Colombian Specialities and Dishes

Find out about some of the most popular Colombian food specialities with details of starters, soups, main dishes, desserts and breads...

Although not considered to have one all-encompassing national dish, Colombia certainly has many popular ones. Often the cooking method and ingredients for a particular dish vary from town to town and region to region. A selection of popular Colombian foods and dishes includes:

Starters and Soups

  • Ajiaco: Traditional soup and popular in Bogatá; made from chicken, corn, avocado, different types of potato and the herb guasca
  • Caldo de Costilla: Rib broth made from beef bones with potato, garlic, onion and coriander. Mainly eaten for breakfast in the Andean region
  • Changua: Breakfast soup mainly eaten in the central Andes region. It includes water, milk, eggs, spring onion, coriander and a piece of stale bread called calado
  • Chuchugo de Trigo: Soup made with wheat, barley or corn and mashed beans. It is usually served with vegetables and pork and is popular in the Boyacá region
  • Mote de Queso: From the Caribbean coastline and the traditional dish of Sincelejo, the mote de queso soup is made with yam and costeño cheese
  • Patacones/Tostones: Twice-fried squashed and salted plantain patties, often served as an appetiser, side dish or snack

Main courses

  • Arroz con Coco: Coconut flavoured rice, which is popular on the Caribbean coast and usually served with seafood. Can also be adapted and served as a dessert
  • Bandeja Paisa: Popular across the country but particularly in the Antioquia region. The dish usually consists of beans, rice, ground meat, pork, fried egg, fried pork rinds (chicharrón), plantain, chorizo and black pudding (morcilla). Regional variations may have more or fewer ingredients
  • Cazuela de Frijoles: Red bean stew made with pork belly, plantains and onion
  • Chunchollo: Grilled or fried pork, beef, or lamb small intestine. Served hot and also known as Chunchulla, Chinchurria and Chunchurria
  • Frijoles con garra: Red bean and pig's trotter stew
  • Fritanga: Plate of fried meats and vegetables often including chorizo sausage, chicken and ribs and often served with arepas and fried plantains
  • Lechona: Whole roasted pig stuffed with rice, spices and vegetables. It is cooked for a day and is traditional in the Tolima region alongside the arepas Tolimenses
  • Sancocho de Gallina: A chicken stew cooked on a wood stove with corn, plantain, potato and yuca (cassava). Popular in Cali, but there are regional variations – especially along the southern Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, including a fish version
  • Tamale: Popular in the Tolima area of Colombia and traced back to the Maya people, the tamale is a corn cake wrapped in a banana leaf before being steamed. It can be prepared with rice, vegetables, meat and spices
  • Ternera llanera (Mamona): Popular in the eastern region of Los Llanos, this is meat or fish cooked over an open fire

Desserts

  • Aborrajados: Sweet plantains stuffed with cheese and deep-fried in batter. Is served sweet as a desert or savoury as a snack
  • Buñuelos: Cheese fritters popular at Christmas. Usually dusted in sugar and served with a custard (natilla)
  • Empanadas: Fried pastry stuffed with fruit. Can also be filled with potatoes or meat for a savoury variation
  • Flan: Baked solidified custard with a caramel sauce
  • Manjar Blanco: Creamy slow-cooked sugar and milk dessert often with a vanilla, citrus or cinnamon flavouring
  • Mazamorra de Maíz (peto): Cooked white corn and milk sweetened with sugar cane. Can also be served as a savoury side dish without the sugar or as a snack with the addition of meat and vegetables (known as Mazamorra Chiquita)
  • Natilla: Custard pudding made with corn starch
  • Obleas: Wafers often accompanied by caramel, condensed milk, grated coconut, jam, sugar, cheese or butter
  • Torta Maria Luisa: Sweet orange layered sponge cake

Unusual Foods

  • Ají: Hot sauce from Antioquia made with a habanero pepper, white vinegar, lime juice, tomato, vegetable oil and herbs.
  • Cuy: Guinea pig meat. Traditional food for the Andean people
  • Hogao: Sauce made using onions, tomatoes, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper
  • Hormigas Culonas: Pre-Colombian traditional food of roasted queen leafcutter ants. Very seasonal and only harvested for nine weeks of the year
  • Morcilla: Black pudding / blood sausage that is usually served deep-fried or barbecued
  • Quesillos: Double cream cheese wrapped in a plantain leaf and originating from Tolima

Breads

  • Almojábana: Cheesy buns eaten for breakfast or for a snack made from cuajada cheese and cornmeal
  • Arepa: Fried round flatbread made with ground maize
  • Pandebono: Bread made from corn flour, cheese and eggs, eaten warm from the oven. Common in and around Cali
  • Pan de Yuca: Typical of southern Colombia, the bread is made with cassava starch and cheese

Further Information