Colombian Food: Worst of the Worst

This is a critical article about Colombian food. To see a positive article about the Colombian dishes I miss, see 10 Things to Eat in Bogota.

I didn’t understand what “bad food” meant until I moved to Colombia. Bad food doesn’t mean unpleasant flavors. It means NO flavor. It means flavorless food at every meal, meal after meal, day after day. It means meals aren’t a part of the day to look forward to.

This is something that Colombians are becoming increasingly aware (and sensitive) about in regards to their country. I’m not the only guy saying it. All the expats in Colombia gripe about it when they get together. It’s unanimous.

Below are the main reasons why eating in Colombia every day is No Fun.


acpm colombia Photo credit: MasterChef Colombia

Above is a version of ACPM, the most typical meal in Colombia, except the beef would neither be that thick nor so free of fat and gristle … that was the MasterChef’s touch. I also had to Photoshop out (actually I use Paint) a little ramekin of sauce he had on the plate. You’d never get that with your ACPM in Colombia, it’s FAKE NEWS!

ACPM is what Colombians say to describe what they want in a plate: arroz, carne, papa, maduro – rice, meat, potato, fried plantain. The rice is white, cooked without garlic. The meat is bare, maybe a little salt. The potato is unpeeled and dusted with salt. The plantain is fried. It’s a utilitarian plate, and with a little variation this is what you eat in Colombia every day (mix and match arepas, yuca and patacones for the potatoes and banana, but always white, garlic-free rice).

This is what makes eating in Colombia so bad — the monotony instead of variety and lack of flavor in the few items you eat every day. That’s why everybody drools over the juices in Colombia. The juices are the same throughout the continent, but in Colombia the juice was the best part of the meal!

After eating ACPM every day, I started thinking about why I was suffering. Why is Colombian food so bad? What could make it better? I came to experiment in my own cooking more than ever before. In the end, I realized that I have to THANK Colombia for teaching me to learn and love food … by taking good food away.

I had lived in the United States and Peru, where there is more variety and flavor than you can handle. You can eat good food every day without really trying. You take it for granted.

But in Colombia, I had to focus. Strategize. Learn. In hindsight I ought to thank Colombia. I owe Colombia for starting the process of my becoming a foodie, which was borne out of necessity given the lack of good food there.


arepa colombia

See my article on the most frequently suffered Colombian staple, the arepa.

The most damning case is made by the arepa experience an American expat told me. He went out of town. The day of his flight, he and his girlfriend were running late. They didn’t have time to eat the meals their empleada prepared for them. They left them on the kitchen table as they ran out the door to catch their flight. When they returned a week later, they found that ants had eaten every morsel of food on each plate – except the arepas. In fact, the arepas were completely intact. Two whole arepas remained, and nothing else.

After hearing this story I extended the logic to gringo expats and tourists in Bogota with a riddle. If you threw this arepa out in the street (instead of the trash as you usually would), who would eat it first? Let them guess a few times.

Dogs won’t eat them (I’ve tried). Ants won’t either, according to the anecdote. I doubt a horse would, but horses don’t pass very frequently (but they do).

Answer: a HUMAN. One of the thousands of bazuceros / indigentes / vagrants that prowl the streets would be the first (and only) living thing to eat your discarded arepa.


patacon colombia

While I don’t like the other items on this list, I can at least finish them if I try. Patacones, on the other hand, are often so dry, hard, and flavorless that I can’t get them down even if I want to. Colombians lay a little salt on them, but that’s not enough for me. I’ve tried lime juice to no avail. Avocado / guacamole are the best bet. Better to just leave the patacon alone.

Here’s my true story to illustrate how awful patacones are. When entertaining tourists in Bogota, I’ll always bring them to one of the black folks’ fish houses (“pescado pacifico” in Spanish). While the standard black folks’ fish plate is one of the best things to eat in Colombia, it will unfortunately come with a patacon disk.

When the gringo tourist tried to eat the patacon, I tell him it’s not supposed to be eaten. Its purpose is for safety. In case a fish bone gets lodged in your throat and you begin to choke, you’re supposed to bite off a piece of patacon and chew, which in turn will cause a gag reflex and you’ll cough up the fish bone. They serve it with every plate out of part safety, part superstition.

Do you live in Colombia? When you bring tourists to eat fish, tell them this with a straight face. You’ll be amazed at the number of people who believe you. And even if they don’t, they won’t eat the patacon.



Panela is evaporated sugar cane “juice” sold in brick form by the penny. Two bits buys ten pounds.

“Brick” isn’t an exaggeration. You can’t cut panela with a knife. Colombians use a special rod or the blunt side of a big knife to hit the panela brick until it cracks. You break off smaller rocks of condensed sugar solids that are sticky in your hands. It needs to be melted down, usually done in water/juice (agua de panela), the milk of arroz con leche, or directly in the mouth. It’s common to eat panela in cube form, as if a large, condensed sugar cube.

The toxicity of sugar aside, panela wouldn’t bother me so much if people didn’t make the claim that it’s healthy. Not only Colombians, I’ve heard gringos claim that it’s “natural” and has vitamins. I’m going to set the record straight for you . Remember this forever:

Panela is to sugar cane as corn syrup is to corn.

Easy to remember, and it will help you look past the pretty name. Before you make a health claim about panela, first test the statement by substituting the words, “high fructose corn syrup.” For example, if you wouldn’t say “high fructose corn syrup has essential vitamins and minerals” or “high fructose corn syrup is good for you because it’s natural,” then don’t say it about panela.

One thing they say which is true and passes the corn syrup test: panela is good for energy. As is honey, molasses, Coca-Cola, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, Snickers bars, etc.

