Colombian Cuisine: History and Most Popular Dishes

Colombian cuisine is incredible.

If you visit Colombia or are lucky enough to have a Colombian friend, chances are you’ll never go hungry. You will also never tire of the distinct flavors, textures and wide variety of tastes offered by the food of this wonderful South American country.

Foundations of Colombian Cuisine

Colombia is a very large country with very diverse regions and people, and as a result, the types of food served in different areas can vary, but it is all quite good. Much of the food of Colombia includes some degree of Spanish influence since the country was colonized by the Spanish.

Slaves were also brought to this part of the world in large numbers, and as a result, African influence can be seen in Colombian food culture as well. Furthermore, indigenous people have lived in the area for thousands of years and also played a big role in the development of Colombian cuisine of today.

Combine these things with the vast variety of ingredients offered by the sea, the rainforest and the mountains, and you will begin to understand the reasons that Colombian food is as wonderful as it is.

Colombian Meals

No matter where you visit in Colombia, you will find that most meals include meat, rice, and a vegetable regardless of the time of the day.

Soup is also a staple of Colombian cuisine and will accompany most dishes you order. Coffee is a big part of Colombian culture as well, so plan to drink a lot of it with your favorite Colombian meals.

Colombian Dishes

There are hundreds of Colombian main dishes, soups, and sides. Listing and explaining all of them could take days or even weeks.

Here are a few of the most common and well-known Colombian dishes. Choose a few and dive in. Immersing yourself in Colombian cuisine is encouraged, trust us, you won’t regret it.

Bandeja Paisa

Colombian Cuisine of Bandeja Paisa on a platter on white background
Colombian National Dish of Bandeja Paisa

Bandeja paisa, is known as a “workman’s platter” because of the amount of food presented with each serving. It is one of the most well-known and most widely eaten dishes of Colombia. In fact, it is the national dish of Colombia.

It includes white rice, red beans, ground beef, fried plantain, chorizo, avocado, corn, pork rinds, an arepa, and a fried egg. This dish is very filling and features several appearances from each good group.

Empanadas

Colombian Cuisine of Empadas with Hodao on table
Colombian Empanadas with Hogao

Empanadas are available throughout Latin America. But in Colombia, they are deep-fried and can be filled with virtual anything, including rice, meat, eggs, potatoes, and vegetables.

They are a popular street food option and often served with a side of hogao, a tasty sofrito dipping sauce.

Patacones

Colombian Cuisine Patacones
Patacones with sides

Plantains make many appearances in Colombian cuisine. Most often, they are served as patacones, also known as tostones. Patacones are twice fried plantains. They are a side dish practically served with all Colombian main dishes.

Arepas

Various filled areas on wooden table
Various Filled Arepas

Flour or corn-based arepas appear alongside many different meals and are the Colombian answer to a tortilla or pita. They are thick, round and are often stuffed with cheeses or eggs or pretty much whatever your appetite desires.

Arepas are not only very popular in Colombian cuisine but in Venezuela as well.

Lechona

Colombian Cuisine Lechona with arepa on white plate on dark slate table
Colombia’s Delicious Lechona

Lechona is slow-cooked pork combined with yellow peas, rice, and green onions. It is typically served on special occasions like Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve or whenever a large group gets together.

This traditional Colombian dish will melt in your mouth and will taste good all the way down.

Sancocho

Colombian Cuisine sancocho served in black pot on table
Sancocho Colombian Stew

One of Colombia’s most popular soups, sancocho is a water-based soup that contains vegetables, plantains, potatoes, corn, cilantro, yuca, and a protein such as beef.

Sancocho can be served as either lunch or dinner and it is usually served with avocado and rice on the side. It’s simple but very tasty.

Aijaco

Colombian Cuisine Ajiaco Soup with avocado and spoon served o wooden table
Ajiaco Soup

Aijaco is another hearty Colombian soup and it is even simpler than sancocho. This soup is predominantly chicken, three kinds of potatoes and herbs, but it is often served with rice, corn, and avocado.

Aijaco comes from the mountains where a thick warm soup is often needed to warm the body.

Fritanga

Colombian Cuisine Fritanga served on white plate
Colombian Fritanga

Fritanga is a great meal for larger groups and parties of meat eaters. It features a variety of meats served together such as beef, pork, pork rinds, chicken and sausage accompanied by plantains, arepas, and corn. It is shared and enjoyed together.

Hormigas Culonas

Hormigas Culonas Colombian Big Ants
Hormigas Culonas

Okay, not exactly one of Colombia’s most popular dishes and perhaps one Colombian snack you may not be excited to try is hormigas culonas.

It translates literally to what it is: big ants. These ants are roasted or fried and then salted and are enjoyed by many, and are a great source of protein. Hey, don’t knock it till you try it.

Happy Eating Colombian Style

Colombian Cuisine Dishes
Empanadas, hogao and yuca frita

As you can see, there are so many different Colombian dishes to try. Colombian cuisine is diverse and exciting and there is something for everyone and every palate. You will never tire of the wonderful flavors of the food from this country, so get started today.

Dessert lovers should check out our 11 Colombian Desserts To Treat Your Sweet Tooth.

Amigo Foods celebrates Latin American flavors and cuisine and the food of Colombia brings the best of all of it together in the middle. To learn more about the food from the country, read more on our Colombian Foods page.

And to shop for authentic Colombian foods and drinks visit our online store.

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