Picture yourself on vacation in Colombia – surrounded by nature and friendly people, a colorful cocktail in hand, and a plate full of cheesy fries on the table in front of you. Wait, that’s not right. A bowl full of pasta? No, don’t think so.
So, what are the best Colombian dishes to try while traveling in Colombia? We’ve gone through the arduous task of trying dozens of delicious Colombian national dishes to bring you the following list of the top 7 Colombian foods that you must try while on vacation.
Disclaimer: This post will make you hungry and might make you book a flight to Colombia.
1 – Bandeja Paisa
Colombia’s most famous national dish is the ultimate comfort food, and the hangover cure to beat all others! The dish was originally popular among rural peasant workers due to its generous portions and very high calorie count but has now become a hit all over the country.
Bandeja Paisa consists of white rice, fried plantains, chorizo, black pudding, minced meat, chicharron (fried pork rinds), seasoned beans, arepas (corn cakes), and a couple of fried eggs to top it all off.
If you’re planning to go sightseeing in Bogotá, swimming in Cartagena, or exploring the steep winding streets of Medellín, then a Bandeja Paisa will set you up nicely for the day ahead. Just remember to wash it down with a Colombian coffee for the full experience.
Where can I find Bandeja Paisa?
All over Colombia!
2 – Arepas
Usually one of the staple carbohydrates in Colombian dishes, the arepa is a great snack in its own regard if prepared right. Arepas date back almost 3,000 years, so you’re eating the same food as the ancient Pre-Hispanic emperors! Well, as long as you don’t spread Nutella on it.
Arepas are flat, round corn-flour cakes, normally fried or grilled. There are 75 (and counting) ways of serving an arepa, from stuffing it with cheese and avocado, to topping it with shrimp and rich tomato salsa, to filling it with caramel sauce.
Where can I find arepas?
Arepas are everywhere in Colombia, but you should try the ones served by street vendors fresh off the grill!
3 – Ajiaco
There’s nothing like a big bowl of Ajiaco soup to warm your cockles! This classic Colombian dish is found in most places around the country but it’s especially popular in Bogotá, probably because it’s perfect for getting through those cold Andean nights.
Ajiaco soup is made with shredded chicken, three types of potato, guasca herbs, and corn. Some places serve it with arepas and beans on the side for extra satisfaction.
Where can I find ajiaco?
Bogotá is considered the best place to try ajiaco. You’ll find it in practically any restaurant and there are even ajiaco food carts on the street!
4 – Chuzos
Chuzos are great for when you need a quick bite to eat during the day, or even when you get the munchies after a long night of drinking aguardiente and dancing salsa.
Simply put, a chuzo is meat on a stick. Smoked beef or seasoned chicken on a skewer with a buttered potato on the end – the epitome of amazing Colombian street food dishes.
Where can I find chuzos?
Chuzos are usually found in big inland cities such as Bogotá and are mostly sold on the street or at hole-in-the-wall food spots.
5 – Almojábana
If you drink a freshly brewed Colombian coffee with a side of almojábanas, you immediately become an honorary Colombian!
Almojábanas are small balls of bread made with corn-flour and cheese, resulting in a delicious aroma-filled snack. If you ‘accidentally’ eat 25 of these moreish little things, it might not count as a snack anymore.
Where can I find almojábanas?
Find almojábanas in most cafés and bakeries all over Colombia!
6 – Hormigas Culonas
Ok, don’t get put off by this, but hormigas culonas means “big-bottomed ants”. Yes, they are literally ants. Believe it or not, they’re absolutely delicious and go well with an ice-cold beer!
Hormigas culonas are roasted or fried and then salted. They’re crunchy and packed with flavor, especially if you squeeze some lemon over them. Upscale restaurants might serve certain foods with ant-sauce or finish a dish off with a sprinkling of ants, so you can even get insects gourmet style in Colombia!
Where can I find hormigas culonas?
You should try hormigas culonas in the Santander region of Colombia where they’re prepared traditionally and are a treasured local delicacy.
7 – Mango Biche
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We couldn’t leave all the amazing Colombian fruit out of this list! Colombia is one of the world’s main fruit producers, so you’ll have plenty to choose from during your trip.
Mango biche, as it’s known locally, is unripe mango sliced into thin noodles and sprinkled with salt. For an even more intense experience squeeze a lemon over the top. The slightly sweet flavor of the mango combined with the salt and lemon results in a unique but refreshing sweet-sour treat.
Where can I find mango biche?
Your best bet is to try them on the beach in Cartagena where the mangos are fresh and the lemons even fresher!