Buñuelos and Pandebono

colombian bunuelos

There are many interesting customs for breakfast in Colombia. Hot chocolate with cheese in it is great in my opinion.

But these flavorless balls of bread with the texture of play-dough are not great. Buñuelos are fried; pandebono baked. Both are always light on cheese, heavy on starch, void of flavor. The best description is maybe a glazed donut with no glaze, no sugar. Just plain.

I’ve seen groups of Colombians — professionals in a corporate headquarters up north — get all excited when a box of these got brought in. They were rubbing their hands together in anticipation of eating the plain donut balls. ¡NO GRACIAS!


tamal colombiano

Tamales are often held up as an example of delicious Colombian cuisine. I would only suffer my way through one if I was flat broke. Tamales are great if you need to fill your belly for 4000 pesos. Or maybe with several years in Colombia and your taste buds have come to resist bold flavors.

Peruvian and Mexican tamales are better because neither uses rice. No extra filler crap. But given how utilitarian Colombians are in the kitchen, they use rice.

The Tolimense tamales that have beef or pork inside are actually not bad — almost “good.” But most Colombian tamales you eat will have a chicken thigh inside a mold of rice and cornmeal. Minimal cost, minimum flavor, miserable living.

Colombian Soups

rice soup

Colombians are proud of their soups, which I can only explain by thinking most have never left Colombia. Whenever you’ve cornered them about how there is so much flavorless foods and the few good items aren’t really that good, they’ll throw out their soups.

And I assume they’ve never been outside Colombia, never tasted chili, gumbo, clam chowder, beer cheese coup, French onion soup, minestrone, or the Arequipan heavyweights, chupe de camarones and adobo.

Colombians can be proud of Ajiaco and Sancocho in my opinion. I liked Ajiaco when it was cold and rainy in Bogota, but it’s not good enough to make the menus of the hip “Nuevo Latino” restaurants in the States.

And my Peruvian wife actually spit out the Sancocho I prepared one night when she tasted the banana. Then she called her mother to tell her that I had made a soup with banana in it! She added that this soup was from Colombia, which most Latin American women equate with cocaine and hookers. They wonder if there is something wrong with me. Does it mean I’m going to leave her for Colombia? Then they hang up and the mother calls her sisters to tell them that I made soup with banana in it. I really don’t think it’s that bad.

I know many gringo expats disagree, but I think Colombian changua is interesting. And Caldo de Costilla, yeah sure because there’s nothing else with protein for breakfast worth eating, you know?

Unfortunately Ajiaco, Sancocho, Changua and Caldo combined don’t make Colombia’s soups as a whole “good.” They are OK before being dragged down by the much more common soups you get with your daily lunch.

For this the Colombians go really bland, with stuff like sopa de arroz. You read that correctly: RICE SOUP. Pictured above but imagine it without the cilantro leaf or any morsel of chicken. Others include PASTA SOUP, but the worst is PLANTAIN SOUP. It’s not bad because it has banana in it, it doesn’t. It has some kind of green leaves, which I assume are plantain tree leaves.

So when you consider them all, Colombian soups are not average. They FAIL.

Colombian Ceviche

san andres colombia ceviche camaron shrimp 2

Peruvian ceviche is my favorite plate in the entire world. Better than anything American, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Arequipan – anything.

Colombian ceviche is shrimp in ketchup with lime and onion, served with saltine crackers. What you see above is served with saltines. Shrimp. Ketchup. Lime. Onion. Crackers. ¿Donde es el restaurante peruano, por favor?

Colombian Hot Dogs

Photo Credit: Don't Give Papaya
Photo Credit: Don’t Give Papaya

The Colombian hot dog is the worst imitation of American cuisine I’ve seen in all the world. The problem is there’s about 1/8 pound hot dog which would never be all beef. It’s put in a one-pound hot dog bun and topped with another pound of sauces: ketchup, mustard, mayo, “rosado” (ketchup mixed with mayo), pineapple sauce, fried onion crisps. In this image it’s topped with a quail egg, which is actually an improvement.

The result is a hint of hot dog with a couple pounds of bread and condiments. This wouldn’t bother you much if it were like the hard-to-find Colombian ceviche — see no evil, taste no evil. But the Colombian hot dog comprises 90% of what’s available late night. Every gringo rumbero in Colombia has suffered one of these.

Colombian Ketchup


You’re thinking, “Come on, Colin, you’re going to criticize the ketchup?” Yes, I have to, it’s indicative! It shows you what you’re dealing with here!

In most of Latin America, “ketchup” is translated to “ketchup” in Spanish. In Colombia, however, they ironically use “salsa de tomate.” It’s ironic because in most Colombian eateries, what is presented as ketchup and even served in a red bottle contains no tomato. It’s red, it’s the texture of ketchup, and it’s a little sweet … but no tomato whatsoever. You have to taste it to understand.

In Cartagena all the ceviche vendors had their ketchup bottles prominently displayed. I realized the idea was to show off their name-brand ketchup – Fruco, San Jorge, Pampero – these guys are showing off their authentic ketchup bonafides as opposed to the false ketchup commonly found in Colombia.

I didn’t know which is worse, that Colombian ceviche uses ketchup or that they proudly display their brand-name ketchup to show off that it’s not fake ketchup.

The fake ketchup industry in Colombia – that’s an investigative article I’d like to read. But before we get ahead of ourselves, what kind of country would have a fake ketchup industry? What is so fucking expensive about ketchup that you have to falsify it? And ketchup is not that great to begin with — only for burgers, dogs and fries — so any false ketchup would taste so bad that nobody would eat it, right?


Because Colombian food sucks …

… and Colombians don’t seem to mind.

