FOOD IN COLOMBIA
Colombia is known for its extremely good coffee quality. Visit for example the coffee shops of Juan Valdez, Oma or Tostao or travel to the coffee region (Eje Cafetero. There are four departments in the area: Caldas, Quindio, Risaralda and Valle del Cauca. Don’t miss the coffee-tour!.
When you order a coffee at a local place it is good to know that a ’café con leche’ means with a LOT of milk. And every coffee you buy on the street is… sweetened. It is clear that Colombians adore sweet stuff. You will find Postobon, a sugary soft drink in all colours, all-over Colombia.
But fortunately, there is a lot of fruit!!! On the street you will find lots of fresh fruits served in small pieces. Note: Keep in mind that Colombians like salt as well, also on fruits… If you don’t like it, tell in advance.
The fruit juices are delicious and you’ll find them everywhere. Ask for ‘sin azucar‘ or ‘poco dulce‘ unless you like juice loaded with tons of sugar!
Colombia has many exotic delicious fruits like lulo, nispero, strawberries, uchuva, zapote, bananas, passion fruit, pitaya, pineapple, borojo, curuba, mamoncillo, guanabana, guava, mango (many species), apples, mandarins, oranges, pear, blackberries and so on… On the other hand, some locals don’t know the taste of a kiwi but if you can’t without them, you’ll find them like other export products in the larger supermarkets.
Capital Bogota has the fortune of being able to access the cuisine of regions throughout the country, including chigüiro, guinea pig, coconut rice, ajiaco, culinary ants, tamales, paisa and suckling pig (just to name a few). All this accompanied by a delicious natural juice of Colombian tropical fruits. Do not miss this opportunity to learn about Colombian food on your next visit to Bogota. Or go to the Alameda gallery in Cali!
Anona – sugar-apple: Related to cherimoya and looks like an apple. The taste of the white flesh is super sweet. The colour outside is green and the outside is white. This is a typical desert fruit. You can eat it like a soursop (guanabana), cutting it in half and eating only the pulp.
Carambolo – starfruit: Oval fruit; when you cut pieces they look like a star. Ripe (yellow outside) they taste sweet, unripe (green) like a green apple. The entire fruit is edible. The best time to eat carambolos is shortly after they are ripe (yellow with a light shade of green).
Cherimoya/ Chirimoya – custard-apple. This fruit is fleshy (creamy), soft and sweet, some say it tastes like bubblegum. The outside is green and the inside white. Eat it with a spoon. The American author and humorist Mark Twain called the cherimoya ‘The most delicious fruit known to men’.
Chontaduro – peach-palm: Has a hard skin, looks like a small tomato or the shape of a hart with bums. The outside is orange/red, yellow and the inside light yellow. The flavour is savoury. Cali is the chontaduro capital of the world. People say that the fruit can heat up your sex drive as it’s rich in protein and vitamins. You can eat it raw after peeling; put salt and honey on it. You can also make jelly, oil or compotes with this fruit. The pit can be cracked and the inside pulp can be eaten.
Curuba – banana passion fruit: The fruit is oblong and has a sweet and aromatic flavour. The outside is white, yellow and sometimes green, the pulp inside salmon coloured. Try a delicious sorbete de curuba or wine from this fruit. Curuba is popular for making jams, jellies, ice creams, gelatin desserts and cocktail drinks.
Feijoa: egg- or pear-shaped fruit with a deep green colour on the outside and white flesh at the inside. The flesh has a translucent centre and is grainy and juicy. It tastes sweet-sour and smells like a pineapple. The inner and outer flesh is edible, interesting to make a smoothie, wine or cider.
Granadilla – sweet-granadilla: Hard, round and snot inside. The taste is sweet and mild like passion fruit but without the sourness. The outside is yellow or orange, the inside grey with black seeds. The pulp and crunchy seeds are edible as well.
Guanabana – soursop: Colombia’s national juice! Sweet, aromatic and very healthy made from the white flesh of the fruit mixed with milk or water. The fruit is green, oval and has a thorny skin on the outside; the inside has numerous big black seeds.
Guayaba: Round or oval, thin but rough skin. The taste is sweet, bitter, soft. The outside is light green, yellow and light orange; the inside pink with hard, grainy seeds. Great to make preserves, candies or culinary sauces.
