Colombian food is as varied as it is delicious. It takes its influences from the indigenous civilizations that settled the region, the Spanish that colonized it, and Caribbean culture that exists in the north of the country.
Each region has its own flavors and core dishes. Outside of big cities, the menus at local restaurants and street vendors don’t stray far beyond their regional specialties. Because of this focus, street food is reliably delicious. When in doubt, do as the locals do and head for the stall with the longest line of local people!
The food in Colombia is some of the best throughout all of South America, especially when it comes to street food in Colombia.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a taste of a few of our favorite dishes from a country we love for its food as much as anything.
The Best Colombian Street Food
Arepas are synonymous with Colombia and a traditional Colombian food found throughout the country. Find these fat cornbreads being charred over coal stoves on streets throughout the country. Fillings range from beef to egg with some arepas split open and used as a sandwich bun.
Our favorites arepas those found in Cali stuffed with oozing melted cheese. But be careful not to burn the top of your mouth.
Tamales are a mixture of corn dough flavored with other ingredients like meats, beans, and cheese, wrapped in husks or leaves and steamed.
Tamales are found throughout Latin America and every region has its own spin on the tamale.
In Colombia, there is not just one but many varieties of this traditional colombian food. The tamales Santafereños or Bogotanos use meat like chicken or pork plus carrots, peas, potatoes, and chickpeas. Ball-shaped tamales from the Tolima region feature chicken, pork, boiled egg, carrots, peas, potatoes, and rice. Tamales from the Antioquia region tend to contain marinated pork, potatoes, carrots, and peas.
Rich and filling there is a reason why tamales have spread all over Latin America and now the world! Find them throughout Colombia.
Avena Colombiana is a rich and creamy beverage made from oats that are simmered in milk, spices, and sugar before being chilled. Perhaps the original on-the-go shake, this filling beverage makes the perfect quick breakfast when you are in a hurry.
Green Mango with Salt
While it’s normally best practice to steer clear of unripe fruit, an exception should be made for this Colombian delicacy, the tart green mango.
Served sliced up in a cup and sprinkled with salt, this common fruit snack is sold along the streets and beaches of north Colombia. It is the perfect refreshing snack to beat the stifling heat.
Served throughout South America, the salchipapa is basically fries loaded with hot dogs. Hard to go wrong with that winning combo.
The salchipapa Colombiana may include toppings like egg, cheese or onion as well as condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and aji chili sauce.
These fried plantains are served as a side with many traditional Colombian dishes and make a tasty snack on their own.
Plantains, like a starchy, unsweet banana are sliced into rounds, squashed, and fried into crispy discs. Shake on some salt and you have a satisfying and truly local Colombian street food snack.
Colombia sees your full English breakfast and raises you a Bandeja Paisa. A staple in the mountainous areas of Colombia, it is the perfect late breakfast to nurse a hangover. This huge meal is ostensibly for one but more comfortably shared.
Served on a platter, the Bandeja Paisa includes rice, frijoles, fries, spiced ground meat, chorizo, fried plantain, and an arepa all topped with a fried egg and avocado.
Find the Bandeja Paisa in the northwest of Colombia in the Antioquia Department surrounding Medellin. This is definitely one of our favorite Colombian dishes even if it’s not, strictly speaking, street food.
A dish unique to Colombia, this popular soup originated in Bogata. A chicken soup made from the meat on the bone, and chunky vegetables like potatoes and corn on the cob, Ajiaco is hearty and filling. Grab it when you are in Colombia’s high-altitude capital.
Perhaps more frequently associated with Spain, Colombian churros are a little different from its Spanish counterpart. Smaller and formed into rings, Colombian churros are served without the chocolate dipping sauce and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Find these on the street for a sweet afternoon snack or dessert.
Hot from walking and thirsty from snacking? Grab a fresh fruit juice from the many stalls on street corners or in the markets. In Colombia, you are likely to find exotic fruits such as maracuyá, huachuca, and zapote, so make sure you give them a try.