Good Colombian Food?

Again, this is a critical article about Colombian food. To see a positive article about the Colombian dishes I miss, see 10 Things to Eat in Bogota.

UPDATE: I originally wrote this post to drive traffic to the Kickstarter campaign to fund the writing of a book about Christopher Kavanagh, in Irishman who did three years in La Modelo prison and has been teaching English in Bogota ever since. The book is written. Check out Mad Outta Me Head: Addiction and Underworld from Ireland to Colombia.

Support what Expat Chronicles is all about. Leave a tip to keep the laughs coming (and the news, insight and other stuff too).



  1. “Bogota Beer Company only got worse over time while I lived there.” – That’s probably because they were bought by INBEV/Budweiser. I stopped drinking there after that happened. Their beer has always been mediocre, so it’s not like it was a big loss. However, they still go on about how they are a “small” brewery and they blither on about “craft” beer. That, and they are busy cornering the craft beer market in Bogota. You can’t walk more than a few blocks in the city without seeing a BBC or one of their Bodegas.


    1. BBC sucks, their food, their beer everything. I think it is the worst craft brewery in South America that I’ve been to. If you want the best craft beer in the world that my friends is found in the good old USA!


  2. Colin i have to agree with you Colombian food sucks
    i have been working in Colombia for 7 months now and work all over country living in hotels and eating in restaurants
    I am in Neiva right now and living in a apartment hotel what a blessing, i can cook
    Lets say i have eaten in 500 restaurants since if been in Colombia and probably the best meal i ever had was in Yopal at the Parria de Angus a steak house, Fillet de Mignon bring it on and it was 36000 cop and was one of the best steaks i ever have eaten and i have lived in Alberta Canada that is where Angus comes from!
    Apparently Pres Santos flys down to Yopal to entertain the dignitaries at this restaurant main establishment at a finca outside of town and i don’t blame him wise choice
    Now lets talk about Ceviche Nobody makes like the Peranos and they try in some places in Colombia and there is only one place i know of that is the real deal Ceviche Perano Cali They have 2 restaurants 2 blocks from city hall and Parque de peruse close to the sports complex they are on line and the have Choclo Maise and Rocotto truly Peruvian Heaven
    So i have had Colombian tacos at Butacos and other places and they suck< so i thought why not try and make my own now that i am a apartment hotel
    I went down to Exito and bingo! exito had all the ingrediants just like i was in Canada And the mild cheddar cheese was worth as much as a bottle of scotch ok no problem this is going to be a treat
    I whipped up the tacos and invited my 5 coworkers which are Brazilian and Colombians to this feast with corona and Tequila Ponchos and sombreros included it is San Pedro in Neiva and we had a blast
    the next day every body was complementing me on how good the tacos were and they had never had that good of taco before
    I just smiled and said this is how we do it in my country and it was a normal once in a while meal in Canada
    so my guess why the food sucks in Colombia
    you get what you pay for that taco dinner was about 100000 cop for 6 people but still cheaper than the restarants


    1. Wow. I visited Colombia and felt so bad to break the news to my friend that the food is so bland. How did this happen to this poor beautiful country? Arepas! Omg. Cardboard. The flat meat. I was in Medellin at Christmas and there was a food van market. 157 food vans all serving the same things. Plantains, empanadas etc. It was sooo bizarre.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Funny I live in the USA and see so many of of us colombians, latinos and people from the carribean and the major consensus is that most north american food is bland. There is a running gag amongst north american blacks and minorities that people here dont know how to cook. Just look at the vines. Fb comedians like schuler king or ig.

        This is obviously a troll post coddled by people who like to go to run of the mill dinky places. Granted. Those are humble people with poor peoples food so the quality may not be good.

        Anthony bourdain, Zimmerman, and plenty others can argue against you.

        Coupled by the fact that my family has a long line of cooks with two successful restaurants in the usa I can tell you most common food in the states cannot compare to colombia.

        I’m not some ignorant colombian with little resources either. I work in the healthcare field and love to try different cuisine from persian to haitian food.

        Colombia has a wide variety of dishes that can compete with your favorite types of food. I know this personally. After visiting different food spots in the usa I’m not impressed.

        Mac and cheese is practically an abomination. Southern food is bland fried battered grease. Soups are terrible The only time when it is considered good it’s when they stole from other culture like italian food in the north east, creole food in Louisiana, or mexican american food..


  3. well my writing capabilities suck and i know it but does anyone no where to get a good Cerviche in Colombia
    I was in Guajjira and lobster was good no complaints in Riohacha


  4. Your Ants anecdote is utter bollocks, such a crock. I left an arepa out over night and it was swarming with ants the next morning. Stop telling lies. Just because you are unaware of where to get good arepas does not give you the right to badmouth them. They can be filled with tons of stuff including pork, chicken, avacado and tons of other veggies. I have seen dogs eat arepas too. Not sure why you feel the need to tell BS lies. Also, stop being so dirty, who in the world leaves food out for so long?? ugh.


    1. Compared to any other country I have lived in – France, UK, US, Italy, Spain- this is the worst food I have ever encountered. When Colombians ask me what else do you love about Medellin after I’ve listed the climate, the people, the dog-adoring culture, they often prompt “and the food!, right?” I just force a smile and say, “yes, after France, it is so good to have Colombian food…”


  5. The main problem with your article is the lack of respect in the way you express yourself. As well as many of the people responding on both sides of the argument. No need for that.
    I love my colombian food because I grew up eating it, but in truth, there’s good and bad everywhere and tastes are different (patacones and arepas and yuca can be very good!).
    Your experiences were not good, and that’s sad. Yes, our food is not varied, or very flavorful, but you are still giving YOUR OPINION which you cannot state as an absolute fact, this is subjective and it is not a responsible way of handling your voice in this medium.


