Colombian Food

Main Colombian Dishes to Delight You

Ahhh the wonderful memories I have of sharing typical foods with friends and family. For many it is surprising to find out that Colombian gastronomy is very diverse.

To understand Colombian cuisine we should look at Colombia’s geography. Different topography characterize five main regions that make up the incredible variety of our cuisine along with foreign influences that blend into the recipes like magic.

Different Regions Different Foods

We can divide Colombian food according to its main regions. The Atlantic region is hot, humid, and has contrasting topography. It has extensive flat lands around the mouth of the rivers, perfect to raise catle that produce meat and milk; high mountains next to the sea, and desserts like the one in La Guajira.

The Atlantic coast of Colombia has influences from the Middle East (lots of Lebanese and other Arabs settled here), Africa (slaves that the Spaniards brought), and the indigenous people.

colombian-food-arepa-de-choclo-3

Making Arepa de Choclo… a Delicious Colombian Food made of corn
Secrets of Colombian Cooking – Hipocrenne Books, INC.
Reproduced with Patricia McCausland’s permission

The proximity to the Atlantic ocean makes sea food a staple. It includes shrimp, lobster, crab and oysters. Fresh and salt water fish include snapper, Spanish mackerel, sea bass, mojarra, and bocachico, a small mouthed fish.

Other popular foods are plantains, guineo (small green plantain), corn to make arepas and tamale masa, and white rice.

colombian-food-arroz-con-coco-1

Arroz con coco
Secrets of Colombian Cooking
Hipocrenne Books, INC.
Reproduced with Patricia McCausland’s permission

Patricia McCausland-Gallo, one of my favorite Colombian cooking experts and author of the “Secrets of Colombian Cooking” book told me that the Atlantic region’s most representative dishes are sancocho de bagre a soup made of this fish, viuda de pescado, fried bocachico, arroz con coco, cocadas, and buñuelos de maiz or corn fritters.

Also, people in the Atlantic coast, specifically La Guajira, eat carne de chivo or goat meat in small pieces.

I remember stopping alongside the road to “La Costa” or the Atlantic Coast for fresh fruit juices made of oranges, bananas, lemons, mangoes, guanabana, pineapple, watermelon, etc. Also having suero, a kind of sour yogurt you put on yucca, fried plantains or arepa.

The Andes Region is the continuation of the South American Andes that give the zone a climate diversity ideal for agricultural richness.

In this region you can find snowcapped mountains and volcanoes, highlands, natural forests, thermal waters, and many rivers that flow through the different regions of Colombia.

It is in the Andes region where Colombians produce their famous coffee, flowers, cacao, and varied fruits. Chicken, pork, and steak are very popular. Many use the grilled beef, pigs feet, ribs, pork sausage, liver or intestines to make the famous fritanga.

This region is rich in potatoes of many kinds, corn to make yellow and white arepas, arepas de choclo or sweet corn arepas. White rice, lentils, avocado, cabbage, peas, and habas are common foods.

Beverages like hot chocolate with cinnamon, or fruit juices made of blackberry, strawberry, guava, passion fruit, breva, and tomate de árbol or tree tomato are common

The most representative dishes of this region are Bandeja Paisa and Ajiaco. The first one is a dish that includes grilled steak, fried pork rind called chicharrón, red beans, rice, chorizo, a fried egg, and an arepa. It goes along with sweet fried plantains and a slice of avocado.

Ajiaco Santafereño is another important dish made with several kinds of potatoes, corn and chicken, and served with heavy cream and capers.

colombian-food-bandeja-paisa-4

Bandeja Paisa
Picture by Christian Van Der Henst S.

Desserts in this region include milk made arequipebocadillo made from guava paste, brevas con leche, fresas con crema or strawberries with cream as well as the merengues con crema or meringues with cream.

The Amazon and Oriental Plains or Llanos Orientales region is dominated by big rivers amongst them the Amazon, tropical forests, and the plains which are perfect for raising cattle.

The Amazon region is rich in fresh water fish specifically Cachama. Chicken, bananas, rice, cacao, plantains, and exotic fruits are also grown in the region. The Llanos Orientales are famous for its meats, specifically baby cattle and beef.

Colombian food in the Pacific Region is heavily influenced by African slaves that Spaniards brought to the region to cook and work for them, as well by the proximity to the Pacific ocean.

