Veggie Travel in Colombia
Colombia is a surprisingly veggie-friendly destination. Most restaurants have a few vegetarian options, and there are a large number of exclusively vegetarian restaurants in most towns and cities. Hostels have self-catering facilities, which are usually well-stocked. Even the street food has more veggie choices than most South American countries, with cheesy pastries and delicious fruits and juices. Here’s my guide to veggie travel in Colombia…
Veggie Travel in Colombia
The first time I searched for food in a Colombian city (Popayan), I came across an amazing vegetarian restaurant. My meal included rice with raisins and granola, carrots in white sauce, a lentil patty, pumpkin soup, papaya juice, and rice pudding for dessert! And the entire thing cost the unbelievable price of £1! (Colombia is incredibly cheap, read my budget breakdown here).
And so my love of Colombian vegetarian restaurants began. Over the next few weeks I sought out some wonderful all-veggie restaurants, and had some incredibly tasty and healthy meals. Many of these restaurants were also either completely vegan, or offered vegan alternatives (such as a choice of cheese or tofu on a vegetable burger).
Try apps such as Happy Cow to find your nearest vegetarian or vegan restaurant.
Most restaurants will have a vegetarian option or two. In smaller towns, I had plenty of veggie burgers, lasagne, and burritos, as well as eating far too much pizza. The bigger cities have a fantastic range of restaurants with veggie and vegan options. On arrival in Cartagena I nearly leapt out of the car as I saw my two favourite cuisines, Indian and veggie sushi, right next to my hostel.
Menú del Día
By far the cheapest way to eat in Colombia is to enjoy a menú del día, a set lunch of beans, salad, rice, chips, and a juice. They also contain fish (pescado) or chicken (pollo), but you can request one sin carne (without meat), and explain “soy vegetariano/a” (“I’m a vegetarian”). These lunches vary in quality and price, but are a great way to fill up on the cheap. Perfect for veggie travel in Colombia on a budget.
Despite the cheap cost of food, we still ended up cooking for ourselves quite often. Small towns have supermarkets with fresh vegetables and staples such as pasta and rice. Bigger cities have large supermarkets with a massive range of food (including a range of cheeses!).
Street food is usually where vegetarians miss out in South America. But veggie travel in Colombia includes far more street snacks! Empanadas are unfortunately usually filled with meat. But empanada stalls will also sell palito de queso– puff pastry filled with cheese. Another veggie option is arepa con queso– greasy corn patties filled with cheese.
And the fruit that is on offer is unbelievable. Amazingly fresh and tasty, it makes the fruit back home pale by comparison. My experience of veggie travel in Colombia included plenty of mangoes, avocados, and juicy berries. Juice stalls are a common sight along most streets, selling a range of fresh squeezed fruit juices.
Veggie-friendly restaurants feasts, cooking up a storm in hostels, and snacking on cheesy pastries and gallons of fruit juice. My only concern about food in Colombia was putting on weight!
Looking for more veggie tips in Latin America? Click here for my tips on Ecuador, or stay tuned for upcoming tips for Central America!