    1. Uh, sorry Sandra – Colin owns his blog and does not need your good seal of approval to post an article. And yes, Colombian food IS the worst in the world. I am an expat from France. Colombia is the 4th destination country I have even sent to. Been here 2 years and the crap you have here would not even be served in prisons in France. Food that is edible is found in tourist areas of Mdedellin or Bogota – and -as is to be expected – are owned and operated by European franchises. Obviously, you don’t get out much


      1. Imagine being so entilled you think because youre french you can decide colombian food is the worst … Dont worry no Colombian ever is thinking ‘ooooo fancy some frog legs , potato with stinky cheese , some dryy bread and a greasy snail’ lool fuck off , keep your sapo self to yourself because we wont miss you .


  6. The food lacks spice/seasoning yes. As a fan of thai, mexican, indian, chinese, japanese, etc food it does seem boring.

    That said, if I had to choose:

    1) Boring food, hottest women on the planet
    2) Good food, fat american pigs

    I will #1 every time.


  7. If you like the idea of having three starches on your plate, having your juice watered down and blended til its foamy, overcooked, leathery beef, hot dogs for breakfast, and frying just about everything, go have some comida tipica de Colombia. Otherwise, for good food in Colombia, go to an Argentinean or Peruvian restaurant.


  8. Aside from the fact that this article shows zero understanding of colombian cuisine and why it is the way it is, it is about the assiest, most ignorant and entitled post I’ve ever read, not to mention offensive an insensitive. Then again, exactly what I’d expect from an american living outside the “greatest county in the world™”.

    You’re right, Colin. This post is very ugly and very american.



    1. Colombian food IS the worst in the world. I am an expat from France. Colombia is the 4th destination country I have been sent to. Been in Medellin 2 years and the crap you have here would not even be served in prisons in France. Food that is edible is found in tourist areas of Medellin – and as is to be expected – those restaurants are owned and operated by European franchises. Thank God for them! Eating in Colombia when you are French is TORTURE


    2. “Understanding the culture”…please explain how this affects the quality of the food. Also, the blogger did not say he loves American food, he specifically cites Peruvian and Argentine food as light years above Colombian. Also, the population is at high risk for diaete and heart disease because of the cuisine (see World Health Org)


  9. @ Lucia

    You can say “entitled,” “offensive” and “insensitive.” I’d even add “cruel” and “condescending.” But your use of “ignorant” is an incorrect use of the word according to both the English and Spanish definitions, which imply a “lack of knowledge.”

    See, I’m improving your Spanish 🙂

    I spent almost three years living in Colombia. Somebody without knowledge would never be able to write the web’s best article on good Colombian food (10 Things to Eat in Bogota), nor the best article on Colombia’s mostly bad food (this one).

    So if you have more knowledge, I challenge you to produce a better article on either the good or the bad. But if you can’t produce something to compete with mine (and we know you can’t), then with all due respect keep quiet.


  10. I’m living in Bogota as we speak and couldn’t agree with you more on the outrageously overrated bunyuelos and how over-hyped they are by Colombians everywhere. I can’t go a day at work in December without being questioned why I don’t take one when it is offered to me and how can I not like them. I am shocked with how nationalistic Colombians are about their culture compared to Ecuador and Peru, when in reality, they lack much of the same native culture integration that makes Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador so interesting and more genuine. I don’t care for Bogota, the coast, the Pacific and Antoquia are all fine, but there’s something truly hideous about Bogota.


    1. Is it because bogota is like the capatilistic society all of yous so desperatly try to escape! . why dont we say bread is disgusting because we ate processed bread from a chain supermarket ? No one gives a rats arse if you enjoy them , spend your money and Go home but to hear someone saying they dont understand why a food people grew up with is considered good is STUPID . Buñuelos taste good freshly fried just like dounuts if you dont like the dont eat them . Dummy Perú is not in a 60 year civil war . Dummy bolivia was not Plagued by narcos where women were scared to be pretty incase a drug lord knocked con there door and took them by force. Prople needed to be patriotic to get together and make this country better . just like the black movement . We love and are proud of being colombian , imagine how america feels about 911 and ww2 . This happened everyday here so educate yourself before you live in a country you do not appreciate .América celebrares 4th of july but we cannot get mad when you offend us and our way of life . From a Colombian please fuck off out of our country if we are that bad.


  11. The person who wrote this is extremely disrespectful and ignorant. You cannot judge a whole countries food based on just Bogota. The way he was speaking of the people of Colombia was beyond rude. He has no knowledge of the diversity of foods Colombia has to offer. The writer chose to leave out important dishes and the fact that no one just eats white arepas alone, most of the foods he wrote about they are complimentary dishes. He chose to make things fit for what he wanted, and for that makes him a terrible writer and a biased one too.


    1. I visited the entire country, rode 9000 km in the country. I’ve been EVERYWHERE in Colombia.
      Food is the most disgusting I ever encountered and in any part of the country. Disgusting and extremely unhealthy.
      I am not american.


  12. Hi Colin,
    I am Colombian. Although what you say is a bit exaggerated (which was the point) I think it is kind of true and I understand what you say.
    I must say the article made me laugh.


  13. I love you. I love this article. Thank you for speaking the truth. The only thing I would hasten to add is that almost everything is artificial and contains artificial ingredients and preservatives. I basically have 5 items to eat for the 10 months of the year I spend here other than what my dear parents send me from trader Joe’s at great expense. I hate it. It only adds to the severe depression of having to live here in the first place.


