One of the most enjoyable cultural experiences for any traveler is undoubtedly trying the gastronomy of the country they visit, risking tasting flavors that can’t be described and even can’t pronounce, can be one of the most fun and incredible anecdotes or memories.
Colombia is a prodigious country for its geographical location, biodiversity, and climate, being the ideal place for harvesting fruits, tubers, and vegetables throughout the year. Despite the fact that its gastronomy is not recognized worldwide, unlike countries like Mexico and Peru, Colombia offers an endless number of typical dishes that are specific to each region. The most common ingredients are cereals like corn and rice, tubers like potatoes and cassava, legumes, meats; and of course a great variety of fruits, such as arazá, papaya, soursop, lulo, passion fruit, among many more.
Colombian gastronomy as a result of its miscegenation has indigenous, Spanish, African, and Arab influences in some regions. Recipes have been passed down from generation to generation, however, currently, the most recognized Colombian chefs have improved the techniques, cooking methods, and ingredients of the most representative dishes, taking them to another level.
Bogotá, being a business center and having a high influx of tourists, has become a rather interesting gastronomic epicenter, with restaurants by world-renowned chefs offering countless options for locals and visitors. However, it also offers typical food from the city and from the different regions of Colombia.
Below, we describe different main dishes, soups, pastries, drinks, desserts, and the restaurants in Bogotá and its surroundings where you can taste them:
Considered the most famous typical dish in Colombia, it originated in the Antiqueña region, where the peasants after a long day of work recovered their strength with this energetic dish. Due to the number of ingredients that make it up, it is generally served on a tray, hence its name Bandeja Paisa.
The ingredients are white rice, beans, ground meat, plantain, chorizo, blood sausage, pork rind, white arepa, avocado, and a fried egg. It’s a dish that you can find in many restaurants and in different presentations between, complete, half or a quarter of its traditional size.
Despite being considered a heavy dish for its high-calorie content, it’s worth trying it since the mixture of flavors and textures are exquisite for the palate.
La Molienda de Tavo: El Rosal, Kilómetro 18.8, Vía Bogotá-La Vega, open from Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday and Holidays from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m; Cota, Variante Cota, diagonal to the Terpel station, open on Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and from Tuesday through Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
La Herencia: Carrera 9 No. 69ª – 26, open from Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Entrepues: Kilómetro 9 auto norte vía a Tunja, open from Tuesday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Lechona (Roasted Pig)
This typical dish originates from the department of Tolima, is made up of pork and peas, and is accompanied by white arepa. The origin of the roasted pig is Spanish, over time it was modified and adapted to become a local dish. Currently, the day of the roasted pig is celebrated on June 29.
La Planchoneria: Cedritos, Avenida 19 No. 134 A- 54, open from Monday through to Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m; Pepe Sierra, Calle 116 No. 17-60, open from Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m; Bodega BBC, Calle 73 No. 9-22, open from Monday to Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Lechona El Gordo: El Centenario, Carrera 26 c No. 26-78; Palermo, Carrera 16 No. 47-85.
Lechoneria El Tolimense: Calle 74 bis No 84-13.
This exquisite is very popular for breakfast especially on Sunday, it’s very easy to find frozen in supermarkets or ready to eat in restaurants and bakeries. It’s known that a tamal is good for the texture, color, and flavor of its dough, without leaving aside the filling of meat and vegetables, it’s wrapped in banana or bijao leaves, tied with pita and cooked in water. It’s usually accompanied by chocolate, bread, and cheese.
This food has been adopted by the different Colombian regions, on the Caribbean Coast, Norte de Santander, and Llanos Orientales the tamal is called hayaca.
However, in Tolima, they have perfected it and it’s considered the best tamal in the country, made from rice, meat, boiled eggs, and yellow peas.
