Traditional Colombian Dishes





Asaderos – not a plate but a place for the famous rotisserie chicken, and other typical dishes.  Keep the following in mind when ordering:


Alitas = Wings; Pernil = Leg; Pechuga = Breast; Musclo = Drumstick


Ajiaco Santafereño – Considered by some the national dish of Colombia, once you taste this delightful soup, you might forget all of the chicken soups you had before.  This soup is thickened with three distinct varieties of potato: pastuso, sabanero and criollo – each one offering a unique flavor and texture that create depth and complexity.  Herbs such as guascas, bay leaf and coriander help to add flavor.  Mazorca, a sweet corn on the cob, is also cooked in the broth.  Typically, Ajiaco is made with chicken breast that has been cooked in the pot, removed for shredding and added back to the soup before serving.  Ajiaco is accompanied by avocado, white rice, capers and cream to be added as you like.  And you will like…to the last spoonful.      


Albondigas – Meatballs.  Plain and simple meatballs.


Arroz con Coco – Originally from the Colombian Pacific, rice is mixed with coconut paste and shredded coconut creating a dark and delicious accompaniment to meat or seafood. 


Arroz con Pollo – The popular chicken and rice mixed with carrots and peas that is usually served with French fries. 


Bandeja Paisa – Savory.  Hearty.  Filling.  Breakfast?  It is true, this tray (bandeja) traditionally consisting of frijoles, carne molida (finely ground beef), white rice, sweet plantain, morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo, chicharron (pork cracklins), a fried egg, avocado and an arepa antioqueña is traditionally the breakfast dish of Paisa ranchers.  This marvelous meal is nothing short of fortifying, or sleep-inducing, depending on who you are and when you eat it.  But, if you are a lover of pork, by whatever name, the Bandeja will have you in hog heaven.  Some people reject Ajiaco in favor of the Bandeja Paisa as Colombia’s national dish - under the psuedonym Bandeja Montanera served with lentils instead of frijoles.  You might cast your vote in favor when enjoying this dish.


Bagre – These catfish are larger and plumper than what is available in the U.S.  The most common preparation is stewed with a salsa criolla, although fried bagre is also enjoyed.  


Cazuela de Mariscos – A rich, flavorful mixed seafood casserole, most commonly from the Pacific region of Colombia.


Chicharrón – Fried pork rinds that are sometimes small and hard, sometimes large and meaty; always savory and flavorful.


Churrasco – Although usually associated with Argentine menus, this cut of beef is very popular in Bogota. 


Costillas de Cerdo – Plump and delicious pork ribs served with a tangy sweet barbeque sauce.


Envuelto or Bollo – Young, sweet corn meal is formed into a paste like consistency and steamed inside plantain leaves.  Sometimes raisins are mixed in for extra flavor and texture.    


Frijolada – A platter of red beans, sometimes served as a soup, and it is usually accompanied by at least one type of meat, if not more. 


Fritanga – A variety of grilled meats, similar to a barbecue platter, that usually serves up beef, chicken, ribs, sausages such as morcilla (blood sausage), longaniza, chorizo, chunchillo (fried cow intestines), papas criollas, mazorca (sweet corn), arepas and lime. 


Guiso de Cola – A rich stew of oxtails and vegetables.


Higado Encoballado – Liver with grilled onions is a very popular mainstay and can be found on most any menu. 


Lechona – A whole pig is stuffed with its meat that has been mixed with rice and vegetables, and then roasted until the skin crackles.  This is a typical dish from Tolima.


Mojarra – A sweet water river fish that is usually fried and served whole; beware the bones and enjoy the wonderful flavor. 


Sancocho – Contender number three for the most typical and representative dish in the nation.  Each region of the country has their own version of this soul satisfying soup, and fortunately in Bogota, you are able to sample just about all of them.  Even though any meat can be used, perhaps the most common is the Sancocha de Pollo, followed by the Sancocho de Gallina.  Being a hen, the gallina is larger, meatier and bit gamier than its cousin.  A broth is created with stewing the meat, herbs and spices in water, and fortified with green plantains, cassava or yucca and potatoes.  The flavors meld together over a period of time to create a magical stew.  The meat is removed from the broth and served on a plate with avocado, white rice and an arepa.  Sancocho is the perfect remedy for a chilly Bogota day or night.         