    1. I’m almost at that point. But there are new foreign-influenced restaurants opening in Medellin now and then, and some are even affordable. Gives me hope.


  14. To all of you complaining about Colombian’s food, Why did you go to Colombia in the first place? Or what did you stay? were you kidnapped? Everything in the United States is artificial and full of preservatives so we are even!
    Some people never should leave their home, I went to Spain with a group of Americans, and by the second day, some of them were asking how to find a McDonald or Burger King, in one of the countries with the best cuisine in the world!
    The food in the United States is awful, full of preservatives and GMO


    1. there’s bad food everywhere. But at least in most other places there is also good food. Also I don’t think Colin’s point is that US food is superior to Colombian food. In fact, one of the worst things is the US influence on pre-packaged food here in Colombia – virtually impossible to find anything, including bread or yogur,t without high sugar content, preservatives, palm oil. Like the US 20 years ago.


  15. Karen, if you equate food in The US to places like Burger King and Mc Donalds, then you have no idea what you’re talking about. The US has some of the best food from all over the world, and living in a large American city, gives a person the opportunity to eat food from countries all over the world. Fast food in the US isn’t regarded as being “good” food, and it has its niche, just like in every other country around the world.I’m not even going to get into regional American cuisine that’s famous all over the world. Foods like Tx BBQ, Creole/Cajun, Tex Mex, Southern Cuisine, and more, snuff out anything available here. If people visited Colombia solely based on the food available, then there would be a lot less tourists. The one thing that visitors to Colombia almost always complain about, is the food. Also, preservatives are not just an American thing. Colombians happily stuff their gullets with GMOs and preservatives. Your insinuation that it’s only the Americans complaining about Colombian food is false, and reeks of snobbery and condescension.


  16. I was amazed to see defensive, arrogant Colombians defend their garbage cuisine, normally they’re such a reasonable, easy-going people who can accept that they might not be God’s gift to humanity.



  17. Damn you know you’re right, I went about everywhere in the country and food is so bland and tasteless than I had to leave (so I skipped Cali and all this region)
    Basically everything is bad, I ended up having 1kg of banana for dinner as long fruits is the only good option you have


  18. The fact that Colombian cuisine has not evolved as much as other cuisines in the world does not make it crap. It has a lot of potential. Have you tried the arepas santandereanas? Have you ever been in Santander by the way? Have you tried the dishes from the Pacific coast? Have you tried the ajiaco in Bogota? My experience is that if you go to a cheap restaurant food is in general not the best. And even in cheap restaurants food is mostly fresh, which I value a lot, unlike cheap food in the US, which is made to taste good because of the amount of artificial flavours, colors, and unhealthy shit in it.

    Anyway, just my opinion


  19. Your article really highlights your opinion in a very direct way. Some people do agree with you and that is okay because everyone has an opinion. Nothing wrong with that at all. Just a few suggestions for expats:
    1. When you go out into the world, you need to go with an open mind. You are going to see, taste, hear, feel, and experience life in very different ways. What might be important for you might not be important to the culture you find yourself in. Usually people travel with certain expectations that are wrong. People think that other cultures should think like them. In the case of Latin America, they assume that it is all Mexico or if it is an exotic place, it is just like Costa Rica. It is as if people assumed all of Asia is Japanese. So do your research and ask what yourself what you will tolerate.
    2. The food that you will taste will probably not be good to you because a lot of food out there has an acquired taste. Basically if you were not born there, tough luck. There are many things I would not eat from around the world just like most people. Some people do not like American food, some do not like Colombian food, some do not like European food, some do not like Caribbean food, some do not like Asian food, some do not like African food, etc.
    3. People’s stomachs are different. What Colombians consider good for their stomachs is not good for people in Malaysia. What is good for Asians might give an European a stomachache. This goes for all countries and areas of the world.Some people cannot even eat something with soy sauce without getting a stomachache.
    4. People’s food preferences are different. Sometimes those preferences are grouped into a “culture.” But there is always exceptions. I do not like turkey nor mashed potatoes. Some people do not like beans. Some people hate sushi. Some people do not like Texan food, etc.
    5. If you grew up with lots of spices or hot food it is obvious you will find bland food tasteless and gross. Others will find very spicy food obnoxious to the taste buds and their colon. I personally would prefer bland food over too many spices. Too many hot spices burning my tongue and numbing my taste buds is not appealing whatsoever.
    6. Healthy vs. Unhealthy. What you consider healthy is not healthy in another country. What you consider unhealthy might not be to others.
    7. Regions and history. Remember that when you are in another country you are taking part in other people’s history through food. Also, the region and historical background of people will shed light into their plate. Ex. fruits from the Amazon: Hard to find in the USA.
    8. Bad experiences happen. People might have had a bad experience with someone of that country or many people from that country and immediately assume and associate everything from that country to be negative..
    9. Emphasis on food/poverty. Some people do not place a high emphasis on food like in the United States. For every meeting or get-together or party, food is always present in the USA. Don’t forget the potluck! In many countries of the world, food is not emphasized as much. You go to a meeting, food is not necessarily present. In poor countries like Colombia it is a mode of survival. Children have fewer choices and therefore less picky. You have to eat what is put in front of you or you will starve.
    10. Bad cooks. Okay, this one is obvious people. You will find bad cooks around the world. And they are not just concentrated in Colombia. I have tasted food from everywhere and I can tell you that some falafel is good and some is gross. Same goes for rice, noodles, and pastries, etc.
    11. Preparation methods. Come on! Not everyone in the world has an oven much less a microwave.
    12. Culture shock. Just because expats move to a different country does not mean they will experience culture shock. You will hate certain things about a country especially if you have bad experiences in that country. Some of the many things I have heard: American food tastes like plastic, in Northern Europe immigrants complain the food is too bland. American desserts are too sweet. Asian food is raw. Mexican food is too spicy. Indian food is overwhelming, etc. All negative. The funny thing is that people suffering from culture shock usually say negative things about the country they have moved into.
    13. It depends from what country you are from and what country you are visiting. If in your native country you eat a lot of super sweet foods, you might not like another country that purely defines its food with vegetables would you? Or if you are used to fast food and go to a country where everything is home cooked, you are in for a shock too.

