10 Traditional Foods You Have to Try in Colombia

Traditional Colombian Foods | © Young Shanahan/Flickr
Traditional Colombian Foods | © Young Shanahan/Flickr
Photo of Anny Wooldridge
16 March 2017

While Colombia may not be well known around the world for its cuisine, the country has a number of delicious traditional foods. Each region of Colombia, meanwhile, has its own individual dishes and individual takes on the country’s typical cuisine. Below are 10 traditional Colombian dishes from specific regions around the country.

Bandeja Paisa

Bandeja Paisa is a traditional meal from the Paisa region of Colombia, which includes the cities of Medellin, Santa Fe de Antioquia, Guatape and Jardin. In fact it is so well-loved it has been adopted as Colombia’s national dish. This hearty meal usually contains white rice, red beans, ground or minced beef, plantain, chorizo sausage, corn, pork crackling, fried egg, arepa and an avocado. The ingredients can vary between cities and restaurants with certain ingredients being added or taken away. Portion size can also vary between the full meal and half or a quarter of the traditional plate size.

Bandeja Paisa | © <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlascar/5082434401/in/photolist-nJmxg-hmozh5-nANMFs-6vNczL-njxEAu-8K7NFk-njxAkV-5LbkxG-ciWo9E-nAKmzv-nyZCNw/"> Jorge Láscar / Flickr </a>


Lechona is a mixture of chickpeas, pork meat, spices, and occasionally rice (depending on the area) which is often served with an arepa. Traditionally this mixture of ingredients is slow cooked for up to 10 hours inside a whole pig roast which infuses all the flavors together and creates a delicious platter. While Lechona can be found in restaurants all over Colombia, it originates from the Tolima region, which is south-west of Bogotá and contains the major cities of Ibagué and Espinal.


Originally from the Bogotá and Andes Mountains region of Colombia but more recently found all over the country, this traditional soup is ideal for the cooler mountainous locations. This dish is a white soup made with chicken, a variety of two or three kinds of potato, corn, sour cream, and is usually served with white rice and avocado.

Ajiaco Colombian Cuisine | © Mauricio Giraldo / Flickr


Sancocho stems from the traditional Spanish dish and is popular all over South America and each country has a unique take on the dish. Colombia is no different: the Colombian dish varies between fish on the coast and different kinds of meat in other regions. It always contains yuca, corn, potatoes, and plantain, and is usually served along with white rice. This dish originates from the Valle de Cauca region that contains the cities of Cali, Buenaventura and Tulua.


This breakfast soup originates from the Andes region and in this cooler, mountainous area this soup provides an idea start to the day. The milk-based soup is made with water, milk, egg, onions and coriander and is often served with bread and hot chocolate.

Changua, Colombian Breakfast Soup | © Manuela y Daniel / Flickr


Arepas are the most common traditional dish in Colombia and are served as an accompaniment or as a meal in itself. Arepas are served throughout Central and South America, but Colombia has its own original type of arepa. Arepas can come in a number of varieties, including arepas de choco (made from a sweet corn and filled with cheese), arepas con queso (filled with cheese), and arepas de huevo (an arepa which is deep fried with an egg cracked inside and then refried). Each region in Colombia has its own traditional way to eat and make arepas.

Traditional Colombian Arepa | © Steven Depolo / Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/4930944474/in/photolist-8vJo13-8FnX1V-68RB1M-4XTowf-DZmU1-ii6YGJ-bCEG5s-dPrSwo-5DQGsz-nN99CW-7XxbXp-egyUQR-9Ak51L-mthdjR-4Wv6aU-5RSzZ7-3Za4tx-j27ymB-q5or3J-7JENvH-eqQLWw-8bToae-4efLiD-6YYuqK-aTkN4-9zuxTW-8FnX54-HbC9T-oRWQT1-7iicvY-5qZpdH-j27RCP-f5GCeX-c5TMHm-pv1uKc-Gcxgs-6xCiwt-dNVitJ-82KP4Y-6LHRLJ-AmVQN-2TWUUm-y1gty-7hBUEk-8Fr8tJ-Gcxgu-7JULnY-8Fr8gS-ad42H1-7dK4Ms


This dish can be found in a variety of forms all over Colombia and each contains slightly different ingredients depending on the region or restaurant. This hearty, meat-filled dish contains a variety of grilled meats (chicken, beef, pork crackling, chorizo sausage) and is usually served with a variety of different kinds of potatoes, arepas, plantain and corn. This dish is designed to be shared among family or friends – each having a fork or cocktail stick to dig into this plate.

Colombians' enjoying a Fritanga Meal | © Yassef Briceño Garcia

Hormigas Culonas

This is a delicacy from the Santander region of Colombia, a region north of Bogotá that is home to the cities of Bucaramanga, Barichara, San Gil and Floridablanca. Hormigas Culonas are a specific, large, leaf-eating species of ant that are traditionally found in this region and are eaten for their flavor. These ants can be served fried or roasted in salt, and are either crushed or kept whole.


Tamales can be found all over Central and South America, served in a variety of ways with a variety of ingredients. Colombians traditionally eat tamales with meat, vegetables, fruits or cheese and this corn based delicacy is served and cooked wrapped in a plantain leaf. Tamales can be found all over Colombia in supermarkets or restaurants.

Colombian Tamales | © Aaron / Flickr


This Afro-Caribbean influenced dish is typically found on Colombia’s Caribbean Islands of San Andres and Providencia. This soup-based dish is made primarily from a fillet of fish or other seafood, snails, yams, potatoes, yuca and baked plantains cooked in coconut milk and pepper. This dish is often served with coconut rice and fried plantain.

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