Regional specialities

From fried ants to roasted guinea pig, Colombia’s dishes vary greatly from village to village.

Written by Sarah Woods


Colombia’s rich regional culinary diversity may not be immediately obvious from a menu, as many dishes are found nationwide. However, ingredients and seasoning differ greatly from village to village and city to city. The result is a national gastronomic tradition that offers a vast array of recipes and fl avours. Order a bowl of sancocho in Cali and it will taste wholly different from that in Cabo de la Vela, while the Caribbean-style la fritanga bears little resemblance to that on the Pacific coast.


El ajiaco Chicken soup with three varieties of potatoes (sabanera, criolla, pastusa) and hojas de guascas (wild leaves) served with corn, cream and avocado.
El piquete de la Sabana A variety of meats with fried or broiled giblets served with yellow potatoes, fried green slices of bananas and corn.
El puchero Soup of manioc, green bananas, arracacha (a mountain root vegetable) and pork, beef and chicken meat is served with el aji (hot sauce), boiled egg and avocado pulp.
La mazamorra Cooked corn mixed with milk and water.
El cuchuco con espinazo Wheat soup thickened with vegetables and pork loin.


Los frijoles con garra Red beans thickened with fried pigs’ trotters.
La bandeja paisa A hearty plate of red beans, chopped meat, spicy sausages, rice, fried egg, avocado and slices of fried sweet bananas.
Los chicharrones Fried, crispy pork rind.
La mazamorra White corn cooked plain and natural.
Los buñuelos A corn puff with cheese and egg.
La natilla A thick pudding of sweet maize.
Las arepas Colombia’s omnipresent corn pancake.

Caribbean Coast

Las arepas con huevo A corn pancake topped with a fried egg.
El sancocho A soup of boiled meat with manioc, yam and sweet banana.
El bollo limpio Mashed young corn in a corn leaf wrap.
El bollo de yucca Mashed manioc in a corn leaf wrap.
Los patacones Fried mashed green plantain.
La cazuela de mariscos A delicious seafood soup.
La fritanga Fried meat and giblets.

Pacific Coast

El sancocho A soup of boiled chicken and other meats with manioc, green banana and potatoes.
Los envueltos Steamed corn pastry in a corn leaf wrap.
La fritanga Fried beef, pork and giblets served with manioc and fried bananas.
El cuy Roasted guinea pig.
Las empanadas de pipian Yellow potato fritter with meat.


Los tamales Cornflour pastry with pieces of pork and sausages steamed in a corn leaf.
El cabrito Spicy meat with fried manioc and arepa (corn pancake).
Las hormigas culonas Fried ants.
El moute Whole corn soup with tripe in sauce.
La pipitoria Blood sausage (similar to black pudding).


El viudo de pescado Freshwater fish served with green bananas and manioc.
El tamal Rice, corn pastry, chicken, pork and bacon steamed in a corn leaf wrap.
La lechona Suckling pig stuffed with rice and peas, cooked in a clay oven.


La charapa Stewed tortoise meat.
La gamitana An Amazonian fish.

Llanos Orientales

La ternera a la llanera Venison cooked over a wood fire.

Colombian desserts

Los turrones Sweet, white nougat.
La cuajada con melao Thickened milk dish served with sugarcane syrup.
El postre de natas Milk skin cooked with sugar, cinnamon and raisins.
Melcochas Sugarcane worked until tender with butter, like a soft caramel.
El manjar blanco A thick, sweet milky pudding.
Las cicadas Grated coconut with golden syrup.


El tinto Popular light, sweet coffee.
El guarapo Old Colombian Indian drink of pineapple skin fermented in water.
Aguardiente Fiery aniseed liquor made from distilled sugarcane.
La chuchuguaza ‘Firewater’ of the indigenous people of the Llanos region.
El masato Fermented rice and corn with cinnamon, served cold.
El jugo Fresh tropical fruit juices.
La colombiana The nation’s favourite soda of tamarindo.

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