Gulupa: Violet variation of the passion fruit. That is why it is also called purple maracuyá; the colour can also be green or yellow. Its flavour is subtly acidic but sweeter than passion fruit. The gulupa has its origin in the Amazon and its flower is beautiful. A variation is also known as passionflower or crown of Christ, coloured pink, red or lilac.
Hijos chumbos: Shrubby plant of the cactaceae family. Both the fruit and the flower can be of different colours, from yellow to red. The fruit has a thick, thorny rind and a pulp abundant in seeds. The ripe fruit is an oval-shaped berry with diameters between 5.5 and 7 cm, a length of 5 cm to 11 cm and a variable weight between 43 and 220 g.
Lulo – little orange. Skin surrounded by a million tiny poignant hairs (though you find it clear of spines, soft skin in the markets), it’s round and looks like an orange tomato; the inside is orange and green and tastes sweet-sour. It should be eaten when it’s orange outside. Nice to make smoothies with water or milk but it can also be used for wine syrup, marmalade, ice cream, jam and jelly. Try in Cali galleria Alameda the lulada and champús, refreshing and delicious typical juice drinks!
Mamoncillo – Spanish lime: Tight thin skin, small and round with a sweet, sour taste. You can compare it with a lychee or a lime. The outside is green, the fruit inside salmon-beige. Can be cracked with your teeth. You can eat it with Chili powder, salt and lime.
Mangostino – mangosteen: Hard skin and round, with the size of a tomato and a sweet taste. The outside is dark purple with a white, sometimes red inside which is juicy and has the structure of a lychee. Let the skin wrinkle before eating. Rich of xanthones.
Murrapos – small bananas: The same as normal bananas but smaller and sweeter.
Noni – great morinda: Looks like brains. The outside is green and the inside white. They smell like rotten cheese and taste nasty but are very HEALTHY. Give it a shot to eat it raw; most people recommend to make a juice from the fruit when it’s fully ripe (yellow-green).
Pitaya – dragon fruit: Thorn skin, round and tastes sweet and sour. The outside is yellow or dark pink and the inside is white–maroon with seeds. Peel and slice it thinly and serve with ice cream. You can eat it with a spoon like a kiwi.
Platano – banana: Longer and stronger than a normal banana. You eat it boiled, cooked or baked. Green from the outside and beige from the inside. Unripe plantains have a green skin and are not sweet; perfect to make patacones, chips and soups. The yellow platano is sweeter and good to prepare desserts.
Papayuela / Babaco – mountain papaya: Long oval fruit that looks yellow on the outside and white, creamy in the inside. It tastes like a pineapple, strawberry and orange together. Eat it fresh or use it in candies, preserves or herbal tea.
Nopal – prickly pear/ cactus pear: Hard skin, looks like a cactus; not too sweet. The outside is pink or green and the inside red or white flesh with lots of seeds. Peel the skin with a knife and eat the inside with a spoon.
Tomate de arbol – tree tomato. Native and one of the most popular fruits in the Andean countries. They are egg-shaped and about 4-10 centimetres long. Their colour varies from yellow and orange to red and almost purple. Sometimes they have dark, longitudinal stripes. Red fruits are more acetous, yellow and orange fruits are sweeter. The flesh has a firm texture and contains more and larger seeds than a common tomato. The fruits are very high in vitamins and iron and low in calories.
Uchuva – cape gooseberry: A round, small and papery skin and orange inside and out (like a yellow mini tomato). This is a classic sweet dessert fruit. Used a lot to decorate salads.
Zapote / Sapote – chupa chupa: Hard skin, round and a sweet taste. Brown at the outside and orange/pink at the inside. Eat it fresh; you need to peel the brown skin and eat the flesh of the central pit. Use your teeth and scrape the sweet inside off the hard outer skin.
There’s a lot more of fruit to discover in Colombia; some of them you probably know: fresa (strawberry), mango, maracuya (passion fruit), papaya, coconut, etcetera like also of course the banana…
GOOD MORNING SUNSHINE!
The typical Colombian breakfast (desayuno) consists of rice, fish, arepas, patacones (see below), sweet bread and juice. Colombians also like to start the day with fried snacks like empenadas. Or in other parts with a hearty soup. In some more touristy places a breakfast is an arepa/bread with egg (revueltas = scrambled / frito = fried). A boiled egg (huevo cocido) isn’t that difficult to find… A typical Paisa (Medellín region) breakfast is a Calentado with a lot of beans, rice, meat, potatoes and two fried eggs on top.
