The top 10 famous food in Colombia are:
1. Bandeja Paisa
The most famous food in Colombia is the Bandeja Paisa. This typical dish from the Antioquia region, which includes the city of Medellin, is widely known among foreigners, contrary to the majority of the Colombian gastronomy. Because let’s face it, the Colombian cuisine is far less popular than the Italian, French or the Thai cuisine. But that doesn’t mean Colombian food is not exciting!
Bandeja Paisa literally means “Paisa Platter”, and Paisa refers to the people of Antioquia. This huge platter used to be the kind of food a typical worker eat before working his butt off all day on the fields and needed that energy to keep up. These kinds of meals are common throughout all gastronomies, but what makes Bandeja Paisa unique in its kind is that it’s a ridiculous large plate full of meats, beans, rice and eggs. Don’t get me wrong, personally, I love a Bandeja Paisa once in a while as it’s the ultimate savoury meal, but it’s probably the largest calorie bomb you will ever eat. See it as an extra-large full English breakfast, and like an English breakfast, it helps to cure the hangover. Bandeja Paisa is Colombia’s most famous food, yet it’s mostly available in Medellin. When visiting the city of Eternal Spring, make sure to read our article about the best Bandeja Paisa in Medellin.
Famous food in Colombia - Bandeja Paisa
Eating Lechona in Colombia is on many foreigners’ bucket lists. Lechona is a slow-roasted suckling pig stuffed with rice, peas and herbs. While Lechona is usually eaten during festivities, there are restaurants to be found in the popular cities that serve Lechona, however, eating Lechona with Colombian friends during a festivity is a much cooler experience. As the pig is good for at least fifty portions, the festivities where Lechona is served, are often largely crowded with plenty of cold beers and Aguardiente (a typical Colombian liquor). If you ever have the chance to eat Lechona under these circumstances with Colombian friends, you should take the opportunity with both hands.
Tamal is the oldest Colombian dish we recommend you to try. Tamales originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 B.C. and nowadays, almost every South American country has its own version of Tamal. We cannot think of any other famous food in Colombia that is that old! Inside the wrapped banana leaves you can find a dough, which is made of masa, accompanied by meat and vegetables. A tamal is steamed, meaning that the meat is incredibly soft and tender. You can find a variety of different versions throughout the country, but arguably the most famous Tamales can be found in Bogota at the oldest restaurant in Bogota itself, namely La Puerta Falsa.
Famous food in Colombia - Tamales
Sanchocho is the most popular Colombian food among the Colombians themself. For those who are unfamiliar with the Colombian gastronomy, soups play a vital role in their daily diet and Sancocho is by far the most popular one. Personally, I believe there are more exciting soups in Colombia but when it comes to personal taste, it’s always subjective. The clear soup is made with banana, potato, cassava, tomato, scallion, cilantro and mazorca and served with corn, avocado and rice. As it’s served with rice, and this applies to basically all Colombian soups, it’s a complete meal, contrary to Western cuisines where soups are often just starters. Sancocho can be found everywhere throughout the country and some (food) regions have fine-tuned the soup to their own preferences.
Famous food in Colombia - Sancocho
Arepas are perhaps the most important part of the Colombian cuisine. It’s like rice to Asia or potatoes to Europe. An arepa is a round-shaped cornflour “bread” that serves mostly as a side dish. Each Colombian region has their own version of the arepas and flavour-wise there is a big difference. When you order larger meals such as the Bandeja Paisa and Picada, smaller arepas are added to your meal. The most exciting arepas can be found at shops and restaurants that take a regular arepa to the next level. What do we mean by that? A regular arepa is sliced open and stuffed with sometimes the craziest combinations you can possibly think of. For example, in Medellin, they stuff the arepa with pulled pork, beans, grilled sausage and Chicharron (fried pork belly). And there are many other versions to discover. Check out our article about the best Arepas in Medellin for more inspiration and must-visit restaurants.
Famous food in Colombia - Arepa De Chocolo
Famous food in Colombia - Arepa Paisa
Similar to the previously recommended Lechona, Picada is another famous Colombian food that you share with others. It’s not necessarily during celebrations, it’s more a plate of food that you eat when you are with a group, drinking a beer and having a good time. Picada is a plate full of grilled meats served with arepas, potatoes, patacones and other finger food. The meat is often a variety of sausages, grilled chicken and pork and Chicharron, but Picadas vary. For me personally, it is one of the nicest foods in Colombia as I always eat it under the right circumstances (when I’m with friends). The deep-fried version of Picada is called Fritanga, which is maybe more popular than Picada, but I prefer roasted meats and potatoes over deep-fried dough.