Tamales El Gordo: Transversal 42 No. 43 sur – 24 a 43 sur – 76, open from Monday to Thursday from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and from Friday to Sunday from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Tamales Tolimenses: Calle 74 No. 75-58, open from Monday to Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
La Puerta Falsa: Calle 11 No. 6-50, open from Monday to Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Fritanga or Picada (Fried Tubers)
It’s a traditional dish from the departments of Cundinamarca and Boyacá, it’s a combination of different meats and fried tubers. There is not a single recipe, as many ingredients as desired can be added, among the main ones are: chicken, meat, pork, chorizo, pork rind, arepa, plantain, creole potato, blood sausage, cassava and garnishes such as chili, guacamole, and chimichurri.
It’s very easy to find in street vendors, restaurants in Bogotá and its surroundings, and even as dishes to share with friends in bars and clubs.
El Tambor: La Calera, Kilómetro 12 vía Bogotá La Calera, open from Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m; Tenjo, Kilometro 7.8 Autopista Medellín, Vda, La Punta, Tenjo, open from Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Piqueteadero Doña Segunda: Calle 73 No. 18b-08, open from Tuesday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Restaurante Donde Manuel: Carrera 69 b No. 22-59 sur, open from Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Also known as veal a la llanera, this typical dish from the department of Meta, is prepared by grilling special cuts of veal which are hung on stakes or iron cages where they are roasted on firewood. It’s usually accompanied by salty potatoes, cassava, and guacamole.
Asadero La Gran Llanera Internacional: Avenida la Esperanza No. 122-95, open from Monday through Sunday from 11:45 a.m. to 7:10 p.m.
Cimarrón del Llano: Avenida el Dorado No. 73-60, open from Monday to Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Asadero Rancho Llanero: Avenida Carrera 50 No. 3-02, open from Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
This typical Bogotá dish was created by the Muiscas (indigenous people) who fed on corn, potatoes, and ají sauce and was complemented with chicken, capers, and milk cream with the arrival of the Spanish in Colombian territory.
Its texture is thick and smooth, perfect for the cold climate of the city, its ingredients are three kinds of potato (sabanera, pastusa, creole), guasca, chicken, and cob (cream of milk and optional capers), accompanied by white rice and avocado.
La Puerta Falsa: Calle 11 No. 6-50 La Candelaria, open from Monday through Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Plaza de Mercado la Perseverancia: Carrera 5 No. 30a-30, open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Thursday and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m
La Enramada: Calle 66 No. 17-81, open from Friday through Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
It’s a soup based on tubers, vegetables, and meat. Native to Valle del Cauca, among the most common ingredients are meats (chicken, fish, beef, among others), cob, carrot, green plantain, ripe plantain, cassava, potato, condiments, legumes, and vegetables; usually accompanied by white rice and avocado.
It’s generally consumed at lunch and popular celebrations.
Piqueteadero Doña Nieves: Calle 65 No. 4-48, open from Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Restaurantes Fulanitos: Carrera 3 No. 8-61, La Candelaria, open from Monday through Thursday from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and from Friday to Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Restaurante Doña Elvira: Calle 50 No. 20-26, open from Wednesday through Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
This traditional dish hated by many, but loved by others, is usually eaten for breakfast, and is very popular in Bogotá and Cundinamarca, perfect for cold weather. It’s a broth prepared with milk, eggs, onion, salt, toast, butter and coriander.
It’s said that he was born in the Chibcha tribe that lived in the Andean zone of Colombia. Currently, several regions have adopted it and added other ingredients, for example, in Boyacá they prepare it with pieces of bread and almojábana.
Pastelería La Florida: Carrera 7 No. 21-46, open from Tuesday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Quimbaya Pastelería Café: Calle 43 No. 27-10, open from Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Panadería Golconda Usaquén: Carrera 118 No. 6-73, open from Monday through Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
This soup is specially prepared in the departments of Cundinamarca and Boyacá, there are different kinds of cuchuco depending on how it is prepared, there is the wheat or corn cuchuco and the barley cuchuco. This thick soup usually contains pork, peas, carrots, chopped potatoes, coriander, garlic, and guascas.
