Colombian Recipes

Traditional and Modern Recipes, From Appetizers to Desserts

Ladle the soup

​The Spruce Eats / Ulyana Verbytska

A beautifully varied geography, tropical climate, and the influence of many immigrant populations lend Colombian cuisine a rich diversity that ranges from intricately exciting fare to more homey dishes. You may discover adventurous dishes such as roasted ants (homiga culona), cuy, and fried intestines (chunchillos), as well as comfort foods like arepas (corn cakes) and the universal crowd pleaser, chicken soup (sancocho de gallina).

Traditional dishes like bandeja paisa (an assorted meat plate with fried egg and fried plantain), fritanga (heaping plate of fried meats and sausages) and lechona (whole roasted suckling pig) may not work as well for vegetarians, but you can't beat sharing them with friends. Common techniques include stovetop frying, roasting, grilling, with meats often paired with a variety of fragrant sauces you can easily blend up at home yourself.

Stock up on your essential Colombian pantry items and use this list to create a Colombian feast.

  • 01 of 18

    Ajiaco (Chicken and Potato Stew)

    Ajiaco (Colombian chicken and potato stew) in a white crock

    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

    A hearty chicken stew especially beloved in the city of Bogota, ajiaco contains chicken pieces, potatoes, and corn on the cob and traditionally appears on the table garnished with avocado, sour cream, and capers. If you can find them, use the small yellow Andean potatoes called papas criollas to give the soup the right texture.

  • 02 of 18

    Sofrito (Tomato Sauce)

    Sofrito (Spanish tomato sauce) in a jar

    The Spruce

    Frequently appearing in Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Hispanic cuisines, sofrito is a thick, savory paste typically made from a blend of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and fresh herbs. You'll often find it in Colombian paella, stews and soups, and empanadas. Many households always have a jar on hand to mix into all sorts of dishes. And now you can, too.

  • 03 of 18

    Pandebono (Cheese Bread)

    Pandebono (Colombian Cheese Bread recipe )

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    This simple, cheesy pandebono uses two kinds of starch: tapioca and cornmeal. You can use precooked cornmeal called masarepa that's often used to make arepas, regular cornmeal, or even a special mix for making these rolls called harina de pandebono. They taste best fresh from the oven for breakfast with a cup of coffee or as a satisfying snack, but also reheat well.

  • 04 of 18

    Arepas (Corn Cakes)

    Homemade South American arepas (corn cakes) on a wood board

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, mild corn arepas use a special cornmeal labeled masarepa, or masa al instante. Try them warm, smeared with butter and honey or jam, or as a side for soaking up the juices from just about any meat or bean dish.

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  • 05 of 18

    Queso Fresco (Fresh Cow's Milk Cheese)

    Easy homemade queso fresco on a plate

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

    With a dry, crumbly texture and a tangy flavor, queso fresco appears in all sorts of Hispanic cuisines. Much like feta, it crumbled rather than melting into goo, so cooks often add it right before serving it with dishes like arepas, empanadas, or over the top of casseroles, egg dishes, or really anywhere you'd use a mild cheese. To make it at home, use organic pasteurized whole milk for the best results.

  • 06 of 18

    Hogao (Tomato and Onion Salsa)

    Hogao (Colombian tomato and onion salsa)

    The Spruce

    A savory mix of tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, and other ingredients that ​get sautéed until the vegetables go soft and fragrant, hogao makes a versatile condiment for lots of dishes. It often appears alongside arepas or empanadas or as a base seasoning for sofrito or rice and beans.

  • 07 of 18

    Carne Asada (Citrus-Marinaded Steak)

    Citrus-marinated carne asada on a black plate

    The Spruce

    Literally "grilled steak," carne asada turns flank or skirt steak into a tender, succulent dish with a simple citrus marinade. Marinade it overnight and sauté it in a high-heat skillet for a quick, easy dinner that tastes great with tortillas or arepas.

  • 08 of 18

    Empanadas with Black Beans and Corn

    Vegetarian empanadas with black beans and corn

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

    With a mixture of black beans and corn folded into tender pastry, empanadas make a delicious handheld meal or hearty snack. Adding golden raisins gives this recipe the slight sweetness you'll find in Latin American cuisine, including Colombian.