In this region, Patricia McCausland tells me that the use of coconut is widespread, although it is also used in the Atlantic region.

colombian-foods-cazuela-de-mariscos-2

Cazuela de Mariscos
Secrets of Colombian Cooking – Hipocrenne Books, INC.
Reproduced with Patricia McCausland’s permission

The cazuela de mariscos a sea food soup, ceviches which are citrus-marinated seafood appetizers, all the sea food in general, conchitas negras which are like little black clams, and chontaduro the fruit of a type of palm called Bactris Gasipaes are very representative.

Towards the south of Cali you can find dulce de leche, a syrup or candy that is prepared by heating sweetened milk. In the city of Pasto we have the peanut influencing many dishes. Ají de maní is a peanut sauce made with chiles we serve with tamales de Pipián, which are made of a yellow potato mixture.

As you can see we have lots of diversity in Colombian food. If you are visiting Colombia I recommend you try the dishes included here. They are popular in nature and easy to find in small mom and pop restaurants in the regions. If you have questions about Colombian food please contact me via my contact page, I’ll be happy to answer you.

Picture at the top From The Book Secrets of Colombian Cooking. Hipocrenne Books, INC.

Ajiaco Bogotano

A Colombian Recipe from the Andes Region

This is a Colombian potato soup typical of the capital of the country. Its name is Ajiaco santafereño, and it is derived from the name of the capital of Colombia, Santa Fe de Bogota.

This dish has several kinds of potato. In Colombia we make it with potatoes that we cultivate in the region. We use papa Sabanera from the planes of Cundinamarca and Boyacá, two states in Colombia. Papa Paramuna from the high plateau, papa Pastusa from Pasto, and papa Criolla a small and yellow potato that disolves in the soup giving it its consistency.

The main ingredient of this soup besides the potatoes, is an herb that grows in the Andes region called guasca. Today many Latin grocery stores carry this herb.

latin-christmas-foods-sa-ajiaco

Ajiaco Bogotano
by Reindertot

The name ajiaco comes from the indigenous names of the chief indian Aco had his beautiful
wife Aj, and the union of both names Aj y Aco.It is also said that this dish was a Muisca soup prepared with potatoes, corn and guascas with some kind of white meat similar to chichen, according to Jose Joaquin Casas.

Ajiaco Bogotano Recipe

Ingredients

South American potatoes and herbs (e.g., guascas) are available at markets such as Compare and C-Town that carry Hispanic foods.

  • 4 chicken breasts halves with the skin (about 3 pounds)
  • 5 scallions, white part only, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 pound criolla potatoes (Colombian yellow potatoes) or small white boiling potatoes, peeled, quartered
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed and trimmed
  • 2 1/2 pounds sabanera potatoes, or red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons dried guascas
  • 4 ears of corn, each cut into 3 sections
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of capers with juice
  • 3 ripe avocados

Preparation

  • Toss together chicken, half of scallions, salt and pepper; refrigerate about 2 hours. When ready to cook, put the chicken in a large dutch oven or Chambaware pot (a clay pot traditionally used for Colombian cooking) and cover with 4 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover; simmer until chicken is tender, about 35 minutes.
  • Transfer chicken to a platter and let cool. Remove skin from chicken and shred the chicken into thin strips.
  •  Add the bouillon cubes and papas criollas to the water and cook until they start to disintegrate, giving the soup a thick but fairly smooth consistency, about 30 minutes.
  • Add the remaining scallions, the garlic, chopped onions, cilantro, sabanera and russet potatoes, guascas and corn. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove cilantro and scallions, add shredded chicken and heat through. Ladle into bowls and top with a spoonful of cream, a few capers and a few thin slices of avocado. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

How to Make the Best Colombian Chicharrón

Chicharon, chicharrón, or chicharrones are some of the names I have seen and heard for these delicious pork fritters that are originally from Andalusia, Spain.

Many Hispanic countries eat pork fritters, and they are prepared and served a bit differently from country to country. In many South American countries this delicious pork fat is used to stuff arepas or pupusas, as a side dish like in bandeja paisa, a typical regional dish in Colombia or as a meat portion in soups.

Mexicans eat pork fritters in gorditas and tacos with salsa verde, in soups, or as side dishes. In Colombia, pork fritters are made of the pig skin and meat. They are one of the several fried meats we use in a picada, a big dish that also includes chorizo (sausage), beef pieces, morcilla (pig stuffed intestine), and chicken chunks.

