What to Eat in Colombia – Discover 11 Dishes you must try
Colombia is one of our favourite countries in South America. Aside from the great people, the music, the colours, the gorgeous scenery, and the cool cities, we fell in love with Colombian food. During our time in the country, we enjoyed fantastic street food (always a favourite of ours) unbelievable soups, tender meat dishes and simple, yet flavourful snacks.
Here is our complete guide to where and what to eat in Colombia!
1. Sancocho de pescado con coco (Fish and coconut stew)
There are many different varieties of fish soup. Most of them have a base of coconut milk, which gives the soup a creamy, thick texture. Everyone knows that fresh fish and coconut are the perfect combinations – and with the right Colombian spices added, this is a great stew.
This stew is commonly served with coconut rice, avocado, and fried plantain.
2. Cazuela de mariscos (seafood pot)
A silky, creamy, seafood stew that is popular along the coast. It’s prepared using coconut milk as the base plus various vegetables and spices. Whatever seafood is on hand is often thrown in to create this dish, however, prawns are practically always used. We found the best Cazuela de mariscos at Las Cazuelas de la Abuela in Bogota.
What to eat in Colombia – Arepas
A circular bread made from fresh cornmeal. Arepas are a popular breakfast snack in Colombia, topped with a variety of ingredients or often eaten on their own.
Toppings can range from simply butter, salt and cheese to mounting piles of meat and vegetables – and don’t forget about the salsa to finish it off. Arepas are a staple for Colombians and you’ll learn what combination you enjoy the most during your stay.
4. Sopa (Soup)
Each and every soup or ‘sopa’ we ate in the country was bursting with flavour. The best chicken soup I ate in Colombia was from a tiny wooden kitchen at the top of an empty mountain pass on the bus ride between two Colombian cities. I could see the small kitchen in the back, local women hanging over the steaming pot and ladling bowlfuls of the stuff at a rapid rate.
The soup was a velvety, green colour, I guessed from all the fresh herbs used in it. Once I took my first spoonful, I felt weak at the knees. Wow. Yum.
The tender leg of chicken in my bowl with meal falling off the bone and the most delicate amount of fresh hits of garlic warmed my soul. I love how a fond memory of food transports you to a place in an instant.
5. Pescado Frito (Fried fish)
Pescado frito (fried fish) is a very common dish along the coast in Colombia. The fresh fish is gutted, scaled and scored and seasoned with salt & pepper, fresh lime, and garlic. The fish is tossed into flour, shaken off, then fried whole. Usually accompanied by several sides including rice, stewed beans, a salad, and fried plantain.
The most common fish used to make this dish is red snapper, mojarra and tilapia. Best eaten with a cold beer!
Derived from the Spanish word empanar, which means to wrap or coat in bread, empanadas are essentially small, fist-sized foods packed with any number of fillings.
These are some of the best street snacks found on pretty much every corner. If you’re undecided about what to eat in Colombia, empanadas are an easy choice. Deep-fried parcels of yum! Empanadas can be filled with beef, chicken, chorizo, a mixture of vegetables, or even cheese and spinach.
7. Bandeja Paisa
This is the national dish of Colombia. Originally, this high-calorie meal was created to provide peasant workers with enough energy to sustain them for the entire day.
Nowadays, it’s a substantial lunchtime meal. It consists of rice, plantain, arepa (corn cakes), avocado, minced meat, chorizo, black sausage, and fried pork rind, and there’s even a fried egg thrown on top. Make sure you’re hungry to eat this on your own or maybe share it with a friend – it’s super filling!
8. Menu del dia (menu of the day)
A good lunch is important in Colombian culture. Almuerzo or menu del dia in Colombia is essentially the ‘daily menu’ that you’d find in other countries. This quick two-course meal is filling, affordable and tasty.
A soup to start followed by a big main, regularly consisting of rice, meat or fish, some kind of beans and a small salad on the side. A cold drink is generally included in the meal. Expect to pay between $3-5 for the menu del dia.
9. Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken)
Rice is a staple feature in most meals in Colombia. It’s affordable and incredibly versatile. Arroz con pollo is a dish made by stewing chicken, tomato, bell peppers, spices and rice. A one-pot dish that is relatively easy to prepare and very popular throughout Colombia and other Latin countries.
A hearty stew that’s popular throughout many South American countries, with a few local variations. Essentially, you’ll often find a sancocho with a variety of different meats, plantains, yucca, potatoes and corn.
Add the spices and give it time to tick over and stew to develop flavours. This dish is served with a side of white rice and some pieces of avocado.
One of my favourite sweets of all time. Long pieces of circular dough, deep-fried until golden brown and sprinkled with sugar. Best eaten piping hot, you can never stop at just one. Hope you have enjoyed our blog on what to eat in Colombia. Have we missed a must-try dish? Let us know in the comments below.
Rach is a self-confessed travelling foodie. Her passion for food and culture has seen her eat her way through 187 countries. She's currently on a big food adventure to visit EVERY country in the world!
When Rach isn't travelling, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee or wine with friends or chowing down on the best eats around her home city of Melbourne, Australia.