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  • 09 of 18

    Empanadas with Beef and Potato Filling

    Fried empanadas with beef and potato filling on a plate of shredded lettuce

    Juanmonino / Getty Images

    The outer crust of these empanadas is made with cornmeal (the same one you'd use for arepas) has a uniquely Colombian flair, as does the stewed beef (or pork) and potatoes filling seasoned with hogao, a cooked tomato salsa. Traditionally, they get served with aji sauce, but they also taste great with chile ranch or your favorite salsa.

  • 10 of 18

    Spinach and Ricotta Empanadas

    Spinach and ricotta empanadas

    EmmaKStudio / Getty Images

    Garlicky spinach and ricotta cheese create a savory filling for these simple vegetarian empanadas. They also freeze and reheat well, so make a big batch while you have all of the ingredients ready.

  • 11 of 18

    Arroz con Coco (Coconut Rice)

    Arroz con coco (coconut rice) on a white plate
    Coconut Rice - Arroz con Coco.

    The Spruce / Marian Blazes

    A fragrant rice that pairs well with seafood, arroz con coco involves caramelizing coconut milk and then cooking the rice into it. Raisins add a touch of sweetness, but the rest skews more savory.

  • 12 of 18

    Arepas de Choclo

    Arepas de Choclo

    Nehopelon / Getty Images

    Arepas typically use a special precooked corn flour called masarepa, but arepas de choclo also add fresh corn in addition to the masarepa, to give them a sweeter flavor. Queso fresco cheese (which has a similar texture to farmer's cheese) adds a salty contrast. Serve them for breakfast with butter or some cheese, or add a fried egg and chorizo for a heartier meal.

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  • 13 of 18

    Buñuelos (Fried Cheese Fritters)

    Bunuelos (Colombian cheese fritters)

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    These sweet, savory fried cheese fritters use cottage or farmer's cheese for their signature texture, in case you can't find the traditional queso costena. While buñuelos appear all over Latin America, Colombians often serve them for Christmas alongside a sweet pudding called natilla.

  • 14 of 18

    Natilla Colombiana (Christmas Custard)

    Squares of Natilla Colombian (Christmas custard) sprinkled with confectioners' sugar

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    A rich, sweet custard often served alongside bunelos at Christmas, natilla tastes similar to dulce de leche, but thickened with cornstarch and flavored with panela, a dark molasses-like sugar. It usually comes out thick and sliceable, but can also come in a softer, creamier form.

  • 15 of 18

    Empanadas de Pollo (Chicken Empanadas)

    Empanadas de Pollo (Chicken Empanadas) on a green plate

    The Spruce

    With  juicy chicken, caramelized onions, olives, and pieces of hard-boiled egg, these savory empanadas de pollo make an excellent appetizer, snack, or meal. Once you master the basic technique, try mixing it up by adding your own favorite meats and fillings to customize the flavor.

  • 16 of 18

    Solteritas (Rosette Cookies)

    Solteritas (rosette) cookies

    The Spruce

    With a shatteringly crisp texture, sweet flavor, and gorgeous presentation, these rosette cookies, or solteritas, require a special iron to create that pretty shape. Store them at room temperature in an airtight box so they don't get soggy and they'll keep for about four days.

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  • 17 of 18

    Canelazo (Spiced Cinnamon Rum Drink)

    Canelazo (spiced cinnamon rum drink) in two glass mugs

    The Spruce / Zorica Lakonic

    Popular in the highlands of Colombia, Peru, and northern Argentina, canelazo features brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves, orange and lime juice, and the Colombian spirit known as aguardiente, or firewater. Call it the South American answer to a hot toddy, which will warm you right up from the inside out.

  • 18 of 18

    Aborrajados (Fried Sweet Plantains with Cheese)

    Aborrajados (fried sweet Plantains With Cheese

    Anamejia18 / Getty Images Plus

    A sweet and savory treat Colombians often enjoy for dessert or as a snack, aborrajados combine sweet plantain slices with a slice of cheese; some add a little guava paste. They're then deep-fried, which makes them more decadent.