Restaurante El Parque: Calle 27 No. 5-10, open from Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Casa Vieja Restaurante: Carrera 6a No. 117-35.
Restaurante Don Jediondo: this chain of typical Colombian food restaurants is located in different parts of the city; you can find the one closest to you.
Caldo de Costilla
This delicious broth is typical of the Andean region, it’s prepared with beef rib, potato, and coriander. It’s mainly eaten at breakfast accompanied by arepa bread and chocolate, it’s also very common to pass the hangover known for being a “dead raise”. It can be found in many restaurants, at any time, even at dawn.
Plaza de Mercado Paloqueamo: Calle 19 No. 25-02, open from Monday through Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Restaurante Caldo Parao: Calle 72 No. 78-08, open 7-24.
Desayunadero La 42: Calle 69a No. 9-10, open from Monday through Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday service 7-24 and Sunday from 12:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
PASTRY AND SNACKS
Fritters are a fundamental part of the Colombian Christmas dish along with custard. However, they are consumed in large quantities at any time of the year especially at breakfast. They are made from cheese, eggs, and cornstarch; they are mixed and formed into balls that are fried in hot oil. Currently, new ingredients and fillings have been dabbled, you can find fitters filled with chocolate, caramel, and guava jelly.
You can buy the dough to prepare in supermarkets or ready-to-eat fritters in street vendors and cafes.
Sr. Bueñuelo: Carrera 7 No. 27-30, open from Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
El Kiosco: Carrera 11 No. 144-69, open from Monday through Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Local by Rausch: Calle 90 No. 11-13, open from Monday through Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
If we talk about Colombian gastronomy, the food that is a fundamental part of the Colombian diet is the famous arepa; made from corn in a circular and flattened shape it’s usually consumed at breakfast, but can be eaten at any time of the day with the main food or as a snack. In Colombia, each region has given its own preparation of this exquisite, like arepa boyacense, arepa paisa, arepa santandereana, arepa costeña, and arepa valluna.
You can find from a flat corn arepa without any additions to an arepa filled with chicken, meat, eggs, vegetables, and sauces.
You can buy frozen arepas in supermarkets or ready to eat in neighborhood stores, coffee shops, street vendors, or restaurants.
Aquí en Santafé: Carrera 7 No. 62-61, open from Monday through Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
El Carriel: Transversal 73ª No. 82-19, open from Monday through Thursday from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Que Arepazo: Calle 45 No. 16-27.
Pan de bono
This tasty snack is native to Valle del Cauca but is found throughout Colombia. It’s prepared with cornstarch, fermented cassava starch, cheese, and eggs; after they are kneaded, small portions are formed, and then they are baked, usually filled with cheese, a guava jelly, or both.
It’s very common to find in neighborhood bakeries at any time of the day, they have even ventured new fillings such as chocolate and caramel.
Pandebono y Café El Dorado: Calle 16 No. 5-30, open from Monday through Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Hornitos Panadería: Carrera 11 No. 96-46 or one of its stores throughout the city, open from Monday through Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Pandebonos Vallunos: Calle 100 No. 11-41 or one of its stores throughout the city.
Empanadas have been known since colonial times, and over time new ingredients were included. The dough is made with ground corn, wheat flour, or corn, the fillings vary between mashed potatoes, ground meat, cheese, chicken or meat stews, rice, and vegetables.
Empanadas are a very popular dish usually eaten with ají sauce or lemon.
La Carne de las Margaritas: calle 62 No. 7-77.
Andrés Carne de Res: Calle 82 No. 12-21, or any of its branches throughout the city.
La de carne y papa criolla de El Kiosko: Calle 145 No. 9-73
Pan de yuca
Made from ground white cheese, sifted cassava starch, eggs, baking powder, and salt, they are kneaded in small shapes and then baked. They are in the form of a thread, oval or round, their flavor is exquisite and the texture is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, similar to that of soft bread.