Peruvians boil the pork skin and meat in water with salt and let it fry in its own fat to serve it with bread, salsa criolla or camotes (small batata). Bolivians mix the pork skin and meat with Chicha, an alcoholic beverage made from corn.

In chile pork fritters are a side dish, and they are fried at high temperatures. Chileans serve pork fritters inside a piece of bread to create the famous tortillas con chicharrones or use it as flavoring for some meals.

Guatemalans serve pork fritters freshly fried inside corn tortillas with drops of lemon. In the Philippines, Hispanics eat chicharon by dipping it in vinegar with a little salt, garlic, onions, and crushed chili pepper. Also many Caribbean countries love pork fritters, and eat them with tostones, which are fried green plantains.

Best Recipe for Chicharon, Chicharrón or Chicharrones

Here is a simple recipe for pork fritters that our Colombian food expert Patricia McCausland recommends.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds of pork ribs with 11/2 inch of meat and fat on it (6 to 8 ribs)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Preparing Chicharrones Picture by Patricia McCausland

Preparing Chicharrones
Picture by Patricia McCausland

 

How to Prepare:
1. Lay the ribs flat, and cut the meat horizontally from the bones. (Save the ribs to prepare beans.)
2. Cut the meat and fat lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
3. Next take each strip and cut it crosswise without cutting completely through, or you will end up with squares. You want to have strips with cuts that open up but are held together by the thick pork fat skin.
4. Rub the baking soda and salt over all the pork strips.
5. Place in a medium, heavy pan with just enough water to cover them. Cook over medium heat until all of the water evaporates. Watch that it doesn’t burn.
6. Remove from the pan; wash the pork well with a lot of water.
7. Put the pork back in the pot and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the fat has all rendered out and you have crispy pieces of pork.
8. Serve, or put aside to use in other recipes.

Do you have a recipe for chicharrones?  Send it to us through the contact page or simply let me know your secret to prepare them!

Easiest Buñuelos Recipe of Colombian Corn Fritters

Get ready to entertain during Christmas time or simply serve a tasty brunch Latino Style with buñuelos. These delicious savory or sweet balls of corn come from the Moors who occupied Granada in the south of Spain for many years.

Origins of Buñuelos

The typical corn fritters Arabs used to make, were a mass of dough fried in oil and submerged in boiling honey. In ancient times Moors street vendors sold buñuelos every day.

The word buñuelo may come from the French “beignet” or the roman word “puñuelo” which represented a ball the Romans made with their hands.

Bunuelos are versatile because they can be mixed with yeast, egg, milk, and water. They can be sweet or savory depending on the filling or the country they are made.

Easy Bunuelos or Buñuelos Recipe

Here is a simple recipe for buñuelos from our Colombian food expert Patricia McCausland included in her book “Secrets of Colombian Cooking” a Hippocrenne Publishing book.

christmas-in-colombia-11

Buñuelos or Corn Fritters
by Cirofono

Ingredients:
  • 2 cup (3/4 pound) very finely grated white farmer’s cheese or queso blanco
  • 1/3 cup yucca flour or starch
  • 1/4 cup precooked white corn flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups oil for frying

How to Prepare:

1.Place the cheese in the food processor and mix to a fine grind, approx 30 seconds. Add starch, corn flour, sugar and salt process 10 seconds more. Drop the egg while the processor is on and continue mixing for 1 minute or until the dough has formed and leaves the sides of the processor bowl.

2.In a deep heavy pot, heat the oil to 325F. Form 1-inch balls and drop into the oil, they should float after about 30 seconds. Decrease the heat to 300F and cook covered for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden. Drop few buñuelos at once as they will expand and turn by themselves and will need enough space in the pot for this to happen.

3.Drain over paper towels and serve.

Bolivian Food How Is it?

Although it has been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, in Bolivia, lunch is actually the main meal. Bolivian food like the food of all countries, depends on the ingredients that are abundant in the area as well as the climate.  Many Bolivian recipes include potatoes, which Bolivians love and serve several times per day. Bolivia makes use of a multitude of spices in their cooking as they abundant in the country.

Traditional Bolivian food uses meat in a lot of dishes, and this meat is either fried or boiled. Bolivians also use fish like Trout as a main protein in their dishes.