    So with that said, just remember to be tolerant and do your research before getting into another country because you will be in someone else’s backyard. You will not criticize your neighbor because they burned their barbecue ribs would you? You simply will not eat it. But then you will probably starve, so you can move on with your life and leave and eat somewhere else. Or you can suck it up and experience life without being so picky and spoiled. Colombia is exotic in a simple way compared to other Latin American countries.It has a lot to offer and it is very unique and special in many ways Some just love it. Some don’t. But it is okay. We are all human with similarities and difference. No country is more superior than other in many things and food is not one of them. I guess you have to literally have a good gut feeling for your host country before stepping into it.. Good luck!


  20. I’m gonna be blunt, central & South American food in general is peasant food. It’s bland, simplistic, utilitarian. Part of the reason is because 60% of it comes from the indigenous counterpart that makes up the mestizo culture rather than the better tasting south European one. Intestines, corn patties, & essentially anything they can fry really isn’t a menu to work with. if you want “Latin” food then I would advise you to visit a Cuban, Puerto Rican, or Dominican restaurant.


  21. All right, I’m Colombian but I respect what you’ve said but I’ll just say Bogota really isn’t the best place to get food in my opinion, I’m from Pereira and when I eat in restaurants everything has more flavors and spices, but come on now, an arepa is meant to be eaten with something else not just by itself, otherwise it’s just eating corn by itself


  22. i read everything. from top to bottom. did i waste my life? perhaps. but its ok. there are worst ways to waste it.

    anyways i am 100% estadounidense del sureste (born and raised in USA. Southeastern) anyways, getting to it. my fiance is from Medellin and of course i have been there. i am no expert on the food there, but it is edible. it is not processed fake factory gristle blended with meat and formed into patty shapes. and they are proud of theor cooking. i would never complain to them. the chefs seem so proud and want you do love it. ive eaten in very expensive and nice restaurants where a 30 bill, ie. 15 dollars per plate… was one of the cheaper options. it was not bad. she recommended the place. and she’d never let me get screwed over. the cost was fine to her. although i know what she gets paid. i spent more that 1 day of her pay on that food. but i did enjoy it. i cant remember the name of the plate i had nor the restaurant. but, i had some barbeque like meat with vergtables and rice. and sweet tea. excellent staff. well tipped and fully paid by me. i thought the cost to the food taste wasnt the same as the US. then i remembered… i am not in the US. it was well prepared and they did have great service. as habit from childhood i never waste food. ill eat it all there, or take whats left home and eat it for a snack later. (usually when i buy bandeja paisa for us… she wont eat a whole one. and i cannot eat 1.5 bandeja paisa in 1 sitting) the restaurants are definitely not exact copies of what you would expect or be used to. but that’s because you need to remember. its different there because you are in a different place.

    this article kind of reminds me of when my sister was telling me how wierd sprite (the US soda) tasted when she was in London. she complained that it didnt taste the same. i told her. “it’s because you were in London, drinking London Sprite. the sprite you were expecting was from the USA. it was either locally produced or the company that makes it ships a different recipe or quality to London” it’s like comparing Belgian waffles in the USA compared to Belgian waffles in Belgium. certainly they would not taste the same.

    but for the sake of the article as to what food is better… i know nothing of peru cuisine. my girl she tells me how great peruvian food is and also mexican. but she has never been to either place. i imagine shes eaten locally at a medellin restaurant of those places. i didnt think the food was bad. its definitely healthy. what i ate had little salt added (which i liked. i dislike lots of salt, or anything picante or spicy). but yall need to remember that these people have been regional and at war for decades and decades. drug gangs and hitmen everywhere. the government is corrupt as hell. the army too. scandal after scandal. the former presidents are being investigated for manipulation of witnesses for some other congressmans crimes. for the past 60 years the people could be killed if they even traveled out of town, or kidnapped or robbed, tortured and extorted… so there probably was not much time to develop decades of special cooking techniques or establish spice trade between the regions or massive cultivation areas for every spice you can think of that they have available in that country. the minimum wage is 1.10 USD per hour in the year 2018. yeah it was less than that before now. i am certain cheap and utilitarian is the way to go for most of them overall for a very long time. so, try not to rag their food. have some fucking manners. remember YOU traveled to THEM. the good expensive locally suggested restaurants are probably the best your gonna find anywhere around there and the economy is not exactly safe for regional trade. so. take it or leave it. i love my paisa fiance, my to-be paisa in-laws. and my semi-adopted bogotero mom and dad (i met some colombians in highschool in the USA from Bogotá, practiced spanish and at patacones and morcilla and dinner many times with them. they are the reason i dont listen to what americans “think” about Colombia.) they are very nice and hospitable people. they listen to classical music at dinner and say it helps digestion. so cute! another good example of Colombia goodness is i met my mother-in-law for the first time and she asked what i liked to eat. i told her i like chicken. so she asked whats my favorite part… drumsticks or chicken legs. so she props my feet up and proceeds to cook. this lady brings like 8 chicken legs at its like 11pm. all were great… i ate them all. they were amazed i can eat 8 drumsticks. they are the best and she cooked them great enough for me. im not very picky. anyways, yall lighten up on these people and their food. i personally think Mexican food is probably the best. some fresh fajitas with white cheese? yes please. but i would never knock anyone’s cuisine. there is a reason it is the way it is. and how elitist do you have to be to bitch about food being bland? you know you could fix that by learning how to cook food at home to your liking. i will agree that the little plain arepa was tasteless. and i never saw it served with a sauce. but i did eat it. every one of them i saw on a plate that inpaid for. i ate that motherfucker because it was mine and i paid for it. but i did not complain. i wanna try the arepa Santander and i did have an arepa con queso and it was a drastic improvement over that poor little plain arepa. but i understand that the native culture respected corn so much that to make plain corn things was out of respect to the corn. like plain tamales with nothing but coen inside was supposedly done by the natives once a year so the “corn didnt have to work so hard” for at least one day per year. thats where the idea comes from.