Famous food in Colombia - Picada
7. Cazuela de Mariscos
While the Colombian gastronomy, in general, is a heavy cuisine with large dishes such as Bandeja Paisa, there are some alternatives to be found in this diverse country. When visiting the coastal areas, one must order a Cazuele de Mariscos, which is the most famous Colombian coastal food. Cazuela de Mariscos is a seafood casserole served with the typical coastal coconut rice and patacones (deep-fried banana crisps for extra texture and flavour). It is a true seafood feast and as the seafood stew is made with coconut, it really gives it that Caribbean touch. There is a version of Cazuela de Mariscos that has cheese gratin in it, which makes it automatically heavier. It is tasty, but I prefer the regular version.
Famous food in Colombia - Cazuela de Mariscos
In our article about What To Eat In Colombia, we divided the Colombian gastronomy into a few categories to make it easier to explain what the Colombian cuisine is about to our readers: arepas, sopas (soups), cazuala and one-pot meals, sausages and meats and of course empanadas. Empanadas play a huge role so it deserves their own food category. It’s a typical street food that’s devoured by Colombians almost on a daily basis and we don’t judge them. Empanadas are satisfying to eat, and the ones in Colombia have different types of fillings as well as different types of dough: some are made from potatoes while other empanadas are made from cornflour. The latter are often made in an oven while the potato-based empanadas are deep-fried. When eating this hearty snack, make sure to pick a (street food) vendor that has a wide variety of sauces. Empanadas are always served with guacamole and some sort of aji (a spicy dip), but you can find shops that have a whole array of sauces that you can experiment with. When visiting Medellin, have a look at our article about the best Empanadas in Medellin to get some of the finest empanadas the city has to offer.
Famous food in Colombia - Empanadas
Famous food in Colombia - Empanadas with Aji (spicy dip)
Mondongo is a typical soup from the Antioquia region and is made with beef tripe, an ingredient not every foreigner is fond of. We still recommend you to give it a try as Mondongo is a super tasty soup, one of the most herby soups the Colombian gastronomy has to offer. When it comes to famous food in Colombia, Mondongo has a certain reputation. There is a restaurant in Medellin that’s called Mondongo, it has two branches in the city, and famous people from Colombia as well as international celebrities such as Guns ’n Roses have dined here. Mondongo’s is not a fancy restaurant, but it serves typical Antioquían dishes of a certain quality that the rich and famous eat a bowl of soup here. As Mondongo is a speciality of Medellin, you can expect other restaurants to have amazing Mondongo soup as well. Mondongo’s got all the fame, but among locals, there is another famous restaurant to be found as well: Ajiaco y Mondongo’s. This restaurant has a much more authentic atmosphere and the soup taste phenomenal as well. Both restaurants are listed in our article about the best Mondongo in Medellin.
Famous food in Colombia - Mondongo
Ajiaco is the last soup we recommend in this article about the most famous food in Colombia. It’s a typical soup from Bogota. This potato-based chicken soup is served with cream, capers and cilantro. The idea is to mix everything together according to your taste. The result is impressive, a savoury, rich soup with creaminess and the sourness of the capers makes it all complete. As you’re eating chunks of boiled potato and shredded chicken, Ajiaco is a complete meal and one bowl is more than enough to fill a hungry man’s stomach. Ajiaco is the most satisfying Colombian soup to eat as it’s such a rich and filling soup. One of the most famous restaurants in Bogota, La Puerta Falsa, which is also the oldest restaurant in the capital, is famously known for its Ajiaco (and Tamales).
Famous food in Colombia - Ajiaco
Bonus: Carne de la Llanera
Although it’s not really a famous Colombian dish, it is a dish we highly recommend you to try. Not only because it is insanely delicious, but the way they prepare the meat is simply impressive. Above a wood fire, the meat is placed in a way so that it can slowly cook until it’s perfectly tender. The combination of succulent, good-quality beef with the smokiness of the wood fire is what makes it so incredibly tasty. This specific way of barbecuing the meat comes from Los Llanos, which is east of the Andes and includes parts of Venezuela as well. This area is full of cattle and you can imagine how they perfected their barbecue skills with so much beef in this area. It is possible to find Carne a la Llanera restaurants in cities like Bogota and Medellin as well.
Famous food in Colombia - Carne de la Llanera
Famous food in Colombia - Carne de la Llanera
There you have it, the most famous food in Colombia, according to us. Looking for more delicious food in cities like Medellin and Bogota? Check out our free food recommendation app that let you find the best food during your travel in Colombia. The app is completely free and helps you decide what to eat by recommending the best dishes and other specialities of (local) restaurants. Especially when you have no (or not enough) knowledge of the local cuisine, the app is a handy tool.
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