Bolivians use spices like ajíes and peppers in large amounts. They also use the same cooking tools as other people when making foods like lechon, and tools for grinding and spreading the condiments and spices.

In Bolivia foods and dishes can be served as poco picante, medio picante or just picante.. Picante, by definition literally means hot to the taste buds. When you’re talking about the levels of spiciness in Bolivian food, you can understand that it’s mainly food made with high quantities of condiments like peppers, meats, potatoes and the like.

Representative Bolivian Dishes

  • Salteñas A warm savory baked pastry made with chicken or meat, greens and sauce. Salteñas are only for breakfast or to eat in the mornings.

    Salteña - Bolivian Empanada

    Bolovian Food Salteña

  • Humitas are a similar dish to tamales. Bolivians make them with corn and cheese, and wrap them in corn leaves to steam them.
  • Empanadas are also fairly common in Bolivia like in many other Hispanic countries. In Bolivia empanadas are a savory pastry made with cheese, cheese with onions, olives and locoto. Locoto is a word that comes from the Aymara Luqutu and it is a round chili pepper of medium size.
  • Sandwich de Chola is a delicious sandwich Bolivians make with roasted pork leg, lettuce and locoto.
  • Roast suckling pig or lechon is an important meal in Bolivia like in other countries of Hispanic America, for example Cuba and Puerto Rico.
  • Chanka de pollo o de conejo is a soup with chicken or guinea pig, potato, peas and green onions. Interesting to see the similarity with a soup Colombians from the capital eat called Changua. It is also made with chicken, potatoes and green onions.
  • Chicharrones or pork fritters are pieces of fried pork. The interesting difference with most of the chicharrones throughout Latin America is that Bolivian chicharrones are cooked with chicha. Chicha is the fermented food Incas made from corn.
  • Charque de llama is simply dried llama meat. Bolivians fry it and serve it with stewed corn, hard boiled eggs and cheese. Other traditional dishes like pique a lo macho and sajta de pollo are examples of fantastic and delicious dishes from Bolivia.

Together with these foods, you might like to drink beverages like the api which is a Bolivian tea made out of lemon, corn, cloves and cinnamon or mate de coca which is a tea made out of the coca leaf.

There are many fruit shakes that Bolivia specializes in as well as wines. The best bottles of Bolivian wine can be found in the Tarjina region.

Bolivian Cooking Styles

When you’re talking about cuisines of Bolivia, there are two kinds of cooking styles and recipes that stem from the type of regions. There’s the altiplano cuisine and the lowlands cuisine. They both use ingredients that are native to the region.

There might be times when you’re in Bolivia where a certain kind of dish or meal is only eaten during a festival. While it’s tradition to cook and eat certain foods on a holiday, they can be prepared and cooked on regular days. An example of a traditional dish that’s consumed in festivals is the puchero and that’s served for carnival days.

Weather you decide to eat a typical Bolivian food or a dish Bolivians eat on a special holiday be sure to be ready to enjoy a dish filled with taste and some spice.

Bizcocho Recipe or Colombian Black Cake

The Easiest Way to Make the Best Bizcocho Negro

This bizcocho recipe is a must for weddings, quinceañeras, Catholic First Communions, and very special occasions amongst Colombians and Hispanics.

This cake takes a lot of work to do but don’t be discouraged because it is not complicated, instead it is labor intensive.

A very important ingredient is dulce quemado which is a bitter sauce we make with a sugar cane loaf or panela, that we completely cook with water until it burns and then we dilute it with a mix of warm wine.

bizcocho-negro

If you are in Miami or New York you are able to get panela easily. I am not sure if it is easy to get it in California overall. I know in Brentwood and Hempstead in Long Island, NYC, and many towns in New Jersey you can buy panela in bodegas and in some specialty sections of supermarkets like C-Town.

To make your perfect black cake or bizcocho recipe make sure to start at least 2 weeks in advance because it requires you to moisten it with wine on a daily basis to get the perfect flavor. You can also use cognac or brandy in very small quantities with a brush or a spray bottle.

