Last Updated on October 23, 2023
When it comes to culinary delights, Colombia offers a tantalizing array of flavors, ingredients, and dishes that can make any food enthusiast’s heart skip a beat. The Colombian food scene is rich, diverse, and steeped in tradition, reflecting the country’s varied landscapes and cultural influences. In this article, we’ll explore the 20 best Colombian food dishes you should try, uncover the culinary habits of Colombians, and delve into the nation’s iconic flavors.
What Do Colombians Eat? Best Colombian Food Dishes
Colombian cuisine is a reflection of the country’s diverse geography, with influences from indigenous, African, European, and Middle Eastern cultures. The typical Colombian diet features a harmonious blend of ingredients such as corn, beans, rice, potatoes, yucca, and a wide variety of tropical fruits. The following are some staple foods commonly found in Colombian households:
1. Rice and Beans
Rice and beans, often referred to as “arroz con frijoles,” is a ubiquitous Colombian dish, typically served with a protein source and plantains. This combination provides a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and essential nutrients.
Arepas are a fundamental part of Colombian cuisine. These corn-based patties come in numerous shapes and sizes and are eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They can be stuffed with cheese, eggs, or meat, making them incredibly versatile.
Tamales are a beloved traditional dish in Colombia. They consist of corn dough filled with various ingredients such as meat, vegetables, and spices, wrapped in a banana leaf, and steamed to perfection. Tamales are often enjoyed during special occasions and festivals.
Colombian empanadas are deep-fried pastries filled with ingredients like seasoned ground meat, potatoes, and sometimes rice. They are a popular snack and street food item, often served with aji sauce for an extra kick of flavor.
Sancocho is a hearty and satisfying soup made with a combination of meat (typically chicken or beef), yucca, plantains, and a variety of vegetables. It’s often considered a national dish and is enjoyed throughout the country.
6. Bandeja Paisa
Bandeja Paisa is a colossal and iconic Colombian dish originating from the Antioquia region. It includes grilled meat, rice, beans, chicharrón (fried pork belly), plantains, avocado, and a fried egg. This dish is a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds.
Ajiaco is a Colombian chicken and potato soup that incorporates a specific type of potato called “papa criolla.” It’s flavored with guascas, a native herb, and topped with capers, corn, and cream. This soup is a Colombian comfort food classic.
8. Cazuela de Mariscos
Colombia’s extensive coastline means a variety of delicious seafood dishes. Cazuela de Mariscos is a seafood stew filled with shrimp, crab, fish, and other delicacies. It’s a coastal specialty.
Fritanga is a platter of assorted fried meats like chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), and chicharrón, often served with potatoes and arepas. It’s a carnivore’s dream come true.
For a refreshing beverage, Colombians enjoy Lulada, a drink made from the tropical fruit lulo, mixed with lime juice and sugar. It’s a perfect way to beat the heat.
Pandebono is a delectable cheesy bread roll, a favorite accompaniment to a cup of Colombian hot chocolate. It’s chewy, cheesy, and a perfect morning or afternoon snack.
Lechona is a traditional Colombian dish made from a whole roasted pig stuffed with rice, peas, onions, and spices. It’s a festive dish often enjoyed during special occasions and holidays.
Patacón, or tostones, are twice-fried green plantains that serve as a popular side dish or snack. They are typically served with hogao sauce or guacamole.
Obleas are thin wafers often filled with arequipe (a caramel-like spread) and cheese, creating a sweet and savory treat. They are a popular street food item enjoyed by people of all ages.
Colombian ceviche is a flavorful seafood dish made with fresh fish or shrimp, marinated in lime juice, and mixed with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. It’s a zesty and refreshing appetizer.
16. Papas Rellenas
Papas Rellenas are stuffed potato balls filled with seasoned ground meat and sometimes boiled eggs. They are coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried, creating a crispy, savory delight.
Almojábanas are cheesy, slightly sweet bread rolls made from yucca flour and cheese. They are a beloved breakfast or snack option.
18. Arepas de Huevo
Arepas de huevo are a variation of arepas where the dough is stuffed with a whole egg and fried. They are popular street food items and an excellent on-the-go snack.
