Colombian street food: The real MVP of South American cuisine

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From crispy arepa de huevo to savory fried empanadas, explore the diverse and delicious world of Colombian street food.

Colombian street food stall.
Colombian street food stall. Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.

Imagine embarking on a tour of Bogota’s winding streets or Medellin’s bustling markets. This culinary journey takes you through the bustling streets and food stalls of Colombia, where tantalizing aromas and sizzling pans fill the air. Here, among woven baskets called “canastas” filled with empanadas and carts peddling arepas de huevo, you will find the fusion of indigenous, Spanish, African and Caribbean flavors that have shaped Colombian street food into a unique and vibrant cuisine.

Join this delicious journey and sample all the best street food Colombia’s street vendors have to offer.

Colombian empanadas.
Colombian street food stall. Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.

Colombian empanadas

Colombian empanadas are a popular snack food enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. These savory pastries are made by filling a corn dough pocket with a mixture of seasoned meat, potatoes, onions and other ingredients. Unlike Argentinian empanadas, Colombian empanadas are fried and not baked. 

Empanadas have a long history in Colombian cuisine, having been introduced by Spanish settlers several centuries ago. There are many different types and regional variations of empanadas in Colombia, with each region offering its own unique take on this classic dish.

Some popular variations include “empanadas de pipian,” filled with pumpkin, and “empanadas de cambray,” filled with shrimp and cheese. 

Empanadas are served with ají or empanada sauce.

Arepas con queso with toppings.
Arepas con queso (cheese arepas). Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.
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Arepas are a staple food in many Latin American countries, particularly in Colombia and Venezuela. These delicious corn cakes are gluten-free and easy to make, which has made them popular in various countries.

Arepas have a long history dating back to the indigenous cultures of Latin America, who used corn as a staple food. Today, arepas are commonly filled with cheese, meat or avocado, but they are also delicious plain with butter or jam. “Arepa con queso” can be made with different kinds of cheese like mozzarella, feta or queso blanco.

“When traveling through Colombia, be sure to stop and try an arepa in every town. What you will quickly discover is that no two are alike. Colombia is a medley of history and cultures; with a humble arepa sampling, you can taste the difference everywhere you stop.” 

— Kita Roberts,

One of the most popular street foods in Colombia is the “arepa de huevo.” This is a crispy corn cake filled with a cooked egg and then fried. It is typically served with “hogao,” a delicious homemade tomato-and-onion sauce, and a slice of lime.

Chuzos with watermelon.
Chuzos with watermelon. Photo credit: YayImages.


“Chuzos” is a traditional South American dish typically made from skewered meat, vegetables and fruits that are grilled over an open flame.

The ingredients and preparation of chuzos can vary depending on the region, but usually, the skewers are made with beef, chicken, pork or sausage and marinated in various spices and sauces.

Some regional variations include adding shrimp, fish or vegetables, such as peppers, onions and mushrooms.

Chuzos are often served with a side of potatoes, rice or salad and are accompanied by a variety of sauces, such as chimichurri or aji. 

Traditional Colombian buñuelos isolated on white background.
Traditional Colombian buñuelos. Photo credit: YayImages.


The recipe for buñuelos dates back to ancient times, with the first recorded version appearing in Spain during the 16th century. They are little dough balls or discs that are made from a mixture of flour, eggs, sugar, butter and yeast and deep-fried until golden brown. 

Some regions in Colombia add anise, while others include cinnamon in the dough. Others prefer dipping the finished product in sugar syrup. Buñuelos are often served during holidays or on special occasions and they can be served plain or with a variety of accompaniments, such as honey, chocolate sauce or powdered sugar. 

Wrapped Colombian tamales.
Colombian tamales. Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.


Beloved by students and commuters, Colombian tamales are one of the most filling street food options you can find in Colombia. They are typically made with cornmeal, chicken and a variety of other ingredients and are usually steamed in banana leaves.

The history of Colombian tamales goes back centuries and they are an important part of the country’s culinary heritage. Popular types of Colombian tamales include chicken tamales, which are made with shredded chicken and spices. Another option are Bogotano or Santafereño tamales,  which are filled with a mixture of pork, chicken, vegetables and rice. 

Some common accompaniments for Colombian tamales include avocado, salsa and hot sauce. 

Colombian papa rellena cut in half.
Colombian papa rellena. Photo credit: YayImages.

Papa rellena

One of the most unique street foods in Colombia is the “papa rellena.” This is a mashed potato stuffed with a filling of meat, onion, carrots and peas. It is then rolled into a ball and deep fried. What could be better?

Once the filling is added, the mashed potatoes are coated in bread crumbs and fried until golden and crispy. Papa rellena is often served as a snack or appetizer, but it can also be enjoyed as a meal with a side salad or vegetables.

The combination of the warm, creamy potatoes and savory meat filling makes for a comforting and satisfying dish that is popular among people of all ages. It is often served with a dipping sauce or hogao.

Wrapping up

Colombian street food is a fantastic way to taste the culture and diversity of Colombia’s cuisine and its people. Whether you are looking for something savory, sweet or spicy, there is always something to satisfy your cravings in the lively streets of Colombia. 

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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