Hornitos Panadería: Carrera 11 No. 96-46 or one of its branches throughout the city, open from Monday through Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Pan Pa’ Ya!: Calle 95 No. 15-06 or one of its branches throughout the city, open from Monday through Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Best Bread de Colombia: Calle 148 No. 19-70, open from Monday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
This sweet roll is from Spain, however, it was very well received in Colombia and its preparation depends on each region, the most common mixture has flour, butter, milk, eggs, and cheese. It’s very popular as a snack with chocolate or agua de panela.
Hornitos Panadería: Carrera 11 No. 96-46 or one of its stores throughout the city, open from Monday through Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
La Puerta Falsa: Calle 11 No. 6-50, open from Monday through Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Krost Bakery: Calle 61 No. 5-30, open from Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
This type of food is not for all palates, these ants are larger than the average ants and are unique in their sour taste. After being collected in bags, jars, or pots, they are fried or toasted and ready to consume with a little salt.
Many people believe that they contain aphrodisiac properties and are also a high source of protein. They are very popular in the department of Santander since they are found in the valleys of San Gil, Curiti, Villanueva, Barichara and Guane.
Even if they are not very popular in Bogotá, they can be found in supermarkets and in street sales.
DESSERTS AND SWEETS
This typical dessert is prepared with two oval-shaped medium waffle crackers and is filled with sweets according to your preference, the most popular are caramel, condensed milk, blackberry candy, cream of milk, cheese, chips of chocolate and grated coconut.
This dessert is very popular and easy to find, in shopping malls, candy stores or you can buy the ingredients in supermarkets to prepare it as you want.
A good option is to visit the Plaza de Bolívar, there you will find multiple street vendors and you can enjoy a delicious oblea while you walk around the city center.
Bocadillo (Guava jelly)
This sweet has been considered a cultural symbol of Colombia since 2006. The guava jam is a solid paste that is obtained after cooking the mixture between guava and sugar. It´s usually accompanied with cheese or milk.
The largest guava jelly producer in Colombia is located in the department of Santander, due to the high guava plantations that exist in this region. It was so well received that it includes export products to the United States, Central America, and Europe.
It can be bought in neighborhood stores or supermarkets.
Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding)
This delicious dessert had its origin in Asia and then spread in Europe, Africa, and America. There are different ways to prepare it, but generally, it is prepared by cooking the rice over low heat with milk, cream, condensed milk, and cinnamon, some people add raisins and grated cheese.
You can buy rice pudding at dessert shops, bakeries, or street vendors.
This typical Colombian dessert is native from the Coast, its main ingredient is grated coconut, panela, cinnamon, and cloves. The preparation is very simple, it consists of cooking these ingredients and stir until they harden, remove small portions, and put them in a humid source until they cool down.
In Colombia they are so popular that you will always find a store or a street vendor, currently, you can find different types of cocadas, among them, are pineapple cocada, caramel cocada, guava cocada, among many more.
The custard for Colombians is synonymous of the Christmas season, this traditional dessert is popular in all regions of the country.
Previously it used to be prepared in an artisanal way since the corn was cooked and ground with panela and slowly mixed in a wood stove with a wooden spoon until reaching the desired texture to let cool. Currently, in supermarkets, they sell the mix ready to prepare which is very easy. The custard is made from corn flour and is usually accompanied by sauces and other sweets. The main flavors are panela, coconut, passion fruit, and coffee.
You can find the dessert already prepared in sweet shops and bakeries.
In Colombia, a great variety of fruits are obtained in supermarkets, squares, and street shops. Fruits are part of preparations such as sauces, salads, juices, and sweets. From traditional fruits to exotic and unique fruits in the country, it is said that in Colombia there are around 400 varieties and seeds.
This is a real attraction for tourists and a great fortune for locals who have the opportunity to taste the fruit they want and the best at a very cheap price. Fruits are a natural source of vitamins and have properties that strengthen the immune system, some people even think that some are aphrodisiacs, so you don’t need an excuse to try them all!
