In Colombia, dessert is always on the menu! Culinary arts is a staple in the country. Recipes have been passed down for generations. It’s no surprise that traditional Colombian desserts are so rich, filling and sweet. Let’s take a look!
Rice with milk
When cooked with a touch of wood flavor, rice with milk (rice pudding) can be very satisfying. Usually, Colombians cook the rice with milk, panela, cinnamons and raisins. The mixture allows the cinnamon and panela to aromatize the rice. Some people add orange peels and cloves. It’s easy to make and since rice is readily available, there’s always some left over for dessert.
Mazamorra is a combination of corn, milk and panela. It’s popular throughout South America and varies by region. In Colombia, it’s usually served as a side dish with bandeja paisa or as a stand-alone dessert. It’s best when cooked on a wood stove. To make, boil corn (yellow or white) in water for a few hours until well done. Mix the cooked corn with milk to a porridge-like consistency. Add panela to taste, it’s quite good.
Aborrajados is a popular dessert in Valle del Cauca (a region in western Colombia). Aborrajados is easy to prepare and only requires a few ingredients. Start by cutting open one side of a ripe plantain. Next, stuff the plantain with cheese and wrap. Some people will cover the plantain with breading to add additional flavor and a little crunch but it’s not required. Finally, fry in oil until golden brown.
Natilla is the most popular Christmas dessert in Colombia. It’s often accompanied with buñuelos or fritters (dumplings prepared with wheat, corn flour and grated cheese). It resembles a custard or pudding. Ingredients include flour/cornstarch, milk, panela, and cinnamon. Some people add raisins and coconut. You can find natilla in any Colombian supermarket and preparing the dish with family over Christmas is a long standing tradition. Of all the Colombian desserts on this list, natilla is the most emblematic.
Arequipe o manjar
Arequipe, also known as “dulce de leche” is a star amongst Colombian desserts. It’s on the shelf in almost every store. It’s made with caramelized milk from the Valluna region and can be eaten with almost everything. Most people eat it with bread, wafers or cheese but its use is unlimited. Traditionally, it’s served in a totuma which allows it to retain its creamy consistency. If you visit Colombia, try Arequipe, it’s extremely easy to find.
As the name suggests, cocada is made from coconut. I would describe it as coconut candy. It’s made with eggs and shredded coconut. First, it’s baked, then cooled before serving. It has a nice soft, doughy consistency. It comes in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Panela cocada is a favorite in Colombia and it’s often sold as artesian candy. The panela gives the cocada a hint of caramel color and flavor. It’s delicious. Some people mix in fruit and nuts.
Merengón is Colombia’s Sunday brunch dessert. It’s a pastry typically made of cream, sugar, eggs and fresh fruit. It can be made with different kinds of fruit like kiwi, mango, peach and strawberry. Some people add salt, lemon or vanilla to the mix. There’ a ton of ways to make this. Think of a cream pastry with a cream filling and fruit, that’s Merengon. It’s a good dessert to have with coffee.
Arepa de chócolo o cachapa
The arepa de chocolo might just be the best arepa in Colombia. It’s been around since the Spanish conquest and continues its popularity today. In Colombia it’s known as coming from the Santander region and Cuyabra. It has a nice balance of sweet and salty. You can accompany it with any type of cheese but the most delicious is cuajada, a coastal cheese. I would describe it as a buttery cheese-filled cornbread pancake. Th e arepa de chocolo is my top pick on this list of Colombian desserts.
Bocadillo is a delicious snack and common in the Santander region of Colombia. It’s a mixture of guava pulp, sugar cane and panela (or refined sugar). It’s usually wrapped in leaves of bijao, corncob or banana. It’s great with a cup of milk. You can find bocadillo at any supermarket in Colombia because its tasty and affordable.
Platanos calados is the most traditional recipe Colombian grandmothers prepare in their homes. If you are from a Colombia family, chances are you have tried platanos calados. The riper the plantain, the better! To prepare, find some ripe plantains and cut them in pieces. Next, brown the pieces in butter, add water and cinnamon. Then, let the plantains cook until they are very soft. Finally, cool and serve. It’s common to serve platanos calados with meals and desserts.