A short guide to survive as a non meat eater if you are backpacking through Colombia

Enjoying local food is such an essential part of discovering a new culture. However, if you are vegetarian or a vegan travelling in Colombia – or in South America in general – you might feel like you are missing out. But is true? No! While travelling in Colombia I came across a lot of traditional delicious food and drinks that are either vegetarian/vegetarian or can be also be made without meat or fish, whether at was eating in a restaurant, or from a street food stall, or having dinner with a local family that was hosting me.

Keep reading to find out more about:

Sides & Snacks

Arepa (vegan/vegetarian): Arepas are ideal for breakfast, lunch, snacking or dinner! Very common in Colombia, they are usually served with any meal you get throughout the day. This delicious food made with maize dough is usually served with cheese, eggs or avocado – or everything! Your trip to Colombia is not complete unless you have tried them.

Veggie Food to Try in Colombia: Arepas
Arepas. Photo by Leila Issa on Unsplash

Yucca (vegan): Yucca is cassava, a vegetable similar to a huge potato. The first time I ordered it, it was by mistake…but I got addicted to it. You can try it in different forms, including as pan de yucca, but my favourite is definitely yucca fries!

Carimañola (vegetarian): Speaking of yucca, or cassava, a veggie food to try in Colombia is carimañola, which is similar to an empanada, but made of cassava. This can be served as a snack or as breakfast. Although they are better if eaten hot, they also make the perfect snack to carry with you on a hike.

Veggie food to try in Colombia: Carimanola
Carimanola. Picture from Wikipedia.

Papas rellenas: These are probably the most popular street food in Colombia and, of course, a must try for vegetarian. Papas rellenas means stuffed potatoes and they are filled with rice and/or vegetables.

Patacones (vegan): Patacones are one of my favourite snacks from Souh America and they are basically deep fried green plantains. They can be served on their own or with something else like spicy sauce, guacamole or black beans and they can be eaten both as a side or a snack. They are as addictive as yucca fries, so be careful!

Aborrajados (vegetarian): Aborrajados are deep-fried plantains slices filled with cheese and with the outside batter made with eggs and flour. Delicious! Unfortunately, this dish is not suitable for vegans, but if you are a vegetarian I would highly recommend it.

Aborrajados. Source.

Vegetarian Tamales (vegetarian): Not my personal favourite, but a very traditional food, so it’s worth trying it at least once. Tamales are steam corn dough filled with cheese or vegetables, served in a banana leaf.

Empanadas (vegetarian): When someone says empanadas people usually think of Argentina. But did you know that Colombia has its own version of empanadas? These are stuffed pastries, deep-fried and usually filled with chicken, but there are places where you can get ones with just cheese.

Photo by Kent Ng from Pexels


Veggie Ajiaco (vegan): This is a famous stew, very popular in Bogota, and it’s a soup made with different types of potatoes and local herbs. While ajiaco is usually made with chicken, you can ask for it without. However, keep in mind that sometimes they cook everything in the same pot and for the veggie version, they simply remove the pieces of chicken from it.

Ajiaco. Source.

Cayeye or Mote de Guineo (vegetarian): This is a dish particularly popular in the Caribbean Area of Colombia and it’s made with guineos (small green bananas) and refrito, a mix of tomatoes, onions, and red bell pepper with some cheese on top, and it’s usually served for breakfast topped by grated cheese or eggs.

Colombian Veggie food: Cayeye. Picture from: https://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/cayeye-and-cabeza-de-gatocolombian-mashed-green-plantain/
Cayeye. Source

Arroz con coco (vegan): Coconut rice is in fact considered a side dish in Colombia, however, I have eaten it as a main sometimes, by adding some vegetables to it. Coconut rice is usually made with just rice and coconut milk.


Coffee: I love (almost) all coffee, but it is true when they say that Colombian coffee is simply amazing! It’s good to try it everywhere in the county, but if you want a more authentic experience and you happen to be in the coffee region in Colombia, make sure to visit one of the coffee farms and try freshly grounded and brewed coffee. I visited a coffee farm in Salento and we also got to experience picking up the coffee bins – highly recommended!

Veggie food and drinks in Colombia. Freshly brewed coffee.
Drinking coffee at a coffee farm

Chicha: chicha is a fermented or non-fermented drink usually made from maize, which is a symbol of cultural identity in several places in South America and tastes very nice.

Agua Ardiente: Aguardiente used to be the national Colombian drink, but its popularity has been decreasing the last few years. This is an alcoholic beverage that is usually served as a shot…and it is quite strong!

Juice or Jugos de Fruta: Colombia, like a lot of places in South America, is very famous for its delicious fruit, so a tropical fruit juice is a must try here.


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