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An introduction to Colombian gastronomy

Colombia, one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, is also known for its diverse culinary culture. This is most visible in the mix of cultures, which includes indigenous culture (more than 50 different languages), Hispanic culture (the Spanish conquered Colombia in the 16th century), and African culture (represented by the slaves who were brought at the beginning of the 19th century). Aside from the fact that Colombian culture is represented in a multi-ethnic way, there are many events where millions of tourists each year learn about and enjoy Colombian culture, including the Cali Fair, the Barranquilla Carnival, and the Medellin Flower Fair.

All of these events are complemented by a wide range of music and cuisine. Creole gastronomy is diversebecause of the abundance of fauna and flora. Colombian cuisine is primarily composed of rice, corn, potatoes, cassava, beans, various types of meat, fish, and seafood.

Colombian food 1
Photo credit: Paola Andrea Rodriguez

Typical dishes

There are some dishes that are eaten more in one region than others due to the diversity of resources in each region, but the most representative dishes that are found throughout the country are: the Paisa tray (Bandeja Paisa), the Ajiaco, the Sancocho, Tamales, Lechona (pork meat dish), Arepas (corn flour dough that comes from Colombia and Venezuela – two of the countries that formed Great Colombia at the beginning of the 19th century) and Empanadas (made of yellow corn flour that can be filled with meat and vegetables and that are found in many Latin American countries).

The Paisa Tray is one of the most iconic dish of Colombian cuisine (typical dish of the Antioquia region). The Paisa tray is made up of fried pork rinds, red beans, white rice, fried plantain slices, fried eggs, onion, tomato, an arepa, avocado, chorizo, black pudding, patacones, ground beef, and ribs and is served on a tray rather than a plate.

Another renowned dish in Colombian cuisine is Sancocho. Sancocho is a soup made with a variety of meats and vegetables that have been seasoned with various species. Nor can we forget another very famous dish of Colombian cuisine that is the Ajiaco (typical dish of Bogota). It is a kind of soup that is accompanied by various contours. Another very common dish in Colombia is Tamal. Tamal is known in different Latin American countries and are a dough filled with meat and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves.

colombian food
Photo credit: Paola Andrea Rodriguez


There are many desserts in Colombia, but I’d like to highlight the following. Custard (Natilla) is a traditional Christmas dessert served with buelos, which are small dough balls made of wheat flour, cheese, and corn. Mazamorra is another popular dessert. The Mazamorra is a traditional dessert from Antioquia. “Bocadillos” made with guava pulp and panela made from sugar cane are also popular, as is the Manjar blanco, also known as “arequipe”, which is caramelised milk. Cocadas are coconut-based desserts that are popular along Colombia’s coast. “Arroz con leche”, a dessert based on rice and milk, is also prepared in Colombia, as it is in other Latin American countries. Finally, I’d like to bring up the Solteritas, which are sweet and crispy orange cookies.

Colombian food 2
Photo credit: Paola Andrea Rodriguez


Coffee is undoubtedly the most important drink in Colombia, as its plantations are spread throughout the country, but especially in the Coffee Regions (Risaralda, Caldas, and Quindio), where many local farmers make a living from their crops. In Colombia, coffee is typically consumed in its purest form, that is, without milk or sugar. In addition to coffee, “Aguapanela”, made from sugar cane juice, is a popular drink throughout Colombia. It is an energising drink that can be consumed at any time of year because it can be served hot on cold days or cold on hot days.

Tropical fruits are unquestionably important ingredients in Colombian cuisine. The variety of fruits found in Colombia is so great that there are many drinks and recipes (fruit salads) that enrich Colombian gastronomy. Without a doubt, the Salpicón is the most famous and refreshing drink that has evolved into a dessert made of pieces of various fruit soda topping and a scoop of ice cream. Tropical fruit natural juices come in a variety of flavours (mango, papaya, guava, lulo, “tomate de arbol(tree tomato) and passion fruit among others). In addition to these natural juices, the chontaduro juice and borojó juice, which is also an aphrodisiac, is very nutritious, as it contains calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. Another popular and refreshing drink, particularly in Cali, is the “Lulada”, which is made by hand chopping the fruit pulp and mixing it with lemon juice.

Photo credit: Paola Andrea Rodriguez


As you can see, Colombian gastronomy is based on agriculture and livestock. As Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world and with many natural resources, Colombian gastronomy has enormous potential to become one of the great gastronomic tourism destinations in the world.

If you are hungry for more global flavours, be sure to check out our gastronomic experiences page for additional recipes and culinary inspiration.

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