VagaBites, Colombia Edition — Free Bogota Food Tour

Why do you like to travel? While we enjoy traveling to witness beauty around our planet, we also really enjoy the learning aspect of travel. We find it fascinating that each place and culture has so many differences and similarities to our own home in the USA, especially the food scene! So when Jimmy found a free tour featuring Colombian food, we knew this was going to be the perfect way to dive right into Colombian culture on our first day.

Thanks to our incredible tour guide, Andres, from Beyond Colombia for introducing us to Colombian food, history, and culture. You can learn more about this and other tours on their website: http://www.beyondcolombia.com/.

Beyond Colombia's tour was a blast and is highly recommended!
Beyond Colombia's tour was a blast and is highly recommended!

PRO TIP: As you will see below, SO MANY Colombian foods include cheese.

They even serve sweet desserts with cheese! If you do not or cannot eat cheese, you may see a decreased variety of food options in Colombia.

Empanada

Our food tour started with a favorite many of us already know and love — empanadas! In Colombia, they use cornmeal dough (yum!) filled with rice and a mix of meats including chicken, beef or pork. Then they fry the empanada and serve it with sauces. The place we went to for empanadas had several sauces — some spicy, some sweet — and we learned the proper way to eat them. After biting one of the corners off your empanada, you fill the interior with the sauce of your choice.

Here’s a picture of Jimmy after we already ate them because we were far too hungry to stop and take pictures before (oops!).

A very happy Jimmy after eating some empanadas
A very happy Jimmy after eating some empanadas

Pandebono and Avena

Next we tried our first pandebono, which is a cheese roll with a soft interior, crispy exterior, and can be filled with guava. While it can be served with coffee or Colombia’s favorite hot chocolate, we had ours with a cup of avena, which is a sweetened condensed milk and oat drink. Yum!

Fried Ants

Did you know that the ants they fry here are a specific type of large ant, called the Princess Ant? They only leave their colonies to create new ones once per year, on a sunny day after a lot of rain. This is because the dirt is softer and it’s easier for them to push through their tiny tunnels onto the outside. Once outside the safety of their colonies, they are captured and saved for frying.

As we walked past a fried ant vendor, we bought a small package of them to share across the group. They tasted like extra-cooked popcorn, and to be honest, they were pretty good.

Fried ants taste like overcooked popcorn!
Fried ants taste like overcooked popcorn!

Ajiaco Soup

I love a good, hearty soup! Ajiaco soup is another Colombian classic that we really enjoyed. Made with chicken stock, corn, and potatoes, you add pieces of chicken, capers and bit of cream to your liking to complete your soup. It was SO GOOD.

Another fun thing about this soup was our experience … we ate outside a private room where a men’s acapella group was dining, drinking, and singing Disney songs like “Let It Go” in Spanish. It was beautiful and entertaining at the same time.

Oblea

You know how I said that Colombians like cheese on everything, including desserts? We first learned the extent of this when we stopped by an oblea cart. Obleas consist of two thin, sweet wafers with your choice of toppings on the interior.

I was really excited by the filling options at this cart: caramel, chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, strawberry filling, shredded coconut, and more! Just kidding — they didn’t have coconut. It was actually shredded cheese.

Instead of adding the fillings I knew I would like, I had my oblea in Bogota’s more traditional way: with caramel, nuts, and the shredded cheese. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t caramel and strawberry with nuts and chocolate chips. Oh well!

Oblea Bogota-style! Adding cheese and caramel
Oblea Bogota-style! Adding cheese and caramel

Colombian Coffee

By this time, we were pretty full and even a little tired. Colombian coffee to the rescue!

Colombia is well-known for their coffee exports. But did you know that almost all of its best coffee is exported? It’s really hard to find a good cup of joe in the country since they only keep the lowest-quality for themselves.

Hence our excitement when we were taken to a place with the highest-quality Colombian coffee. They made it two ways so we could taste the difference in preparation: with a French press and with a syphon coffee maker. Both were delicious, although we preferred the French press coffee — it was richer and more flavorful.