Off course you can usually get the classic hotel continental breakfast menu or a healthier fit fruit banquet, it’s about your budget and desires!!
Colombians eat the most at lunchtime and this almuerzo normally is also more expensive than dinner (cena). Lunch offers a soup, main dish, dessert and a fresh juice normally between 10.000 – 20.000 COP per person or try a corrientazo, which is an inexpensive lunch between 7.000 and 15.000 COP per person.
Corrientazo is slang and comes from the word corriente which means, regular or normal, ordinary. By adding ‘azo’ the word gets more quality… So corrientazo means a really good meal. It is the basic menu and includes soup, a choice of main dishes and a drink (lemonade, agua de panela, iced tea or the fresh fruit juice of the day etc) but no dessert. They are also called almuerzos ejecutivos or menu ejecutivo, because it’s the typical lunch for office workers who normally have a lunch break (siesta) between 12 am and 2 pm. It allows a lot of people to go home and have a homemade lunch.
NOT ALL NIGHT LONG
Dinner is somewhere between 7 – 9 pm. For dinner Colombians like f.e. yuca pancakes or arepas with cheese. To have dinner outside… is more common when the week is ending, starting on Thursday. But beware… Quite some kitchens close around 9 – 10 pm.
ON THE ROAD & FOOD
Unfortunately, each store in the bus terminals offers the same things: Sweets (panela, lollipops…), soft white bread, all kinds of chips (from lemon to chicken flavour), yoghurts and drinks.
Only unhealthy stuff and A LOT with meat. So be prepared! In the big terminals you sometimes are lucky and encounter fresh fruit.
TIP: Try an Alfajor – a finger-catching delicious cookie, typical in Latin-America. The range consists of 2 or more biscuits joined by a sweet filling (in most Latin countries caramel is called dulce de leche, in Colombia arequipe. It can be dipped in white or brown chocolate or powdered sugar.
In Colombia, a lot can be ordered with domicilio (= delivery service to your home) for an additional 3.000 COP.
Above all, Colombians like MEAT. When you ask ’Do you have anything without meat?’, it’s very probable that the answer will be: ’Of course no problem, we can offer you something with pollo (chicken)’. So it can be hell for vegetarians, but this is a fact in all Latin America. And don’t worry, in the big towns there’s a lot a variation. Especially Bogota is lucky to have the country’s regional cuisines available for locals and visitors to taste, with everything from chiguiro or cuy, to arroz con coco, ajiaco, big ass ants, tamales, bandeja paisa and lechona (just to name a few). They’re all washed down with Colombia’s famous fresh fruit juices. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about Colombian cuisine on your next visit to Bogota. Big city tip if you’re bored of the traditional Colombian food: try Crepes and Waffles, a chain with delicious food for everybody for a reasonable price. Don’t forget the ice cream and the… Everything is tasteful over there! Or visit WOK, for delicious Asian curries…
When you like to eat fish, you’re at the right place on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts but don’t forget the freshwater fish inside the country. Cooked, baked, roasted, fried, filled… the same applies to the potato. In Colombia they serve it with breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are different kinds like the Criolla (good to make your soup a little thicker), the Pastusa and the Sabanera (yummy when you bake these).
Tips for Vegetarian Food in Colombia.
Some regions such as Santander and Amazonia show unusual food like roasted ants. They have a high level of protein, are very low in saturated fat and have a high nutritional value!
In the eastern Llanos people love roasted meat, due to the cowboy culture. Queso con chocolate (cheese with a cup of chocolate milk) is a favourite in the Coffee region.
And Popayán is called the gastronomic city!
Wine and foreign spirits are not common and expensive. People mostly drink beer, aguardiente, rum and cocktails. Colombians like to drink alcohol though normally far after lunchtime.
TYPICAL FOOD & DRINKS
A – B – C – D
Aji: A spicy sauce made of chillies, green onions, red or black pepper, vinegar, salt and lemon juice. Especially used to flavour empanades.
Aguapanela: Made by melting fragments of panela (a hardened, concentrated block of cane sugar) in water and stirring until the fragments are entirely dissolved. The drink may be served hot or cold, often with lemon or lime. In its hot form it is sometimes drunk with milk or a chunk of cheese…
Aguardiente: Meaning ‘firewater’. An anise flavoured liqueur which is popular all over Colombia. Drinking shots in the weekend is a common thing.
