The marked differences between the various regions of Colombia are reflected in the country's gastronomic offering. Dishes which are widely available and regularly eaten, for example, in Cudinamarca (the province containing the capital, Bogota) may be difficult or even impossible to find in the southern province of Nariño. One aspect of the diet which remains constant throughout the country is that lunch and then breakfast tend to be the largest meals of the day, while the evening meal is less substantial.
Some of the country's best and tastiest local dishes are the soups and stews
Some of the country's best and tastiest local dishes are the soups and stews. One of Bogota's main dishes, Ajiaco, is a flavorsome soup featuring several kinds of potatoes, corn and chicken, and flavored with the Andean herb guasca. Sour cream and capers are usually added to taste, and the dish is served with fresh avocado and rice. Another highly popular meal is Sancocho, a hearty soup made from chicken or fish (depending on the region), plantain, coriander, corn and potatoes. Those with a more exotic palate may also wish to try Mondongo soup; a tripe-based dished with potatoes, carrots, peas, corn and coriander, which can be very tasty (though standard between restaurants may vary considerably).
Another undoubted gastronomic attraction is the country’s fresh tropical fruits, which come in a whole host of shapes and sizes. Fruit sellers operate on most corners of the country offering an incredibly diverse range of fruits, as well as freshly prepared fruit salads, at highly competitive prices. Fresh juices are also available at most of these kiosks, and at almost every restaurant, with the most common flavors including passion fruit, blackberry, strawberry, mango, guava and sour-sop, among many others. The flavor and variety of this fresh produce in Colombia is unrivaled and is certainly worth making the most of during your stay.
The expansive coastline means high quality, fresh seafood is available in large parts of the country
The fact that Colombia is flanked by both Caribbean and Pacific coasts means that high quality fresh seafood is available in large parts of the country. In coastal areas, lobster, oysters, king prawns and red snapper are all on sale, again at very reasonable prices. A particular specialty in these regions is arroz con coco, a special sort of rice made with coconut oil and raisins, invariably served with seafood dishes. Another specialty is the Colombian version of version of ceviche, a dish made of treated, but uncooked, seafood.
Beyond these highlights however, local fare can be a little on the unimaginative side, lacking the overall depth and variety of flavors offered by neighboring Peru, for example. The standard formula for most meals is plain rice, accompanied by a small piece of meat (generally without sauce), fried plantain or beans, and some salad. Dishes are often served with an arepa, a Colombian flat bread made with cornmeal similar in size to a small pancake. These come in several varieties and are hugely - if somewhat inexplicably - popular among locals. The variety of arepa with perhaps the greatest flavor is the arepa de chocolo. This has a slight sweetness to it and is generally served with quesito, the Colombian cheese.
The most popular and widely available snacks are generally of the deep-fried variety and include items such as empanadas (ground mince and vegetables wrapped in deep-fried cornmeal), papas rellenas (ground mince and vegetables wrapped in potato) and buñelos (a fried dough ball, tasting vaguely similar to a donut).
Want to speak Spanish with Colombians as naturally as you'd chat in English with your friends back home? Well, you'll need to learn a load of local slang and expressions first.
Thisshows you the fun stuff that your textbook missed.
Looking to turbo charge your Colombian Spanish?
Fast track from dull ‘textbook Spanish’ to sounding like a native with our Colombian Spanish Language Hacks email course.
Sign up now for 7 days of expert tips that will instantly transform your Spanish!
Off to Colombia?
Well, you better not leave without first signing up for our FREE email course to the best of Colombia's Spanish and slang.
Learn all the coolest lingo that you'll need to have fun with locals, but which the textbooks will never teach you.
If you tire of Colombian cuisine, in the main urban centers there is also a wide and increasingly diverse selection of international foods available. Such options range from budget to very high end eateries offering French, Italian, Eastern and other Latin America cuisine. Bogota, in particular, has a large number of decent international dining options. As you might expect, prices for such dishes generally tend to be much higher than those of more traditional Colombian options.