    anyways what i typed may or may not make sense whatsoever. so, thanks for reading it. it basically me rambling on and trying to give examples of my experience with Colombia, its people and its food.


  23. The fact that you don’t like Colombian food doesn’t mean that everyone should hates It.
    When you don’t have something good to say about a place, food or even people, don’t try to offend their cultures or even years and years of history. Because when talk about the food of a country and offend it you’re talking about heir history, their cultures too. So we don’t have fault that you can’t afford good Colombian food. Treat others the way you want to be treated.


  24. Dont eat in bogota other places have great food like cali medellin and barranquilla bogota as u said they add no flavor to their food no life


    1. Bogota probably has the best dining scene in the country. There is no other city, besides Cartagena, where you can find the same quality of restaurants. Medellin? No way! Paisa food is the very definition of bland, flavorless, mountains of starchy, underseasoned carbs and overcooked meats that give Colombian food a bad name.


  25. What no flavor? colombians use 5 spices when cooking……how come everyone writing is so critical, the 5 spices commonly used are salt, salt, salt salt and muchos salt….but i luv the the chicas and can live on pollo asado bbq chicken bananas and mangos, several cafes know me as “senor sin sel” thats mr no salt, when i order eggs for breakfast,


  26. It is true, but i think things will change. Colombia has been kind ok isolated for many years because of the internal war, and the poverty made people eat to fill their stomach, without trying to really enjoy it, people would just cook things randomly and add things in the dishes without a thinking or a method, so colombian food is souless, bland, simple. I’m colombian and i hate the majority of colombian dishes, i don’t understand why people would eat cooked yuca con queso, or add bananas in soups. The most of our dishes are just bad, that is the truth. But I think the influence of people from outside of the country can change this.


  27. Colombians are very sensitive to spices, for that reason you may call Colombia food flavorless. Im from Colombia, and I have lived in the USA for 6 years. Perhaps, I would not trade a Colombian plate for anything else, why because I was raised to that. I can not eat spicy food, it is not for me. Yes, US has wide variety of food due to many cultures that are here, but whatsoever, Americans dont add much season to their food. What can be expect it from Americans? All yall know to do is judge and be racist. You all are bunch of uncultural people. If you were to study anthropology, you will actually learn that none of your meals where actually original from white europeans. Everything yall believe is your culture was actually stolen from a different land. Before judging a culture, you should actually get one.


  28. Been here 5 days, everything tastes bland! Soso. We bought adobo seasoning at the store to cool at the hostel and even that was flavorless. Even the salt is not salty in Colombia. I am puertorican, i thought i was just spoiled and used to delicious flavor. Now I knlw that i am not alone in thinking Colombian food sucks.


  29. Thanks for this spot on review. Im now enjoying my plane arepa, accompanied with some flavorless scrambled egg, white toasts and fake marmelade for breakfast, and after three months of eating this terrible food I also got a bit frustrated. I guess you can’t have it all in a otherwise beautiful country


  30. This article is 100% spot on. Colombian food is some of the worst food in the entire world (I’ve been around the world multiple times). One good thing to come of this tasteless experience is that I’ve gotten pretty good at cooking from home. I’ve even thought about opening a restaurant and introducing these poor folk to real tasty food but then realize that they’ll probably complain it’s too “picante.” It seems that the only thing with “flavor” here is their cheese which unfortunately tastes like ass. Oh well, can’t have it all. The women here make up for a lot grievances.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Hey Colin! You’re normally a pretty good sport and you being from St. Louis and all, I thought you might get a kick out of this:

    I’ve never tried it, but St. Louis style Pizza scares the shit out of me.

    Of course it can’t touch Changua or farm raised trucha that’s been raised in swimming pools and given god knows how many chemicals and antibiotics. Not to mention the god awful things the Paisas do to that fish. Fried trout with Marinara sauce? I’ve been to the villages in and around the coffee region where trucha is the specialty many times, and I can’t understand the hordes of Colombians who go there on the weekends to stuff their faces with that god awful stuff. Trucha Hawaiiana? Yeah, a whole fried trout doused in cream sauce and Pineapples. Instances like these just go to show the sorry state of Colombian cuisine.

    You know what the worst part is? Is that Colombians think it’s good. They think that it should be used as a selling point as to why people should visit their country. They look at me as if I shat on Simon Bolivar’s grave when I tell then the low opinion that foreigners generally have about their food. I remember when my parents came to visit and we took a trip to Salento. I was so embarrassed at how bad the food was, and my parents told me just how shocked they were as to how awful the food was.

    Colombia is beautiful, but it’s just too bad that the food isn’t.


  32. I am colombian and I have to agree about 80% with this. It gave me a good laugh, too. Then again foods with too much spicing and salt or added sugar aren’t very healthy either and they just aren’t good friends of mine. Do note that U.s. and other places are just full of obese and overweight populations. Thank goodness we do not have that… yeah, food might be bland and all, but we don’t get sick all the time nor complain about a simple silly allergy.