Bizcocho Recipe

Ingredients for 45 to 50 People

  1. 500 grams. or 1 lb. of butter
  2. 500 grams. or 1 lb. of sugar
  3. 650 grams. or 1.4 lb. of flour
  4. 100 grams. or 3.5 oz. of flour for the molds
  5. 12 eggs
  6. 1 Tb of baking powder
  7. 250 grams or 9 oz. of raisins
  8. 350 grams or 12 oz. of prunes
  9. 500 grams or 1 lb. figs in juice
  10. 500 grams or 1 lb. of crystallized fruit, what we call “desamargada.” Basic fruit in package comes with orange and lemon peels, and papaya.
  11. 250 grams or 9 oz. of Brazilian nuts
  12. The shredded peel of 2 green lemons
  13. 1 Tb of powdered cinnamon
  14. 1 Tsp powdered cloves
  15. 1 Tsp powdered nutmeg
  16. 1/2 Tsp of salt
  17. 1 bottle of red wine
  18. 1 cup of dulce quemado depending on how bitter it is. Start with 1/2 cup until desired color and taste.
  • Preparation

  1.  Soak the raisins in 1/2 cup of wine starting the night before. Remove the excess wine by gently pressing them. Use the leftover wine to smooth the mix later on. Place the drained raisins aside with the other chopped fruits.
  2. Chop the nuts in small pieces, being careful not to pulverize them. Mix them with the chopped fruits.
  3. Take the 650 grams of flour and pass them through the colander twice.
  4. In the mixer mix 1 Lb of butter and sugar until you make a smooth creamy mix.
  5. Start adding the eggs with small quantities of flour to the mix until you mix them all. Add small quantities of the left over vine from pressing the raisins.
  6. Add the dulce quemado starting with 1/2 cup, and adding more depending on how dark and bitter you want the cake to taste.
  7. Cover the fruits with 100 grams of flour to make sure the fruits don’t stick to each other or go to the bottom of the mold when you add them to the mix. Add the shredded lemon peel.
  8. Grease first and sprinkle flour well on 2 aluminum molds to avoid the cake being stuck to the molds. You can also use wax paper for baking. Cut it the size of the base.
  9. Spread the mix on the molds leaving about 1 inch from the top without any mix. In the cooking process the mix grows covering the empty space. Some mix may be left over, use a small mold. A 1/2 Lb cake ends up measuring about 11 inches in diameter by 3 inches in height.
  10. Preheat the oven at 350 Farenheit and bake the cakes for 1 and 1/2 hours. Make sure they are ready by sticking a tooth pick and seeing if it comes out clean.
  11. Take them out of the oven and pour on top of each 1 cup of wine. You can keep them in the molds until you are ready to consume them but make sure you spray wine every day on each to keep them moist. You can also spray them with cognac or brandy.

Tips About Making Your Bizcocho Recipe Perfect

  • The mix is thicker than a normal cake mix and less than a bread mix.
  • If the mix is too thick add more wine or orange juice.
  • Don’t use glass molds because the bizcocho negro tends to burn in these glass molds.
  • Make it in advance and simply keep spraying it or brushing it with wine, brandy or cognac every day.

How to Keep Your Bizcocho Negro Intact for a Year in the Freezer

  • This article was totally inspired by one of our readers, Thais Fernandez who wrote asking: “estoy interesada en saber como se hace el pudin negro Colombiano y como se hace para conservarlo despues de la boda y guardarlo en la nevera para el primer aniversario, que se le agrega, vino o ron y que cantidad. Te agradezco cualquier guia que me puedas dar al respecto.”

The question was how to make the black cake or bizcocho recipe from Colombia, and how to preserve it until the couple can enjoy it a year later for the first anniversary.We already have the recipe, now to the preservation of the cake. Simply follow these 3 steps:

  • Tell the staff that right after cutting the cake you need a piece placed in a plastic container that sucks the air out. Bringing your own is the best.
  • Once at home take it out of the plastic container and wrap the cake in plastic wrapping paper.
  • Wrap the cake in tin foil tightly.
  • Place the cake in a plastic container for the freezer.
  • If you can, use a vacuum seal food storage bag that takes all the air out avoiding freezer burn to the max! Forget wrapping the cake in the first plastic sheet above, just use the tin foil.
  • When ready to eat it in your first anniversary, take it 2 days in advance in the refrigerator.This worked for me and for many others who want to enjoy their wedding bizcocho recipe in their first anniversary. If you baked this black cake let me know how it comes out!

Send Your Bizcocho Negro Pictures

Send me your pictures through the contact me link to show your bizcocho, and tell us for what occasion did you have it. We will publish it here.