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The Colombian Amazon is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Colombia, with stunning biodiversity and unique Indigenous cultures. It is also home to its own distinct gastronomic offerings, from delicious fish dishes to more surreal items like worms and jungle animals. Here are 15 unique and delicious foods worth a trip to Colombia’s Amazon for.
This is the largest freshwater fish in the world and, on account of its delicious taste and plentiful meat, it is a popular dish throughout the Colombian Amazon. It is often served fried, and its texture has been compared to chicken. Although the pirarucú is a very typical Amazon dish, in the wild the fish is endangered, so try to eat it only if it comes from a fish farm.
Casabe is like a type of crispy flatbread made from cassava – or yuca – roots. Versions of casabe have been eaten by Indigenous peoples throughout Latin America for centuries, but in the Colombian Amazon it is a daily staple among Indigenous communities, and is made with the flour from wild yuca roots (which, as they are poisonous in their natural form, must be washed and processed in a traditional style). It has a plain taste but is generally served as an accompaniment to other dishes.
Ajicero is a type of fish broth typical to the Colombian Amazon department of Guainia. A very simple dish, the ingredients are basically just water, salt, some type of river fish and the seeds of spicy peppers. The fish is added to the boiling water and the seeds follow, making for a fresh, delicious and lightly spicy broth, which is often served with casabe to dip in the fragrant broth.
Copoazú is one of the many delicious Amazonian fruits you can find through Colombia’s southern jungle regions. It is highly nutritious and delicious, and is tasty in juices or eaten fresh, but crema de copoazú is a great way to enjoy it. The pulp of the fruit is mixed with condensed milk and cream, making for a sweet and delicious Amazon dessert.
Another typical Amazon fish dish (with so many rivers crisscrossing the region, it’s only natural that most dishes have a fish element to them), patarasca de pescado is prepared by wrapping chunks of fish in the leaves of the Calathea lutea plant – also known as cachibou – and slow-cooking them over a grill. The flavors of the leaf mix with the trapped juices of the fish, making for an especially tasty dish.
The Colombian Amazon is the best place in the country to find spicy powders and sauces, and tucupi – or aji negro – is arguably the best of the bunch. It’s a thick, black sauce made from wild yuca root mixed with spicy black peppers. It has a distinctly earthy, natural flavor, and a delicious spice (hot, without overpowering the flavors of the sauce). Tucupi is probably the best sauce you can eat in the Colombian Amazon.
Piranhas have a pretty bad reputation, but they are also one of the tastiest fish to sample on a trip to the Amazon in Colombia. Many jungle tours include time for piranha fishing and, if you catch some decent sized ones, you can then take them back and cook them up (they are especially tasty when fried). Just watch out for the teeth…
This smoked fish is traditional in many Indigenous Amazon communities and is one of the most important dishes throughout the region. Fish, often whole, is wrapped in plantain or guaco leaves and smoked for hours, or even days. The result is a rich and delicious flavor, one of the tastiest typical dishes in the Colombian Amazon.
The Boruga – also known as the Lowland Paca – is a small rodent-like mammal native to Amazonian regions. Its taste is especially prized by Indigenous hunters and is considered a delicacy in many communities. Usually served fried or grilled, the meat has a beef-like texture and taste, and is well worth trying if you can find it on a menu.
Mojojoy (try saying that three times fast!) is one of the most recognisable, yet least tried, typical dishes in the Amazon. It’s a fat, white worm, often eaten whole and alive, but sometimes served fried or grilled as well. It’s an acquired taste, but is extremely typical of Indigenous Amazon communities and well worth sampling when you visit.
Cachama is one of the tastiest Amazon fish there is, and smoked cachama is the typical dish of the Colombian Amazon department of Caqueta (where it is best sampled in the lovely La Calera Amazonica restaurant just outside the departmental capital of Florencia). With a rich, full flavor, cachama is great however it’s cooked, but with a deep, smoky flavor, it really comes into its own!
Araçá – also known as strawberry guava – is a tasty little fruit native to Amazon regions. With a creamy flesh, high in Vitamin C, and a delightfully aromatic skin, Araçá is popular as a juice, or as a chocolate-covered sweet. An Araçá smoothie is about as healthy and tasty a drink as you’re likely to try in the Amazon!
The Amazonian species of pineapple is smaller than it’s Andean equivalent but, despite its diminutive size, it packs even more sweetness and flavor than any pineapple you will have ever tasted before! If you find yourself in Guaviare or Caqueta departments then make sure to buy a fresh pineapple from one of the many street vendors you will see.
Quiñapira is a typical fish soup from Vaupes department (one of Colombia’s least-visited Amazonian regions), which is very similar to the aforementioned Ajicero. The fish and peppers used are often different, however, and Quiñapira is certainly a distinct and delicious dish in its own right.
Fariña is like a milled flour made from the yucca plant. The grated yuca is fermented in water for a few hours, then drained and toasted to form a simple flour-like dish, typically served mixed in with soups and broths, or simply eaten alone as a snack.