    1. replying to myself, because I forgot to add that What most comments said is also true, everything from the absurd nationalism to the subjective things and beyond. Food is a nostalgic thing for everyone. Thankfully my family and I have been to many other countries and we have managed to steal some very nice recipes so we do not suffer due to bad tasting food anymore, lol. And also, thankfully Bogotá has expended and even improved its gastronomic offering in recent years (this article is pretty old) so nowadays you get very nice international dishes with probably healthier and very fresh spices which can do wonders. True too that mediocrity, higher, denser contamination (thanks wannabee industries and government regulations that have settled in here) and parsimony from most street restaurants can make food awful, we normally cook at home and the result is totally different. So sorry you had such an experience, but we are slowly getting to grips to making it better.


  33. If you want to learn how to cook go to Colombia: the food is so bad that you’ll learn quickly how to prepare your own meal at home.


    1. I laughed so hard at this because it 100% accurate. I’ve become quite the chef the past two years living in Colombia.


  34. This whole article is spot on! I laughed the entire way through because it is so true.

    I just brought my Colombian GF to Spain and she had always claimed she would not eat pork. Ever. And I said, “I think after you leave Colombia you may like it.” She said, no I never like any pork.

    She has been eating all sorts of pork here everyday! She loves it!


  35. News about food here. The other day I met a Spanish veterinary who has been working for several years in animal food products for human consumption in Colombia. This is what I learned: the only decent meat apparently is beef because cows are just let to pasture, whereas pork and, above all, chickens are treated with drugs, especially antibiotics (this is unfortunately true in whole America. In Europe rules are much stricter than they are on this side of the Atlantic).
    The worst meat is found in big grocery stores chains like Exito that buys frozen chickens wherever in the world they cost less and injects them with salty water (the “marinatura”) to make it heavier (so you pay water as it was meat).
    Milk and diaries are not better: milk is first deprived of fat to make butter and filled again with lower quality fat and other cheap ingredients to give milky water the aspect of real milk again. As I said this is not unique of Colombia, unfortunately. I just wanted to share this knowledge.


  36. Quite rich from prople raised on baked beans, yoghurt and oven chips. The thing is we dont feel the need to use 4 types of peppers , a blender and 3 hours to make a soup . simple and nutritous. We dont care what your midget barefoo indian wife says tbh we rather a sancocho than heart skewers , mash potato and chicken and dont need to throw everything in our pantry to cook some llama . Go eat in someones home that doesnt earn 50 dollars a week. Thats like comparing a pub burger to a homemade bbq .Just because you went to colombia does not give you credibility to talk nonesense you did not grow up in a colombian home you have not visited everywhere. bullshit that its common to nibble on panela , You must have vidited a prison.Just by the processed arepas you showed i can tell you dont know much. Nothing wrong with not enjoying the flavors but to claim the food is completely bland is bonkers. Potato , tough meat and plantain is not eaten everyday and if it is the person is either really poor or lazy . I eat sibrebarriga , higado en cebollado, arroz con coco , zapallo guisado,churasco asado con chimmichurri. None of which need a sack of spices or bottled soy sauce to be enjoyed unlike the idiot that laughed at boiled plantian .Remember we arent the nation that mascred and raped for some tea bags and paprika .


  37. Oh come on. Maybe Colombian food isn’t the most exciting in the world, but it’s good. You can’t leave out the pastries. Palito de Queso, pan de queso, all the pastries with guava and cheese or arequipe and cheese, areapa de queso with lecherita on top?


  38. Sure, there’s crap food in Colombia. And stodgy bland plates of ACPM. But those fresh white arepas with the bubbles on one side with melted butter on them. F&*$ing delightful. And you are mad not to like Colombian perros calientes, which are an improvement on the original, and even better if you get a chori-perro instead of a hot dog, and get it stuffed with ham and cheese, but you seem like the type that doesn’t even dig below the surface to see what people are actually eating. And Colombian ceviche? Sure, it’s shrimp and ketchup and stuff, but hell, shrimp cocktail made with fresh shrimp on a streetcorner for next to nothing is something I’d be positively giddy to be able to find back here in the states. You’re a twat.


    1. Yup Agreed I think Col is a twat, I also think you are a twat Andrew, there, feel better now?

      I just arrived in the Land of Fools thank fuck I got a return ticket now where the devil did I put it?? Shit, Emergency!!!


  39. In a way, I’m appriciative of this bland cuisine. The people in Colombia are slim and healthy, not fat like Americans and Mexicans BECAUSE the boring food does not give incentive to over-eat. The food is mostly natural and unprocessed, though not too tasty, so you just eat your fill and go. And they do a lot of walking. It’s a fair trade-off. Once the food gets good, the waists lines will start to bulge, and bye-bye beautiful women. The women in America are not ugly, they are just fat. Take a cute skinny person, make them fat, and see how attractive they are. American drive thru fast foods are very tasty, but with everybody sitting in their cars stuffing their faces with laboratory produced flavors . . . well, enough said. If you want great food go to Mexico City.


    1. Now this is a good point, with Colombian food, even eating their burgers, hot dogs and the occasional Bandeja Paisa, I lost a significant amount of weight in Colombia (with walking everywhere and joining that posh gym chain of theirs – forgot the name for now…) the food is healthy enough and you’ll lose weight on it or maintain a healthy weight for sure.


  40. Peruvian food is wonderful, probably one of Latin America’s best cuisines but I always had the shits there – whereas in Colombia never had the shits apart from the once when I went to a Peruvian restaurant!


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