During this time, we also had a discussion about Colombia’s past, the image it’s given them, and how Colombia is changing today. Our guide grew up in Bogota, and he gave us fascinating insight into how dangerous Colombia used to be and how it’s safer now than ever. This increased safety has expanded tourism to more areas around the country, and tourism is now their second largest economic driver — second after their beloved coffee.

Chigüiro, Mamona & Arepa

For our next stop, we entered a restaurant with juicy meats being grilled by the front window. Our mouths watered as we tasted these new delicacies, unsure of what they were. Once we were done, we found out that we had just eaten chigüiro (capybara) and mamona (veal from a very young cow). We also had arepas, which are made from corn flour and can be used to make sandwiches or be served with avocados, cheese, and more. Yum!

Chiguiro y mamona -- also known as capybara and veal!

Hot Chocolate and Cheese?!?

Say what? Colombians love hot chocolate, even though they do not have winter. Like most of their favorite foods, this classic drink is served with slices of cheese on the side. This cheese is added to your cup of hot chocolate, similarly to how we add marshmallows.

The hot chocolate itself was really good, so we decided to give the cheese a try. It was a no-go for us. Perhaps we added a little too much cheese to our hot chocolate, but it created a thin layer of grease and subdued the chocolate taste. To me, it took the joy out the sweet, chocolatey goodness that is hot chocolate, but we were glad to try it the Colombian way!

Aguardiente

Aguardiente is the Spanish translation for “fire water” and is a type of Colombian brandy. It is made with water, alcohol, sugar, and anise and has a lower-than-average alcohol content, so it’s more of a spirit. Make sure you cheers to your health before you drink it … Salud!

Find out where you can get a free food tour in Bogota, Colombia!

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60 thoughts on “VagaBites, Colombia Edition — Free Bogota Food Tour”

  1. We went on a food tour in Medellin and funnily enough, except for arepa, we had completely different food. I did love how cheap and delicious the street food was. I’m curious about the capybara. I don’t think that I have ever eaten that before. What is it like? We did have the Ajiaco soup but a restaurant near Villa De Leyva. I absolutely loved the flavours in it and how healthy I felt eating it.

    1. It is wonderful how different cities in Colombia have unique foods! We have been eating our fair share of street food so a healthier soup is very welcome from time to time. The Capybara tasted like pork and is an animal that is looks like a colossal guinea pig.

  2. I love these free tours that are popping up every where and even better that it’s a food one in Bogota! I love trying the different versions of foods like empanadas and arepas. I really like street food you can eat by hand. I’m so glad you mentioned what the fried ants tasted like – now I’m willing to try them.

    1. We were super excited when we found out about the tour! We might do the one in Cartagena as well. The fried ants are certainly worth a taste. We heaed that they are even better when fresh.

  3. I like cheese with nearly everything, but I think I have to draw the line at hot chocolate and cheese?! I’ve had empanadas before, and love them. The condensed milk drink sounds strangely delicious too!

    1. The cheese is served on the side, so if you like hot chocolate, you can enjoy it without the cheese. I really enjoyed the milk drink! Jimmy thought it was a little too sweet, but sometimes you just have to satisfy that sweet tooth. 🙂

  4. I would love to visit Bogota and experience it through it’s foods. I’m a big fan of anything with cheese so I think I could get behind almost all of the offerings – except fried ants – not sure if I could bring myself to try those! But I’ll have an extra cup of coffee to make up for it!

  5. I just love food posts! It makes me hungry AND want to visit the place 🙂 I can relate with just stuffing your face with empanadas and forget to take a picture. They are one of my favourite foods to snack on in Colombia! Never tried Oblea before, so will do that on my next visit to Colombia!

  6. OMG! Are you telling me you can give it a try to all those tasty dishes for free? That’s the best advice eveeeer! You’re the best, guys!
    Thanks for this excellent post!

    Cheers from Argentina
    – Maria

    1. No problem, Maria! And the tour itself is free, but you pay for whatever food you want to try. The food was reasonably priced though, I think we only spent like $10 USD for all the food we ate that day!

    1. Haha! We did double down on the coffee, and it was amazing. But you should definitely try the ants too! They taste a bit like popcorn…not too bad!