Among the exotic fruits that Colombia offers and you should try are: mangosteen, lulo (usually taken in juice), pitaya, anon, corozo, cashew, and carambolo.
In the Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao you will find these and many fruits, it’s located on Calle 19 No. 25-02 and is open from Monday to Sunday from 6:00 a.m. at 2:00 p.m.
You can accompany your meals or snacks with some of the following Colombian drinks:
Agua de panela: this drink is made with panela, which is produced from solidified sugar cane. It’s prepared by immersing pieces of panela in water and stirring until completely dissolved, served hot or cold, and sometimes adding a little lemon. You can buy the panela in supermarkets or neighborhood stores to prepare or the drink ready to drink in bakeries.
Canelazo: this hot drink is very popular in Bogotá as it’s perfect for cold weather especially at night. It has different preparations, but the basic ingredients are aguardiente, panela, and cinnamon. It’s a good option if you visit the Monserrate at night.
Champús: This refreshing drink is native to Valle del Cauca, especially in the city of Cali, and is usually consumed at Christmas time and popular festivals. It’s prepared with pineapple, cloves, panela, corn, lulo, water, and cinnamon. In Bogotá, you can also get it and enjoy it in vallunos restaurants.
Chocolate santafereño: This traditional drink is perfect for the cold Bogotá afternoons, it’s usually accompanied by cheese and almojábana and It’s prepared with milk, cream, cloves, cinnamon and of course chocolate.
Colombiana and sodas: This carbonated drink evokes the best of Colombia, with its unique flavor, colors, design, and has accompanied Colombian meals for over 100 years. It’s produced by one of the largest companies in the country Postobón, in addition to Colombian, they produce other sodas of different flavors such as apple, grape, and orange.
Coffee: known worldwide for being the mildest coffee, Colombians are great coffee consumers in all their presentations, mainly in the morning hours. Juan Valdez brand is the Colombian coffee ambassador, its stores are located throughout the country, you will find a wide variety of coffee and derived products. Additionally, you can buy coffee in coffee shops, restaurants, supermarkets, or street vendors.
Fruit juices: in Colombia, many families accompany the main meal with fruit juices either in water or in milk, fortunately, they have countless options since many tropical fruits are produced in the country. Natural juices are highly sought after and easy to find, from greengrocers, street vendors to restaurants and supermarkets.
Masato de Arroz: It’s a fermented drink based on corn or rice, with panela, cinnamon, and cloves. It is usually taken to accompany pastries or snacks such as cookies, cakes, and bread. Currently, there is artisanal masato in bakeries or bottled in supermarkets.
Refajo: This drink results from mixing Colombian soda with beer, it’s perfect and very popular to accompany fritanga and picadas. You can prepare your own refajo or buy it ready to drink.
If you want to buy food at street vendors, keep in mind that most vendors only accept payment in cash. In the different sectors of the city, you will find a wide variety of food, including empanadas, egg arepa, arepa with cheese, chicken cakes, fritters; fruits like papaya, orange, avocado, banana, pineapple, mango; fritanga, roasted cob, plantain with pork rind; desserts such as obleas, salpicón (a cup of assorted fruit), ice cream and cholao (chopped fruit with sauces and ice cream).
DAILY SPECIAL “CORRIENTAZO”
In Colombia, a popular saying is “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a beggar” indicating the main meal of the day and the portions there of. Normally breakfast is eaten at home, with fruit, eggs, bread or arepa, and your favorite drink (coffee, chocolate, or tea). At lunchtime many people especially those who work at offices choose to eat lunch outside, an economic option with the corrientazos or daily special, usually ranging between $ 10,000 and $ 15,000 Colombian pesos and include soup, main dish (rice, meat, grains, salad), juice and dessert. At night usually dinner is light and at home.
There are restaurants that only sell daily special varying their menu every day, or there are restaurants that, in addition, to their main dishes, offer this option.