Colombian desserts: A taste of heaven

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Colombian cuisine is known for its vibrant flavors and rich traditions, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the country’s wide array of desserts. Each sweet treat reflects a unique blend of indigenous and European influences that make this cuisine uniquely Colombian.

A plate with a dessert and some eggs on it.
Traditional Colombian bunuelos and natilla. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

In this article, explore the 10 best Colombian desserts that showcase the nation’s remarkable culinary heritage. From traditional cakes to fruit concoctions, these desserts showcase a world of tropical fruit, unusual sweeteners and creamy, comforting textures.

Colombia’s dessert culture

Like most Colombian cuisine, Colombia’s dessert culture embodies the country’s rich culinary heritage and diverse regions. Many Colombian desserts showcase fresh, local ingredients, including tropical exotic fruits, “panela” or sugarcane and dairy products. From traditional treats to modern variations, Colombian desserts satisfy different palates.

Besides tasting delicious, many Colombian desserts carry historical significance. For example, Cuajada con Melao, a dessert with roots in the eastern Colombian Andes, dates back to the Spanish conquest and consists of curd served with sugarcane syrup. This combines European dessert techniques with local ingredients, representing the country’s culinary evolution and diversity.

“In addition to its beautiful and diverse landscapes and incredibly warm and inviting people, Colombia is a delicious place to visit! From creamy arequipe to crispy buñuelos, I have yet to meet a Colombian dessert I don’t like.”

— Sage Scott, Everyday Wanderer

10 best Colombian desserts

A piece of cake on a plate with cinnamon sticks.
Three milk cake. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

1. Cholado

“Cholado” is a refreshing fruit cocktail made with various tropical fruits, ice and sweetened condensed milk. Topped with whipped cream and colorful sprinkles, it’s a delightful treat on a hot day.

2. Arroz con leche

“Arroz con leche,” or rice with milk, is a creamy and delicious rice pudding made with rice, milk and sugar. Spiced with cinnamon, this dessert is similar to Thai and Mexican rice pudding but is usually sweetened with Colombian sugarcane.

3. Brevas con arequipe

“Brevas con arequipe,” which translates to figs with “arequipe,” a caramel-like spread, is a classic Colombian dessert. The sweetness of the arequipe complements the natural flavors of the figs. This can be bought packaged as a souvenir, or made with fresh figs.

4. Natilla

“Natilla” is a thick, custard-like dessert made with milk, sugar and cornstarch. Traditionally served during Christmas, it’s flavored with cinnamon and cloves.

5. Obleas

“Obleas” are thin, crispy wafers filled with arequipe. These light and crispy treats are given to children for an after-school snack or dessert.

6. Buñuelos

“Buñuelos” are round, deep-fried dough balls made from cornstarch, cheese and eggs. These treats are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the perfect combination of mild sweetness and creamy cheese.

7. Flan de coco

“Flan de coco” is a coconut-flavored caramel custard that is smooth, rich and velvety. This tropical twist on the classic Argentinian flan is utterly irresistible.

8. Pandebono

“Pandebono” is a Colombian cheese bread that is served for breakfast or for a light dessert alongside hot chocolate. Made with cornmeal, cheese and cassava flour, these gluten-free rolls are soft and cheesy. They are also a common Colombian street food.

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9. Pionono

“Pionono” is a sweet roll filled with arequipe and guava paste. This unique combination results in a delicious, fruity dessert that feels truly indulgent.

10. Tres leches cake

“Tres leches” cake, called three milks cake in English, is a popular dessert throughout Colombia. This moist sponge cake is soaked in a mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream, making it tender and delectable. Version of this dessert are popular in Venezuela and Mexico as well.

“I love Colombian desserts, particularly tres leches cake. As the name indicates, it uses three types of milk: condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. This combination results in an irresistibly moist and delicious cake.”

— Gen La Rocca, Two Cloves Kitchen

Making Colombian desserts at home

A piece of guava paste is sitting on top of a fig block wrapped in banana leaf.
Colombian Bocadillo. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

The good news is that you don’t have to hop on a plane to taste Colombian desserts. With a few simple ingredients and some basic cooking techniques, you can easily recreate these authentic treats in your own kitchen.

One popular option for the home cook is tres leches cake, which can be easily made at home. Another delicious choice is the Colombian fruit salad, a fruity and creamy dish that has an unusual twist.

When making Colombian desserts, research traditional recipes but don’t be afraid to give them your own twist. With a little patience and attention to detail, you can feel like you’ve taken a trip to the Caribbean without leaving your kitchen.

Wrapping up

A basket of donuts and a cup of coffee on a wooden table.
Buñuelos with hot chocolate. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Colombian desserts stand out for their combinations of tropical flavors and European textures, marrying centuries of amalgamation and adaptation that was not always peaceful. Experiencing Colombia’s rich culinary heritage through these desserts not only provides a tasty treat but also offers a window into the country’s cultural traditions. So, next time you find yourself craving something sweet, consider trying one of these delicious Colombian desserts.

Ksenia Prints is a food writer, blogger, photographer and recipe developer from Montreal, Canada. She blogs over At the Immigrant’s Table, a food blog showcasing healthy, beautiful international recipes for adventurous home cooks. She loves to highlight ethnic cuisines and immigrant cultures by working with chefs from relevant countries and to adapt those recipes to gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, sugar free and other dietary restrictions.

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