Costeño cuisine is an alluring combination of multi-cultural influence, local ingredients, and age-old recipes. Seafood, coconut, sugar, and the deep fryer feature prominently in many of the dishes that compose the local diet and though it’s not all healthy, there’s a long lineage of history and tradition in every bite. So, push the calorie-counting aside for now, and dig into the unique and diverse dishes of traditional costeño cuisine.
Here’s what to try during your visit to Colombia’s Caribbean coast:
1. Cazuela de Mariscos
It should come as no surprise that we’re kicking this list of costeño cuisine off with a hearty seafood stew. Cazuela de mariscos is a delectable medley of white fish, shrimp, prawns, and lobster served in a creamy broth with rice and fried plantains included on the side. If you’re a seafood lover, there’s no better dish to try when traveling Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
2. Sancocho Costeño
Sancocho Costeño is the Colombian Caribbean twist on a classic Colombian dish. The costeño version is a stew of slowly-cooked fresh fish, yucca, ñame (tubers), sweet plantains, and tomatoes served in a creamy coconut milk broth. It is often thrown over the cook fire for special occasions and family gatherings and a must-try during your trip to Colombia and the Caribbean coast.
3. Fried Fish, Coconut Rice, and Patacones
Fried fish, usually red snapper or mojarra, with a scoop of sweet coconut rice and a few perfectly fried patacones (green plantains) is the staple meal of the costeño diet. You’ll find it on lunch menus all over town and up and down the northern Colombian coastline. It’s the perfect dish to complement a day at the beach or your visit to the islands off the coast of Cartagena.
4. Arepa de Huevo
The arepa de huevo is a classic costeño breakfast item born from the blend of cultures along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Its corn-based dough is the fruit of the indigenous people, the fried egg center is a spin on the Spanish tortilla, and the fact that it’s fried can be attributed to the region’s African influences. The best way to enjoy an arepa de huevo is straight out of the fryer with a healthy squirt of suero costeño, a popular local sauce that tastes very similar to sour cream.
5. Peto Costeño
Later in the day, after your morning arepa de huevo, another popular street snack is peto, a drink made from dried corn, water, milk, coconut cream, cinnamon, and panela. You’ll hear the calls of the local peto vendors carting or cycling their supply through town in large metal pots. It’s the perfect mid-day snack or after-dinner dessert, as it’s both sweet and filling enough.
Continuing with the theme of between meal bites and dessert, sampling enyucado deserves a spot on every traveler’s Cartagena trip itinerary. This dense and delicious cake is made from cassava, coconut, sugar, butter, anise, and queso costeño with a pinch of salt. It’s a sweet and savory treat that many a costeño will salivate over at its mere mention and one that likely fills their childhood memories, too.
Ready to Sample Costeño cuisine?
Costeño cuisine may not be the healthiest you’ll sample on your custom tour of Colombia, but it will certainly be one of the most memorable and delicious of your trip. Our recommendation: put the diet and calorie counting on pause and try it all!