Colombians are serious about their food. They love to eat—a lot. Whether it’s street food on your way to visit a museum, creamy hot chocolate in a neighborhood bakery or dinner at a gourmet restaurant, the food in Colombia is going to be good.
Indigenous roots, international influences from immigrants and traditions left by the Spanish provide Colombians with a rich heritage and a variety of dishes. The bandeja paisa is one of the most emblematic dishes of the Paisa region and is found in restaurants throughout the country at lunchtime. The large dish is composed of rice, plantain, arepa, fried egg, avocado, chicharron (fried pork rinds), ground beef, sausage and beans, all served in large quantities—it’s not for the faint of heart.
Ajiaco, a potato and chicken soup made with ingredients only available in Colombia, is typical of the region around Bogota and is a hearty solution to a chilly day. Mondongo is a tripe soup served throughout the country, while arepas, a flatbread made from ground corn, comes in many shapes and sizes here. Often eaten at breakfast and dinner, arepas are also common at lunch, while tamales, ground corn filled with a meat stew and carefully wrapped in plantain leaves, are served steaming hot.
Empanadas, filled with meat or cheese, are great snacks and can be found throughout the day. Pan de yuca (cassava bread) is light and airy, and the round buñuelos, fried cassava dough, are crispy on the outside and deliciously soft on the inside. Those with a sweet tooth should look for bocadillo (firm guava fruit paste, often served with soft cheese) and obleas, thin wafers filled with arequipe, a type of South American caramel. Colombian fruits are true culinary treasures as well, including unusual ones like the tangy lulo and feijoa, or the sweet pitaya and granadilla.
And, of course, there’s Colombian coffee! Colombians usually drink tinto, a black coffee, but café con leche is delicious and creamy.