Ajiaco: This soup contains 3 different varieties of potato, large chunks of corn, chicken, table cream, capers and guasca: a weedy, aromatic herb. This dish is served with white rice, salad with a hint of lemon, avocado, or sweet or salty tostadas. Ajiaco is so heavy that it is usually considered a full meal. Eaten mostly in Bogota.
Almojabana: Bread made of corn flour. Its name originates from the Arabic word Almugabbana (mix made with cheese). It is a typical snack in the northern part of Colombia.
Aplanchado: Snack baked from flour, sugar and butter.
Arepa: A simple bread made from cornmeal, may have different fillings. Originally made by the indigenous inhabitants of northern South America. Arepa de huevo is an arepa with eggs.
Arroz de coco (coconut rice): Coconut makes everything better. This flavoured rice is delicious. Mostly served on the Caribbean coast.
Avena: a cold oatmeal-based drink.
Boli: Frozen coconut or other fruit flavoured ice in a small bag which you can eat like a lollypop.
Bollo de maiz: A corn muffin wrapped in a corn leave and cooked in boiling water. Served with fish, suero cheese, fried eggs, sweet potato, fried meat or steak, cassava (= yuca) or banana. Perfect for breakfast.
Buñuelos: Fritters that most likely originated via Sephardic Jews or Arabs. When these groups were forced out of Spain during the Spanish Inquisition, they introduced the dish in their new homelands. Buñuelos are made with a small curd white cheese and formed into doughy balls then fried until golden brown.
Butifarra: Spicy small sized sausage, typical for the Caribbean coast and eaten with lemon; served with bollo de yuca.
Caldo de costilla: A soup mainly made from beef ribs boiled in water with slices of potato, some garlic, onion and cilantro leaves. Mainly served for breakfast and often with arepa, chocolate and bread. Perfect after a hangover.
Caldo de papa: A clear meat broth with potatoes. At the Andean region.
Calentado: A typical Paisa breakfast with a lot of beans, rice, meat, potatoes and two fried eggs on top. Can also be served for lunch.
Canelazo: An alcoholic version of aguapanela with cinnamon and aguardiente added. Sugar is rubbed on the edges of the glass when served.
Carantanta: Obtained after cooking ground corn and drying and peeling off of the mass that is stuck to the walls of the pot in which the cooking is done. A speciality of the Cauca department.
Caribañola (carimañola or caramañola): An empenada with a filling of yuca, beef and costeño cheese. A popular snack at the Caribbean coast, mostly eaten as breakfast.
Carne a la llanera: Veal marinated with salt and spices and then spiked on a skewer. It will remain for a long time close enough to the fire to cook gently. The meat on the skewers is arranged like a wigwam in a circle around the fire. This traditional method of cooking produces very tasty meat and is typical in the area of Los Llanos. Colombia Fácil saw this way of preparing meat also in Sogamoso.
Ceviche: Awesome, special when you’re in for a change of your diet! Raw seafood or fish marinated in lime and served with cilantro. Available from cups on the beach to nicely presented dishes in the city’s restaurants.
Champús: A popular drink in the southwest of Colombia (departments of Valle del Cauca, Cauca and Nariño) especially with Christmas. Champús is made with corn/maize, fruits as lulo (also known as naranjilla), pineapple, quince or guanabana, sweetened with panela, and seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and orange tree leaves. In some regions of southern Colombia it is made thicker and consumed as a dessert.
Changua: A typical breakfast soup (milk soup with eggs). A mixture of equal amounts of water and milk is heated with a dash of salt. Once it comes to a boil, one egg per serving is cracked into the pot without breaking the yolk, and allowed to cook for about a minute while covered. The soup is served in a bowl, garnished with scallions, cilantro and a piece of stale bread called calado which softens in the changua. Mostly made in the Central Andes region, in particular in the Boyaca and Cundinamarca area, including Bogota.
Chicha: While it is most commonly associated with maize, the word is used in the Andes for almost any homemade fermented drink, and many different grains (yuca, quinoa, pineapple, rice, potatoes, grape, apple etc) are used to make chicha in different regions. It is traditionally prepared from a specific kind of yellow maize (jora) and has a pale straw colour, a slightly milky appearance, and a slightly sour aftertaste, reminiscent of hard apple cider. It is drunk either young and sweet or mature and strong. Try the local drink at Barichara.
Chicharrones: fried skin of the pig with or without meat. Very used in Antioquia.
Cholado: A cross between an ice cream dessert, fruit cocktail and a drink. Popular in Valle del Cauca.