  7. Bogota is for a streetart-enthusiast like me, quite high on my bucket list. But I have just made it to most of Colombias neighboring countries. Still, it is amazing, that, despite that you think you have eaten almost everything South American countries have to offer, there is still something new – not sure about hot chocolate with cheese though :/ … and that comes from a guy that’s addicted to Inca Kola (my gf thinks I’m crazy loving that stuff)

  8. Hands down the best part of travel is trying out new foods! These Colombian food have got me really hungry and I just ate breakfast. The Oblea sounds delicious although I might skip the cheese in hot chocolate. What a great food tour!

    1. Good food is one of the best parts of life! And I don’t blame you about the cheese and hot chocolate. I’m still scratching my head about that one!

  9. I love how diverse the food is! While some of these look wonderful, I’m not sure I could do the fried ants!

  10. Woah Fried Ants – In the Chhattisgarh state of India the tribals make a chutney out of red ants!! I remember eating a Fried Cricket in Myanmar!!

    You seem to really experimenting – a lovely read this post was 🙂

  11. all the food sounds and looks delicious. Im not sure about the fried ant thought. So is it like the whole colony depend on that one ant but it gets fried instead? Im a big foodie so this list helps. But it’s a no for the ant.

  12. Mmmmh – sweet – and savory, for that matter, memories of Bogotá. Whereby, after a morning of healthy snacks in the rather alternative part of the centro, I had a huge Bandeja Paisa – it’s like the slaughterhouse displayed on your plate ;-D

  13. Hot chocolate and cheese sounds like an interesting combination haha. Empanadas are my favourite, I can eat them anywhere, anytime. Fried ants??!!! Oh my god, I cannot even imagine what that’d be like (overcooked popcorn doesn’t sound very exciting haha) but I would love to give it a shot anyway for the sake of trying a unique local dish.

  14. Yummmmm to everything but the ants! 🙂 I love to experience new cuisine within new cultures, but eating bugs… ha ha ha. I am such a foodie, so thank you for your travels through food. Oh, and I also think it is a great idea to hire a local guide. I find that I have a better travel experience when I go where the locals eat and visit. Thanks, I am hungry now 🙂

  15. I’ve never been in Bogota but it’s on my list! I have a couple of friends from there and would really like to visit. And this list is awesome. I didn’t know that Colombia has empanada as well. And those fried ants…lol. are they tasty?

    1. The ants weren’t bad! They taste somewhat similar to popcorn. We heard that when they are first caught and fried they are much better.

  16. I loved your free Bogota Food Tour maybe I will not taste all the things being vegetarian but would love to check that Columbian Coffee. Thanks for sharing some great joints for hot chocolates, coffee and cheese at Bogota.

  17. We will definitely be visiting Bogota in the next couple of years and we love to try new food when travelling, so loved reading this! Great to hear about this food tour – will look out for it when we go. Totally up for trying the fried ants. LOVE empanadas so will look forward to that!

  18. I would be with you in exploring the culture when traveling and food forms a big part of our travels too. We have sampled different cuisines and prefer to go local. Thoroughly enjoyed learning about Colombian food here. I think I will also have that happy look after eating Empanada 🙂 Fried Ants.. Hmm. Have tried worms in Bangkok but this one would be the first time! And Colombian Coffee is a must! Would want to bring some back.

  19. I love cheese on everything so I guess the Colombian cuisine should be among my favourite ones. I would never know that had I not read your post though, so thanks! As for the ants, no, I wouldn’t even consider trying them. However, I can’t say the same about the aguardiente 😉

  20. I like your passin about trying out local food. I’m more into nature, architecture and history, and am usually caustious about trying new food. But I realise how important it is after reading your post

  21. You guys, I love this post so much! It brings back so many fond memories of my own trip to Colombia back in 2015, where I literally ate EVERYTHING (see my post here for a few dishes you didn’t try: https://alwayscarryon.com/2016/05/31/colombian-food/). The soups were definitely some of my favourite dishes, as well as all the fresh fruit and veg. Wasn’t a fan of Choco con queso though, I have to say – such a weird combination LOL x

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