Sobrebarriga – The Flank Steak cut.  Be aware that this cut can be a little fatty, but it has a wonderful texture and flavor.


Tamal Tolimense – Considered by many to be the best tasting tamal, the mixture of yellow corn meal, peas, carrots, potatoes, rice, chicken, pork and various spices meld together inside plantain leaves as they boil for three to four hours.  Typically, the tamal is eaten with hot chocolate and an arepa for breakfast.


Ternera llanera – The Llanos are the eastern plains, and are known as cowboy country in Colombia.  The food from this region is very unique, with meat commonly cooked on a vertical spit leaning over an open fire.  Ternera, or veal, is a mainstay and the simultaneous smoking and grilling of the tender meat creates a very special taste.  


Trucha al Ajillo – Fresh trout from the lake or river, butter-flied, grilled and smothered in a savory garlic sauce. 




Aji – The most common table condiment to be found in Colombia, made with the aji pepper, onions, vinegar and herbs.  The degree of spiciness depends on the recipe, but generally the sauce is mild. 


Crema de leche – Heavy cream, most typically served with fruit salads and Ajiaco.


Suero – A tangy sour cream from Colombia’s Pacific coast.





Costeño Picado – A hard, salty cheese.


Cuajada – a soft white cheese similar to ricotta that is usually served with a fruit syrup called meloa, or stuffed into pan de bonos. 


Campesino – a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese


Doble Crema – Sour and fresh milks are blended, and spun into a yellow cheese that has great melting properties.   


Paipano – Originally from Paipa, this is a semi-hard cheese which has different tastes depending on the region where it was developed.


Pera – a spun cheese that forms different layers, and is shaped like into a pear package.  



Desayuno (Breakfast):


Caldo de Costilla – a broth flavored with pork ribs, boiled potatoes and herbs.


Changua – a broth made of water, eggs, a bit of milk and scallions. 


Huevos al Gusto – Eggs your way


Huevos Fritos – Fried


Huevos Pericos – Scrambled or cooked in a casserole with sautéed onions and tomatoes


Huevos Rancheros – Scrambled or cooked in a casserole with sausage (salcicha) and/or ham (jamon)


Huevos Revueltos – Scrambled


Omelettes or Spanish Frittatas can also be found on some menus. 


NOTE: Don’t expect toast with jam, as most restaurants will serve “pan blandito” (a white bread roll), pan de mantequilla (similar to a mini-croissant) or an arepa without butter or jam.  If you must have them, ask “Mantequilla y mermelada, por favor.”  Just don’t be surprised if the response is a polite smile and “No.”  That said, most of the breads hardly need anything else since they are tasty unadorned. 



Sopas and Cremas


NOTE: “Crema” usually signifies a puree rather than the use of cream, but always ask if in doubt (and if it matters to you).


Ajiaquito –  Ajiaco broth, served without chicken and the accompaniments


Arroz – A chicken, veggie, rice soup


Esparragas – Asparagus cream.


Avena – Veggie broth is fortified with oatmeal and potatoes.


Ahuyama – You will discover that pumpkin is served often either as a cream soup or side dish. 


Carne Asada – Thinly sliced flank or skirt steak marinated and grilled.


Cuchuco –A broth of carrots, peas, potatoes, pork bones and a cereal such as wheat or corn


Espinaca – Cream of spinach.


Menudencias – A soup made from chicken offal, vegetables and broth.


Mondongo – A thick soup/stew of beef intestines (tripe), pork, chorizo potatoes and herbs


Platano – Green plantains are boiled in a light broth with potatoes, carrots and aracacha.  


Puchero – Pork ribs, carrots, yucca, green plantains, potatoes, mazorca, pumpkin and herbs are blended for this very flavorful and filling soup.


Tomate – Cream of tomato.