We all know a “full belly equals a happy heart”, as Colombians are fond of saying, and no trip to Colombia would be complete without savoring the country’s most traditional cuisine. Colombian culture is rich and diverse, but there’s nothing quite like Colombian cooking for conquering visitors tastebuds and making them fall in love with the country.
Among the best-loved Colombian dishes are ajiaco, a hearty soup made with chicken and three different kinds of potato that’s iconic in Bogota and the surrounding Andes mountains, and the bandeja paisa, popular across the coffee district.
Here we reveal the best places in Colombia to taste traditional Colombian food.
Which Colombian food will conquer your tastebuds?
Colombian gastronomy is diverse and varies greatly, depending which part of the country you visit. Here we will transport you to different regions across Colombia, and tempt you with their traditional Colombian cooking:
THE PACIFIC COAST
Arroz atollado with crab - Guapi, Cauca: The popular arroz atollado (risotto) with crab is a clear winner in Gaupi, Cauca, because of the region’s close links with Colombia’s Pacific coast. Locally-caught crabs are simmered with rice and broth, before coconut milk is added. Besides its mouth-watering taste, crab arroz atollado is a natural Colombian aphrodisiac.
ANTIOQUIA AND OLD CALDAS:
Bandeja paisa - Antioquia: Almost every Colombian restaurant you visit in Antioquia will serve a hearty bandeja paisa. This typical dish usually consists of ground beef, beans, rice, chicharron (pork rinds) chorizo sausage, blood sausage, plantain, a fried egg, arepa, avocado and hogao sauce. This traditional ‘coffee pickers’ meal’ is so gigantic it’s served on a ‘tray’, rather than a plate, hence its name – ‘paisa tray.’ (Paisa is a nickname for people from this part of Colombia).
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THE EASTERN PLAINS AND THE AMAZON:
Frogs legs - Amazonas: Frogs legs are a traditional treat in Colombia’s Amazon rainforest region and a tempting one for overseas visitors. The meat is exquisite, with a similar flavor to chicken. The traditional way to cook this typical dish is to clean the frogs’ haunches, rub them with lemon and fry them without salt until they are brown, at which point they are salted and served. Amazonian frogs legs are best eaten as a starter or appetizer, or a main dish served with rice and stewed vegetables. Don’t miss them if you travel into the Colombian Amazon!
VALLE, CAUCA AND NARIÑO:
Chicharrones (pork rinds) - Valle: Chicharrones are beloved in Colombia, so much so that they even take pride of place on a bandeja paisa. The best way to prepare them is to cut the pork into strips and boil them with a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, for five to seven minutes, ensuring the meat is entirely submerged. Rub baking soda into the meat and dry the strips in the sun for an hour. Cut them to size, then fry them over low heat with a little oil. Serve with patacones (fried green plantain) or arepas and you’ll soon see why Colombians love them so much.
Pepitoria - Santander: Pepitoria has been key to this region’s cuisine since Colombia’s colonial era. It’s an unusual blend of goat innards and blood, mixed with more traditional fare, such as potatoes, rice, arepas, patacones, vegetables, eggs, cheese and spices and worked into a homely hash with a distinctive goaty flavor. Found in any traditional Colombian restaurant in the region, Pepitoria is delicious, but you have to brave to try it.
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THE CARIBBEAN COAST:
Fried mojarra – Caribbean Coast: Mojarra, similar to sea bream, is the best-loved fish dish on the Colombian coast. The fish is cleaned and fried until it’s golden brown, before it’s salted, drizzled with lemon and served whole, usually with coconut rice, salad and patacones. It has a light flavor and plenty of meat, which is one reason why it’s so popular.
TOLIMA AND HUILA:
Lechona - Tolima: Lechona (suckling pig) is one of Colombia’s most iconic dishes, a filling feed that combines several different flavors in one dish. An entire pig is stuffed with seasoned rice and peas and cooked in a brick oven for twelve hours, until the skin is crispy. A portion of lechona is often served with insulso, which is corn flour, brown sugar and cinnamon served in a plantain leaf.
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BOYACÁ AND CUNDINAMARCA:
Mazamorra - Bogota and the cundiboyacense plateau: Mazamorra is a creole food that can be eaten hot or cold, as a dessert or drink. It’s corn cooked until it’s soft, without or without milk and, sometimes, with added panela, sugar or honey. It’s the perfect sweet treat to finish off a Colombian feast.
Traditional Colombian cooking varies depending which Colombian region you visit, so why not visit all of the best places in Colombia to eat Colombian food?
Sample exquisite flavors, taste rare and unusual local ingredients and devour traditional Colombian dishes made from recipes that have been passed down through the generations. When it comes to Colombian cuisine, you’ll enjoy it all.
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