Colombian cuisine varies according to its topography and cultural influences from the coastal regions inspired by Afro-Caribbean heritage to the colonial towns of the Andes and indigenous villages in the Amazon. On the whole, Colombian food is a hearty combination of carbohydrates - rice, potatoes and plantains, meat or fish, and usually some beans and lentils thrown in for good measure.
The variety of vegetables is rather limited with root vegetables the most widely available. Vegetarians travelling around Colombia will have no difficulty finding potato-based dishes without meat, and cheese and eggs are popular ingredients though combinations of these three things can get a little tiresome. Colombia is home to a range of tropical fruits, including banana, pawpaw, mango, watermelon, pineapple and passion fruit, so vegetarians are well-provided for as far as snacks are concerned. In the larger cities, particularly Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin, the choice is much broader with restaurants and cafes catering to international visitors and their tastes.
Breakfast in Colombia tends to consist of huevos pericos, scrambled eggs cooked with onion and tomato, with a bread roll though visitors are more likely to be eating from American-style buffet breakfasts at hotels. Another popular breakfast choice locally is tamale, a corn-based dough with various fillings, or simply bread and cheese. Lunch tends to be the biggest meal of the day with a soup, main course and dessert while dinner is a smaller affair.
Colombia's bounty of tropical fruits lend themselves perfectly to fresh juices and milkshakes, which you'll find served across the country though perhaps the most famous of Colombia's beverages is that made with the black bean. Colombian coffee is known the world over for its rich and mild flavour, particularly the Arabica variety which you'll find throughout the Zona Cafetera, the country's prime coffee-growing region. Hot chocolate is another delight and usually spiced with cinnamon and vanilla. When it comes to alcoholic beverages, there's a number of locally-produced beers available while for something stronger, most locals opt for aguardiente, a firewater flavoured with aniseed. Along the Caribbean coast you'll also find a decent choice of local rums.
Safe eating while travelling in Colombia
Street food is a common part of the dining experience in Colombia with food stalls on street corners in the cities and smaller towns. From tamales
and the pattie-like arepas
, street food makes a quick, easy, and sometimes, highly delicious snack though to avoid the risk of an upset tummy, make sure any food is well-cooked before consumption. If it looks like it's been sitting outside all day with the flies, don't eat it. Stick to stalls and restaurants that look popular - a queue is usually a dead giveaway.