Colombia Food and Drink
From hearty meat, potato and yucca-based Andean stews, to Caribbean seafood, Colombian cuisine is varied and tasty, with a touch of Spanish influence. Add to this the fruits of the Amazon, and you have a rich array of edible delights.
The international food found in bigger cities is generally of an excellent standard and vegetarians are well catered for – though they may struggle outside of Bogota and Medellin. You can find delicious seafood on the coasts, particularly along the Caribbean, where dishes are often flavoured with coconut and served with rice.
To save money, try menús del día (menus of the day), which tend to be the most affordable way to eat out. Expect some soup, rice, a piece of meat or fish and an arepa (see below) or two. Colombian wines are generally of poor quality, but Chilean and Argentinian wines are available at a price. Beer and rum-based drinks are the norm, and both are quite cheap.
Ajiaco: A rich soup made with chicken, potato and corn, with cream and capers added at the table.
Arepas: Corn pancakes, eaten at every meal, with savoury toppings.
Bandeja paisa: Meat with avocado, rice, fried plantain and red beans, typical to Medellín.
Tamales: Corn dough filled with meat, potatoes, rice or vegetables, steamed and wrapped in plantain leaves; a Colombian street-food classic.
Arroz atollado: Rice cooked with a variety of meats, including chicken and chorizo – a speciality of the Pacific region.
Empanadas: Pasties, stuffed with a combination of meat, cheese, vegetables or sweet fillings.
Sancocho: A thick soup or stew from the Valle del Cauca region, made with a mixture of meat, plantain, potatoes, yucca and vegetables; served with rice.
Tinto: Black coffee, usually sweetened, the way most Colombians prefer.
Aguardiente: A fiery sugar cane spirit, flavoured with aniseed.
Aguapanela: A sweet, non-alcoholic drink made with unrefined cane sugar; also sometimes with lime, ginger or other spices added.
Canelazo: An aguardiente-based cocktail, drunk hot or cold, mixed with cinnamon and aguapanela.
Chicha: A powerful spirit popular in the Andes; made from fermented corn, yucca or other fruits and vegetables.
Chocolate: Hot chocolate drink, made of milk served with sugar, cinnamon and with small bars of chocolate stirred in.
A 10% tip is usual in restaurants. Often added to the bill as a "propina voluntaria", everyone pays it as long as the service is good.