The diversity of Colombian geography gives rise to a wide variety of ingredients, the rich indigenous heritage has produced a range of traditional dishes and the long history of immigration has resulted in fusion dishes. Varied ingredients and preparation methods are used from region to region, depending on the preferences of the local people.
A typical Colombian dish is Bandeja Paisa which is popular all over the country. This dish originated in the Paisa Region in the Andes and comes served on a tray or oversized plate. Ingredients include red beans, white rice, ground meat, pork rind, fried eggs, plantain (patacones), sausage, hogao sauce, black pudding and avocado.
Staple ingredients found with most meals include, (you are more likely to find coconut rice if your Colombia vacation takes you to the coastal regions), beans, hogao or criollo sauce (round onions, long, green onions, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper). Achiote oil is often used as a colorant. Fresh tropical fruits such as avocados, mangos and guavas abound. Other available fruits which are rare outside of Colombia include zapote, curuba, granadilla and mamoncillo. Fresh juice stands are ubiquitous in cities and on beaches.
Empananditas, arepas and tamales are extremely common. An arepa is a patty made of corn dough or sometimes flour. Arepas can be boiled, baked, grilled or fried. The styles of making arepas and the typical fillings vary from region to region. In Medellin arepas are drizzled with condensed milk to add sweetness.
Tamales are also popular and usually served wrapped in the plantain leaves which they were cooked in. Tamales Tolimenses from the Tolima region are a well known variety filled with peas, carrots, potato, rice, chicken and pork.
In Bogota and towards the savannas of the eastern plains many barbequed meat dishes have risen out of the cowboy culture. Coastal areas excel at fish dishes such as Red Snapper.
The departments of Caldas, Quindio and Risaralda are often referred to as the Coffee Triangle or the Coffee-growers Axis and the majority of Colombian coffee is produced in this area. Many people believe that Colombian coffee is the best in the world.
Many Colombians enjoy hot chocolate, especially for breakfast, and this can also be consumed con queso (with cheese). A common Colombian breakfast is hot chocolate or coffee, arepas, eggs, cheese and Colombian cheese bread. A staple Colombian drink is Agua de Panela (water and boiled down sugar cane). Sugar cane is also used to make something a little stronger; aguardiente. This is an anise flavoured liqueur popular in Colombia especially in the Andean region.
An exotic ingredient you may come across is roasted ants. If you visit San Gil during the spring and summer months you will see quite a few vendors with these for sale. The consumption of ants in the Santander region is said to have begun with the Guane Indians.