The Ultimate Guide to Street Food in Colombia: What to Try and Where

The Ultimate Guide to Street Food in Colombia: What to Try and Where

Colombia, a country nestled in the northwestern corner of South America, is increasingly becoming a must-visit destination for food lovers around the world. Known for its lush landscapes, vibrant culture, and warm people, Colombia also boasts a street food scene that is both diverse and delicious. From the bustling streets of Bogotá to the coastal lanes of Cartagena, Colombian street food offers a culinary experience that’s as diverse as its geography. This ultimate guide will take you through the must-try street foods and the best places to find them.

What to Try


Description: Arepas are perhaps the most iconic Colombian street food. Made from ground maize dough, these delicious corn cakes are grilled, baked, or fried and can be stuffed or topped with a variety of ingredients. The most common arepas come with cheese (arepa de queso), but you can also find versions filled with eggs (arepa de huevo) or meat (arepa rellena).

Where to Try: Bogotá’s Paloquemao Market and Medellín’s street vendors offer some of the best arepas you’ll find.


Description: These deep-fried or baked pastries are filled with savory ingredients such as beef, chicken, potatoes, and cheese. Empanadas are a popular snack across Latin America, but Colombian empanadas have their unique twist, often incorporating regional spices and ingredients.

Where to Try: You can find excellent empanadas in Cali, particularly at the Parque del Perro, where various stalls offer different versions of this beloved snack.


Description: Pandebono is a traditional Colombian cheese bread made from yuca flour, cheese, and eggs. These bite-sized treats are perfect for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. They are often slightly sweet and have a chewy, satisfying texture.

Where to Try: The best place to sample pandebono is in the Valle del Cauca region, especially in the cities of Cali and Palmira.


Description: While churros are traditionally associated with Spain, Colombian churros have their unique flair. These fried dough pastries are typically sprinkled with sugar and occasionally filled with caramel (arequipe) or chocolate.

Where to Try: Bogotá’s Usaquén Market and the streets of Medellín are great places to indulge in churros.


Description: Buñuelos are deep-fried cheese balls that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They are often enjoyed during the Christmas season but can be found year-round at street stalls.

Where to Try: Bogotá and Medellín are well-known for their buñuelos, and you can find them at most bakeries and street vendors.


Description: Also known as tostones, patacones are twice-fried plantain slices that are crispy and savory. They are often served with hogao (a tomato and onion sauce) or topped with cheese, meat, or guacamole.

Where to Try: The Caribbean coast, especially Cartagena and Santa Marta, is famous for its patacones.


Description: Obleas are thin wafers that are usually spread with arequipe (a type of caramel), cheese, jam, and various other sweet toppings. They are folded over like a sandwich and make for a delightful dessert.

Where to Try: Bogotá’s Usaquén and La Candelaria neighborhoods have numerous vendors offering obleas.


Description: Cholados are a refreshing treat, particularly popular in the warmer regions of Colombia. This shaved ice dessert is topped with fruit syrups, fresh fruits, condensed milk, and sometimes cheese.

Where to Try: Cali is the best place to experience cholados, especially in the parks and public squares.


Description: A popular street food across Colombia, salchipapas consists of sliced sausages (salchichas) and fries (papas), often garnished with various sauces, including ketchup, mayo, and aji (spicy sauce).

Where to Try: You can find salchipapas throughout Colombia, but they are particularly popular in Bogotá and Medellín.

Where to Find Street Food


The capital city is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. Head to the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria or the bustling Paloquemao Market for a diverse array of street food options. The Usaquén Market, held on Sundays, is another excellent spot to sample various street eats.


Known as the “City of Eternal Spring,” Medellín offers a delightful street food scene. Visit the Laureles neighborhood or the Minorista Market to taste some of the best local dishes. The city’s numerous street vendors also provide ample opportunities to sample traditional snacks.


This coastal city is famous for its Caribbean-influenced street food. Wander through the Old Town or visit the Bazurto Market to find a plethora of seafood dishes, tropical fruits, and traditional snacks.


Cali, the salsa capital of Colombia, is also a street food haven. The Parque del Perro is a popular spot for food trucks and vendors, offering everything from empanadas to cholados. The Alameda Market is another must-visit for food enthusiasts.

Santa Marta

Santa Marta’s street food scene is heavily influenced by its coastal location. Head to the beach areas or the main market to find delicious seafood dishes, patacones, and refreshing tropical drinks.


Known for its unique regional dishes, Bucaramanga offers a different take on Colombian street food. Visit the Mercado Central or the Parque de los Niños to sample local specialties like hormigas culonas (big-bottomed ants) and other traditional snacks.

Recreating the Experience at Home

While nothing beats the experience of enjoying street food in Colombia, you can bring a taste of Colombian street food culture to your home with a few simple recipes. Here are some popular dishes you can try making:



– 2 cups pre-cooked cornmeal (masarepa)

– 2 ½ cups warm water

– 1 tsp salt

– 1 cup grated cheese (optional)

– Butter or oil for cooking


1. Mix the cornmeal, salt, and warm water in a bowl until a dough forms.

2. Let the dough rest for about five minutes.

3. Divide the dough into equal-sized balls, then flatten them into thick discs.

4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add butter or oil.

5. Cook the arepas for about 5-7 minutes on each side until golden brown.

6. If desired, slice open and fill with cheese, meat, or other fillings.



– 2 cups yellow cornmeal

– 2 ½ cups water

– 1 tsp salt

– 1 lb ground beef or chicken

– 1 onion, chopped

– 1 bell pepper, chopped

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 tsp cumin

– 1 tsp paprika

– Oil for frying


1. Mix the cornmeal, water, and salt to form a dough. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

2. In a skillet, cook the meat with onions, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, and paprika until fully cooked.

3. Divide the dough into smaller balls and flatten them into circles.

4. Place a spoonful of the meat mixture in the center of each circle and fold over to form a half-moon shape. Seal the edges.

5. Heat oil in a pan and fry the empanadas until golden brown.

6. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.


Q: What is the best time to visit Colombia for street food?

A: Colombia’s street food scene is vibrant year-round, but visiting during local festivals or holidays can offer an even richer experience. The Christmas season, for instance, sees an abundance of buñuelos and other festive treats.

Q: Is street food safe to eat in Colombia?

A: Generally, street food in Colombia is safe to eat, especially in well-trafficked areas. However, it’s always a good idea to choose vendors with a high turnover of customers, as this usually means the food is fresh. Also, pay attention to hygiene practices.

Q: Are there vegetarian options available in Colombian street food?

A: While many Colombian street foods are meat-based, you can find vegetarian options like arepas with cheese, patacones, and some versions of empanadas. Bogotá and Medellín, in particular, offer more vegetarian-friendly options.

Q: Can I find these ingredients outside of Colombia?

A: Yes, many ingredients used in Colombian street food can be found in Latin American grocery stores or online. Pre-cooked cornmeal (masarepa), for instance, is commonly available in international food aisles.

Q: What beverages pair well with Colombian street food?

A: Colombian street food pairs well with traditional beverages like freshly squeezed fruit juices, aguapanela (a drink made from panela and water), or beer. In coastal regions, coconut water is also a popular choice.

Exploring Colombian street food is akin to taking a culinary journey through the country’s diverse landscapes and cultures. Whether you’re tasting arepas in Bogotá or enjoying patacones in Cartagena, each bite offers a unique flavor of Colombia’s rich culinary heritage. And with a little effort, you can recreate these delicious treats at home, bringing a piece of Colombia to your kitchen.

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