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A guide to the best street food in Colombia

The best food of a country often comes from the streets. We’ve never quite worked out why, but perhaps it’s the vendors dedication to cooking just one or several things really, really well. While restaurants require a full menu, street vendors can put all their efforts in doing the best arepas or the best empanadas. It’s also cheap. With few overheads, and relatively humble dishes, the food is always inexpensive to produce. Are you planning a visit to Colombia? Hit the streets and find some of the Colombia’s best food.

Arepas

Flickr: lesleyk

Arepas are found on street corners across the land. To say they are popular is an understatement. Considered part of the cultural heritage of Colombia, these little street snacks are made up maize discs filled with indregdients like melting cheese, avocado and meat. There are even sweet arepas which work well for breakfast in hot chocolate.

Corn

Corn is a stable in South America and has been eaten there for thousands of years. It can be bought simply barbecued over hot coals. Alternatively, corn is cut off the cob and mixed with cheese, meat and salad, a less filling meal that most Colombian dishes. Be sure to look out for mazorca desgranada.

Almojabana

Almojábanas are round rolls made from cheese and corn.  They’re simple but filling and best eaten straight out of the oven in the early morning washed down with Colombian coffee.

Plantain chips

Flickr: Ben Ward

Plantain is seriously popular across the Americans. In Colombia, they’re cut thinly and deep fried until sweet and golden. Look out for little mobile vendors selling this across the Bogota and Cartegana. Though fried in oil, they are actually really nutrious. The perfect little snack to eat on the go.

Salchipapa

Flickr: Gary Stevens

The original ‘drunkies’, salchipapa is the simply amalgamation of sausages (usually of the frankfurter variety) and potatoes doses in sauce. What could be better to soak up the booze after a cold cerveza or two.

Churros

Flickr: Karl Baron

It may be the Spanish who are famous for the churros, but Colombia do it just as well. Dough is piped into hot oil and fried until golden. Unlike the Spanish who eat them with hot chocolate in the morning, Colombians prefer them dosed in arequipe and condensed milk. The perfect way to finish a street food meal.

Fruit

Colombia has a wealth of exotic fruits. Some make it into smoothies, but most just eat it as it is. Vendors piled high with sweet pineapples, papayas, starfruits, custard apples, guavas, passion fruit, melons and much more. Look out for vendors selling refreshing fresh coconut water.

Obleas

Those with a sweet tooth should look out for oblea. Jam, whipped cream, arequipa and fruit are sandwiched between two thin circular wafers and devoured right away. Best eaten on a sunny day.

Empanadas

Empanadas need no introduction. Eaten throughout Latin America, this iconic street food snack is particularly good in Colombia. The name comes from empanar, the Spanish verb for wrapping something in bread. Dough, sometimes made from corn, is filled with meat, cheese and sometimes vegetables before being fried or baked into a mouthwatering morsel.

Perros calientes

Hot dog lovers should rejoice. Perros calientes are popular throughout Colombia. Like a Chilean completo topped with cheese, fries, avocado and plenty of sauce. Not something to eat on a date, there’s no way of gorging on one of these politely.

Bollos

Like much of Latin America, Colombia has its own version of tamales known as bollos. Best eaten in Cartegena for breakfast, bollos are boiled hominy or yucca, sometimes including other treats like small pieces of chicken or boiled eggs. Be sure to get them hot when they taste best.

Chicharrón

Flickr: James

If you’re on a diet, this may not be for you. For everyone else, chicharron is one of the tastiest things you can eat on the streets of Colombia. Pork belly is deep fried until crisp and sometimes served with a spicy salsa dip. It makes up the national dish, bandeja paisa, an enormous plate of chicharron, chorizo, steak, eggs and beans – aka the gut buster.

Bocadillo

Bocadillo is a sweet paste made from guava. It’s best eaten with crumbly white Colombian cheese, one of the most perfect combinations.

Ceviche

Don’t be put off street seafood. Along the coast, the seafood is incredibly fresh. It’s quite different from its Peruvian counterpart. Colombian ceviche is similar to a shrimp cocktail – raw seafood marinated in lime juice, tomato sauce, onion and garlic.

Want to try the street food of Colombia? Take a look at our suggested Colombia tours, call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us a message here.

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