Cocada: A very sweet coconut dessert. A typical one is the black cocada made with brown sugar and burned coconut.
E – F – G – H
Empanada: Fried exterior with a cornmeal pastry inside which can be dipped in different sauces like aji (spicy). The filling contains stuff like rice, beef, chicken, eggs, cheese, potatoes, salt, chorizo, jam from tropical fruits (Amazon), mushrooms, peanuts and yellow potato, spinach and cheese (el Molino)…
Encocado de muchilla: Large river prawns in coconut sauce with herbs and green onions. At the Pacific coast.
Fritanga: Some kind of a barbecue, eaten throughout the country. These dishes are usually grilled beef, chicken, ribs or sausage such as morcilla, chorizo, longaniza, chunchullo (fried cow intestines) and mini arepa made from sweet potatoes and corn.
Guarapo: Made from various fruits kept in a large ceramic jar and left to ferment for about 2 months. Within that time, panela is added into the liquid to make the alcohol stronger. A delicious native Indian alcoholic beverage usually made out of sugar cane, vodka and lime juice. Other fruits like pineapple and grapes can also be used.
Hayaca: The same as tamales but smaller and thinner.
I – J – K – L – M
Manjar blanco: A sweet milk-based dessert; white spread or pastry filled with milky stickiness. Typical from Cali.
Mojarra: a native freshwater fish. It can be found under stones. This dish is roasted with charcoal, for its preparation you do not need condiments.
Mondongo: a soup made from diced tripe (the stomach of a cow or pig) slow-cooked with vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, carrots, cabbage, celery, tomatoes, garlic or root vegetables. It is often made with chicken or beef stock, with a lot of cilantro (coriander).
N – P – Q – R
Pan (bread). Mostly it’s sweet…
Pandebono or Pan de bono: A type of bread made of corn flour, cassava starch, cheese and eggs. It is consumed with hot chocolate a few minutes after baking when it is still warm. It is very popular in the department of Valle del Cauca. Hmmm, a hot salty muffin with cheese, yuca and cakes!
Pandeyuca: (cassava bread): A type of bread made of cassava starch and cheese.
Panela: Unrefined raw sugar cane. The principal sweetener.
Papas chorreadas: Perfect for breakfast, mix all your left-overs together. Oil, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and spices. Put cheese on top of it.
Papa salada: Boiled potatoes with lots of salt.
Pargo: Red snapper
Patacones: Twice-fried plantain patties, often served for breakfast, appetizer or snack. You definitely will get to know them!!!
Piononos: In a thin sheet baked dough, rolled around a filling of dulce de leche, fruits, chantilly cream or salty ham.
Raspao: = granizado. A soft drink or snack composed of crushed or shredded ice with syrup of varied flavours.
Refajo: Made by mixing the soft drink Kola Hipinto (Santanderian Region) or Colombiana, with beer or rum.
S – T –U – V
Salpicón: (literally large splash) is a mixture of fruits usually banana, pineapple and papaya with juice usually orange juice.
Sancocho: Traditional soup with platano (banana), potato, yucca and meat (usually chicken). Colombians eat rice and salad with it.
Suero: A cross between yoghurt and sour cream introduced by Arab immigrants in Barranquilla and other coastal cities.
Tamales: Another type of bollos de mais, in the Tolima region considered as a delicacy. They are made from corn dough with a filling of peas, carrots, potatoes, rice, chicken, pork and various spices. They are packaged and cooked for 3 to 4 hours in banana leaves. Don´t be fooled eating the leaves as well…..a trick sometimes played on unsuspecting gringos!
W – X –Y – Z
Yuca (Cassava): Sweet or bitter long root with white flesh on the inside. Yuca contains calcium, vitamin C and phosphorus but is a poor source of protein and nutrients. Used for soups, purees, stews or they make bread or pizzas with it.
CULINAIR FESTIVALS IN COLOMBIA
-> Sabor Barranquilla (August)
A gastronomic event with Caribbean culinary values: saborbarranquilla.com.
->Bogota Wine and Food (Summer)
Chefs in Bogota generously open their kitchens, restaurants and lives to present the most delicious dinners and banquets. bogotawineandfood.com.
-> Cali Music and Gastronomic Pacific Festival Petronio Alvarez petronio.cali.gov.co
-> Medellin Maridaje Wine and Food Festival (28-31 October 2019) maridaje.com.co