Changua is a hearty Colombian breakfast soup made with milk, eggs, and cilantro. It’s often enjoyed in the Andean region, especially Bogotá, to start the day with warmth and sustenance.
20. Cuajada con Melao
Cuajada con melao is a simple yet delightful dessert featuring fresh cheese served with panela syrup. The combination of salty cheese and sweet syrup is a favorite among Colombians.
What Food is Colombia Known For?
Colombia is known for its rich and diverse culinary heritage, and some dishes have become symbolic of the country’s gastronomy. These iconic Colombian dishes showcase the nation’s flavors and traditions: Ajiaco, Bandeja Paisa, Arepas, Empanadas, Sancocho, Tamales.
Shakira and Colombian Cuisine
Shakira, the internationally renowned Colombian singer and songwriter, has not only made a significant impact on the music industry but has also been a cultural ambassador for Colombia. While Shakira is best known for her music and philanthropic efforts, her love for her country and its cuisine is also well-documented.
Shakira has expressed her passion for Colombian food in various interviews and through her social media presence. She has showcased traditional Colombian dishes and encouraged her fans to explore the rich culinary heritage of her homeland. Her support for Colombian cuisine has undoubtedly contributed to its recognition on the international stage.
What is the Most Important Meal for Colombians?
In Colombia, as in many Latin American countries, the most important meal of the day is lunch, often referred to as “almuerzo.” Almuerzo is a substantial and leisurely affair, typically eaten between 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM. This meal often consists of several courses, including a soup, a main course with protein, rice, and vegetables, and a dessert.
Dinner, on the other hand, is a lighter and simpler meal and is usually eaten later in the evening, around 7:00 PM or 8:00 PM. Breakfast in Colombia tends to be a light meal, often featuring coffee, hot chocolate, or fresh fruit with bread or arepas.
What is Colombia’s National Dish?
While there isn’t an official national dish of Colombia, several dishes are commonly considered symbolic of the country’s culinary identity. One such dish is Ajiaco, especially in the capital city of Bogotá. Ajiaco is celebrated for its unique combination of ingredients and flavors and is often associated with Colombian culture.
However, it’s important to note that Colombia’s diverse regions have their own culinary traditions, and what is considered a national dish can vary from one region to another. For example, in the Antioquia region, Bandeja Paisa is highly regarded as a symbol of their cuisine.
Do Colombians Eat Spicy Food?
Colombian cuisine is not typically known for its spiciness. While Colombian food incorporates a variety of flavors and spices, it is generally milder compared to some other Latin American cuisines. Colombians tend to favor herbs, mild peppers, and aromatic spices to enhance the flavor of their dishes without overwhelming them with heat.
A common Colombian condiment is aji, a fresh salsa made from tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and sometimes a touch of mild chili pepper. It adds a refreshing and slightly spicy kick to many meals.
However, it’s important to note that individual preferences for spiciness can vary, and some Colombians enjoy spicier foods. Additionally, some regions, like the Caribbean coast, have spicier culinary traditions influenced by African and Indigenous cultures.
Do Colombians eat much Meat?
Meat plays a significant role in Colombian cuisine, and Colombians have a diverse range of meat options in their dishes. The most commonly consumed meats in Colombia include beef, chicken, pork, and various preparations of fish and seafood, particularly in coastal regions.
One of the standout meat dishes in Colombia is churrasco, which is grilled beef typically served with chimichurri sauce and arepas. Additionally, chorizo, a flavorful sausage, and morcilla, a blood sausage, are popular meat products enjoyed in various dishes, including the fritanga and bandeja paisa.
In coastal regions, seafood such as shrimp, crab, and fish are abundant, leading to dishes like cazuela de mariscos, a rich seafood stew. Colombian cuisine has something for everyone, from carnivores to seafood lovers, and the culinary landscape is as diverse as the country itself.
In conclusion, Colombian cuisine is a reflection of the country’s rich cultural diversity and stunning natural landscapes. From the hearty soups and stews to the delightful arepas, Colombia’s food offerings are a treat for the senses. While Colombian cuisine may not be as internationally renowned as some other Latin American cuisines, it is undoubtedly a hidden gem that is worth exploring. So, if you have the opportunity, don’t miss the chance to savor these 20 best Colombian food dishes and experience the vibrant flavors of this beautiful South American nation.