Street Food in Colombia Uncover Colombia
Colombian Food


June 18, 2024, 1:24 pm

Before I lived in Colombia, I didn't even know what real street food was. In my hometown of Hueytown, Alabama there was not a street food culture, and even in Birmingham, Alabama—the biggest city in Alabama- there wasn't a well-developed or diverse street food culture until the last 10 years. That being said, I feel a little spoiled by all the delicious and cheap foods you can find on street corners all over Colombia. Today, I want to tell you about some of the most popular street foods in Colombia, how much they cost, and where you will likely find them.

One of the most popular street foods in Colombia is an empanada. Empanadas are little pockets of either white or yellow corn flour mixtures filled with any number of things from shredded beef or chicken to potatoes to cheese or even rice and ground beef. You will find empanadas in almost all major cities and towns in Colombia. Word of advice—try to buy freshly fried empanadas and avoid those that look like they've been sitting out for a while.

Another popular and common street food is what is called salpicón in Bogotá and tutti-frutti on the Caribbean Coast. It is a type of fruit salad that includes fine chopped pieces of watermelon, papaya, banana, pineapple, and possibly pieces of apple and mango. All of these little pieces are arranged in a cup with the fruits' juices. You can buy various sized portions of salpicón and, depending on the size, a portion of salpicón will range from 500 pesos to 1.000 pesos. You will especially find salpicón being sold around parks and along the ciclovía route on Sundays in Bogotá.

Perhaps the most traditional Colombia street food is an arepa. There are at least 10 different types of arepas in Colombia, if not many more! It is impossible for you to come to Colombia and not see arepas being sold in the street. And, while there are many different varieties of arepas, they are all made from some type of cornmeal—white or yellow. Some are fatter than others, some are flatter, some are sweeter, some are saltier, some are made with cheese, others without, and some are even made with small pieces of pork cooked into them. On the Caribbean Coast, the most common arepas you will find being sold in the street, though, are a fatter version of arepas made with white corn meal. They will most often have cheese melted inside them or on top of them and will be smeared with a good portion of butter and a dash of salt. They will also most likely be cooked in plantain leaves to keep them from burning and to conserve moisture. These tasty, savory delicacies will cost you around 1.000 pesos and must be purchased fresh off the grill. In Bogotá, you will most likely come across arepas made with yellow cornmeal more often than those made with white cornmeal. Again, though, these are served with melted cheese, butter, and salt.

Another salty street food item, found only on the Caribbean coast, is the carimañola. A carimañola could be described as a yucca fritter or as an empanada made with yucca flour instead of corn flour. It has the same half-moon shape as an empanada and is fried, not baked. You will find carimañola's that are stuffed with everything from cheese to shredded and ground beef or chicken. And, while empanadas are normally served with ají (a spicy pepper-based Colombian sauce), carimañolas are generally eaten with suero—an artisanal sour cream found along and originating from the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

Obleas are also a very traditional, sweet street food that you will find in most major cities in Colombia, including Bogotá, Medellín and Barranquilla. An oblea is basically a giant thin wafer that is either topped with something yummy or combined with another wafer with the toppings in the middle of the two. For toppings, you will choose from a variety of options that include: arequipe (caramel), mora (blackberry sauce), pineapple sauce, crema de leche (table cream), cheese, and shredded coconut. 

Another "sweet" street food item you will find in Colombia is coco frito (fried coconut). I have only seen this in Bogotá, but you may very well be able to find it in other cities, too. As its name suggests, coco frito consists of sticks of coconut that have been fried and nicely wrapped in a paper cone. While you may think this street food doesn't sound all that appetizing.

Now that your mouth is probably watering, I'll leave you to plan your next adventure to try out Colombian street food!

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Paige Poole

Paige Poole

Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. 

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