Obleas are a dessert and street food snack served throughout South America. Thin wafers are layered with fillings like condensed milk, chocolate, raspberry sauce, jams, cheese, or any other sweet filling you might think of. Find on the street corners throughout Colombia.
Found in central Colombia, lechona, or lechon asado originated in the Tolima region. Lechon is a traditional Colombian food comprised of roasted pig stuffed with rice, peas, onion, and spices cooked on an outdoor oven for ten plus hours. Served with boiled potatoes, an arepa, and a sliver of pork skin this is a serious meal. As with many traditional Colombian dishes, the portions are large and can easily serve two.
This traditional Colombian-based meringue dessert is made by layering sweet crunchy meringue with cream and fruit, similar to the pavlova eaten in Australian and New Zealand.
Paletas known as ice-blocks, ice-lollies, or popsicles elsewhere, can be found on almost any street corner along Colombia’s north coast.
Homemade and in a huge variety of flavors and colors they are the perfect solution to beat the heat of the Caribbean. Check out La Paletería in Cartagena for our favorite paletas.
Found throughout South America the ubiquitous empanada is a staple for locals and foreigners alike. Empanadas are savory dough parcels filled with some combination of potato, meat, and other vegetables. The Colombian empanada is often fried and filled with shredded meat and potatoes. Empanadas can be found throughout Colombia served up hot with spicy salsa on the side.
Chuleta Valluna (Fried Pork Chop)
The menu del día is everywhere throughout South America, and Colombia is no exception. Served at lunchtime from street vendors or hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop restaurants, a menu del día comes with a soup for a starter and your choice of the main dish. Our favorite main or ‘segundo’ in Colombia is the chuleto valluna, Colombia’s version of pork schnitzel. A complete meal including a drink costs around $2 USD so you don’t need to worry about breaking the bank.
Langostino, or spiny lobster, is a specialty from the northern part of the country. This traditional Colombian dish unlike in most other countries in the world is no white tablecloth affair. Locals pluck huge rock lobsters straight from the warm waters of the Caribbean and serve them up, split, basted, and grilled with a side of plantain, rice, and salad. Find langostino served at small beachside restaurants in villages along the coast. Whole lobsters start from less than $10 USD, shoes optional.
These Colombian-style donuts are slightly sweet and slightly savory flavored with cheese. They are deep-fried so that they are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. A festive food, they also make a great breakfast, just don’t have too many. You can find buñuelos throughout Colombia.
These small breads are flavored with cheese are commonly enjoyed for breakfast and make a great on-the-go snack. They are made from cassava flour and are gluten-free. You can find this traditional Colombian food throughout Colombia but especially in Valle del Cauca.
Like the pandebono, the almojabana is another take on cheesed stuff bread balls. These ones are also baked although they use different ingredients. They are best enjoyed hot with a nice cup of coffee.
Colombia is widely regarded as one of the best coffee-producing regions in the world. This is due to the unique combination of elevation and climate found in the foothills of the Colombian Andes. Colombians typically enjoy brewed coffee without milk. The coffee is often weaker than other styles of coffee, but in good cafes brewing premium Colombian coffee, it is easy to see why Colombian coffee is so famous. To dive further into the coffee culture of Colombia, you must visit the stunning coffee region.
Limonada de Coco
Limonada de coco is the signature drink of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. Made with coconut, lime, and lots of sugar this refreshing drink will definitely help you beat the stifling heat of Northern Colombia. Try spicing it up with a shot of rum during happy hour!
For an unusual Colombian street food experience, seek out these traditional fried ants. Leafcutter ants are known as big butt ants in Spanish and have been enjoyed as a local delicacy for hundreds of years.
Crunchy, salty, and a little smoky, enjoy this unusual snack like you would a bag of peanuts or a box of popcorn.
Originating from the department of Santander in Colombia, you can find hormiga culona throughout the north of Colombia.
We hope you enjoyed our round-up of some of Colombia’s most delicious street foods.
Do you agree with our choices? Are your favorite Colombian street foods on our list? What would add? Let us know below!
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