapa: If you see Charapa on the menu in the region of Amazonia – DON’T order it! It is a fresh water tortoise and an endangered species!
Chunchullo: Stuffed and fried poultry or cow intestines.
Cuchuco de Trigo: Is a wheat soup from the Boyaca area which is thickened with potatoes, peas and ribs.
Empanadas: It is a stuffed pastry that can either be sweet or savory. The savory Colombian empanadas are filled with beef, chicken and/or cheese as well as with rice and coriander. Compared to the Chilean or Argentinean empanadas they are not baked but fried.
Frijoles con Garra: Is a dish from the region of Antioquia and contains red beans thickened with pigs’ trotter.
Fritanga: It is a plate full of grilled meat like beef, chicken, ribs and sausages and fried cow intestines (chunchullo) which get served with little potatoes and arepas or with manioc and fried bananas.
Fruit: The diverse offer of fresh fruit in Colombia is immense and many of the different types have probably not been tried or seen by most of the people outside the tropics. You can find just in the supermarket 5 different types of mangos or 6 types of bananas. Just some of the tropical fruit you can try are: lulo, curuba, mamoncillo, uchuva, chontaduro, borojó, zapote, anon, carambolo, corozo… Enjoy!
Hogao: This typical Colombian side dish is widely used for meats, arepas, rice and other dishes. It is a sauce made with onions and tomatoes partially fried.
Lechona: Is a typical dish from the Tolima area and consist of a whole roasted pig, stuffed with rice, yellow peas, green onions and spices which is cooked for ten hours in a clay oven. It is served with arepa. This dish is often served at parties and other large gatherings.
Morcilla Rellena: Blood sausage or blood pudding, this is a common Colombian dish that is normally served with barbecues or deep fried.
Mote de Queso con Hogao: This is a dish from the Caribbean Coast with the base of chopped yam (which looks like a sweet potato) and cheese.
Pandebono:A type of bread made from corn flour, cheese and eggs. It is most often eaten warm as soon as it come out of the oven. They are very common in and around Cali.
Patacones: Green plantains (a type of banana that isn’t so sweet) squashed into thick pancakes that are deep fried in vegetable oil until golden brown.
Puchero: Is a light soup of the region of Buyaca which contains manioc, green bananas, arracacha (mountain tubercul) and pork, beef and chicken meat. It is served with a hot sauce called ají, boiled egg and avocado pulp.
Quesillos: Double cream cheese wrapped in banana leaves.
Sancocho: It is a common dish although ingredients do vary by region. In Colombia it includes chicken, plantains, yucca, cilantro, corn, and potatoes. Sometimes fish is used instead of chicken in the Caribbean though you may find meat or pork instead too.
Sobrebarriga Bogotana: Is basically a flank steak Bogotá Style.
Sopa de Mondongo: A soup containing tripe with potatoes, peas, carrots, coriander and corn.
Tamales: Cooked corn dough filled with meat, chicken and vegetable wrapped in banana leaves. The Tamales Tolimenses which are famous in the Tolima region are filled with chicken, pork, rice, potatoes, carrots, peas and spices.
Viudo de Pescado: Is another dish from the Tolima area. It is a soup of river fish served with green bananas and manioc.
Arroz con Coco: Coconut rice pudding, it can be served as a side dish or a dessert. It is made with lemon zest and cinnamon.
Manjar Blanco: Similar to dulce de leche (of Argentina) or manjar (of Chile), manjar blanco is a creamy dessert. The cooking process is more difficult than regular manjar, as you do not want to burn it, so it must be stirred and watched carefully as it cooks in a double boiler. Generally the milk and sugar mixture is also given a little extra flavour with either vanilla bean, cinnamon, or citrus juices.
Mazamorra de Maíz: This is a typical dessert in various countries in Latin America. The Colombian version is basically very well cooked white corn (for several hours) in water. It then will be sweetened with sugar cane or sugar and milk will be added.
Natilla: Custard-like pudding of sweet maizena (corn starch) instead of eggs.
Postre de Natas: Milk and condensed milk cooked with sugar, cinnamon and raisins.