Colombian gastronomy: the world of empanadas

empanadas colombian gastronomy

Ever wonder what heaven tastes like? It has to be something similar to empanadas: one of the most, if not the most, traditional food in Colombia, and of course, Bogotá. They come in many shapes and sizes, with different fillings and combinations. In this article, you will find a little bit of history and where you can try empanadas when coming to Bogotá.

Empanadas are definitely a food you must try when coming to Colombia. Although they are very typical in Latin American diets, the Colombian empanadas are widely known because of their delicious taste. They are basically a triangular shape made of a special dough (ground corn or with wheat or corn flour) stuffed with meats, vegetables, or even fruit, and baked or fried in oil or fat. There are many different types of empanadas. Like arepas, they are one of the most versatile foods you’ll ever eat (and for the most affordable price).

A little bit of history

The word empanadas comes from “empanar”, meaning “to enclose something in a mass or bread.” In colonial times (i.e. with the conquest of America) empanadas were introduced into the diet of the inhabitants, reaching different countries on the continent and, over time, the ingredients and the preparation methods were modified by different regions. In Colombia, they are considered a gastronomic symbol because they have elements of the country’s three basic cultures: indigenous, Creole and Afro-Colombian. The indigenous contribution is the corn, the Afro-Colombian contribution is the fried technique because they are the ones who brought it to Latin America, and the Creole contribution is the filling. Empanadas used to be consumed mostly during Christmas or holidays, but nowadays people eat them all the time: in meals, as a snack, as a side, or just to satisfy a craving.

Variations/types of empanadas

The wonderful world of empanadas is a delight that almost no one can resist. Almost anywhere in Colombia, you’ll find good empanadas, and, as mentioned before, very different ones depending on where you are.

The variations come in the type of corn used, the filling, the shape, the size, and the preparation (fried in oil or fat, or baked in the oven). They are made of ground corn, wheat, or corn flour. Traditionally they are stuffed with meat, rice, a hard-boiled egg, cheese or chicken, but nowadays there are some made with pineapple, Ajiaco (yes, Ajiaco! Read our article My Rediscovery of the Ajiaco to know what it is), or even sweet guava. The size and shape depends a lot on the filling (the most typical is the round-cornered triangular one). Empanadas are usually accompanied with ají (hot pepper sauce), guacamole, lemon or salsa rosada “pink sauce” (combination of ketchup and mayonnaise). pink sauce.

There is, however, one important thing that unifies and identifies all types of empanadas in Colombia: they don’t have social class. Empanadas are everywhere for everyone: served in the most sordid places, to the fanciest clubs.

Here is a list of some famous empanadas you can try:

Empanada de pipián:

Originally from Popayán (another Colombian city), this small (which makes you eat dozens), very thin and crunchy mass stuffed with pipián (a mixture of potatoes, ground peanuts, garlic, onion, tomato, and achiote) is usually eaten with “ají de maní” (peanut chili).

Empanada valluna: 

Originally from el Valle (a Colombian department/state), this medium-sized empanada (you can probably have a few) is stuffed with potatoes and meat and usually eaten with a traditional “ají” (chili) made with herbs.

colombian gastronomy
© Photography by Empanaditas de pipian (left) / © Photography by Jardín Azul (right)

Empanada paisa o antioqueña: 

Originally from Antioquia (a Colombian department/state), it’s similar to an empanada valluna in size and shape. It has a very thin profile, also stuffed with potatoes and meat except this one is marinated and usually eaten with “hogao” or chimichurri (a salty condiment made with tomato and onion).

Empanada de arroz: 

Very traditional in Bogotá, it’s big (you’ll probably have one or two) and thick, stuffed with rice and meat, and usually eaten with “ají rojo” (red chili sauce).

colombian gastronomy
© Photography by Hogar Universal (left) / © Photography by Delicias Benditas (right)

Want to try empanadas in Bogotá?

If you’re coming to Bogotá, there are thousands of places where you can try excellent empanadas. Visit Las Margaritas (address Calle 62 # 7 -77). Empanaditas de Pipián Los Troncos (they have several locales all over the city), or El Kiosko (address Calle 145 # 9-73). It might also be quite an experience to try the empanadas you can find on street stands: they are usually the best. They’re greasy but full of flavor. Empanadas are usually eaten with Pony Malta (a traditional Colombian non-alcoholic soft drink with a malt base) or Colombiana (the most famous Colombian soda).

For a hungry stomach, the empanada is like water in the desert; necessary, and can be eaten anytime, anywhere, and for a reasonable price. It never fails to amaze! I really think that apart from being absolutely delicious, they are a very important part of our culture and gastronomy. The history of empanadas goes along with our history as a country. Don’t miss the opportunity of doing an “empanada tour” when coming to Bogotá!

Read our articles about plantain and arepas to know about other typical Colombian food.

Was this article useful? Do you know more places where you can try empanadas? Or maybe an experience you would like to share? Please visit our homepage Colture and take a look at my articles and many others to find more essential information about Bogotá before or during your trip.

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